This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
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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Slouching toward mediocrity

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life…Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?”

~ Aleksander Solzhenitsyn[1]

St. Thomas characterized democracy as the worst of the good regimes, but the best of the worst. In other words, democracy only has great merit if you place it in the context of tyranny and chaos. If a regime were going to go bad, it would be better if it were a democracy, because democracy, for better or worse, hovers around mediocrity. But for this same reason democracy limits itself, if it is good, to being only slightly good. The floor its nature sets is also a ceiling. This is why St. Thomas ultimately chose monarchy as the best form of government. St. Thomas was not a pessimist. He did not build his philosophy in an effort to escape the possibility of evil, but to offer the possibilities of greatness.

That is the fundamental difference between the democrat and the monarchist: that they both know that the evil monarch poses a greater threat than the evil democrat, but the latter believes that it is worth the risk because of the possibilities for greatness that monarchy opens before society. The horizons for a monarchy are automatically more extended in both directions. When offered the choice between the dual possibility of greatness and evil, on the one hand, and the assurance of a comfortable mediocrity on the other, the man who chooses the first is the monarchist and the man who chooses the security of mediocrity is the democrat.

When God created the angels he knew that this implied the possibility of devils. He thought it worth the risk. In the act of Creation, God, the cosmic monarch, showed man the path of courage. Modern man chooses instead the path of cowardice. If God had been a democrat, he’d have created very little. He certainly wouldn’t have created man. He’d have stopped at the creation of vegetable life, and perhaps a few low animal species: for here he could have been guaranteed a comfortable mediocrity, for animals cannot become devils. But this was not the way of the Creator: he wanted saints, and if he had to suffer death on the cross at the hands of a few devils, he’d suffer it. This was the way of courage—the way of the King. “Power corrupts!” the democrat shouts. “So be it,” replies the Creator as He gives him the gift of power. Saints he would have, and devils too, but devils for the sake of the saints. The democrat chooses to have neither (and in fact he has neither heretic nor martyr in his regime), and he pats himself on the back for achieving this comfortable mediocrity where none can rise or fall, and where every horizon is dictated by cowardice.

[1]Harvard Commencement Address delivered on June 8, 1978.

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