History always has its progressives and collectivists who push for a better world through authoritarian measures. Violence– forcing people to do what they don’t want to do — is an inseparable part of all collectivism. The symbols of progressivism are the whip and the truncheon. How do you force people to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise? You threaten them with jail time and fines, you propagandize them at their expense (e.g. public schools, public service messages, etc), you create competitive disadvantages by funding compliant competitors, and so on.
A liberal will tell you that his point isn’t to threaten jail time, it’s to help vulnerable kids. But as Dr. Zhivago responded to the commissar who said that an enemy village had to be burned down to make a point: “Your point. Their village.” You are still applying the whip. There is no getting away from the involuntary nature of it. There is no getting away from the assault on another man’s liberty.
As some look to better world in the future, others think longingly of the past. Of course, there are times of war and tranquility in our lands, and times of joy and sorrow in our personal lives. However, C.S. Lewis’s words remain true:
Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. … We are mistaken when we compare war with “normal life”. Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of cries, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. -from “Learning in War-time”
Sinful men doing sinful things, that is what our world is and has been. Heresies, the poor, wars and rumors of wars, these things we will always have among us until the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. Progressive attempts to play God and create a substitute world for Christ’s coming kingdom are always a disaster waiting to happen, and Christians should never tire of opposing salvation through statism. But none of us should substitute the progressive myth by looking to a past that probably, on closer examination, wasn’t much better.
I’m prone to romanticizing the past, so I write this to remind myself as much as anyone.