segunda-feira, 7 de fevereiro de 2011

State and Society

10. Society has a composite character and must beware of two dangers: of becoming totally one with the State (as happened in the rather oppressive Greek polls); and of developing a conformist herd spirit destroying originality, hampering the development of the person, and thus creating a totalitarianism of its own through horizontal rather than vertical pressures. A healthy society is not a monolith but a natural organism of many layers with different functions, all necessary and indispensable, needing, respecting, and also loving each other, each with its own pride, its own characteristics, its own functions. This, however, does not imply a closed, but an open society, without a caste system and with free movement from layer to layer. Talent, achievement, dedication, personal discipline, character must be honored. Envy, group arrogance, resentment, lack of charity, are cancers in the body of a society, but the formation of elites in a constant process of crystallization (and elimination) ought to be encouraged. There is no healthy society without leadership, without guiding lights. And if these are of a negative order, the whole society will decay and collapse. Neither caste societies nor "classless" societies have been productive for any length of time.
It should, however, be remarked that Society no more than the State should ever become an absolute. Socialism, which inevitably results in statism, tries to make society absolute also. Nor should Society (in the sense of "human environment") be made into an alibi for moral faults. The fairy tale that man, by nature, is good and that only Society can make him wicked must be rejected. We are called upon to make our stand against all collectivist forces and powers, be they political, social, or economic.

11. The State is partly the result of Man's frailties and incompleteness. It cannot be dispensed with, but neither should it be deified and made an end in itself. Its job is to protect all persons against an overpowerful Society, against evil individuals or groups, and against the foreign enemy. It represents the bone structure of the nation; its legitimacy rests primarily on authority and, owing to the fallen nature of man, also on power. Within its domain there should be as much freedom as feasible, as much force as necessary.
All free nations are by definition "authoritarian" in their political as well as in their social and even in their family life. We obey out of love, out of respect (for the greater knowledge and wisdom of those to whom we owe obedience), or because we realize that obedience is in the interest of the Common Good, which, needless to say, includes our own interest. These motivations are not mutually exclusive. For the ruler, or for our parents, we might have love and respect; so also for our teachers. The manager might be respected rather than loved. To obey the traffic policeman "makes sense." There is only one alternative to authority (which is lodged in us and is therefore an interior power), and that is fear, which comes from the outside. We then conform merely because we fear brute force. Fear is the lifeblood of tyranny. A Society which lives by fear alone is an unnatural Society in an unnatural State. Yet, we must never forget that, owing to Man's fallen nature, the State has the right, even in a free country, to use fear and punishment --not as daily fare, but as a medicine, as a necessary sanction.

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"(...) as leis não têm força contra os hábitos da nação; (...) só dos anos pode esperar-se o verdadeiro remédio, não se perdendo um instante em vigiar pela educação pública; porque, para mudar os costumes e os hábitos de uma nação, é necessário formar em certo modo uma nova geração, e inspirar-lhe novos princípios." - José Acúrsio das Neves