Alexander Solzhenitzen’s Harvard lecture remains astonishing in its prophetic insight regarding the weaknesses of libertine philosophies in America . He clearly could not have anticipated the Reagan Revolution. A revisionist reading of that lecture is currently required in light of a renewed grasp of America exceptionalism. I am not advocating Solzehenitzen’s ignorance of our founding. I am indicating that such a founding remained absent from his prophetic admonishment of the West in his lecture. Their are reasons why. I hope to explain them here.
The American founding, particularly the Declaration and Constitution were engendered both to preside over the governing architecture and to preserve the moral pluralism grounding the Revolution and establishing our experiment in Democracy. All were slowly eroded by the birth of the Cold War and its fruits, namely the welfare state.
Those who decried the end of the experiment in liberty need to recognize how domestic social and political events derailed the experiment. Civil War, Reconstruction, two World Wars and the Civil Rights movement were required to perfect our commitment to Democracy and liberty. Even through this tumultuous phase in our history we remained committed to the vision of the Founders.
The Cold War and the welfare state displaced the relation between the individual, the State and federalism. It actually displaced Jefferson’s vision of how this great Republic is to remain Great through vibrant, small, committed personal hierarchies acting to preserve the moral mores in which liberty thrives. This displacement engendered the current tired ennui prevailing in our elite cultural institutions. Consequently, it created a new humanism analogous to all failed utopian revolutions. It eliminated fragile spheres of interest and autonomy needed for the Jeffersonian vision. Instead we have a flaccid, therapeutic ethos that Alex Tocqueville so carefully demonstrated democracies are capable of if equality becomes unhinged from the moral framework of Christianity. The 1970’s displayed the altered soul of the American citizenry which was for Reagan to vanquish.
John Paul II carefully picked up on Tocqueville’s premise in Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) in pursuing the dominate relations of nihilism, radicalized libertarianism, egalitarianism; all informed from abstractions about unhistorical ideals of the meaning of humaness. What Tocqueville and John Paul demonstrated is that such a political humanism, being divorced from a true humanism, becomes so effete, so attenuated so as to prevent its own self defense.
Solzhenitzen’s lecture at Harvard reveals an ignorance about an original hearing informed from both the Declaration and Constitution from which our representative republic emerged. How can renewal begin if the prophet never permits the probative value of his condemnation?
Solzhenitzen simply could not imagine an unrealized future wherein a capitalist driven citizenry sought its own renewal by rededicating itself to its original heritage read and heard in our founding documents which the American left, the welfare state have interrupted in favor of a Marxist socialist agenda.
When we immerse ourselves in the meaning of the Founders we will free ourselves from an inherited tyranny born in revolutionary idealisms engendered unabated in a depersonalized culture so effectively depicted by both Orwell and Huxley. Both men knew, understood how the dream so sought, fought and toiled for by Hamilton, Madison, Washington, Adams, Jefferson comes to us in earthen vessels. Embodied principals neither self executing nor self sustaining.