Brave New Ireland

Brave New Ireland (Position Papers (2015, no. 492), pp. 11ss)
For the last forty years we have been forming a generation to think that the fewer ties or commitments one has, the freer one is. This is just not so. Freedom is useless unless it ends in a choice. And perhaps it is worse than useless if one has been taught that all choices must be temporary, because nothing can give more than a passing satisfaction, nothing in fact is worth a definitive or binding choice. Always keep yourself 'free' for something or someone else. That is the philosophy our new generations are being taught.
It reminds one of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley's prophetic novel of 1931, where social engineering and technology have destroyed all natural human ties and supports, and each disconnected individual enjoys the effortless happiness guaranteed by sex and drugs. In Huxley's world, marriage is obsolete; "Everyone belongs to everyone else", a main motto of Brave New World, is now becoming our motto.
Marriage is out - that is what the recent referendum really signifies (homosexual marriages are simply not marriages; we have in fact voted to make marriage meaningless). Don't bind yourself to anyone else; don't compromise yourself by setting up a home.
Home is out. "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in ... Something you somehow haven't to deserve" (Robert Frost). But in our Brave New World there will be no home. Deserving or undeserving, there will be no home, no place where they have to take you in. You will be on your own.
This has been the world trend since Huxley's time. Some want it. Most don't, or wouldn't if they had some clear idea of where we are heading. But they have no such idea. Misled by heavily financed propaganda from abroad, misled by our own government and political parties as well as the media, a majority of our people has now voted to put Ireland in the vanguard of the road that leads straight into this Brave New World.
This brave (or cowardly? or simply selfish?) New World where no one will have to care for any one else, where all are free from any definitive commitment: free from the challenge of creating bonds of faithful love, of loyal friends, of a welcoming home.. One marries (or "marries" - under the new definition), and one walks out at any moment, dumping the other. It is all a matter of each one on his or her own. One creates a family - that is not a home because no one can count on it always being there. The main thing is that you must be your own Number One.
And all in the name of freedom. There is nothing like freedom. You can choose what you like and keep on being free... - Not if what you choose shrinks you, eats away your freedom to choose anything really worthwhile, and leads you into addiction.
"Everyone belongs to everyone else"; and no one cares for anyone else, except maybe for a brief time, and never to the point of having to make a real sacrifice for them. "Everybody's happy now" is another maxim of Brave New World, for everybody has been taught to rejoice that no one has any permanent bonds. That is happiness. Deep roots, permanent bonds or relationships, make for unhappiness... - And so we are left literally rootless, with each individual divested of any experience or memories of unbreakable ties of lasting love, tenderness, generosity, dedication.
People are being swept down ways of personal emptiness. Young people don't realize this; especially since their education has been completely geared to thinking of present "freedoms" and not of future consequences ('freedom to do what you like' so often ends as 'not liking what you do', and do compulsively). But older people should realize it, especially if they have been entrusted with the good of society. If they do not know in what that good consists - what can achieve it and what can destroy it - , they should at least have the honesty to say to the people "we just don't know where we are going, but it seems to be downhill and very fast". And then resign the job for which they are incompetent.
Or perhaps they do know. The let them declare it publicly. We are leading you into Brave New World and tell people what that means. In Huxley's novel, Mustapha Mond, the World Controller, explains his political philosophy: "Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics"; and his appealing message to those he is "governing": individual happiness guaranteed because no one is "plagued with mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about". That's the formula; it makes for easily-managed economic and political stability. And easily-managed - but not self-governed or truly free - individuals.
Brave New World was banned in Ireland in the 1930s. The recent referendum might suggest that it now become required reading in all secondary schools. If their teachers were competent and the students capable of critical thought, it could help them think twice about where our - their - society is heading.
To say No to a process of disintegration is no doubt to contradict - because it says we are on the wrong way, humanly too, and we need to change direction. But to say so is positive, not negative! In this sense the Church today is especially called to be a "sign of contradiction", bringing to people's minds what is still buried deep in their hearts: the falseness of this Brave New World philosophy. For it is false, as well as destructive and dehumanizing.
- Put yourself at the centre of your own life, seek yourself... [And, it is Our Lord who tells us, you will lose yourself (Lk 17:33)].
- Keep your freedom... - Even if it is taking you into enslaved addiction.
- Reject all ties and loyalties, cut yourself loose from all commitments... - And then you will drift off on your own, as the tide takes you, into solitude and ever-increasing loneliness.
To the pagans of two thousand years ago, St. Paul preached the "unknown God" (Acts 17:23). Today it is the "unknown man" that must also be preached, for many around us appear to have lost true self-knowledge. They seem not to know their own capacity for self-centredness, which can lead to utter disconnection and isolation. The Church needs to preach the real possibility for each one of shrinking into that tight little ball of eternal solitude which is the very substance of hell.
It was from that possibility that Christ came to save us. He came to stir those deeper questionings about the meaning of life and death that always remain in the heart of each man or woman. Pope John Paul II put it forcefully in his 1985 Letter to the Youth of the World, "Christ is the "good teacher" who shows the paths of life on earth. He is the witness to man's immortality... In his Resurrection Christ has also become the permanent "sign of contradiction" before all programmes incapable of leading man beyond the frontier of death. Indeed at this frontier those programmes have no answer to all man's questionings about the value and meaning of life".
The deeper questionings, the only ones that really matter, are these: Life after death? Or death after death? That "second death" of Revelation (RV 2: 11), the eternal fire of which Our Lord speaks so seriously. So he presents himself indeed as a contradiction and a stumbling block, a scandal. And yet he remains the only Saviour and hope of the world.
In his recent Encyclical, Lodato sì, Pope Francis speaks of "our irresponsible behavior" in relation to the nature of the world and to the nature of man. Both, he says come from "the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless." (no. 6). And he adds: "Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble" (no. 117)
If the Church is to be both faithful to Our Lord and loyal to the world, it must confidently preach as never before the clear message: Life is much more than a mere something to be played with. Life is not a passing game or an eternal amusement park or a constant over-night disco that leaves one more and more worn out and empty. Life, real life, begins when one comes out of self and falls in love. Life consists in this: learning to love here on earth, and enjoying limitless and eternal Love in heaven. That is the message of positive contradiction and transcendent hope we have to present to our world.