A number of years ago now, a friend pointed me to an article about how we can reclaim our culture. In that article, David Hart elucidates some of the trends of societies that have fallen apart morally and offers some suggestions on how to reform our own culture. He also speaks about the dichotomy between censorship and freedom:
It is a curious condition of late Western modernity that, for so many of us, the highest ideal of the good society is simply democracy as such, and then within democracy varying alloys of capitalism, the welfare state, regionalism, federalism, individualism, and so on. And what we habitually understand democratic liberty to be — what we take, that is, as our most exalted model of freedom — is merely the unobstructed power of choice. The consequence of this, manifestly, is that we tend to elevate what should at best be regarded as the moral life’s minimal condition to the status of its highest expression, and in the process reduce the very concept of freedom to one of purely libertarian or voluntarist spontaneity. We have come to believe — more or less unreflectively — that the will necessarily becomes more free the more it is emancipated from whatever constraints it suffers; which means that, over the course of time, even our most revered moral traditions can come to seem onerous nuisances that we must shed if we are to secure our “rights.” At the very last, any constraint at all comes to seem an intolerable bondage. But it was not ever thus.
Indeed, the modern concept of pure libertarian freedom is an innovation of our own age. It has no roots in the traditional view of freedom espoused from Aristotle through Aquinas–where the issue is not freedom from something, but freedom for something (or in religious terms, for Someone).
Americans have largely lost this sense of freedom within a process of acquiring virtue. We do not speak and act in view of some telos. Rather, we often are content doing what we want, when and how we want to do it. With the end of a search for virtue came a stark focus on self and inward-looking existence.
Perhaps there is a reason for such a maligned view of freedom in our society: A true “understanding of freedom, however, requires not only the belief that we possess an actual nature, which must flourish to be free, but a belief in the transcendent Good towards which that nature is oriented.” Though many polls would lead you to believe that we are quite a Christian, or at least religious, nation, that religious sense may not translate into actual practice. (Newman’s sermon, “Profession Without Practice” is a great read on this notion.)
So what can we do about it? In American society, a well-functioning democracy requires a moral people. To avoid the deviations and delinquencies of past democracies, we need to raise up new generations that hold up virtue as a primary goal. If you are striving for virtue and want to teach your children to do so as well, then you are to help raise up and educate this new generation.
How can we do this you ask?
Hart answers: “Probably the most subversive and effective strategy we might undertake would be one of militant fecundity: abundant, relentless, exuberant, and defiant childbearing.”