Saturday, 10 June 2017

Cult of Self

Self, Self, Self

No I am not going Communist, or even communalist in my old age! The idolisation of “self” in the modern West is quite different from the stress on the “individual” of say conservative USA.

The cult of self is most strongly seen in the youth of the political left, whereas the individualism of the conservative side has produced young men and women prepared to fight and die overseas as a patriotic duty. So this new cult of self is something quite different to the doctrinaire commune – individualist divide,

Self-centredness and selfishness are pretty basic human failings, but in the recent past in our societies they have been suppressed by the moral tone of the nation. The generations who fought the World Wars did not put “self” above all else. But at some time – I am guessing the mid 1960's with the sexual revolution and the alternative culture things changed. Now the children of that generation are acting out what their parents only dabbled with.

Of course it is not universal – there are still heroes, and we still praise and admire selfless actions. But as a social sentiment “self” is at a historic high.

We live in a world, trivially of “selfies” but more seriously of “self fulfillment” in careers, lifestyle and relationships. Sex has become a matter of momentary pleasure for self rather than as an expression of the “'till death do us part” and “let's have a family” love that it was created for.

This is in reality dysfunctional and whether we like it or not, reality rules! So we have broken hearts, broken marriages and broken people. Add to this the “gender fluidity” activists infiltrating schools stealing the innocence and perverting the minds of children and the tide of destruction of genuine happiness is becoming a tsunami!

I can only see two probable ends to this. Either a secular backlash which would be a harsh and merciless puritanism, or a “real” Christian revival where people could be changed and healed from the inside in an atmosphere of forgiveness and joy of salvation.

The other major dysfunction of this cult of self is in politics. The oft quoted Alexis de Tocqueville admired democracy as he saw it in America, but made the observation that democracy would only work in a solidly Christian culture.

One effect of Christianity being deliberately expunged from our societies is that democracy is in trouble. Yet it would be tragic if the democratic form of government that has evolved over more than a millennium in the West succumbed to some new Hitler or Mussolini!

Apart from the disturbing incidence of young people voicing dissatisfaction with democracy there is a problem at the heart of democracy in our nations. Aristotle said of democracy in his day (c. 350 BC) that if there were no overarching moral constraint the majority would say “Let us plunder the rich, by the gods it is just!” True we have constitutions limiting out democratic actions, but we are losing the overarching moral constraint. This is probably what de Tocqueville had in mind saying it would only work in a Christian milieux.

The evidence of our problem is cited in newspapers as “populism”. But really the rise of “populist” leaders (excluding the use of “populist” pejoratively by news media of leaders they simply don't like who win elections!) is only possible when voters are ruled by self interest rather than the good of the nation. Thus the cult of self has, is and will give us populist government – and this will destroy us!

There has recently been a snap general election in the UK. The ruling conservative party had a big majority and three years to run. They called the election thinking the opposition labour party, with its new almost Communist leader would be routed and they would have an even bigger majority. They very nearly lost the election all together – having to form a coalition with a minor party to even have enough seats to form a government! Why? A million young people registered to vote. The socialist leader promised to fling money at everyone – especially university students. (he was also going to nationalise a number of industries, but voters did not look past the money) Had he won and actually done these things the nation would have been brought to ruin, but voters looked at their short tern gain, not the state of the national economy (and their own long term gain!).

In many countries, the government is heavily in debt but increasing spending. Someone sometime is going to have to face the pain of repaying all this money – at interest! Yet all sides know that a party who offers “blood, sweat and tears” to get the country solvent again will never be voted in. So they all keep spending more than they can raise by taxes. This is madness - reality can't be put off indefinitely.

My preference is for a Christian revival that changes enough voters' hearts to put everyone's future well-being above the selfish desires of the moment – what's yours?

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