Against The Spirit Of Every Age

It is seemingly inevitable at this point that in the future, people will find it as easy to be against the spirit of this contemporary age that the people of this age are to past ages. I suspect that people will be no more just to this age than we are to others, and while it is always lamentable to be treated with injustice, few ages have treated others as unjustly as our own does routinely. Even the much-maligned founding generation of the United States, for example, knew that it was behaving unjustly in its practice of holding people in bondage, while women like Abigail Adams reminded (or nagged) their husbands about the need to take other people’s perspectives and interests into account when it came to matters of liberty, thus demonstrating their own superiority in justice to our own in at least admitting that their standards of justice fell short of the ideals that they promoted so loudly. We consider ourselves just when we are less just than those we look down on for being unjust, which is just embarrasing.

It is not merely enough to be against the spirit of this age, though. Our attitude towards this and every age should be complicated by the fact that we should not merely be hostile to the spirit of the age, but recognize that even in an age like our own in which so much can be found worthy of criticism that there is also at least something, however minor, worthy of praise. There are, even in the debased principles of our own time, at least some things that if they were properly understood and reciprocated in kind, would be good things. There are at least some parts of the double standards of our time that, if they were applied consistently, would be worthwhile practices. This may not be a high amount of praise to make, but it can be hard to be just to others when they behave so unjustly themselves, and yet we ought to make the effort to be just to others, not least because we ought to want others to take the effort to be just to us. It may require a lot of effort for others to be just to us, it must be admitted.

In a sense, if we are to be just and good people, we must be against the spirit of every age. There is, in every place and time in history, a spirit of the age that is going to be contrary to the way things should be. So long as this world is made up of imperfect people responding to the imperfections of the past and seeking to make a world that fits to their own imperfect ideals and practices, there must be at least some opposition given to the spirit of every place and time if one wants to be righteous. Yet this opposition ought not to be blind hostility, in opposition to everything that is, because every age has its improvements as well as its decadent decline. In the sense that all ages respond to evils that they recognize, they give some criticism to past generations for its flaws, and not all of these flaws are imaginary. What makes a view of the past and present, of others as well as ourselves just is not that our views correspond to our own perspective and prejudices, but rather that we judge with righteous standards of judgment that apply to us just as much as they apply to that which we take into consideration in the past and all around us.

Our commitment to be against the spirit of every age is a recognition that those standards which come from above are ultimately impossible to recreate from the bottom up. Yet at the same time, the grievances that need to be addressed do spring from the bottom up. As wayward beings, we all require restraint, and frequently it can be difficult for us to keep ourselves under sufficient control that we avoid causing harm and bringing trouble to ourselves and others. And yet those in power are themselves imperfect beings, just as we are imperfect beings if we were placed in power over others. Imperfect people are not going to wield authority perfectly, and there will always be something to oppose in what others do or the way it is done when one looks at the broad perspective and the long duration, though hopefully with a great deal of agreement in what is generally done that hopefully reflects a commitment to the same standards and to the same ideals. Where there are different standards and different commitments at play, such agreement will be more difficult to find. In an age where we frequently find every hand against every other hand, it is little surprise that we should find ourselves against the spirit of every age, nor any surprise at all that we should expect every other age to be against our own as well.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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