Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Tudorcratic police state
DICTATORSHIP? Secret police? Informants & surveillance? All-powerful bureaucrats? The crushing of conscience? Kangaroo courts? Enforced beliefs? No, not HRC utopia, nor yet Soviet misery or Nazi oppression.

With early modernity in the 1500s came a tyrannical impulse, to be echoed and twisted over the centuries. Worse, it was in the very bosom of Western democracy — England herself — that Leviathan and Big Brother as we know them today really got rolling.

It was a betrayal of such great hopes — Prince Harry of England had been an enlightened Christian humanist prince of letters and energy who seemed to embody the spirit of the age, when printing and rediscovered ancient classics had promised an old world made new, the best of faith and knowledge leading to a golden age.

Henry inherited wealth, a powerful bureaucracy, and a vibrant Catholic church increasingly concerned with clerical reform and spiritual renewal.

Yet of this would come the porcine tyrant, serial adulterer and murderer, betrayer of friend and family and nation and church and God, who would come to embody a proto-Stalin, a crypto-Hitler, an early Mao, and by his and his successors’ use of state power, showed what would increasingly become the pattern onwards: all-powerful states, bureaucracies, and ideologies bent to making some new utopia. He declared himself absolute ruler of all things.

Sir Thomas More, lawyer, scholar, author, and statesman and renaissance man of letters — author of ‘The Utopia’ — was famously imprisoned and martyred for not bending the knee to the new Royal Supremacy over all things. The movie ‘A Man for All Seasons’ and Peter Ackroyd’s fine biography lay out that story, and show the change from the beginning to the end of Henry’s rule.

Despite the hagiography of the beautiful-looking Elizabeth in the Blanchett movies, the daughter of Ol’ Henry – Queen Bess – presided over a perfected police state, of desecrated churches, hunted and murdered Catholics, over 36,000 gory executions for thought-crimes and criticizing the Tudorocracy... a prototype of later police-states, where everybody was being watched for disloyalty, crime, papistry, or saying the wrong things to the wrong person.

So began our modernity, fueled by militant ideological and sometimes fascistic protestantism – as in so many revolutions since, the far worse replacing what went before, leaving corpses and wreckage — and a foreboding example — behind.
As A.N. Wilson observed, the latitude on doctrine is really a claim of absolute rule over all things.

From Mark Steyn.

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