Are We a Population or a People? The Former is Much Easier to Rule

Are We a Population or a People? The Former is Much Easier to Rule… By Anthony Esolen.

I am trying to imagine what it would be like if I should take up residence in India, and, because I am not a Hindu believer, demand that the public schools not teach the Rig-Veda. I would come in for the roundest abuse.

It would be tantamount to demanding that the Indian people sever their children from a rich fount of legend and history, and, though inevitably encrusted with human folly and sin, from a noble way of understanding what it means to be human; from wellsprings of culture more than two thousand years old; from their temples, their songs, and their traditions; even from the subtlest beauties of their very language, insofar as it has been watered and nurtured by these sources.

It would be as if I should bang my fist on the table and cry, red in the face, “There must no longer be an India or an Indian people!”

Common culture and genetics is what binds people:

For people are not united by geopolitical boundaries, political machinery, or constitutional by-laws. They can be united only by what transcends their time, their place, and their economic or political interests. …

The West:

When American jurists ruled that the sacred texts of the Christian and Jewish faiths must be treated as anathema in our schools, it was as if they had said that there must not be an American people, and that the American population — for a population is a collective, a penfold for sheep or for some other culture-less creatures, and not a unity — must be severed from conversation with the cultures that have informed them and their very language … It was to say that it was unconstitutional to be a people at all.

Of course, only the most malevolent on the one side, and the most perspicacious on the other, might have seen it that way.

I suppose that most people supposed, for good and for bad, that the schools would go on doing almost everything they had been doing, and that the churches, which were still full and looking to expand, would continue to exert their immense influence on the way people looked at the world. But it was not so. It was a violent and artificial excision of the dimension of worship from the common language: of wonder before the divine, of guilt and its expiation, of joy that shines through the darkest grief, even of love that bows the head in forgiveness of the enemy.

In spiritual and cultural matters, it was as if America had dumbed down her language just as schoolbook publishers had done with the “Dick and Jane” series, resulting, in very short order, in a nation of illiterates and semi-literates, smothered by the schools.

It was as if someone had taken a knife to the nation’s soul and performed a spiritual lobotomy, so that people would no longer have the words to talk to each other about glory; so that Americans, when they did happen to encounter Ahab in his fury, raising his fist against the God who spoke to Job from the whirlwind, would be, at best, like cheerfully dopey tourists gaping up at the windows in Notre-Dame de Paris, and saying, “Gosh, they’re big. I wonder what they’re about?” — and then looking back toward the door, because they sense that they should feel something or know something, but they don’t, and they don’t. …

What does it mean? Why was it built?

We have ceased to be a people: we have no cultural language. …

A possible future?

Imagine a cripple who finds it irksome to watch healthy people race about. He would be content if everyone should be hamstrung, to stump about as he must do.

That, I suspect, is what lies at the bottom of most of the secularist demands that people keep “religion” out of this place and that place; no more than old-fashioned, resentful, petty envy.

Meanwhile, some few among us may see that a population is easy to control so long as they are fed, since the individuals that make up a population can unite about nothing. Keep the living puppets fed, say the puppeteers. It is better for their shrewd purposes that there should be three hundred million puppets, and not one people anymore.

All religions, but most especially Christianity, assert that there is a higher authority than our current political rulers here on Earth. Political types hate this message.

Christianity has always been enemy number 1 of the Western left.

Christianity was born under severe political repression by the strongest empire seen to date, the Romans. Its messages, its practices, and its psychology are battle-tested to survive and prevail against a strong, antagonistic state. It took three hundred years, but eventually the Romans become Christian. Communism? Bah, 70 years. How many divisions does the Pope have, indeed.

If the left has become that new oppressive state, perhaps the ways of Christianity offers some lessons in how to oppose the overbearing state.