Blueprints for flourishing in the midst of a decaying civilization from Dr. Aaron Kheriaty.

Fran Maier is right that we are now at a hinge in history—the end of an age and the beginning of something new. Anyone who thinks he or she knows exactly what will emerge next is probably wrong. Whatever is coming next, it will be a very different world from the one we’ve inhabited since World War II. I am quite certain that many things will get worse before they get better. Our societal institutions—governmental, educational, communications, media, medical, public health, etc.—have failed us. The degree of rot in these institutions makes reform or repair, in the short term at least, impractical.

I believe our task is analogous to that undertaken by the Czech dissidents of the Soviet era. Many of us are familiar with Vaclav Havel, who became the first president of the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism and wrote the now classic essay, “The Power of the Powerless.” Maier mentions another Vaclav: a close friend and collaborator of Havel, Vaclav Benda is less well-known but no less important. In contrast to Havel, Benda was a faithful Catholic and remained grounded in his Christian convictions as he faced the challenges of his time and place.

Some readers will doubtless wonder whether the historical analogy to a communist totalitarian regime might not be a bit overblown. Things may be bad, but they surely cannot be that bad. But consider, as Eric Voegelin taught us, that the common feature of all totalitarian systems is neither concentration camps, nor secret police, nor mass surveillance—as horrifying as all these are. The common feature of all totalitarian systems is the prohibition of questions: every totalitarian regime first monopolizes what counts as rationality and determines what questions you are allowed to ask.

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