The late novelist Walker Percy, when asked what concerned him most about the future of America, answered:
Probably the fear of seeing America, with all its great strength and beauty and freedom . . . gradually subside into decay through default and be defeated, not by the communist movement . . . but from within by weariness, boredom, cynicism, greed, and in the end helplessness before its great problems.
The prophetic Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, echoing his 1978 Harvard commencement address in which he warned of the West’s “spiritual exhaustion,” stated:
In the United States the difficulties are not a Minotaur or a dragon—not imprisonment, hard labor, death, government harassment and censorship—but cupidity, boredom, sloppiness, indifference. Not the acts of a mighty all-pervading repressive government but the failure of a listless public to make use of the freedom that is its birthright.
Here is what Buchan wrote about his nightmare world:
In such a (nightmare) world everyone would have leisure. But everyone would be restless, for there would be no spiritual disciplines in life. . . . It would be a feverish, bustling world, self-satisfied and yet malcontent, and under the mask of a riotous life there would be death at the heart. In the perpetual hurry of life there would be no chance of quiet for the soul. . . . In such a bagman’s paradise, where life would be rationalized and padded with every material comfort, there would be little satisfaction for the immortal part of man.
Dostoyevsky reminded us in The Brothers Karamazov that “if God does not exist, everything is permissible.”
Democracy depends on enough people being willing to do the right thing. The greatest of 19th century English Catholic liberals, Lord Acton, taught that “freedom is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought.”
Weigel feared that a hedonistic spirit was undermining the social fabric of American life. An infantile conception of freedom surfaces in expressions like, “Anything goes” or “What difference does it make?” This is not freedom in an ethical sense but sheer irresponsibility and a form of despair. Nihilism is always a form of acedia.
For the Greater Glory of God