Enemies of Society

I’m reading historian Paul Johnson’s Enemies of Society, published in 1977, and it is as timely now as it was over four decades ago – even prophetic in its own way, offering a hermeneutic to interpret the strange days in which we now live. Each chapter has a theme, from the role of science and religion, to the necessity of a ‘middle class’, and what that (much derided) term really means.

Here are but two passages, one a quotation from political thinker, and anti-Marxist, Isaiah Berlin:

It is one of the stratagems of totalitarian regimes to present all situations as critical emergencies, demanding ruthless elimination of all goals, interpretations and forms of behaviour save for one absolutely, specific, concrete, immediate end, binding on everyone, which calls for ends and means so narrow and so easily definable that it is easy to impose sanctions for failing to pursue them. 

And this was before ‘climate change’ and Covid.

And on the erosion of the middle class, meritocracy and social flourishing, from Johnson:

What seems equally established is that, when the status and power of the middle class is eroded or destroyed, political and economic freedom is lost, and civilization is in consequence diminished. For the only alternative to a social structure in which a middle class can survive and prosper is the harsh division, familiar to all totalitarian states, between rulers and ruled, between the honestiores  and the humiliores. In such a society, there can be no sharing or diffusion of power, for the gap between the two halves is too abysmal, and the ruling faction cannot experiment with devolution without risking its own extinction; nor can there be social mobility across the chasm, for such a brutal division can only be maintained by laws of status and privilege – a nobility by birth, or by party card. Indeed, without the bridge of a middle social group, the distinctions between the two halves of society must become more fundamental, and the legal rights of the humiliores, whether in the Roman empire or in modern Fascist-Communist systems, gradually approximates to those of slaves.

Like inflation, the road to serfdom happens gradually, then all of a sudden.

More on that later. For now, for those in Canada, enjoy the long weekend, and continue to fight for freedom, and for Faith.