This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Strife as the basis of civilization

St. Augustine wrote that ‘all things desire peace,’ and if the Christian tradition is indeed correct in identifying this yearning as one of man’s most noble desires, then it is true that Liberalism has done great violence to man by subverting it and rendering it futile. Liberalism and its forms, namely capitalism, idealize instead the values of competition, which is to say strife, and ours is in fact the first civilization to attempt to base itself on strife.

It had always been said that the end of activity, even war, was peace; today peace is an evil. Peace is not productive. While Augustine and Aquinas taught that we must seek not only the absence of war but the harmony of wills, Liberalism teaches that ‘if you desire peace, prepare for war’—thus, war is the engine of peace, and whatever peace, progress, or happiness exists, is credited to the perpetual interplay of various forms of combat.

Human life, for example, is said to be the biproduct of competitive forces, the ‘survival of the fittest’, a doctrine which finds its economic expression in the Liberal ideas of capitalism and laissez-faire market ideology. Here not only material prosperity but even man himself is the outcome of the great battle for survival, whether that battle be for genetic superiority or natural resources.

We can follow this line of thinking through politics, where we see that the foundation of Liberal regimes (for example the United States) is conceived as a ‘balance of competing powers’, each of which, it is assumed, would seek to aggrandize itself if given the opportunity. This balance could more properly be termed a battle between opposing factions without shared identity or motive.

These powers are designed in such a way that they are always and everywhere trying to check each other’s progress. This aspect of political Liberalism has fused itself ever so naturally with economic life in such a way that the former is now steered by almost entirely by the interests of the latter.

As far as the people are concerned (always in a decreasing degree), this process is exemplified by the two great parties endlessly vying for control over the machinery of the state.

Peace, then, is not an ideal—it is a byproduct of chaos. Biproducts, however, are decreased with efficiency, and peace is becoming scarcer every day as the process becomes more refined. If competition is good, then the system which maximizes ‘controlled discord’ will be the best.

The outcome of this confused situation is, first, a perpetually agitated human population which, at the same time, exhibits a strange timidity toward conflict. It is as if the general atmosphere of subdued opposition instills a fear of open aggression. Thus, true restfulness never arrives, and the true fight never begins. In this state of indirect warfare everyone loses, and even the winners are degraded. It is the Nietzschean “struggle for supremacy amidst conditions that are worth nothing: this civilization of great cities, newspapers, fever, uselessness.”[1]

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Will to Power, 748.

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