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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Undermining the concept of right

We should notice now that the reversal in priority between right and duty is closely linked with the rejection of hierarchy in favor of equality. Liberalism’s inherent egalitarianism renders it incapable of treating properly of the right as an expression of justice.

Rights are not a part of human nature, nor are they divinely gifted to man in a pre-packaged list, nor are they some kind of byproduct of ‘all men being created equal’ (whatever that might mean). Rights must always be derived from duties. If this is taken as a starting point, it becomes immediately clear that my particular range of duties is my own and no one else’s. That is to say, one man’s duties are not identical to another’s. Responsibilities vary widely depending on one’s station in life (family, vocation, etc.). This means that a valid concept of ‘right’ can never be universal and that the same set of rights cannot be equally distributed to all without distinction. Liberty, conformed to justice and adjusted to duty, is not homogenous with each and every man sharing the exact same prerogatives in the same way and to the same degree.

This is why we’ve gone to such great length to emphasize the problem of justice in relation to other beings, and within the context of community. Man always exists in communion with other men. The problem with individualistic Liberalism is that it always seems to start with Man as an abstract concept, treated as a completely self-sustaining and autonomous molecule. This Man (who only exists in the imagination) then becomes the subject of political philosophy, and we end up with a political philosophy that could only ever make sense in a void.

Now we can see why traditional civilization was not at all concerned about an egalitarian approach to individual liberty. If in the traditional context men varied in their liberties (in their possession of what we would call ‘rights’), it was as a normal consequence of their varying duties, and it could not have been any other way.

A man with a family would naturally and logically have more rights, or rights of a different kind, than a bachelor, for the simple reason that the two men had very different obligations. Married people always had more rights than unmarried people due to the fact that they were responsibility for the care and education of children. Rights were not possessed by these people due to their status as generic individuals. These were simply the specific prerogatives resulting from the specific obligations these individuals had taken upon themselves. These rights varied not so much because of prejudice or ignorance, but for the plain and obvious reason that vocational obligations can be so diverse as to require widely varying degrees of latitude.

This is why the traditional wisdom abhors Liberal equality: it has nothing to do with tradition disdaining the dignity of the person, but stems from an insistence on realism—an actual taking into account of the demands of circumstance. When the connection between right and duty is destroyed, and rights become the theoretical properties of a theoretically homogenous mass of individuals, there will immediately arise the situation where some men do not have the proper rights to meet their obligations, while at the same time other persons have prerogatives that are not justified by their station. The former are then underprivileged and placed at a social disadvantage, being denied the power to fulfill their obligations, while the latter group (those who have prerogatives they do not need) are overprivileged and placed at a social advantage, since they exercise a disproportionate liberty not adjusted to their circumstances.

Such is the result of the modern abstracted theory of ‘individual rights’, and all of this plays out in a context where, legally, everyone is supposedly ‘equal’. It makes for an excellent demonstration of how generic egalitarianism produces situational injustice and exacerbates inequality.

Returning again to the example of marriage and its so-called ‘benefits’, we can address the demand by same-sex couples to receive those same benefits by assuming the title of marriage for their partnerships. It is obvious from the point of view of natural fertility that any so-called ‘benefits’ bestowed on married couples are in place due to the tendency of such unions to produce children, and all of the obligations that follow. Thus, we can say that ‘marriage benefits’ were designed on the basis of centuries of experience to offset certain disadvantages faced by the procreative family, since they render a necessary service to the community by continuing the existence of mankind. Marital ‘benefits’ are not sentimental rewards offered to two adults ‘because they love each other’, although this is, in fact, what they would become if they were offered to same-sex couples. The legal measures in question do not so much elevate married couples above everyone else as keep them from falling below everyone else. When granted to homosexual couples, they would become gratuitous privileges allowed to relations of completely different order.

Nor is it always a question of unnecessary prerogatives. We have in mind here a related problem, that of divorce, which is promoted under the guise of freedom but amounts to a violation of the duties owed to children, spouses, and to the community at large. Davila’s warning was not vain condescension when he said: “It has become customary to proclaim rights in order to be able to violate duties.”

Liberals seem to have little to contribute to political discourse except to complain of ‘violated rights’, rights for which they never provided any real concrete justification in the first place. Nietzsche himself may have been hitting on man’s best interests when said “never to think of lowering our duties to the rank of duties for everybody; to be unwilling to renounce or to share our responsibilities; to count our prerogatives, and the exercise of them, among our duties.” Davila again agreed, observing that the “tissues of society become cancerous when the duties of some are transformed into the rights of others.”[1]

The refusal to see a right—a specific prerogative—as something separate from and subordinate to one’s duty is a hallmark of the traditional mind; the inability to see anything but the prerogative, absolute and ‘inalienable’, is a hallmark of Liberalism.

[1] Dávila, 2001 edition, aphorism 1190.

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