It didn’t take long for the name I chose for this blog to become troublesome. The author clearly overestimated the amount of fodder forthcoming from the Grand Lodge of California, which, if the reader has not noticed, is one of the prime targets of this writer. In the absence of enough material to pick apart, what is the reactionary Mason to do?
Perhaps it is time to examine those tools and implements most expressive, but through the Neoreactionary lens, to see if our mainstream interpretation shows the Truth, or if it has given us merely an unthinking idealism. We have much of the latter, but little of the former in our regular discourse. Many ideas and ideals sound very pleasing to the untrained ear, but are quickly exposed as untruths when held up to the light of Critical thinking. Knowing the difference is vitally important, to men in general, and Masons in particular, given how often we strike a pose of moral superiority. We are committed to the Truth; it is one of the three principle tenets.
Let us begin with the Compass.
When I was much younger, I had occasion to apply for my local law enforcement academy. I did it on a whim, and was somewhat surprised to learn that I was accepted. I lasted 3 short weeks. Nothing was particularly difficult, but I felt like I was in an alien land. No one ever questioned anything told them. Ever. After a particularly dull lesson on gambling (a dangerous crime of vice don’t you know), I remarked to my fellows what a waste it was that the department bothered with it. Reading the uncertain looks on their faces, I knew I had ventured into crimethink territory. Going on the offense, I said that I did not believe in excessive regulation. One of the fellows remarked, “you picked the wrong job.” So I had. Gambling is a vice, of course. One which causes much pain and suffering to otherwise good people and their loved ones. But it it the province of the state?
The Compass symbolizes that circle which we draw around ourselves, when deciding how we will conduct ourselves. Are there certain things you will not do? Lines you will not cross? This is what the Compass teaches us to discover. The lesson of the Compass, like Masonry itself (and Christian charity for that matter), demonstrates an individual, voluntary calling. It is of our own accord. No man may force us. There is, however, no call in Masonry for us to circumscribe the actions of our fellow men. Intervening in the life of a forlorn and compulsive gambler is the right thing for an individual to do, whispering good counsel and all that. But we do not use force. And that is precisely what we do when we ask an agent of the state to fine, confine to a cage or kill the man as punishment. So why do we do it? To deter it? To try and minimize the effects of poor “life choices”? The same may be asked of other laws as well.
Since our teachings are also designed to promote virtue, it is also helpful to consider whether such laws do, in fact, promote virtue. An even better question might be whether the purpose of Law is to promote virtue, or is it to provide for justice when one has harmed another? The reactionary, like (most) libertarians, understands that statutory law becomes pernicious when it begins to circumscribe the actions of others. But perhaps we need further consideration here. For the sake of argument, let us assume we would like our all-knowing and benevolent technocrats to help us be more virtuous.
Do these laws work? Are we more virtuous or less as a result? Is the man who would like to get some action on the side more or less virtuous when he cannot easily do so? Is the Dutchman who passes the legal brothel on his way home to his wife more or less virtuous than the Californian who wants to hire a prostitute? Is the Muslim who would very much like a drink more or less virtuous than the temperant American who abstains? I would argue that virtue – real virtue – is crowded out when the Nanny State steps in to police the vices of others.
Examine your laws, no matter who your “sovereign” may be, every time you are asked to decide. Think deeply on whether you are circumscribing your own actions, or someone else’s.