I Gotta Right to My Illusions

A fellow at work recently told how his relative was planning to sue her former employer, a well—known national retailer.  Suffering from a particular affliction, she frequently absented herself from work up to, and sometimes over, the limit established for leave without a doctor's note.  So her employer had fired her, but not for unexcused absence.  Instead it had acted on a complaint received a while back from a customer, who had been offended by her rudeness in telling the customer that the store was closed.

The injustice of it!

It is to defend such people that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Judge Roberts to defend the peoples' rights — fighting for the people against the powerful, even when the people abuse their rights damnably.  They couldn't vote for Judge Roberts's nomination to be Chief Justice if it seemed that he lacked a commitment to defend those rights.

So the great divide between the political parties does not turn ultimately upon the question of the right to an abortion or legislating from the bench.

Those are just the topographic details of the chasm.  One party believes in the sanctity of the rule of law as the arbitrator of disputes between equals.  The other party believes in human rights as a defense against oppression, fighting for the people against the powerful.

Which is more important?  The rule of law or the protection of the weak?  It comes down to faith, not evidence.  We live in a world of 'events, dear boy, events,' but the events are mute, and tell us nothing until we weave them together with a narrative of theory and, when theory cannot serve, call for help from God, natural law, or history.

We cannot live a single instant without breathing meaning into the world, that is, breathing meaning for 'myself' in the world.  The head of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sir John Lawton, declares that Hurricane Rita is very likely evidence of global warming.  Pastor Jerry Falwell declares that 9/11 is God's punishment to New York for its dissipation.  Composer Aaron Copland declares that 'So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.'

Of course they do.  For the environmental administrator the meaning of life is to fight environmental degradation, for the TV pastor it is to fight Satan, and for the composer it is to find meaning in music.  Otherwise, what's the point?

But suppose it is all an illusion?  Suppose that the worship of the rule of law prevents society from responding in a healthy way to change?  Suppose that raising human rights into a sacrament creates an underclass of shifty chiselers?  Suppose that global warming is saving the planet from a new ice age?  Suppose that the sinners of New York are saving us from the boredom of dull conformity?  Suppose that music were a harmful aural narcotic?  (No, no.  Not that!) Don't talk about facts.  It is narrative and faith that breathe meaning into human life.

We learned about the importance of illusion centuries ago in the adventures of Don Quixote, that good—natured consumer of medieval romances who believed and lived a preposterous illusion of knight—errantry.   He drove his family and friends to despair as he and his servant stumbled across Spain leaving mayhem and disaster in their wake.

At last, after three grand adventures in illusion that gave entertainment to millions and livelihood to his creator, he succumbed to sickness and sanity. Suddenly emerging from years of hallucination, he charged his niece in his Will never to read a line of a book on knight—errantry, and promptly died.

For after all, when illusion is dead, what's the point?

For you avant—gardistes here's an idea for a work of art that will surely challenge society and test the limits.  A twenty—first century professor of political science builds a career researching the political tracts of the nineteenth century.  Driven to madness by his obsession with extravagant nineteenth century political manifestos he determines to become a political activist and right the wrongs of the world: smite the robber barons and save the poor from starving.

But the robber barons were replaced by faceless corporate CEOs 50 years ago, his colleagues over at the Economics Department insist, and today the poor are fatter than the rich.  And all those manifestos were a narrative of power, his postmodernist friends in the English department waspishly sneer, an apology for the rule of the new class of educated experts.

Never mind.  He would still have a grand old time tilting at windmills and mistaking sheep for vast armies. After all, he has a right to his illusions.  They might turn out to be true.

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs here. Visit here  for details of the forthcoming book The Road to the Middle Class.

A fellow at work recently told how his relative was planning to sue her former employer, a well—known national retailer.  Suffering from a particular affliction, she frequently absented herself from work up to, and sometimes over, the limit established for leave without a doctor's note.  So her employer had fired her, but not for unexcused absence.  Instead it had acted on a complaint received a while back from a customer, who had been offended by her rudeness in telling the customer that the store was closed.

The injustice of it!

It is to defend such people that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed Judge Roberts to defend the peoples' rights — fighting for the people against the powerful, even when the people abuse their rights damnably.  They couldn't vote for Judge Roberts's nomination to be Chief Justice if it seemed that he lacked a commitment to defend those rights.

So the great divide between the political parties does not turn ultimately upon the question of the right to an abortion or legislating from the bench.

Those are just the topographic details of the chasm.  One party believes in the sanctity of the rule of law as the arbitrator of disputes between equals.  The other party believes in human rights as a defense against oppression, fighting for the people against the powerful.

Which is more important?  The rule of law or the protection of the weak?  It comes down to faith, not evidence.  We live in a world of 'events, dear boy, events,' but the events are mute, and tell us nothing until we weave them together with a narrative of theory and, when theory cannot serve, call for help from God, natural law, or history.

We cannot live a single instant without breathing meaning into the world, that is, breathing meaning for 'myself' in the world.  The head of the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sir John Lawton, declares that Hurricane Rita is very likely evidence of global warming.  Pastor Jerry Falwell declares that 9/11 is God's punishment to New York for its dissipation.  Composer Aaron Copland declares that 'So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.'

Of course they do.  For the environmental administrator the meaning of life is to fight environmental degradation, for the TV pastor it is to fight Satan, and for the composer it is to find meaning in music.  Otherwise, what's the point?

But suppose it is all an illusion?  Suppose that the worship of the rule of law prevents society from responding in a healthy way to change?  Suppose that raising human rights into a sacrament creates an underclass of shifty chiselers?  Suppose that global warming is saving the planet from a new ice age?  Suppose that the sinners of New York are saving us from the boredom of dull conformity?  Suppose that music were a harmful aural narcotic?  (No, no.  Not that!) Don't talk about facts.  It is narrative and faith that breathe meaning into human life.

We learned about the importance of illusion centuries ago in the adventures of Don Quixote, that good—natured consumer of medieval romances who believed and lived a preposterous illusion of knight—errantry.   He drove his family and friends to despair as he and his servant stumbled across Spain leaving mayhem and disaster in their wake.

At last, after three grand adventures in illusion that gave entertainment to millions and livelihood to his creator, he succumbed to sickness and sanity. Suddenly emerging from years of hallucination, he charged his niece in his Will never to read a line of a book on knight—errantry, and promptly died.

For after all, when illusion is dead, what's the point?

For you avant—gardistes here's an idea for a work of art that will surely challenge society and test the limits.  A twenty—first century professor of political science builds a career researching the political tracts of the nineteenth century.  Driven to madness by his obsession with extravagant nineteenth century political manifestos he determines to become a political activist and right the wrongs of the world: smite the robber barons and save the poor from starving.

But the robber barons were replaced by faceless corporate CEOs 50 years ago, his colleagues over at the Economics Department insist, and today the poor are fatter than the rich.  And all those manifestos were a narrative of power, his postmodernist friends in the English department waspishly sneer, an apology for the rule of the new class of educated experts.

Never mind.  He would still have a grand old time tilting at windmills and mistaking sheep for vast armies. After all, he has a right to his illusions.  They might turn out to be true.

Christopher Chantrill (mailto:chrischantrill@msn.com) blogs here. Visit here  for details of the forthcoming book The Road to the Middle Class.