PART II: Has the Point Been Reached Where No One Realizes the Catastrophe We've Suffered?

PART II in an American Millennial Series: What Danger, or Glory, Awaits Us?

By Octavia Ratiu

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) —
 What will our country look like in 2021 with the pandemic and a bitterly fought and a divisive presidential election hopefully behind us? To what end do we struggle to keep our nation together, a mishmash of voices crying out for justice, peace, and for prosperity for all?

Many of us are puzzled at how wild, rough and stubborn the surrounding world might become – and what danger or glory alike await us on the other side.

Is it still possible to heal and grow from the wreckage that 2020 has wrought?

20th Century Marxist-turned-Catholic-Aristotelian philosopher Alastair MacIntyre once spelled out a 3rd Way. His prescription for a culture like ours is – to the extent its unable to progress in its moral discourse because of polarization – increasing isolation and an individualistic set of moral principles that squanders the hours that might otherwise be worthwhile.

MacIntyre argues that two roads lie ahead of us:
First, we can either pursue the rejection of religious and moral principles, or second, we can pursue the tradition of virtue ethics.

In genuine morality, the nation or community's rules have authority – not the individuals. The notion of choosing one's own morality makes no sense.

The Enlightenment project – identifying a set of moral rules equally compelling to all rational persons – failed. Its heirs were a number of rival standpoints whose disagreements multiplied in such a way that 20th-Century Culture has been deprived of any widely shared, rational morality. It has instead inherited an amalgam of fragments from past moral attitudes and theories.

This failure is best understood as the wrong-headed rejection in the 16th and 17th Centuries and what I call “the tradition of the virtues.” That tradition was a theory and practice of the virtues in which Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the key names. Its a tradition with a shared core conception of virtues, which are:
  • First, those qualities of mind and character without which the goods inherent to such human practices as those of the arts and the sciences, and such productive activities as those of farming, fishing, and architecture, cannot be achieved.
  • Second, those qualities without which an individual cannot achieve that life – ordered in terms of those goods – which is best for her or him to achieve.
  • And third, those qualities without which a community cannot flourish and there can be no adequate conception of overall human good.
It is in these terms that Aristotelianism succeeded in vindicating itself – rationally as metaphysics, as politics and morals, and as a theory of inquiry. If this is so, its been shown in at least these areas to be not only the best theory so far, but the best theory that's known about what makes a particular theory the best.

At this point, its rational to proceed – until and unless reasons are provided for doing otherwise.

We can instantiate our community's and our individual goals according to the values and priorities the nation has established as an ethical system. and within the culture that establishes and cultivates the examined life. In such a way, we approach the common good because it prioritizes the good of the many, without sacrificing the good of the individual.

And, we concentrate on restoring political legitimacy to the so-called great questions:
  • Which way will we choose?
  • How will we bring it about in a morally relativistic, individualistic society that is agnostic about any measure of goodness, truth, justice and happiness other than the ones we create ourselves?
Such arguments, when developed systematically through time, become a salient feature of the social relationships they inform and give expression. Pre-rational cultures of storytelling are transformed into rational societies where the stories are first put into question, and then partially developed by theories – which are themselves then put to the question.

These questions might go as follows:
  • What role will our elected officials play in creating and enforcing Rules of Law that hold us to A standard of civility and morality necessary for a prosperous political community?
  • Are we past the point of no return, having crossed the proverbial Rubicon of moral discourse that is the measure of a just and healthy society?
  • And, has the die been cast, or is there hope yet for us to rise again as a leader in the free world, a nation in which there truly is “Liberty and Justice for All”?
Practically speaking, what does it mean to be a patriot today in intellectual and spiritual warfare against those belligerent forces within our walls?

The response to both the Left and the Right ideological hot takes might be as follows:

Our need to come together on behalf of all Americans is itself a patriotic act. The division in our country and this summer’s rankling injustice – and the resulting ideologically heated debates – prompts us to direct our hopes and efforts down another road. We can just say no.

American democracy has come to a disturbing inflection point. Either the Founding Fathers “built better than they knew” – and somehow accounted for the future of a nation of 300+ million people, nearly 4 million square miles of land, and a cacophonous public discourse – or our democratic republic, this City on a Hill, has finally run its course.

The stakes have never been more urgent. This is not a fiction.

Make your voice be heard. Go vote.

Octavia Ratiu surveys the Political & Cultural Landscape for Texas Insider via the lens of a 2nd-Generation Millennial American. A grateful patriot of a Democratic Republic allegedly in crisis, her views – neither Conservative nor Liberal – are shaped by an experience of freedom as a gift.