At the State Level

May 4, 2023


Birds Eye View of New York and Environs, 1865.

If a family can dominate a region, a town, and a profession, then no matter what the form of government may be, it will be influenced by families. This influence comes from below and moves upwards, penetrating in thousands of ways the organism of the State.

Having penetrated the organism of the State and instilling it with its vitality, it actually inspires the State. The family is vital force guiding the State. It is a vital force of convictions that limits the action of the State. Those directing the State are also part of families. They are part of this bubbling life, and they know they cannot change the direction of the State, because they are rooted in a society that is not a society of mere individuals—it is not a doxocratic society—but is a society with a defined life and tradition that function in the same way that the strong undercurrent of a river will certainly influence the course of the ship that navigates upon it.

Does the head of State actually set the course of a country? He certainly does, as he holds the reins of power, but he sets the course as does a captain of a ship who is navigating a winding river. He sets the course according to the currents and banks of the river. In this way, a State acquires stability, continuity, and coherence. In this way, the life of the family penetrates the State from top to bottom and gives it a solidity that is difficult for us to imagine, considering today’s anti-organic societies.Of course, I need not say that family life conceived in this way has its inconveniences. Everything in this life has its inconveniences. To avoid the family life that I have described because of inconveniences, however, is more or less like a person reasoning as follows: “Many people have died from cancer of the arm, therefore we should cut off our arms so we do not get cancer.” This is nonsense. Since we need to live, we must see how to avoid the inconveniences.

So what are the inconveniences? The greatest, in my view, comes from the lack of a virtue called Love of God. When this virtue is lacking, aseity, instead of being a generous movement through which a person affirms himself and communicates something, rather becomes egotistical and invasive, as the person affirms himself in order to keep everything for himself.

Stenciled on the wall of a building in London. Photo by Gürkan Sengün

I expand my personality at the expense of another who must be like me. If he is different, then I will smash him, because I want him only to be like me and to serve my interests. I will use my prestige, influence, tradition, dynamism, and especially my money to impose myself. Everyone will have to do what I want because that is what is best for me. What is best for me is to have as much as I can with as much power as possible. I want everyone to acknowledge the greatness of my person.

This may be more or less explicit, or to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the case, but gradually an erosion of the morals of a person or a family can take place. In this event, we will have a family that becomes an oligarchy. An oligarchic family is one that is closed to new values. It is a family that will never consent to another family, a newcomer, ignoring any justly earned merit and personal value, sitting next to it and participating in its influence and power.

It is a refusal of the idea that an exceptional individual, possibly from a lower class, could rise to the level of an individual of a higher class. This establishes a regime of castes such as in India, for example. It is something that is entirely closed and from which nothing enters or leaves and remains intact for centuries.

A family organisation, as I have described, could be compared to the waters of pool that are discreetly renewed so as to avoid stagnation. It is certainly not the revolted torrent of the nouveau riche, of the adventurers, or things done off the cuff. Nor am I speaking of a stagnation that refuses all new values. I am speaking of the family which, with all naturality and unabashedness, accepts new values without any fear because it is convinced that one of its greatest strengths is the strength of agglutination. That which does not have the strength of agglutination does not live.

Furthermore, this organisation of the family thus conceived evidently avoids certain types of families becoming like prisons to its members by not admitting exceptions. Any family that is a living organism easily deals with exceptions. It does not fear exceptions. If someone wants to follow another profession, if someone wants to emigrate from the family circle to another locality, he is free to do so and it is granted with goodwill. It will, however, be considered a somewhat rare exception, or even somewhat frequent, depending on those unforeseeable events that are part of everything that lives.

Such a family organisation, of course, fits with any form of government: monarchic, aristocratic, democratic, or even a mixture in varying degrees of these three forms of government. Reason tells us that the family is not incompatible with a form of government. Historical experience shows us, just to cite the Middle Ages as an example, how there were strong family-based cities living side by side that were democratic, aristocratic, and others yet with monarchic tendencies. Of course, there were the great monarchies based on the family. Therefore, this has nothing to do with forms of government.

A Young man from a poor family triumphantly shows his diploma to his patroness.
F. Georg Waldmüller (1861). Belvedere Art Collections, Vienna, Austria.

In sum, we have seen what is a society with true life; what is a society based on families; what is this force flowing from the depths of the individual up through the high echelons of the State and even reaching the broad horizons of Public Opinion itself and that mould a type of society that we today find it difficult to imagine.

However, if we have a society without aseity or personality, without a warm and bubbling family life, we have, in fact, a society directed from without. In other words, we have a mass. Because the raw material of this society that is the family has been weakened, it will necessarily have to allow itself to be directed and have ever increasing recourse to the State, for only the State will have the strength and means to impose, direct, and guide.

What is the result? The State will become increasingly intrusive into private life as well as increasingly overbearing. The end of the process is totalitarianism.

The Christian Institution of the Family: A Dynamic Force to Regenerate Society, by Tradition, Family, Property Association. Chapter 6, Pgs. 75-81.



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