“It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote.”
G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, August 17, 1918
The problem with the world in which we find ourselves is that it exists on the level of platitude. People no longer think, they merely regurgitate what they’ve been taught. Thus, for instance, all thoroughly modern people will tell you that “imperialism is bad” and that “democracy is good.” And yet, ironically, most moderns embrace imperialism even while they condemn it, and kill democracy even as they proclaim it. For instance, they condemn the British Empire, as the epitome of imperialism, and yet defend the globalism which the British Empire set in place. Similarly, they defend democracy, as being government by the people, and yet advocate ever bigger government, which is further from the people and increasingly unrepresentative of, and unresponsive to, the will of the people.
How is this possible? How can people believe in one thing and yet advocate its opposite? How can they fall into the absurdity of what George Orwell calls doublethink, which is the acceptance of two mutually contradictory and incompatible views simultaneously? The answer is as simple as it is scary. Doublethink is actually the absence of thought. It is the darkly delightful joke that reason plays on those who don’t think. Take, for instance, the pithy wisdom of G.K. Chesterton and set it against the platitudes of the modern mind.
“It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote,” says Chesterton.
Yes, says our thoroughly modern friend, I couldn’t agree more. This is why America declared its independence from Britain. The government of Britain was too remote from the colonies to represent the will of those living in them. Independence was, therefore, a blow against imperialism and a move towards democracy.
Indeed, we might respond, agreeing with our modern friend, but why, in that case, do you oppose Britain declaring its independence from the European Union? Wasn’t the government of the European Union too remote from its British “colony” to represent the will of those living there? Wasn’t Britain’s declaration of independence, therefore, a blow against imperialism and a move towards democracy? Shouldn’t the British celebrate the Twenty-Third of June, ideally with fireworks, as the United States celebrates the Fourth of July? The response of our modern friend to such efforts at rational discourse will be bemusement, at best, or, at worst, a knee-jerk hostility arising from the inarticulate suspicion that he is being affronted by some kind of fascist.
The sad reality is that such logic has no place in the modern mind which, aspiring to nothing but self-gratification and the bread and circuses that Big Brother provides, is entirely comfortable with platitudinous doublethink, kept in place by an assiduous determination not to think too deeply about anything.
Brushing aside all efforts at rational discourse our modern friend will tell you that British withdrawal from the EU is retrogressive because freedom will only exist when the archaic nation-state is replaced by the inevitability of a World Government. But, we respond, how could a world government be representative when it will be so remote from ordinary people? How could a world government be anything but a tyranny, even if it wore the doublethink mask of democracy? Wouldn’t the imposition of a global government be imperialism of the worst sort?
At this point, our modern friend stares at us with a smug grin and begins to repeat the mantra of his globalist creed, a sort of prayer to nobody in particular, invoked to keep away evil spirits and difficult questions: Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, And the world will be as one.
Faced with the smug grin and the vacant superciliousness of our thoughtless friend, who has clearly learned the little that he knows from soundbites on TV or on social media, we might be tempted to modify Chesterton’s words. Perhaps, when all is said and done, it is hard to expect government to be representative when the people are always reaching for the remote.
Leaving our friend somnambulating towards slavery, we seek the solace of souls who seek the truth, not those who hide from it. We seek those who understand the dangers of doublethink and the ominous threat of Big Brother because they have actually read Nineteen Eighty-Four and can apply the “Orwellian” adjective to tyranny when they see it. (Our modern friend does not read books. He knows the truth without ever feeling the need to engage with it.) We realize that C.S. Lewis was right when he mused that men without minds and morals become men without chests, to which, as a true Chesterton (as was Lewis), I would add that men without chests are all too often men without Chesterton.
“We make men without chests,” Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, “and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” Such empty-headed and hollow-chested men are ushering in an age of imperialism even as they are killing democracy in the name of imagined freedom. If only they had the wisdom of Orwell, Lewis, and Chesterton they might actually become true defenders of the democracy they proclaim and not destroyers of it.
Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.