SUCH salutary Cassandras of our time as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Malcolm Muggeridge and Bernard Levin have together provided a diversity of valid criteria for judging the sick and regressive trend of our society. But perhaps none is more striking (and depressing) than the particular flight from reason
represented by double think and the double standard.
I was recently in Stratfordon-Avon and, revisiting one of the Shakespearean "holy places", read a photocopy of an Elizabethan parish register. An item which caught my eye was the fining of a local gentleman for non-attendance at divine worship.
Later in the day, back at my hotel, I was reading the daily paper and this time my eye was caught by an article on the dismissal of British Rail employees for declining to join a union.
Before dinner my mind was full of a fantasy — that, in 1976, as the result of art ecclesiastical lobby, a law was enacted which provided for the fining of all baptised, adult Anglicans (or Catholics or Methodists) who failed to attend church on Sunday without producing a National Health medical certificate within seven days.
Certainly nothing more outrageously fanciful could he imagined. But let us, for a moment, be outrageously fanciful. Can you then not go on to imagine the nationwide, superbly orchestrated protest movement by the full stagearmy of "progressives"? And the battle-cry would, of course, be freedom — freedom from insufferable and unjust sanctions on the individual. Though many of the protesters would not realise it, they would be invoking (and rightly) the Natural Law: as best perceived before postMachiavellian raison d'itat and post-Hegelian statism had been invented.
But what is to be said of a society — or a large part of a society which has such a myopic or partial view of individual freedom?
Just as I can think of nothing more certain to alienate me from my Church arni the practice of religion than Mass attendance made compulsory through legislative provisions, so I can think of nothing more certain to alienate me from the State and the practice of my profession than union or association membership made compulsory under the law.
Both hypotheses (the first inprobable to the point of impossibility, the second only too probable) are in flagrant breach of the Natural Law and, as Aquinas taught, following Augustine: "There is no law unless it be just • , If a human law is at variance in any particular with the Natural Law, it as no longer legal but rather a corruption of law.
The truth is that the success of the double-thinking "reactionaryprogressives" lies not only in the actual, growing subjection of the human spirit to the State but also in the extraordinary fact that, for upwards of ten or fifteen years, the
whole dialogue of sociology, religion and politics has been conducted in their own crazy, semi! iterate and lop-sided terms.
Newman convicted Kingsley of poisoning the wells of truth. These have poisoned the wells of language and debate. The rational question, largely propped by the culture and philosophy of 2,500 years, "Why should I?" has, almost overnight, been superseded by the irrational question, "Why shouldn't I?" ' I do not take the view that sexual morals have unique validity as the barometer of a nation's weather, but in no area can the distorted dialogue and the bogus freedom he more clearly identified.
I have never met Mrs Whitehouse, nor do I agree with all she has said and written (indeed, I do nbt agree with all that anybody, from Pope Paul to Chairman Mao, not excluding myself, has said and written over the years) but the most superficial knowledge of her expressed views is sufficient to establish that she deserves to he taken seriously.
After all, her basic tenet is one which scarcely seems susceptible of disposal by pure (or impure) derision: that there are, or ought to be, limits to the toleration of publicity displayed indecency.
You would not secure a very long roll-Call of the finest minds in human history in support of a denial that this is at least an arguable proposition. Yet she has been deliberately represented as a ridiculous, if not imbecile, figure whose utterances deserve nothing but raucous laughter.
Contrariwise, I notice that the technically accomplished playwright, Dennis Potter, secures a full page of a recent issue of The New Stateman, not to tell us something of his craft or to review the work of others, but to discharge a torrent of plaintive bile on the BBC for not screening his latest play because of the "nausea" it produced in the official who had a preview,
Now, clearly I know nothing of Mr Potter's unseen play though, from observation of one or two of his earlier works, the word "nausea" strikes a chord. My present purpose, however, is neither, to criticise the Potter oeuvres nor to defend censorship.
It is rather to marvel that any writer should find it cause for indignation that he receives one rejection-slip, so to speak, and should conclude an egocentric article by imploring his readers to swamp the BBC with demands to be "allowed" to see the matchless piece.
This from one who clearly recognises that he is trying to push forward the bounds of "acceptability" on a continuous basis. Truly, none of the stuffiest establishment figures of Church or State can hold a candle to the avant-garde when it comes to pompous and arrogant selfrighteousness.
I fear — I very much fear — that the sorry, defensive, embattled plight in which so many people, Christian and non-Christian, young and old, find themselves, believing as they do in freedom in the broad, traditional sense (not in the narrow, selective and newly invented sense) is mainly due to a great treason, imperceptible in its origins but now grown to be a near-mortal cancer — the treason of silence.