Books

The Moral Society

This book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, by one of the contemporary world’s most accomplished proponents of religion, ethics and philosophy, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who died on November 7, 2020, is both ambitious in scope and richly rewarding on a topic that in the third millennium could not be more fraught.

This review appears in the latest Quadrant.
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Morality is a word that had almost vanished from the lingua franca of the swinging 1960s when Jonathan Sacks, then a student at Cambridge, enrolled in his first course on the Moral Sciences. By then the idea of morality as an objective reality was considered a quaint remnant of a previous era and the young Sacks was left bewildered by the prevailing mood of unbridled personal freedom that championed “feelings” over responsibilities. Linked with religion in the popular mind, morality already had had the stuffing kicked out of it by the cult anarchist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who proclaimed, “God is dead … We have killed him … Do we not hear the noise of the gravediggers burying God?” On April 8, 1966, Time Magazine was less subtle: on a black front cover glared the question, “Is God Dead?”

To the man who would become the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom for twenty-two years, knighted for his inter-faith work in 2005, a member of the House of Lords in 2009, and a prolific author of books on the essential role of religion in public life, we can presume the answer was a resounding No. But the surrounding culture reverberated with Nietzsche’s conviction that the Judeo-Christian era was at an end, along with its moral heritage. The French postmodernists, following Descartes’s radical scepticism, declared morality to be a matter of interpretation, leaving us with the relativisation of values. In America, the “Me Generation” put personal satisfaction and self-actualisation—the “I”—at the centre of existence, leaving the “We” of shared community values, commitments and responsibilities on a one-way descent to oblivion.

Sacks cautions that his book, which was fated to be his last, is not a work of cultural pessimism. However, in chapter after chapter, citing a now formidable corpus of literature on the decline of Western civilisation, he outlines the signposts of that cultural descent, beginning with the “outsourcing” of moral responsibility to government bodies in highly secularised democracies, to the monetisation of “happiness” in cultures driven by consumerism in an amoral free-market economy. No longer personally responsible for one’s neighbours, the individual is set adrift. Social capital diminishes and brings in its wake an epidemic of frantic materialism and profound loneliness. Self-medication and suicide rates spike in an attempt to assuage the malaise, but even the 2.41 billion active users of Facebook (as of June 2019) cannot stem the tide. “Unsocial media” actually feeds the condition of anomie (the loss of communal structures and shared values), by removing individuals from the face-to-face encounters that test those values on which society depends. The French Jewish sociologist Emile Durkheim, who came to similar conclusions in the late nineteenth century when commenting on the social dislocations of the newly industrialised cities, remains relevant.

As indeed do the observations of another Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, who travelled to America in the mid-nineteenth century and discovered that its social vibrancy emerged from the active participation of townspeople in church life and voluntary associations. His discovery was echoed by the other founding sociologist, the German, Max Weber, who also travelled to America. Both were impressed by the grass-roots expression of civility which created a culture of personal responsibility and a moral imperative of altruism that far outweighed the people’s reliance on government services. This is essentially the model of society that Sacks mourns the loss of, although as an Englishman he recognises its uniquely American stamp.

If “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is for every American to claim by right, it is also for them to strive towards, and here Sacks adverts to the British nineteenth-century evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin. Not as a champion of “the survival of the fittest” but on the contrary, as one who observed that successful animal groups not only competed with one another but also practised the equivalent of “compassion”, something often observed today by zoologists, such as Franz de Waal.

Nature and nurture, in the form of competitive individualism and community responsibility, are the two essential components of the liberal democratic ideal that Sacks cherishes, but which he sees being chipped away by a variety of forces, most of them a substitute for the meaning, morality and identity that religion once furnished. Nation, race and class have become the secular substitutes that various groups promote as talismans of identity, and which the failed experiment of multiculturalism gave undue licence. Sacks is on record elsewhere calling out multiculturalism as a “disastrous policy, misconceived and profoundly damaging to the social fabric of every society into which it was introduced”. Its aim of integration turned into segregation. The “We” was submerged by a teeming collection of rival identities and morally diverse systems. Multiculturalism “was meant to promote tolerance but gave rise to new and dire forms of intolerance”.

One of the enemies of the moral society, ironically, is victimhood, which has become the basis of various group identities. The Judeo-Christian biblical tradition unequivocally teaches the necessity to help those in need—the stranger, the widow, the child—but it also models self-reliance, personal responsibility and dignity. Sacks’s chapter titled “Victimhood” begins with Yisrael Kristal, a maker of sweets and chocolate in Haifa, Israel, who in 2017 celebrated his 114th birthday. He was also a Holocaust survivor; having lost his wife and two children in Auschwitz, he walked out of the camp weighing thirty-seven kilos, and was the only member of his family to survive. The key point for Sacks is that the biblical tradition produces a culture of hope, not of fate or inevitability. It is a culture where love and forgiveness, justice and mercy are essential responses to the downtrodden and the guilty, but so too is the moral imperative to affirm life, which in religious terms is a life made precious because it is a gift of God’s love. Humanity, therefore, is bound in a reciprocal relationship of love and responsibility, the quintessential “I–Thou” relationship described by the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber.

Sacks is well aware that morality need not be based on religious belief, and he cites other instances of it. However, in Western democracies that have given way to secular rationalism, relationships are now overwhelmingly based on calculated risk and pragmatism, which not only leaves marriage and the family in tatters, but also leaves open the door to vigilante justice and public shaming. Individuals are “fair game”, as in the #MeToo movement, which condemns on hearsay and without trial. Sacks develops this line of argument further in his chapter, “The Death of Civility”.

How did we get to the stage where people are treated without grace and civility? Science has much to answer for, but not in its pure form of researching the natural world, rather in its interpretation by popular writers, philosophers and celebrities who believe it can provide the meaning of life. Both Sacks and I have written on the relationship between science and religion, and neither of us sees it as necessarily combative or contradictory, but on the contrary its long history shows a high level of cross-fertilisation and mutual support. Yet that story has been lost on many of the proponents of a “scientific worldview” who have severely diminished the human self-image and spoken of human beings as “chemical scum or slime mould”. The popularity of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus promotes the profoundly nihilistic spectre of our disappearance, as mere “interchangeable pieces of data”, to be eventually replaced by robots.

For Sacks, as for me, the extreme danger of pseudo-scientific language, which, for example, blithely states that “giraffes, tomatoes and human beings are just different methods of processing data” is its propensity to view our uniqueness as totally insignificant, and the small space we occupy in a vast set of universes as dispensable and unimportant. (In fact, Harari, who champions Buddhism, echoes its concept of the person as a mere collection of transient elements, the five skandhas, and therefore illusory.) Nietzsche put it succinctly when he said: “Has not man’s self-depreciation, his will to self-depreciation, been unstoppably on the increase since Copernicus? Gone alas is his faith in his dignity, uniqueness, irreplaceableness in the rank order of beings.”

This is the condition for which morality would appear to be a wasted exercise, since for Sacks the Judeo-Christian moral imperative is about preserving human dignity, not just ours but others’. Fortunately, Sacks is nothing if not full of hope, which is the inheritance of the Judeo-Christian tradition. For history has shown that even at its nadir, human dignity can be lifted up and as it were breathed into life, it can transform society, and re-establish morality as a shared project. Sacks looks to Abraham Lincoln, whose moral conviction that “all men were created equal” was inspired by the Judeo-Christian ethic. It transformed a nation mired in racial and political division as America is today, as indeed are so many of our Western nations.

He calls this kind of political vision “covenantal politics”, not based on nation or religion, but on a commitment to shared responsibility to one another. It seems this is a notion that already has some takers, including the newly elected Raphael Warnock, the first African American Democrat senator from Georgia, who is also the Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr served. As Warnock was interviewed on the very day of the attempted Capitol putsch, he seemed to be quoting the last chapter of Sacks’s book when he said that what America needed at this time was a “covenantal commitment”, a shared moral responsibility that included everyone, beyond party affiliation. But the stone-faced PBS interviewer was uncomprehending and kept re-asking the question as if Warnock hadn’t already answered it. Like so many left-wing journalists, she was deaf to the language inspired by covenantal thinking.

Sacks’s Morality is so comprehensive, including an epilogue on the post-Covid world, that he must have known he would soon shuffle off this mortal coil. Yet it is a suitable summation of his life-long learning, which always sought an audience beyond the Jewish community he headed. He recently hosted a podcast series on morality for the BBC, and he regularly contributed to the Sunday Times Credo column as well as to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, a scripted response to current affairs from a faith perspective. The most popular BBC broadcast, Thought was reduced from five minutes to half that, another sign of the encroachment on faith in our culture. But after reading this book, it would be hard not to agree with Sacks that it is in the public square where the faith-inspired redemption of democracy and our shared moral future lies.

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times
by Jonathan Sacks

Hodder & Stoughton, 2020, 367 pages, $33

Rachael Kohn AO FRSN is the author of Curious Obsessions in the History of Science and Spirituality (revised edition, ATF Press, 2020). She produced and presented religion programs on ABC Radio National, including The Spirit of Things (1997 to 2018)

16 comments
  • Stephen Due

    Morality most certainly is founded on religious belief. What else is there? Nothing else will sustain morality. The logical error commonly made by the opponents of religion is to imagine ‘religious belief’ is either a subset of science or else irrational. Not so. Religion and morality form a rational system of belief that is categorically different from science.
    The formerly Christian societies of the West were founded on Christian belief that was widely disseminated and consistently practised by sufficient numbers to effectively give the population a kind of moral herd immunity. That has been lost. New viruses of evil and corruption are now sweeping through the West. But there is no vaccine for these ones.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Morality is better served by religion than not (it’s easier that way), but a moral conscience does not necessarily require religion. Our society is founded on the rational approach to thought expounded by the philosophers of the Greek city states and in the pragmatism of Roman civilisation. These antecedents to Christianity were already placing human life as special, above that of animals, a cultural phenomenon too, and one requiring a morality of thought and action. The ‘good life’ was discussed long before Christianity. Christianity, with its concept of original sin, our propensity to not do good, and forgiveness and redemption, our way out of our lack of care for others, helped to bring a moral consciousness to all people not just a contemplative elite. Nevertheless, we might agree that a moral consciousness is inherent in familial relationships, by their bonding nature, as Christian iconography quickly demonstrated. Such relationships are fraught though with the capacity to do wrong and be unjust, as the chaotic families of the ancient gods reinforced. There has to be a moral Law to produce a moral world, whether religious or humanist in origin. The Judaic world provided a strong base upon which the Christian Law could develop. Theologies protestant in their nature have been around since the days of Pelagius (St. Jerome’s ‘Scots Porridge Eater) and it is no great step then to humanism, or an inchoate ‘spirituality’. A personal striving for ‘the good’ or ‘the godhead’ against an ordained moral Law imposed by a distant rule is nothing new. Lady Jan Grey died for it. Sachs is not wrong either to see hope rising eternal.

    Thanks for this interesting article, Rachel Kohn. I have read your book ‘Curious Obsessions” drawing on some of your radio programs and enjoyed there your well-researched romp through a range of sometimes arcane and occasionally somewhat amusing spiritual worlds. For Quadrant readers interested in religious history, it was published by ABC Books in 2007.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    oops. That’s Lady Jane Grey, by the way, not Jan, merely a typo. Her mother was the daughter of Mary Tudor, younger sister of Henry the Eighth, and she was the line of descent as ‘the Protestant hope’ in the unruly (a good word for it) days after Henry’s son Edward died aged 15. Mary and Elizabeth were nominated heirs after Edward, who had been steered by advisors to the Protestant cause. Elizabeth was regarded as a bastard child, and Mary was a papist, as were the children descending in the line from Henry’s older sister, Margaret, who married the King of Scots. Lady Jane Grey, a devout teenager, became the sacrificial lamb when Royal familial precedence trumped religious affiliation in the minds of the populace, who would not accept Jane given that Mary was marching on London with an army, and that Elizabeth riding behind her in submissive recognition of Mary’s right of primogeniture.

  • ianl

    >”The logical error commonly made by the opponents of religion is to imagine ‘religious belief’ is either a subset of science or else irrational. Not so.”

    Not so, Stephen Due. Self-preservation requires that the tribe inculcate strictures against murder, theft, larceny etc. This works for most of the population because of an innate, free-floating guilt. I suspect this trait is evolutionarily selected although not completely universal, as the continual advent of sociopathic individuals clearly demonstrates.

    As I’ve pointed out before – the resistance to the concept of evolution consists of self-serving straw men. Such is the nature of superstition.

  • James Franklin

    Sacks and Kohn are right about the evils of Sixties libertarians, Nietzsche, Yuval Harari, public shamers and so on but I wonder if they’re exaggerating the impact those thinkers have on the majority of people. “Out there” – say in outer urban Scott-Morrison-voting electorates – people are living family-oriented lives like it’s the Fifties, in total ignorance of the dicta of the cultural “leaders’ that Sacks criticises. They’re the parents of most of the next generation, since they have a lot more children. It’s true they don’t have as much theory as you might wish, e.g. religious or other ethical theory, but at least when it comes to the harmful theory we’re talking about here, they’re inclined to dismiss it as all bullshit.

  • Harry Lee

    Couple points:
    1. To describe Nietzsche as a “cult anarchist” is a statement of political allegiance, not one based on balanced scholarly assessment.
    2. Nietzsche described Buddhism as a good set of ideas and practices, if one wanted to sleep one’s life away.
    (No need to take this statement as anything other than a call to think for oneself, which the original Buddha is said to have explicitly and strongly encouraged.)
    3. The social problems of our age go well beyond “not caring about one’s neighbours.”
    Where are is this:
    A collection of “ideas” now dominates the way most of the folk think and act. The ideas derive from marxism and have been ramped up by the post-modernists -and anti-Westernists to the extent these latter are not post-modernist.

    The forces pushing these ideas, while often pretending not to, are the obviously leftist political parties (here it’s the ALP and Greens) and most of the education systems, and most of the mainstream media (esp the ABC and SBS.) and most of the law industry.
    These “ideas” include the following:
    a.Western Civ, is Bad and non-Western cultures are Good.
    b. White history and Whites in power are Bad.
    c. Non-Whites are Good and should have ultimate power in the (formerly) White West.
    d. Parasitism is Good and should be embraced.
    e. Empiricism and all use of facts and logic are Bad -being as they are the tools of oppression used by Whites to keep non-Whites out of power and enslaved.
    f. Gratitude by non-Whites and non-producing Whites for the boons and benefits of freedoms and material abundance that only White Western Civ has produced is Bad.
    g. Contempt, resentment and hatred for one’s White benefactors are the legitimate and necessary attitudes to have.
    h. Violence and all criminality is the product of bad (Western) society and are not properties of the individual -so administer the criminal justice system accordingly.
    i. Bring to the West all non-Whites, indeed all anti-Westernists, who can be got to the West, asap.
    k. There are a few more, but this will do for now.

  • Harry Lee

    Morality? A moral society? Possible in the West?
    Not any more.
    A moral society requires its citizens to be responsible for their personal behaviour.
    But in the West, it not now possible to hold Blacks, Muslims, various Asian, and other non-Whites responsible for their violence and general criminality because of fear of retaliation.
    Yes, we see an occasional show trial of such anti-morality, anti-Westernist peoples, but they are only for show -the full extent of the parasitism and violence inflicted on Whites by these non-Whites is suppressed.
    (NB:I support full punishment of extreme kinds for violent and parasitically criminal Whites, as the “being nice” approach has clearly failed and only increased the incidence of violence and all forms of criminality, contrary to the Left’s BS insistence that it’s the right thing to do, to feel good as a proper leftist resident of of the place.)

  • Harry Lee

    James Franklin, the proportion of the populace living in the Fifties/Morrison suburbs is fast declining -very, very fast.
    The immigration/refugee systems are producing ALP voters in far greater numbers than Lib or Nat voters.
    And the schools and universities are producing Green and ALP voters far, far more than Lib voters.
    The schools/universities especially produce Green voters in the old leafy suburbs which typically house nett wealth-creators who once voted Lib.
    But these students tell their parents about the BS threat to polar bears and the imagined evils of fossil fuels and all.
    The enemy is inside the gates and this is not a drill.

  • Harry Lee

    I’ve heard from several people who spent time with Martin Buber.
    Some said that Buber’s sense of his own Divinity was excessive at times.

  • Harry Lee

    To portray Raphael Warnock as a Good Guy who supports a proper moral society is anti-empirical, and is completely contrary to his actions as a wealth-destroyer and his demands that the truth of the extremely high degrees of Black violence and Black uneducabilty be treated as “racism”.
    The insistence that the truth of critical matters be suppressed is not a moral act that supports a moral society.
    One’s opinions of others are often better served by observing and assessing their actions than by alighting on their selective quotations from literature.
    Putsch at the Capitol?
    By a bunch of mostly thuggish people drawn from among nominal Trump supporters and BLM organiser/activists -none of whom had a clue about how to take over the government, let alone the intention to displace the government.
    Proper use of words to describe reality is must -if one wishes to gain traction as a plausible moralist outside the ABC and other places of leftist devotion and anti-realism.
    And why has no moralist of the leftist type questioned why a Black guard at the Capitol fired a bullet direcly into the face of an unarmed White woman who posed no direct threat to any person?
    One answer: The Black guard is an affirmative action case who is well-known for his views that are anti-Republican, anti-Trump, and extremely anti-White women.
    Give the chap a medal eh.
    Meanwhile:
    Actual morality, as different from talking about it, is best served when empiricism attends the more poetic proclamations of “Let’s all be nice to one another, especially those who would enslave kill us, or enslave us, or take our property, please.”

  • Alice Thermopolis

    Harry Lee: “Nietzsche described Buddhism as a good set of ideas and practices, if one wanted to sleep one’s life away.”
    Nietzsche was right. Most of his ideas on Buddhism came from Arthur Schopenhauer. See his essay on “Schopenhauer as Educator” in Untimely Meditations (1874) and Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms (Penguin Classics), especially his chapter On Religion. He had a dog named Atman.
    Buddhism is a practice designed to create “peace in the present moment”. Meditation is emphatically not sleeping, although quite a few people fall asleep when they begin meditating without a good teacher.
    The Buddha’s Kalama Sutta:
    Do not simply believe what you hear just because you have heard it for a long time.
    Do not follow tradition blindly merely because it has been practised in that way for many generations.
    Do not be quick to listen to rumours.
    Do not confirm anything just because it agrees with your scriptures.
    Do not foolishly make assumptions.
    Do not abruptly draw conclusions by what you see and hear.
    Do not be fooled by outward appearances.
    Do not hold on tightly to any view or idea just because you are comfortable with it.
    Do not accept as fact anything that you yourself find to be logical.
    Do not be convinced of anything out of respect and deference to your spiritual teachers.

    You should go beyond opinion and belief. You can rightly reject anything which when accepted, practised and perfected leads to more aversion, more craving and more delusion. They are not beneficial and are to be avoided.
    Conversely, you can rightly accept anything which when accepted and practised leads to unconditional love, contentment and wisdom. These things allow you time and space to develop a peaceful mind.
    This should be your criteria on what is and what is not the truth; on what should be and what should not be the spiritual practice.

  • pgang

    Elizabeth Beare – 28th March 2021:
    You can either have a humanism with ‘a moral conscience (that) does not necessarily require religion’, or you can have humanism ‘founded on the rational approach to thought’. You can’t have both, as they are mutually exclusive. Eventually the moral reality of the individual must negate the moral reality of society and vice versa. Therefore the concept is logically self-defeating, before even getting to the natural cause of morality in and of itself. This is why all of the much lauded humanist philosophers could never agree on the colour of an orange, and their output has resulted in so very little for society today.
    Surely you are also aware that Christianity did not suddenly begin with Christ, but was a branch of Judaism which recognised in Christ the fulfilment of God’s covenants, and it therefore pre-dates Greek philosophy in its historical entirety. The Hebrew ‘moral code’ (to use a humanist term) was far superior to anything else in history. Not because it was a part of nature or man, but because it is part of God.

  • Harry Lee

    Alice Thermopolis: Thank you for the references and points you offer -much appreciated.
    I find Stephen Batchelor’s ever-evolving use of Buddhist ideas to be very useful.
    “Secular Buddhism” is, in my view, a necessary and helpful alternative to those Buddhists, Western and otherwise, who find Reality a bit icky.
    Of course, most people, of all creeds and non-creeds and anti-creeds, find Reality too yucky to deal with, and want the Government or the Priestly Class, to make things nice-
    -despite Gautama’s guidance to engage with said Reality, under one’s own steam.
    “Peace in the present moment” is very desirable -but, to me, it’s what comes next that is crucial to human flourishing-
    -which sometimes/often requires doing things that are unpleasant and anti-peaceful in the near-term.
    The Bhagavad Gita, and much of the Old Testament, set out the requirements for securing the conditions of a proper Life-on-Earth, even if one wants a civic order different from those that pertained back there in the old days of India and the Israelites.
    And the Japanese Samurai and other traditions say similar.
    The basic message is:
    Be calm, be accepting of Reality which includes the existence of Evil and Enemies, then fight like billy-o for what you have determined is best, for oneself and one’s loved ones, all in the context of the Higher Good.
    And so, the capacities and willingness to fight to win, to fight as necessary, and to establish and maintain connection with the Source of Higher Good, while residing in inner peace, are all necessary for effective human being.
    That’s what I reckon, at present.
    All best to you AT -Harry.

  • J. Vernau

    “Sacks is well aware that morality need not be based on religious belief, and he cites other instances of it.”
    *
    It would be interesting to see what they are. The likes of Doctors Pinker and Singer are forever, it seems, floating atheistic ethical systems. They either consist of formulae such as the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’, without any particular reason to comply with them, or they rely on assertions such as ‘a sense of right and wrong is innate to humans’, to which a believer might reply ‘Yes, because God put it there.’

    In any case, even an ostensibly objective moral system doesn’t mean much without free will, and its corollary personal responsibility, which the Christian church insisted on but which has now gone the way of common courtesy and a sense of community. People are no longer obese, but have obesity; drug addicts were minding their own business when suddenly, out of the blue, they ‘got an addiction’. Some celebrity or other might be over-fond of a drink, but ‘Hey, that’s just the way he rolls.’ We don’t send people to prison to punish them but to ‘correct’ them.

  • Rebekah Meredith

    ianl–28 March 2021:
    You consider guilt as simply a result of evolution, and thus a nearly universal human trait. There is no need to make such a hypothesis; the Bible explains it. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness” Romans 2: 14-15. God has given man a conscience to discern between right and wrong. The problem is that man, being a sinner, has warped that conscience so that he cannot always make such discernment. Romans 1 (as well as other passages) make it clear that, the further man goes from God, the more confused and wicked he becomes. It gives the explanation for the origin of idolatry and homosexuality. (In a less obvious way, it helps explain the madness that has overtaken our world in the past year; when men reject God, they become fools).
    As for evolution and “straw men”–where did the matter and energy in the Big Bang, or whatever the latest evolutionary hypothesis is, come from? Either Someone made matter and energy, or they themselves are eternal. Either way, the universe could not be without something eternal–and, thus, divine. I cannot prove creation by the scientific method, because I cannot observe and experiment with it. But, for the same reason, you cannot prove evolution.
    We both believe what we do by faith. It seems to me a far greater stretch to believe that matter and energy are eternal–that lightning striking some ooze “created” life–that the extreme complexity of even a single cell evolved one piece at a time by chance–than to believe what it rejoices my heart to hear my little Sunday school children say, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

  • Harry Lee

    Note to Idealists of all types:
    To live a moral life one must pay costs, tangible and intangible, material and spiritual, every day of the week.
    To establish and maintain a moral society, all these costs add up to massive proportions.
    And so, here we are, dictated to by the likes of the ABC, SBS, and 80% of the commercial media (Waleed Ali! is just one example among the many) and all the other marxist-inspired power-lusters in the education systems, and in law industry, and indeed all through the public services.
    Oh and in ALP, unions and Greens.
    Now, with all of that, expecting anything decent from the Libs and Nats is a bit naive actually.
    We are now monstered, actually enslaved, by a more malign, more evil, ideology -oh since…Gee, let’s see.
    Hmmm, no point making a comparison that might upset any group’s sense of specialness in this department.

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