"Equality" by Erik von Kuenelt-Leddihn
(This is an abridged and revised version of an essay published eight years ago.)
Most readers of this site are conscious enough of how egalitarianism shapes American political ideals. What is seldom discussed or recognized, however, is how egalitarianism pervades (and distorts) every other aspect of modern life. The human mind longs above all for consistency. Egalitarianism, being a false dogma, finds reality inconsistent and therefore seeks ways to force conformity.
Human activity is diverse. Some activities are more ennobling and virtuous than other activities, some are more important, some are more necessary, some require more skill or education, some are more visible or prominent, and some are more influential. At the same time not all places are alike. The beach is one place, the supermarket is another, and the opera house is yet another, each distinguished from the other by the level of civilized activity for which it is best suited.
Men acknowledge these distinctions, in part, by their manner of dress. Once upon a time every man had his "uniform": one could tell his line of work, his recreation, and yes, his class by how he was dressed. And furthermore, there were different "uniforms" for different activities. For many years my great uncle, now age 94, would take my great aunt out to dinner on Thursday nights. He donned a coat and tie, and she wore a nice dress. Their destination was often McDonalds, but that wasn't the point: he was a man was taking his wife out to dinner, and that was an exalted ritual beyond just their private time together. Indeed, it was a public sign of his love for her.
But today, it seems, we are all individualists, disdaining any group associations; and we are unconscious egalitarians who deny that any activity or place is more deserving than another. Outside of the Old South, Americans dress for church as they would dress for the supermarket or even a day at the beach. Gone is the tradition of wearing one's "Sunday clothes" for the most exalted activity man can possibly perform - the corporate worship of his Creator. The modern clergyman has exchanged his cassock and collar for the anonymity of civilian clothes, robbing strangers of the ability to recognize him in an emergency. Ladies' veils, which once adorned the heads of Protestant and Catholic women alike and publicly identified a woman's marital status (black for married, white for unmarried), were universally discarded almost overnight by the newly liberated women in the pew. Nuns have renounced their habits, businessmen have lost their suits, millers have forsaken their hats, schoolchildren have ditched their uniforms, and all of society is “all casual, all the time” — or so it seems. Not even sex constrains our apparel: our men have rings in their ears, our ladies have tattoos on their ankles, and blue jeans have become the preferred clothing of both sexes.
Now let us consider architecture. The salient feature of modern architecture is horizontalism. Vertical structures are thought to be hierarchical, signifying their relative importance or prominence, and pointing heavenward in the case of churches. Egalitarianism cannot abide the appearance of hierarchy, so modern structures tend to emphasize the horizontal. Modern churches, for example, have fewer steps: the altar and pulpit are closer to the level of "the people", lest anyone suspect that something special - something qualitatively superior to ordinary things - happens in those places. That is not to say that modern buildings are always flat. In high density areas height cannot be avoided, and sometimes height is still desired for practical reasons. But the horizontal element is incorporated in other ways - low ceilings, non-vertical windows, horizontal lines, soft angles, "open" floorplans, "walls" with gaping holes, glass walls and mirrors, "rooms" without doors, the elimination of variation in light and darkness, homogeneous or randomly diverse coloration, and the minimizing of all meaningful distinctions. The obvious goal is an equality of space.
Other examples are plentiful: the refusal of libraries and schools to make necessary distinctions in order to censor dangerous and immoral literature; the demise of capitalization, punctuation and grammar in written communication - things which organize thought in an hierarchical manner; promiscuous ecumenism in some religious quarters, which ignores (at best) or even denies the existence of truth and falsehood in religious claims; the phony "inclusion" of workers and employees in business decisions via endless meetings and committees because executives do not want to appear "elitist"; in the Catholic Church, the phenomenon of "collegiality" and lay collaboration, intended to make everyone a decision-maker, but which only masks a new and dishonest form of clericalism.
Despite all of this, reality still insists on showing up. The egalitarians haven't eliminated hierarchy: they have merely replaced a natural hierarchy with an unnatural one. What is more, under egalitarian rule the natural order of things tends to re-assert itself in creative ways. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
Feminism, the most successful of modern egalitarian projects, has succeeded temporarily in deposing the rule of Christian patriarchy, but what is now emerging in the shadows is a new barbarian patriarchy without any of the self-control or restraints of its predecessor. Feminism is not long for this world, and its legacy may well exceed its worst patriarchal nightmare. The same is true of egalitarianism in general. Christianity took the old, harsh, cruel pagan inequalities and and cleansed them, softened them, perfected them, placing them in the service of God and man. Modernity, in rejecting God, believes it has finally defeated hierarchy and inequality ... but that is an illusion. Nature abhors a vacuum. Our future without God is not an egalitarian paradise, but a return to the savage inequality of old.