This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Self-government is a contradiction in terms

“It is possible, with the help of prudently balanced institutions, to provide everyone with effective safeguards against Power. But there are no institutions on earth which enable each separate person to have a hand in the exercise of Power, for Power is command, and everyone cannot command. Sovereignty of the people is, therefore, nothing but a fiction, and one which must in the long run prove destructive of individual liberties.”

~ Bertrand de Jouvenel[1]

Anyone who promises the people the power of self-government is immediately suspect as either a conscious or an unconscious propagandist, for he promises a pleasant notion that sounds plausible and even laudable as an ideal, but which is utterly impossible in practice. For a straightforward explanation of why this is true, one might turn to Rene Guénon:

If the word ‘democracy’ is defined as the government of the people by themselves, it expresses an absolute impossibility and cannot even have a mere de facto existence—in our time or in any other. One must guard against being misled by words: it is contradictory to say that the same persons can be at the same time rulers and ruled, because, to use Aristotelian terminology, the same being cannot be ‘in act’ and ‘in potency’ at the same time and in the same relationship. The relationship of ruler and ruled necessitates the presence of two terms: there can be no ruled if there are not also rulers, even though these be illegitimate and have no other title to power than their own pretensions; but the great ability of those who are in control in the modern world lies in making the people believe that they are governing themselves; and the people are the more inclined to believe this as they are flattered by it, and as, in any case, they are incapable of sufficient reflection to see its impossibility.[2]

By referring to Aristotle’s terminology we can disband the illusion through simple reasoning: it is not possible for a man to sit and not sit at the same time. He has the power to sit, certainly, but at any given moment he is either actually sitting or he is potentially sitting but actually not sitting. All men can both sit and not sit, but it is impossible for both to be done by the same man at the same time. For those who appreciate logic, this suffices to disqualify the notion of self-government automatically. Nor is this limited to high-minded political philosophers, as it could be heard in the American colonies from Protestant preachers the likes of John Cotton:

Democracy, I do not conceyve, that God did ever ordeyne as a fitt government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed?[3]

If the people govern then there is no one to be governed, and this is equivalent to anarchy. The fact that men who claim to be self-governed do not live in actual anarchy is simply proof of the illusion under which they live, that they have only escaped subjection by becoming subjects-in-denial.

[1] Jouvenel, op. cit., p. 257.

[2] Rene Guénon, op.cit., p. 74.

[3] Larzer Ziff, The Career of John Cotton: Puritanism and the American Experience (New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1962). p. 28.

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