The other day my fourteen year old son asked whether he could go to see the new movie, The Hunger Games, with some friends. He'd read the book, he told me, and thought it really interesting. He described it to me, and it sounded hideously unreal: an imagined life-and-death moral drama without God, and without any sense of eternity.
Maybe it's not all bad, though, since today at Public Discourse, philosophy professor Stephen Heaney, uses the story as a jump-off point for a consideration of totalitarianism and bullying. He explains why the Obama administration cannot be content with birth control being freely available to all who want it, but must force all of us who object to participate in its evil.
It is the sign of the totalitarian nature of the regime to demand not only that its opponents not interfere, but that they participate and believe. It’s a zero-sum game, and the individual conscience cannot be allowed to stand as a witness, let alone in opposition. The normal person considers it a victory to get what he wants. The bully only considers it a victory if he has further humiliated his opponent. The totalitarian does not believe he has won until everyone tells him he is right, and imitates him, and sings his praises.
The normal person who wants to use contraceptives is glad he can purchase them and use them without interference. The bully smears the name of those who oppose contraceptive use by impugning their moral integrity or calling their thinking outdated. The totalitarian insists that even people and institutions opposed in conscience to the use of contraceptives must purchase them.
This is the real aim of the mandate: not to provide "healthcare" but to destroy all resistance to the moral demands of the ruling elite.
One conscience, one will: this is the demand of such a regime. The individual must become absolutely one with the totality. The normal person will respect your human rights. The bully will run roughshod over your human rights. The totalitarian needs you to repudiate your human rights.
Nor will such tactics end with one or two violations. Operatio sequitur esse: a thing can only act according to what it is. The totalitarians of this age of the world are not petty thugs. They are intellectuals with a vision, and they will see their vision enacted, no matter who they have to run over, because they are certain it is good for you.
C.S. Lewis says something similiar. in his well-known essay, The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment.
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
UPDATE: After I wrote this post, I found this excellent review and critique linked by Scott Johnston at facebook.