An American article that works in other contexts, thought it was of a similar character to your article, NSP.
Against the Egalitarian Heresy
Our American cultural crisis has multiple causes. We may cite abandonment of traditional religion and morality, liberation of the sexual appetite, contempt for reason and rational thought, enshrining of greed as a virtue, television, popular music, and the cult of “self-fulfillment” as major contributors to our collective malaise. However, few suspect that our most-prized national characteristic is behind some of the decadence and depravity. To attack Equality, and the absurd ideology of Egalitarianism, is as unthinkable as it is unpatriotic.
Like all heresies, Egalitarianism is the distortion and exaggeration of a truth. Some things are indeed equal. All men have equal dignity, and in some fundamentals, they do have equal rights. Though Jefferson's “all men are created equal” seems to be a dubious rhetorical assertion on the face of it, the slogan can be sufficiently qualified and nuanced to satisfy most truth-loving patriots. Nevertheless, if all men are in some way created equal, they end up quite unequal, both in this world and the next. Marx and Engels famously prophesied that the triumph of Communism would result in the end of all distinctions, not only between social classes, but also between men and women, parents and children, and even between the country and the city. And today we find that the doctrine of Equality has spread from the human to the inanimate world, so that no time or place or thing, no event or activity or behavior, may be objectively considered better or worse than another.
One obvious manifestation of mindless equality is the dissolution of American manners. All titles and customs that reflect distinction, hierarchy, or social inequality are now either threatened or extinct. I once worked with a young woman who refused to address her business letters using the title of “Dr.,” which to her was a sign of pomposity and pretentiousness. Granted, we're talking about public school administrators whose doctorates are in the notoriously dumbed-down field of Education (Ed.D's), but my co-worker's indignation did not stem from this irony. Her refusal was based on her belief that one person should not be distinguished from another on the mere basis of education. And this is a very common opinion today. For this reason, we now find that those who possess doctorates are very often afraid of using their titles: they do not want to be perceived as “snobbish.” Please, just call me Mike.
The abolition of titles began with a vulgar disdain for aristocracy, but it has now spread to include all social distinctions. Back in the '60s, it was fashionable for children to address their parents by their first names. This radical innovation was thankfully not sustained, but today we find students addressing their teachers, and children addressing their elders, by first names everywhere. In business discourse, there is still the initial impulse to use “Mr.” for men, but this formality is quickly dispensed with upon the first or second meeting. Businessmen make a point of being on a “first name basis” with their contacts as quickly as possible.
The feminist movement sought to abolish the distinction between married and unmarried females: the title “Ms.” was contrived for this purpose, as was the custom of married women retaining their maiden names. Less militant feminists were invited to attach their maiden names to their husband's surname, by way of a hyphen, in a romantic compromise with their patriarchal oppressors.
In the churches of our land, Protestant pastors went from Pastor Jones to Pastor Tom, and Catholic priests from Father Jones to Father Tom, in wake of the 1960s upheavals. In some Episcopalian circles, where the ordained priesthood has traditionally been highly regarded, priests dropped “Father” altogether and referred to themselves as “Doctor” instead. (Believe it or not, for High Church Episcopalians, this was an egalitarian move.) The abolition of titles has not resulted in a greater respect for persons, as might have been imagined at first. Instead, the result has been a complete lack of regard for the experience (usually measured in years), accomplishments (usually measured by education), consecration (usually determined by ordination), and natural station (usually indicated by sex and familial relation) of our neighbors. Worse still, the abolition of titles has resulted in the abolition of humility, that virtue which constrains men to consider others as better than themselves. When the adolescent George Washington penned his “Rules of Civility,” which some scholars believe were influenced by Jesuit pedagogy, he provided insight into the kind of manners that form the character of an American gentleman:
[indent]“In putting off your hat to persons of distinction, as noblemen, justices, churchmen, etc., make a reverence, bowing more or less according to the custom of the better bred, and quality of the persons; among your equals expect not always that they should begin with you first; but to pull off the hat when there is no need is affectation, in the manner of saluting and resaluting in word keep to the most usual custom.”
“When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop, and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.”
“Artificers and persons of low degree ought not to use many ceremonies to lords or others of high degree, but respect and highly honor them, and those of high degree ought to treat them with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.”[/indent]
We can see from these examples that customs which recognize legitimate distinctions between men tend to foster humility and respect, not arrogance and pomposity. Sadly, Washington's “bowing … according to the custom of the better bred” seems to be a thing of the past, long since replaced by the more egalitarian handshake or a simple nod of the head. And even the handshake has taken a beating: once reserved to men, women are now so aggressive about shaking hands that men have retreated into the high-school jock-culture of “wassup” and “high fives.”
In George Washington's day one “put off his hat” to persons of quality or distinction. A generation ago, men were still taught to remove their hats when greeting a member of the fairer sex, when entering someone's home, and when dining at a restaurant. Today this is completely forgotten: males wear their hats according to their own pleasure, often backwards, whenever and wherever and however they like.
In addition to titles and manners, dress used to distinguish people from one another. One could identify chefs, farmers, priests, nuns, maids, students, milkmen, postmen, auto mechanics, businessmen, and Montgomery Ward appliance repairmen by their uniforms alone. In the not too distant past, most men had a distinctive profession and were proud to wear the uniform of their class. This gave them a sense of identity, value, and common purpose.
But now we are all individualists, disdaining any group associations (except for a few politically correct exceptions, such as ethnic or gang-related clothing). The modern clergyman has exchanged his cassock and collar for the anonymity of civilian clothes, robbing strangers of the ability to recognize him in an emergency. Ladies' veils, which once adorned the heads of Protestant and Catholic women alike, signifying a woman's submission to male authority according to apostolic command, and publicly identifying a woman's marital status (black for married, white for unmarried), were universally discarded almost overnight by the newly liberated women in the pew. Furthermore, nuns have renounced their habits, businessmen have lost their suits, millers have forsaken their hats, schoolchildren have ditched their uniforms, and all of society is “all casual, all the time” — or so it seems. Not even sex constrains our apparel: our men have rings in their ears, our ladies have tattoos on their ankles, and blue jeans have become the preferred clothing of both sexes. Behold, the triumph of androgyny! Sex, class, and occupation are now viewed as constraints upon our individuality, rather than foundations from which to build. If this experiment was intended to result in more personality and individuality, it has utterly failed. We must now endure a dreary monotony in which everyone conforms to the same fashionable, boring, and artificial “individualism.”
This war against hierarchy and distinction has not been limited to people, but has now extended to places, times, and activities. Men used to “dress for work,” not only for practical reasons, but because work itself was viewed as something dignified and noble, set apart from ordinary household activities. Similarly, families put on their “Sunday best” for church because the public worship of their Creator was deemed the most important thing they did all week. When husband and wife went out to dinner, or to the opera, or even to see a movie, their dress signified that it was a special event. Similarly, mealtimes in the home were once cherished social occasions where conversation and good manners were fine-tuned. Today, fast-food, television, and absentee mothers have all but eliminated this important ritual, turning most Americans into animal-like grazers. As one comedian put it, “I grew up watching 'Leave It To Beaver' reruns, where Dad wore a tie at the dinner table. My father didn't wear a shirt.”
With respect to places and space, we can see runaway egalitarianism in the newer architecture and planning of public spaces. For instance, older homes have lots of walls, borders, and places set apart for special uses; newer homes have “great rooms,” “open floor plans,” huge windows, and gaping holes in the few walls that remain, creating an equality of space. (When we bought our new home, there was no door separating the bathroom from the master bedroom!) Along the same lines, some new residential communities have done away with fences except for those that are sufficiently transparent. Modern office buildings and conference rooms often have glass walls, or mirrors that give the illusion of no walls at all.
In religious architecture, the older buildings are vertical and hierarchical, directed towards heaven and toward the altar. Modern churches are low and horizontal, and sometimes circular, so as to emphasize "the people of God" instead of God Himself or His ministers. Inside an older church building, you will find an altar on an elevated platform, and an elevated pulpit from which to preach; today, everything has descended to the level of "the people,” and the gradations are much less pronounced if they exist at all. The new confessionals have no screens, and some even have glass doors and large windows. The idea here is to erase all hierarchy of space, activity, and persons, which ends in God and in an ordered universe.
We notice a crude egalitarianism in middle class politics, which sees the elite and the humble, the wealthy and the poor, as threats to the middle-class culture of envy (and a culture of envy requires a society of equals). That is why people of the middle class are often as hostile to the poor as they are to the privileged: the former are expected to be resentful of middle class prosperity and are not to be trusted, and the latter are a source of middle-class envy and discontent. This disordered egalitarian impulse explains both the anti-property ideology of the Left and the anti-immigrant populism of the so-called Right.
We may observe the egalitarian assault upon theology, which is manifest in the promiscuous ecumenism of most churches and denominations. The goal seems to be the elimination of all hierarchical distinction between religious ideas, thereby diminishing claims of religious truth and liberating individuals from having to consider truth-claims of any kind.
We even see the destructive influence of egalitarianism upon written communications, particularly in the new trend of writing without capitalization or punctuation — things that assign hierarchical significance to words and groups of words.
It should be mentioned that Protestantism bears much of the historical blame for this state of affairs. The Protestant doctrines of Total Depravity and the Priesthood of All Believers tended to erase all spiritual and moral distinctions between men: the only distinction that mattered was that of believer and unbeliever. As a result, Protestantism smashed the ecclesiastical hierarchy, destroyed monasticism, and sternly prohibited the veneration of saints. Neither did pilgrimages, shrines, or relics escape the wrath of Protestant levelers. Furthermore, the Protestants made no important distinctions among pagans, who were all seen as equally depraved and whose hierarchical sensibilities were not tolerated. The social forces put in motion by the Protestants ultimately replaced the old Christian order with secular ideologies of democracy and socialism.
I suppose that is enough to get the point across. The Egalitarian Heresy has turned our culture into an amorphous puddle of mush, darkening our minds, impoverishing our souls, and blinding our eyes to reality. Chaos, it has been said, is the lack of all distinction. As a popular bumper sticker boldly proposes: “NO LIMITS!.” But alas, our modern egalitarian world is not entirely consistent. Men cannot live without some kind of hierarchy, and so Americans have created shallow aristocracies based upon political power, sex appeal, professional sports, and financial success. Growing movements of Black Separatists, White Supremacists, and ethnic nationalists are also attempting to fill the cultural void with sinister appeals to biological purity. Nature will have its revenge.
What can be done? The answer is not, of course, a construction of new aristocracies based upon pagan notions of race, celebrity, money, or power. Neither is the answer a rigid caste system in which there is no communication or movement between classes. It must be admitted that some forms of hierarchical order can be arbitrary, cruel, and corrupt: let us be careful not to invite the old demons back. No, the answer is a return of our civilization to legitimate temporal Authority, and to our spiritual roots in the Catholic tradition. We have nothing to fear from this. It was the Catholic Church that eroded the brutal pagan hierarchies of old, which ruthlessly divided humanity into masters and slaves. It was the Catholic Church that abolished the harsh, polygamous patriarchy of pagan societies, which gave a man the authority of life and death over his own wives and children. And it was the Catholic Church that attacked the cruel racial castes of ancient civilizations.
Fallen man apparently has tendencies to erase legitimate hierarchical distinctions on the one hand, and to exaggerate and deify them on the other. The answer must be the full development of human personality, which requires individuals, orders and classes. While development implies mobility, the existence of orders and classes imply permanence, and their reconciliation demands the kind of humility that can only be attained through the Christian Gospel.