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What I believe.

Some years ago, I was approaching the end of an extended visit to South America. I was able to travel at will to wherever I wished. As a consequence, I had the privilege of seeing some of the many marvels of that far-flung continent, including Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. I had even ventured as far south as Tierra del Fuego! However, due to a lack of funds, I was impelled to fly back to Puerto Mont, Chile, in order to pick up a northbound train to Valparaiso.

Long train rides, I have found, are particularly conducive to giving thoughts wings, and so it came about that, rather than delighting in the splendour of the Chilean Andes, I began to ponder my personal credo. In trying to formulate what I believe (here, in the impossible conspectus of 700 words) it is useful to stipulate first what I disbelieve.

I disbelieve in the notion of "progress" and its concomitant assumption that change is, ipso facto, improvement. The notion of "progress" itself is a dubious relic of the Enlightment. When I consider this in the context of the seven decades through which I have consciously lived, it seems ludicrous. I rather endorse Malcolm Muggeridge's conclusion on the twentieth century: "More people have been killed and terrorized, more driven from their homes and native places; more of the past's heritage has been destroyed, more lies propagated, and base persuasion engaged in, with less corresponding advancement in art, literature, and understanding, than in any comparable period in history."

I disbelieve in "equality," our reigning deity, and in all legislative schemes designed to bring it about. A decade as counsel to the Ontario Human Rights Commission taught me, if nothing else, that the pursuit of equality through legislation transforms petty bureaucrats into tyrants. As a useful antidote to the regnant egalitarianism of our time, I recommend (and practise) an annual re-reading of George Orwell's masterpiece Animal Farm-, better than any political science text, it explains how equality enslaves rather than liberates. It also explains why, however understandable or even laudatory the revolutionary impulse may be, the result is invariably that some animals end up more equal than others.

I disbelieve in "democracy," except in the Churchillian sense, as the least bad of many shudderingly awful alternatives. Therefore, the idea of risking life and limb to carry the one man/one vote principle to dark corners of the world seems to me prima facie absurd. I support President Obama's decision to pull American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan not because I accept his rhetoric about stability, or about how American blood and money has improved the lives of those who perforce live there, but rather because the idea of exporting democracy to the Islamist world seems to me a madman's quest, quixotic and fatuous.

I disbelieve in "higher education" and its promise to cure social ills. How many times have I shaken my head as I listened to some high-minded speaker on a television panel or at a convocation address bang on about how the answer to this or that particular problem is "not just more but better education." So now when I hear the word "education," I reach (at least metaphorically) for my gun. In fact, I would contend that universities, along with television and social media, are responsible for our current state of infantile regression. I have seen pictures of huge, prehistoric, ungainly creatures whose carapace became so heavy that they eventually sank without a trace into the primal ooze--there is an image for the university. Universities cheat parents, betray students, and generally subvert the moral order necessary for a society to be able to survive. William Bennett, a former US Secretary of Education, called universities "islands of repression in a sea of freedom"; as one who spent most of my working life in universities, I attest to the validity of this description.

I disbelieve in collective schemes for human betterment--whether globally, like the so-called United Nations, or locally by federal, provincial, or municipal governments. Such schemes are often conceived for beneficent motives; nevertheless, collective action subverts or marginalizes the result. Mother Teresa was once asked what made her work in Calcutta for the poorest of the poor different from the welfare schemes of the Indian government. "They do it for a purpose," Mother Teresa replied. "I do it for a person." Just so.

Having stated some (and by no means all) of what I disbelieve, I discover I have left myself less than a hundred words to articulate what, if anything, I believe in; no matter, it is enough. I believe in the Nicene Creed. In just over 200 words the Creed expresses what Christians have believed and held onto for two tumultuous millennia. I hope that it will see me out.

Ian Hunter is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University.
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Author:Hunter, Ian
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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