And how is mankind abolished? As the science of extermination entered its first experimental phase, there came into existence the extermination camps of the Nazis, the Gulag Archipelago of the Soviets, and the Laodong Gaizao (reform through labor) of the Chinese Communists. But now, with the advent of nuclear, biological and seismic weapons (not to mention weaponized nanotechnology), the abolition of what Nietzsche called “the many-too-many” becomes a distinct possibility. And so the four reformers of Stevenson’s story pave the way with feminism, atheism, legal nihilism, and Darwinism (setting the stage for the abolition of property – as a necessary precondition).
It was F.A. Hayek who pointed out, in The Road to Serfdom (1944), that with the rise of destructive totalitarianism mankind had fallen into decline. Hayek explained: “We have progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past. Although we had been warned by some of the greatest political thinkers of the nineteenth century, by Tocqueville and Lord Acton, that socialism means slavery, we have steadily moved in the direction of socialism.”
Hayek pointed out that the ideas behind National Socialism (Germany) and Soviet Socialism (Russia) represented a total break “not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization….” It is not merely a break with Adam Smith, Hume, Lock and Milton; but a break with “the foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans. Not merely nineteenth and eighteenth century liberalism, but the basic individualism inherited by us from Erasmus and Montaigne, from Cicero and Tacitus, Pericles and Thucydides….”
Merely raise a generation that has little or no contact with classic antiquity – with those great men who taught us how to think, how to value the life of the mind, how to nurture the spirit of free inquiry and thought – and you have cut the tree of civilization from its roots. To accomplish this, you launch an attack against the past. The way to do this was described in Richard M. Weaver ‘s essay, “On Setting the Clock Right.” According to Weaver: “If one remarks that … collectivism is fatal to individual liberty, one is blamed for being out of step with the times. If one hazards an opinion that the amount of noise and confusion prevailing today is perhaps not the best thing for the human psyche, one is branded an enemy of progress.” Those who conspire to cut us out of the fabric into which we were woven by historical circumstance, tell us that we cannot turn the clock back. Richard Weaver sweeps this aside by explaining that the past is real and substantial, while the future is unreal. “The past exists in the form of history,” declared Weaver; “it is something we in a sense possess, something we can examine and appraise.” The future does not exist in the same way. We cannot appraise it, though we may realize through study of the past that there is “nothing new under the sun,” and finding ourselves in context, understand our place in history.
But once you take history away, no understanding is possible. Once history has been severed, and we no longer look back, we become vulnerable to the most elementary errors. Stevenson’s four reformers are empowered whenever history is forgotten or set aside. This is because historical knowledge inoculates society against the four reformers. But ignorance of history allows them to advance from one destructive absurdity to another. For example, consider the recent heroic status assigned by the four reformers to homosexuality (along with the irresistible campaign for the legal recognition of homosexual marriage). Today the four reformers have succeeded so well, that few would dare to defend the old view, which can only be dug out of the ashcan of history from a burnt fragment. One such fragment would be Johann David Michaelis’s Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, where it says: “If we reflect on the dreadful consequences of sodomy … we cannot … consider the punishment as too severe. For if it once begins to prevail, not only will boys be easily corrupted by adults, but also by other boys; nor will it ever cease; more especially as it must thus soon lose all its shamefulness and infamy and become fashionable and the national taste; and then … national weakness, for which all remedies are ineffectual … not perhaps in the first generation, but certainly in the course of the third or fourth…. To these evils may be added yet another, viz. that the constitutions of those men who submit to this degradation are, if not always, yet very often, totally destroyed, though in a different way from what is the result of whoredom.”
It is, of course, swimming against the tide to read aloud from books that will soon be outlawed as “hate speech.” Historical memory being corrupted, our discourse disconnected from our forefathers, we are as ready to burn old books of wisdom as were the Nazis. And then, under a totalitarian parade of tolerance, so artfully conceived by the four reformers, one discovers a new intolerance. Animated by intensive hatred for tradition, law and civilization, the new intolerance is aimed at those who nurtured us through the centuries, who prepared the way for our existence. Here is the project of the four reformers: to destroy the foundation of civilized life, despite the fact that the reformers exist upon that same foundation. In their suicidal campaign, it is imperative to punish or intimidate all those who reflect upon the requirements of human procreation, of the breeding of healthy human beings in a way that preserves a path forward (i.e., through successful generations of children brought up to perform their duty in that great chain of being without which human life would disappear altogether). According to Johann David Michaelis, “Whoever, therefore, wishes to ruin a nation, has only to get this vice [sodomy] introduced; for it is extremely difficult to extirpate it where it has once taken root because it can be propagated with much secrecy … and when we perceive that it has once got a footing in any country, however powerful and flourishing, we may venture as politicians to predict that the foundation of its future decline is laid and that after some hundred years it will no longer be the same … powerful country it is at the present.”
If Sodomy was once shameful, and now becomes the “national taste,” what has become of shame? In his book, Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, Lee Harris asked: “What makes the difference between Happy Lands and Not So Happy Lands?” According to Harris, you cannot build a free society without shame. “Shame is a force superior to reason,” wrote Harris, “because it is rooted in the deepest of our fears – the fear of being abandoned.” Therefore, if you want to abolish freedom then you must abolish shame. “It is through shame,” noted Harris, “that we develop the tendency to treat other people decently, and with fairness….” Every religion, every successful society, has recognized this fact. The four reformers must add shame to their list of things to be abolished. And while they’re at it, Hell must be abolished since Hell is the place of exile from God. According to Peter Hitchens, in The Abolition of Britain, “Hell was abolished around the same time that abortion was legalized and the death penalty was done away with.” If you are going to eliminate shame you might as well eliminate Hell. After all, you are on the road to making the entire world into Hell. So actual Hell becomes redundant. In this way, as a bonus, you simultaneously abolish the Church. As Hitchens observed, “Like many of the other great British or English institutions, the Church had good reason to feel it was no longer as ‘relevant’ as it had been. It depended upon stable families and lasting marriages to pass on its faith and traditions, which few would learn outside the home, or without parental pressure and guidance.”
So many things to abolish, so little time. As a matter of course, the four reformers must attempt to abolish war. But this is pure mockery. Such things as stupidity, poverty and war cannot be abolished. So what is the reason for putting forward so many arms control agreements and UN resolutions? It is not to abolish violence, but to break down those national structures which prevent violence, and thereby preserve law and order and property (which the reformers hate).
If I were to update Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of The Four Reformers, looking back at their accomplishments to date, I would record their most recent meeting as follows:
“We have not abolished property, but we have inspired envious hatred against those who hold property,” said one.
“We have not abolished marriage, but we have made divorce so easy that marriage can no longer bind man and woman together,” said the second.
“We have not abolished God, but we have corrupted the Church with a false idea of God,” said the third.
“I wished we could abolish work, and now the welfare state makes work superfluous,” said the fourth.
“We have been practical in our politics,” noted the first, “since we have reduced all men to a common level.”
The second bragged, “We have degraded them sexually.”
The third smiled, “We know how to spread all forms of degradation.”
The first added, “We have replaced the Bible with television.”
The third said, “We may yet abolish man.”