Utopian Morality

In the past, communities were held together, and public morality maintained, by the personal sense of shame and obligation, the habituation of moderate emotional responses, the concern for family honor, and the desire to prove oneself worthy of the responsibilities of individual self-government. Today, in a quest to root out all moral aberrations and imperfections, societies employ school-indoctrinated slogans, omnipresent cameras, algorithmic monitors, and an ever-expanding panoply of mandates and quasi-regulatory social tribunals to direct and delimit everyone’s actions, words, and even thoughts, by means of the omnipresent awareness of being prodded, watched, ordered, and frightened into behaviors that are never truly chosen, actions without real alternatives.

The result of this recent perfecting of artificial (i.e., mechanistic) methods of social control? The internal regulatory system of the free and responsible individual has been replaced with external controls, which if ever lifted for a moment would reveal anarchy, which is to say a crowd (not a community in any proper sense) comprised of overgrown and poorly raised children, guided only by anxiety over getting caught or obedience rooted in the practical futility of trying anything, and restrained only by calculations of what they can get away with or by the laziness of unthinking mob compliance.

In short, public morality has been reduced to mutual assured destruction — the Hobbesian state of nature — slowed only by fear of the monitors and the lassitude of deeply ingrained pointlessness. This is the paradoxical essence and inevitable outcome of ceding the tasks of moral education and social cohesiveness to the machinery of the utopian bureaucratic police state.

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