But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism …
– The American Declaration of Independence
As the background of the word suggests, one of the essential characteristics of being “rational” is the capacity to understand one thing in terms of another. This involves seeing things in relation to one another, as when we observe the similarities and differences between them. In more complex rational thought, it involves understanding the connection between one thing and another, as cause and effect, for example, or as effects of the same cause.
Obviously, the words of the Declaration of Independence quoted above assume that people will think rationally as they ponder the actions of government, or as they give due consideration to political speeches and events. Sadly, in the era of flittering sound bites and disjointed MTV videography, people are being conditioned to confine themselves to the moment, to react to the instantaneous impressions that constitute their experience, rather than stepping back, as it were, to analyze its distinct elements so as to recognize the whole they represent. Absent this recognition of the whole, the experience of knowledge abides at the level of feeling and sensory perception, a state of consciousness that appears to be characteristic of animals, but is untrue to the potential of a human being.
The capacity to see the correlations that distinguish one state of affairs from another is what allows human beings to look, as it were, beyond the experience of the moment in order to consider its implications. This is why human beings trapped in a slaughterhouse react to that fact differently than steers. Recognizing their situation for what it is on the whole, they not only feel and react against the pain of the cattle prod; in their minds they see and react against the prospect of fatal harm toward which it drives them, even when that destination is not immediately apparent to their senses. Like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they are “transported … beyond the ignorant present, and … feel now the future in the instant.” (“Macbeth,” Act I, Scene 5)
We are being conditioned to live “in the ignorant present”; to react to things without considering their inter-relationships. As a result of that conditioning, we may have trouble seeing what it (the conditioning) has to do with politics. It helps to take note of what the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (regarded by many as the progenitor of political science) asserts toward the beginning of his work on politics: “… he that can foresee with his mind is naturally ruler and naturally master, and he that can do these things [only] with his body is subject and naturally a slave.” For a nation “conceived in liberty,” the distinction between master and slave should easily be recognized as fundamental to the conduct of political affairs. This should be especially easy when, in the document that first asserted the nation’s independent existence, its founders observed that recognizing the designing actions of a despotically inclined government is the indicator that obliges people to remember and enforce the purpose of just government.
If Aristotle was right, whatever diminishes our ability to appreciate the implications of present facts, activities and circumstances diminishes the likelihood that we will remain our own masters; and increases the likelihood that we will be mastered by others. Rational foresight is therefore the practical sine qua non for preserving self-government, which is to say, our liberty as a people. This means that when it comes to choosing the people who will represent us in public office, we should ask whether their statements and actions give evidence that they will represent us in this capacity. Have they thought through the implications of ideas, proposals and events in order to forewarn of things that are dangerous to, or inconsistent with the security of our rights, our persons and our belongings? Or are they merely “reactionaries” in the true sense of the term – kicking against the pricks that others manipulate to drive the nation to its destruction?
Today, for example, there is a great furor over Obama’s moves to impose government domination of religion. Who saw the seeds of this imposition that were planted during G.W. Bush’s administration and warned against the abuse Obama planned to make of what sprang from them? Today the once sotto voce advocacy of infanticide is being dressed up as a respectable facet of “bio ethics.” Who foresaw it as the natural consequence of the false assertion of “abortion rights” and linked it to the callous disregard of Terry Schiavo’s unalienable right to life?
In the same context, the equally false notion that the U.S. Constitution requires the separation of religion from politics is being used by the advocates of infanticide to pervert the logic of human personhood. Denying the equality of all human beings as manifestations of God’s will, they seek to reintroduce the doctrine of inequality among persons (based on their physical development or other qualifications) that was the basis for the invidious distinctions and hideous abuses regularly characteristic of the elitist despotisms that once dominated human political arrangements. Who foresaw that the suppression of the Declaration’s acknowledgment of the Creator’s authority would overthrow the whole doctrine of unalienable rights? Who urged people toward a strategic understanding of right, as the basis for action to uphold the Declaration’s assertion of rights, liberty and justly limited self-government?
America’s self-serving elites are only willing to promote candidates for office (including and especially the presidency) who aid and abet, or else fail to appreciate the design for despotism that has produced the fateful crisis we are in. Such people offer no hope of averting its fatal outcome. Indeed, by their willingness to accept the prevailing leftist paradigm of politics based on selfish materialism (seeking money solutions for a crisis that arises from the destruction of moral understanding and character), they reinforce the deceitful manipulation that aggravates the crisis, practically assuring there will be no escape from its fatal consequences.