Macedonia and the spirit of the age
Gideon Rachman is a British writer and the chief foreign affairs commentator for the Financial Times. In an article published in the September 18 edition of the FT he writes in defense of George Soros stating “In the 1990s, Mr Soros was in tune with the spirit of the age, as he used the billions he had made in finance to support the transition to democracy in post-communist Europe and elsewhere. But now the global political climate has changed and liberal ideas are in retreat.”
This interests me for a variety of reasons. First and most importantly is that phrase Rachman uses — “the spirit of the age.” What is “the spirit of the age?” Professor and writer Dennis Fisher notes that “Every age has its own thoughts, ideas, and values that influence the culture, the ‘spirit of the age.’ It is the kind of growing consensus that morally lulls us to sleep, gradually causing us to accept society’s latest values.” The “values” of the world, of this current age, are “values” that increasingly shift depending on the whims of individuals. For followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostle Paul urges us not to be lulled into following the spirit of the age but to follow the spirit of God (I Corinthians 2:12). So for me being “in tune with the spirit of the age” is not a good thing or something to aim for. But going back to Rachman’s point: he is saying that within less than two decades, the mood in the world has gone from one of being hungry for Western liberalism (in the classical sense which is a good thing) to a retreat of “liberal ideas” (again, in the classical liberal sense, a good thing). However classical liberal ideas are not in retreat: instead they are being taken over and corrupted by Soros, Rachman and others who share their worldview. Those “liberal ideas” have been corrupted into an attitude that includes the disdain for the traditional family (as well as rejecting male and female genders) and its replacement with any number of combinations; a celebration of the killing of the unborn; an attempt to upend the nation-state and replace it with a global order; an expansion of government (along with a belief that government is all-good and all-knowing); a belief in the perfectibility of mankind; and an insistence there is only one way, the way of Soros and others, and that to be outside of that one way is to be on the “wrong side of history,” and that they will brook no deviation from their one way. This is what we are warned about by Polish philosopher, author and MEP Ryszard Legutko who writes in The Demon in Democracy, “both the communists and liberal democrats have always upheld and continue to uphold the view that history is on their side.” This corruption of those “liberal ideas” has been going on not just over the past two decades, but all of last century. That this corruption has taken hold now and is in full swing is due to many factors, the most important of which is technology and the speed of communications that has allowed this corruption to permeate the entire world, including Macedonia.
Who is responsible for this corruption of liberal ideas, of Western Civilization of the beliefs of Judeo-Christian thought? How has this come about? For this I turn to Samuel Gregg writing in the Public Discourse. He writes “…if you want to understand the disdain for truth that characterizes the West, you should look to what he [the late Michael Novak] called the “vulgar relativism, ‘nihilism with a happy face’” propagated by “many sophisticated people” and “today’s intellectuals.” You can put names to these people but it certainly includes Soros and Rachman.
Now, what to do about it? Gregg writes “The long-term preservation of free and good societies against such people, Novak insisted, required three things. The first was acceptance that there is truth — including universal moral truths — and we can know it. Not everything is in flux.” As you re-read those lines think about how individuals today reject truth and tell us that everything is relative.
“The second was recognition that freedom can’t be reduced to negative liberty. Here Novak cited Lord Acton’s axiom that liberty is not ultimately the freedom to do whatever you wish but rather the freedom to choose what you ought. “Ought” here implies the classic Jewish, Christian, and natural law insight that man alone can know and freely choose the good — and that the content of the good does not change.” As you re-read this remember: limits are vital to preserving a free society, both limits on government and personal limits.
“Third, Novak insisted that market economies required something we all find demanding: the pursuit of virtue — Jewish, Christian, classical, and commercial virtues — as people sought to embrace ‘self-government, self-command, self-control.’ One aspect of the free economy that inspired and worried Novak was that it “demands more virtues than socialist or traditional economies.’” As you re-read that line think about what kind of economy the government of Macedonia wants to build.
This “spirit of the age” is the cancer that has been and continues to infect the world, including Macedonia and it worries me. In going on 22 years in and with Macedonia I have seen the ills it has brought to Macedonia and how it is ripping apart families, destroying individuals, and uprooting society at large. It has been imported by people like George Soros and those who think and believe like him. You know who they are. On the other side, however, those of us who believe in the truth have not done enough to counter this “spirit of the age.” Which leads me to this: remember that there is always hope and a cure for this. Aleksandar Solzhenitsyn’s quote about Russia is correct; the famous Soviet dissident said that one of the biggest problems with Russia was that “men have forgotten God.” The corollary to that in the West today is that not only have men forgotten God but that they have openly rejected Him and are working feverishly to replace God with the worship of mankind. The way to defeat this insidious “spirit of the age” then is to return to God. Nothing else will work.