More than once after giving a talk, I’ve been asked, “How did we get into this mess?” People pose this question in the hope of a simple answer. There isn’t one. No one thing got us into this mess; we were brought here by a great many seemingly independent but converging and reinforcing events, over a period of centuries.
Some were epistemological, like how wisdom was displaced by expertise. Some were political, like how technocrats who said they would end social misery found it in their interest to promote a permanent underclass of dependents. Some were psychological, like how the revenge of conscience came to be such a powerful motor of social disintegration. Some were social, like how vulgarity came to be viewed as a mark of perverse sophistication. Some were theological, like how the doctrinal effect of the sola scriptura maxim was precisely the opposite of what was intended. Some were philosophical, like how we put out our eyes rather than recognize and honor the meanings and purposes woven into us.
Are you discouraged? I’m not. The very fact that we can enumerate these many tangles means that the untangling is cut out for us. Leave decent people to their imperfect common sense. Abandon the self-righteous nostrum that the best way to help the poor is to undermine them. When you have sinned, don’t reinvent morality; repent. Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, gracious, noble, and worthy of praise, feast your mind on it. Respect Tradition. Open your eyes.