An excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny. —Plato
In a 2022 lecture at Notre Dame, Alasdair MacIntyre argued that the claims and conceptions of universal and inalienable human dignity as reflected in documents such as the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in various post-war European constitutions are puzzling, since this dignity requires a duty of respect to everyone just for being human, no matter their behavior or character, so Stalin the mass murderer has as much dignity and deserves as much respect as Mother Teresa. Aquinas’ view of dignitas as interpreted by Charles De Koninick is a challenge to this view, for it assigns human dignity, not to the mere fact of being human, but to the end to which we are called, which is supernatural, union with God, which might not be attained due to one’s choices on earth against those common goods which enable our attainment of the supernatural end, and so human dignitas could be lost. According to this view, the 20th-century concept of human dignity is much too individualistic, and because it is not based in justice and the common good, can only provide negative prescriptions against the undignified treatment of humans. It is unable to provide positive prescriptions that enable persons to obtain the common goods and the virtues they need to attain their supernatural end. For MacIntyre, we need to speak of human dignity in terms of justice, what we owe to each other for the sake of enabling persons to attain their personal and common goods and final end, which is the knowledge and love of God in this life and the next.
I would like to use MacIntyre’s lecture as a springboard to talk about the current situation of the world. Since March of 2020, we have suffered an all-out, deliberate, and planned assault on both human dignity and justice. To see this, I cite the Catechism of Catholic Church’s section on “Respect for the Dignity of Human Persons” which is a kind of synthesis of the Thomistic justice and common good-oriented and the modern rights and dignity-oriented views, presenting a set of both negative proscriptions and positive prescriptions for what this respect requires. It will be shown that every one of these has been violated to the core under the pretext of public health. I think the reason for the success of this assault, waged by billionaire globalist elites with the complicity and cooperation of national governments, is the lack of popular resistance to it, indeed, the popular acceptance and even celebration of it. And I think the reason for this malignant effect upon souls is the ideology of secular Liberalism.
David Walsh in his 2016 book Politics of the Person as the Politics of Being argues that the secular liberalism that produced the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various post-war European constitutions, although not founded on any particular theology or metaphysics or anthropology, indeed, not founded on anything other than a consensus and commitment to the rights and dignity of the human person, is worth preserving and celebrating for its wonderful achievements. He writes:
Liberal constitutions have emerged from the competition of modern political forms to outlast and surpass all rivals. Not only did they supersede monarchical and aristocratic forms to establish commercial republics, but they have overcome the far more formidable challenges posed by collectivist and authoritarian rivals in the last and present centuries. Despite their weakness and unpreparedness, liberal democracies found within themselves the resources necessary to defeat fascism and persevere through the long confrontation with communism. Now they stand as the exemplars not only of economic and political success but as the model of moral legitimacy the world over, even as they are challenged by the lingering assertion of authoritarian models. No higher aspiration prevails in the contemporary world than to create a political order that is derived from and ordered toward the preservation of individual dignity and respect. The moral and political authority of liberal democratic forms may be ironic, given their own inner self-doubt, but it can hardly be denied as a global reality.
Well, the irony, I am afraid, is much deeper than mere “inner self-doubt.” In the section on the Fifth Commandment, under the heading of “Respect for the Dignity of Persons,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents five norms that must be obeyed and upheld by persons and societies. Far from fulfilling these norms, virtually all the governments of Liberal democracies in the world, those with “no higher aspiration . . . than to create a political order that is derived from and ordered to the preservation of individual dignity and respect,” have attacked the dignity of persons on a scale never before seen in human history. The Catechism states:
Respect for the souls of others: scandal
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to “social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.” This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.
Respect for health
Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.
If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports.
Respect for the person and scientific research
Research or experimentation on the human being cannot legitimate acts that are in themselves contrary to the dignity of persons and to the moral law. The subjects’ potential consent does not justify such acts. Experimentation on human beings is not morally legitimate if it exposes the subject’s life or physical and psychological integrity to disproportionate or avoidable risks. Experimentation on human beings does not conform to the dignity of the person if it takes place without the informed consent of the subject or those who legitimately speak for him.
Respect for bodily integrity
Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong. Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.
Respect for the dead
The dying should be given attention and care to help them live their last moments in dignity and peace. They will be helped by the prayer of their relatives, who must see to it that the sick receive at the proper time the sacraments that prepare them to meet the living God.
How have the “models of moral legitimacy” called Liberal democracies lived up to these five norms? In March of 2020, we witnessed the emergence of a global totalitarianism the scope and gravity of which has no precedent in history, replete with monstrous scandals (laws allowing abortion mills and liquor stores to stay open while schools and churches are shut down), domestic terrorism (fear-porn propaganda and state-sanctioned violence against peaceful protesters), horrific medical experimentation with no informed consent, and a wanton disrespect for health (outlawing effective life-saving medicine, mandating immune-system destroying injections), bodily integrity (mandatory masks, and vaccinations known to cause sterilization and death), and the dead (forcing the dying to die alone in nursing homes and hospitals).
Reiner Fuellmich and the late Vladimir Zelenko, just to name two of the most prominent and heroic truth-tellers and activists, have made a powerful case that what should be called the plandemic is the greatest crime against humanity ever committed, essentially a global medical experiment ordered to genocidal depopulation and sterilization, Big Pharma profits, and elite, totalitarian, economic and political control. We must add to this the psychological devastation of billions of brainwashed, abused, degraded, and dehumanized persons through what has been diagnosed by competent psychologists as mass-formation psychosis. What we have witnessed in the very Liberal democracies that according to Walsh are “the exemplars not only of economic and political success but as the model of moral legitimacy the world over” is a global mass-terror campaign of fear and torture in which millions consented to, or at least did not widely and forcefully resist, a global economic shutdown leading to millions of deaths, the devastation of national economies, and the destruction of the property-owning middle class. This shutdown included deprivation of fundamental human rights, including the setting up of literal concentration camps for the unvaccinated, the physically and psychologically damaging and medically useless masking of whole populations, including young children, and the coercive program of injecting every living human being with an untested, gene-altering serum known to kill more than it saves, all for a disease that according to the actual numbers was and is for the vast majority of people no more fatal than the flu.
In America in particular, we have also seen the cultural decadence and scandal of television shows glorifying the sexualization of pre-teens and death games for sport, and the wholescale rejection of the natural law with the ever-increasing celebration and normalization of abortion, sodomy, and transgenderism. Marxist critical-race theory has fueled the scapegoating of non-minority populations as intrinsically racist, with full permission given for mass rioting and looting, and the FBI has declared parents to be domestic terrorists just for raising questions about the curriculum and policies at their children’s schools at school board meetings.
Whatever benefits might accrue to the whole society, they are not worth gaining if it means the sacrifice of its humblest member. We simply know that we do not wish to belong to any society that would live at the expense of its most vulnerable members.
If this is true, why did the majority of citizens around the world acquiesce so quickly and easily to measures that sacrificed their most vulnerable members? The economic victims of the lockdowns and school shutdowns were primarily the lower classes and children, and masking children for hours on end is literal torture. The injections are killing more children than they save, they are known to be made from aborted fetuses—and children are virtually immune from any harm from the virus! Can this be seen as anything but living at the expense of the most vulnerable? We are literally sacrificing our children to the new Moloch of “public health.”
However one explains this totalitarianism (and if you deny that we are now living under globalist totalitarianism, you are beyond the reach of argument), it cannot be denied that it emerged from the cultural and political soil of what we call Liberal democracies. There are only two explanations for this. One is that a revolution happened, one in complete opposition to those secular, enlightened, Liberal principles and practices that are truly ordered by and to the dignity and respect for the human person. Marxists or fascists or psychos have infiltrated the Liberal sanctuary and profaned it. The other explanation is that the totalitarianism we are now undergoing is logically entailed by the very principles and practices of Liberal democracy, which are not actually ordered by and to the dignity and respect for the human person, but only claim to be. I think the latter explanation is the more plausible one.
The progressive civic-religious regime is very dangerous sort of pseudo-integralism, which is to say an inverted parody of Christianity. The good news is that this has exposed something. It has exposed the lie that a religiously neutral polity is possible at all. For all of human history, political and social order has sought religious unity precisely because religion is a precept of the natural law — we cannot do without it. The liberal dream of religious neutrality is an anomaly of a couple hundred years that is simply not natural, and so it’s simply not sustainable.
The empty shrine of Liberalism was never really empty, as all political orders seek religious unity, even if the religion is a satanic one in opposition to all that is true, good, and beautiful. We have enshrined arbitrary power and meaningless, directionless, anarchic freedom, and we are all supposed to have this power and freedom, but who are “we”? From the perspective of the Liberal state in which the Good is privatized and Truth is perspectival, man is an intrinsically meaningless, directionless, anarchic vector of force (hopefully not getting in the way other men), determining his personal meaning and direction of life by his own will and choices. But that all changed in March of 2020. Suddenly we were vectors, not of free choice, but of deadly disease, and we were not permitted to think or act otherwise. Since, according to Liberalism there is no God-imaged-and-ordained teleological human nature and person underneath the state-imposed vector assignments, or if there is, it cannot be recognized by the State (for the State is proudly a metaphysical, moral, and theological moron), but since the State is in absolute charge of providing, defining, managing, and enforcing personal and group rights, when the State changed the vector denomination from freedom to disease, and forced us all to cover our faces and await mandatory injections under house arrest, there was really nothing we could say or do about it. “If you can’t beat em, join em” describes the Stockholm syndrome that ensued, with billions of freedom-loving people all over the world celebrating their enslavement, and scapegoating the minority who resisted it.
Liberalism represents a transformation of human nature from the ground up; it is an extraction of human nature, root and branch, from the actual tradition in which it is embedded, so as to enable a truly radical re-interpretation of every dimension of human existence. . . . We propose that there is literally nothing good about liberalism per se—there is nothing good about it because, first of all and according to its essence, it is as total a rejection of Christianity as is possible, and, moreover, by its nature it is parasitical, something unreal in itself in the strict metaphysical sense of being privative, insofar as it is founded in a potency that asserts itself over actuality: it is not a reality, as we have seen, but a negation of reality, or perhaps a contrived conspiracy to negate reality. To put this in an extreme formulation, understanding evil in the ontological sense of the privation of goodness, we could say that liberalism is evil as a political form.
Insofar as Liberalism succeeds in privatizing the good and thereby rendering metaphysical and moral reality purely subjective (and the technocratic manipulation of perceptions has contributed much to this success), its citizens are habituated—imagination, memory, intellect, body, soul, and spirit—accordingly, so that objective reality itself becomes an empty vessel, nothing but the pure potency of “options,” as Schindler puts it, to be filled with arbitrary desires and idiosyncratic personal preferences, the strongest ones of the moment (or the most ruthless and cunning group) always winning out. What this amounts to is a “free” populace habituated to be literally out of their minds being cut off from the Logos, from God. Hannah Arendt was prophetic, and I think her words apply to our day even more than they did to hers.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.
My thesis is simple: The only plausible explanation for the totalitarianism we are suffering is that we citizens of so-called Liberal democracies have become the ideal subjects for it. MacIntyre was right. Unless we ground the dignity of the human person in terms of justice, the justice we owe to persons due to their being created in the image and likeness of God and called to communion with Him, we have no rationally compelling reasons for respecting the dignity of persons. But I will go further than MacIntyre to say that unless the political order is explicitly and constitutively ordered to the supernatural end and universal common good of persons, God as revealed by Jesus Christ, it cannot adequately provide the particular common goods of family, workplace, school, and local and ecclesial community, along with the virtues needed for the flourishing of such communities and the securing of such goods. It must thus counterfeit man’s supernatural end and universal common good, replacing it with the subhuman, unnatural end of “freedom,” but then, logically (as Plato showed in Book VIII of the Republic) enslavement to the most ruthless and powerful in a collectivist and idolatrous worship of state power under totalitarian rule – the annihilation of human dignity. The liberty we all collectively worshipped pre-Covid was already an enslaving, unjust, and self-destructive one, but it remained hidden to most. Now it’s undeniable and out in the open, though many still can’t see it, and perhaps never will.
Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski teaches philosophy and humanities at Memoria College. His latest books are Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos, and Words, Concepts, Reality: Aristotelian Logic for Teenagers. He writes at thaddeuskozinski.substack.com.