Heresies in the Mirror: The Cancer of Globalism

At this point in the argument, I want to make it plain that I am not trying to write even a brief history of political universalism.  My basic intent is to show some of the more important influences—influences, I wish to emphasize, that I do not necessarily criticize much less condemn.  So far, I have briefly mentioned the Stoic ideal of world-citizenship, which was transformed into a more restrained celebration of the Imperium Romanum as an ideal of human community rooted in justice.  The disintegration of the Empire, rather than discrediting the imperial ideal, invested it with spiritual significance.

I am going to mention only two other streams of influence:  First, the terrible wars that devastated Europe during the centuries following the Reformation, and, second the rationalist philosophical systems that grew up under the dark shadow of Descartes.  Decent and humane men and women can surely be pardoned for seeking relief from the bloody-minded power-seekers who gilded the base metal of their crimes with the glitter of religious fanaticism.  Inevitably, many—if not most—of the advocates of a Pax Cristiana viewed all varieties of Christianity with a jaundiced eye.  Henri IV of France, who turned Catholic for the sake of a crown, was a mocker, as was his admirer Michel de Montaigne.  Others were perhaps more motivated by a desire for Christian peace.  Henri’s strong right hand, the Protestant Duc de Sully, was a warrior and political pragmatist, whose “Grand Design”—a plan for a European Union of 15 sovereign states collaborating under the direction of “A Very Christian Council” is usually cited as the first proposal for world-government—the world in Sully’s time being confined to Europe.

Side by side with Sully’s noble conception of European cooperation, a new philosophy was growing up.  Skeptical, rationalistic, and abstract, the essays of Montaigne, the arid analyses of Descartes, and the later writings of the philosophes all tended—despite all their differences—toward the anti-Christian trinity of Liberal ethics: rationalism, objectivity, and univeralism.  No principle or motive or action could be truly ethical unless it was rational (this excludes love and hate), objective (that is, ethics was no respecter of persons and relationships, and a Persian had to be regarded as ethically the same not only with a Frenchman but with a brother), and all principles, thus, had to be universally applied to all “individuals”—a concept that was developing in the same period.  Universalism and individualism, it is not always understood, are simply different sides of the same coin.

  By the 17th century, right-thinking had embraced the bizarre belief that all individuals should be treated the same, regardless of, religion or friendship or nationality.  There were, of course, exceptions:  Even enlightened Scottish intellectuals retained enough of the national spirit to hate the English, and David Hume, in his History at least, reveals more than a little Scottish patriotism.  

Some of their friends in France, however, just as they were devising the virulent nationalism that would turn the French revolution into a plague on all of Europe, were also dreaming dreams of universal peace in a world state. The paradox is that the same person could hold such opposing thoughts. Rousseau, for example, whose theory of the General Will of the people is the theoretical basis of nationalism, also shared the vision of The Abbé de St.-Pierre, author of Projet de Paix Perpetuelle. St. Pierre was a typical—perhaps stereotypical—Enlightenment intellectual with an unbounded faith in the goodness of human nature and the blessings of progress.  These French hallucinations, after the principles of the Revolution were consolidated and institutionalized under the Directory and their protegé Napoleon, were communicated throughout Europe.  They reappear in Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, from which they have been spread throughout the world in such varied manifestations as United Nations and European Union, global philanthropy and environmentalism, the worship of Planet Gaia and other global ideologies—feminism, transgenderism, animal rights, etc.—that are all said to transcend systems of law and politics.

There are legitimate grounds for seeking a union of collaborating states, so long as that union does not claim--as the American Union did in 1861--rights that transcend the authority of the members, and so long as the Union is rooted in Christian brotherhood rather than the anti-Christian speculations that fueled the French Revolution and inspired Lincoln.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina