Posted by: Loran Blood | March 31, 2017

Agency and Freedom: Our Choice and Destiny

President David O. McKay taught that among the most important developments of human history was the movement from a feudal, status-based society to an individual liberty-based contractual society; the great leap from feudalism, serfdom, embedded class/status distinctions, mercantilism, and the divine right of Kings to the classical liberal paradigm of the unalienable natural rights of the individual, the sovereignty and independence of that individual from tribe, clan, caste, class, blood and soil (not rejection of heritage, but ultimate independence, flexibility and autonomy with respect to its various aspects and, perhaps, claimed prerogatives upon the life, choices, and potential of the individual) and merit – what the individual brings to the arena of the human condition and produces, contributes, and bestows upon himself, his community, and the larger nation of which he/she is a part with all its consequences, effects, implications, and emergent potential.

For some two centuries, what we have come to call the “Left” or, strangely, from outside its own internal ideological precincts, “progressivism,” has sought to undo or dismantle, either incrementally (the overwhelmingly more accepted and effective form) or in great, rapid revolutionary upheavals – when  not forestalling at the outset this state of affairs (the classical liberal/Judeo Christian superstructure of American and, to a lesser but still salient degree, the post-WWII societies of  Western Europe) while seeking to return humanity (all of it, if possible), yet in some future enlightened and perfected form, to a world in which one’s fortunes, possibilities, potential, and available hopes, dreams, and visions are tightly constrained by one or, now more often, a hybrid of status relations that include class, race, ethnic, varied eclectic sexual identities and one’s membership within the  ideologically approved in-group collective representing those attributes that determines, within this ideological structure, one’s beliefs, values, politics, and available life choices and trajectories.

Where once Plato taught the “noble lie” that all humans are born composed, symbolically, of one of three or four metals: gold for the rulers, silver for the Gaurdians, and bronze or iron for the lower orders of various kinds (below which still remain slaves) who are nonetheless important to the harmonious functioning of a republic, and where once feudal social dynamics stranded the individual in the class or caste within which he/she was born (peasant, craftsman, merchant, the military, or the nobility), the Left today, fleeing in a precipitous stampede from the classical liberal/Anglo-American moment in human history  under the influence of a body of Franco-Germanic philosophical imperatives in search of a “better world” variously described as more “just,” “equitable,” and “sustainable,” is returning us to a status and identity group-based conception of the human condition, relations between human beings and other human beings and between the individual, or individuals as members of the fundamental institutions and structural components of civil – the family, religion, and local community – and the state.

In an address given in General Conference in 1965, President David O. McKay spoke of “two great forces” in the world: the force of love, and the force of hate.

“I cannot get my thoughts off the fact” he said, “that there are two great forces in the world more potent than ever before, each force more determined to achieve success, more active in planning, and on the one side, scheming, than ever before.”

These forces of hate have sometimes come, like the Grinch’s descriptions of the Who’s Christmas presents, “without packages, boxes, or bags.”  There was little question of the motives, values, or view of those who opposed them of either the German National Socialists or the Italian Fascists, who’s theory, rhetoric, and behavior clearly telegraphed their deeper intentions to those who had ears to hear (although the progressive Left in America and Britain in the 1930s felt little initial revulsion towards the stated philosophical fundamentals of either system).

Nazism and Fascism fell out of ideological favor on the Left after the end of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the end of WW-II, but another great system of totalitarian collectivism, a system that had been part of the original Axis, became an ally of terrible necessity (as was the thinking at the time), and then embarked in what became known as the ‘Cold War” against the United States and the West, and a system that preached egalitarian cooperative brotherhood among all peoples against world-historical oppressors who were the only thing standing between the toiling, abused wretched of the earth and a future world of endless peace, plenty, harmony, and limitless human potential, never shared  the stygian opprobrium of the two other leftist systems, and its defenders passed down their hate of the “oppressor” and their utopian dreams of messianic redemption to new generations of adherents, theorists, activists and popularizers.

It was the Frankfurt School in exile and its penultimate creation, critical theory, from which has been derived a plethora of academic sects, cults, and sub-cults of the academic and activist Left, that took the progressive movement, over several generations, to ultimate triumph in America and the West and which, probably permanently, radically altered and reconstructed American public and higher education, the mainstream news media, the foundations, and the arts and entertainment world, a place well downstream from the heady and sophisticated world within which ideas are nurtured and given disturbing birth.

For our purposes here, two principles are key.  The first is that Satan sought both to deny the Father’s children their agency (the ability to choose) as well as, once mortality comes into view, the freedom to act within the realm of agency such that agency can actually be applied to choosing against a range of alternative choices.  This is particularly critical when decisions and choices must be made under various kinds of pressures and constraints.  The second is that Satan’s motives were not love, but narcissistic self-aggrandizement, which then turned quickly to an all-embracing hate once he had been cast out of heaven, his plans of cosmic self-glorification had been decisively thwarted, and he began to seek “the misery of all mankind” (2 Nephi 2:18) as what we can easily comprehend as a kind of vengeance or retribution upon the other two thirds for having failed to “vote in their own best interests,” as many might say today, and for foiling his saneless fantasies of ascent to ultimate authority and power – while himself being allowed to circumvent the requirements – and risks – of exaltation.

“The world” says President McKay respecting agency, ” does not comprehend the significance of that divine gift to the individual. It is as inherent as intelligence which, we are told, has never been nor can be created.”  And so we see today, following the 20th century, the unique century of ideology and its idolatrous adulation which saw the unfolding and blossoming of a hostility and opposition to both agency and “free agency,” or, in other words, agency free to be actually applied to the circumstances of mortality, like none to which God’s children had ever been exposed in the mortal sphere, at least on such a vast scale and emboldened by modern technology.

President Mckay makes two more points; that hate in the latter days both denies the existence of God as well as the agency and, necessarily from this, the inherent liberties and rights God has given his children to choose; the two-way teaching” is undone, the fork in the road disappears, and all that remains is “social justice.”

“I do not know that there was ever a time in the history of mankind when the Evil One seemed so determined to take from man his freedom.”

President McKay didn’t live long enough to see such a time as could be said to be an era in which even Satan’s desire to crush agency and liberty in his day and been intensified and amplified.

But we are living in that time.

A fundamental principle of the gospel is free agency, and references in the scriptures show that this principle is (l) essential to man’s salvation; and (2) may become a measuring rod by which the actions of men, of organizations, of nations may be judged.

Without then, this overarching “measuring rod,” the “actions of men, of organizations,” and of “nations” have no moral or ethical reference frame; no means by which good can be differentiated from evil or even or even good ideas from bad ones in an ethical sense, or in any but a purely pragmatic sense that itself is hostage to its own self-construction of ultimate values.  This is the bottomless abyss of moral, value, and epistemic relativism into which our society has plunged, heedless, as to its popular appeal among so many, of what may really lie in the dark.

http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1420

 

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