OPINION – If you were to name the most significant divide in American society today, what would it be? Most would be tempted to say Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative or some other political division. None of these would be correct.
The single most significant divide in our culture today is the one between the masses and the remnant.
In his 1936, Albert J. Nock brilliantly explained the difference between the masses and the remnant in the story of Isaiah’s prophetic mission to tell Israel of its need to straighten up. Isaiah was warned, “the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.”
But the masses were not Isaiah’s intended audience. Instead, he was told that there was a remnant that needed to hear his message: “They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on.”
The distinction between the masses and the remnant in modern America is strikingly similar to the ones in Isaiah’s time.
Nock described the line between the masses and the remnant as one being set by quality and not circumstance. He noted, “The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”
The masses would rather be flattered into ruin. The remnant is willing to suffer hard truths that correct them into redemption.
This is why reform movements are so prone to failure. They seek to appeal to the masses. It may seem counterintuitive, but the masses are the worst place to direct a message when serious, lasting change is required.
According to Nock, the downfall of most reform movements is found in their promise of instantaneous and measurable improvement in conditions. Most often, their efforts focus on changing what Nock referred to as “the mechanics of society.”
The masses have been conditioned to expect quick and painless alleviation of societal problems. They want to be praised and patted on the back. When a truth is presented that challenges their worldview, the masses become petulant and demand that the message change to fit their whims.
The remnant, on the other hand, wants only the truth. They understand what Milton meant about truth when he wrote, “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?” Their willingness to embrace and live truth is what brings stability and power to their lives.
When the masses are being swayed and manipulated to their own destruction, the remnant is not. Reform movements seek to affect change by influencing the masses or coercing them into adopting a particular point of view. This is why such movements are more prone to being co-opted, misdirected, or corrupted.
The remnant understands that real, lasting change does not come from the top down. It comes from the painstaking work of reforming oneself first and then presenting society with one improved unit.
Ronald F. Cooney accurately described the remnant as, “a group of people bound together by nothing more than their desire to achieve self-reformation, and practice of independent and disinterested thought.”
True leadership doesn’t consist of convincing everyone else that they must change. Instead, it begins with the recognition that the surest way to affect long term change is to start with the one thing we actually have control over — ourselves.
If society is in desperate need of enlightenment, then we should begin by enlightening ourselves first.The power of attraction will do the rest. The great Edmund Burke once noted, “Example is the school of mankind. It will learn at no other.”
As Leonard Read described in The Essence of Americanism, “The sole force that will turn indifference into acceptance is the power of attraction. And this can be achieved only if the eye is cast away from the remaking of others and toward the improvement of self. This effort demanded of each individual is not at all a sacrifice, but rather the best investment one can make in life’s highest purpose.”
Whenever we find ourselves frustrated that the masses just don’t seem to understand, that’s the best indicator that it’s time for us to change.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and may not be representative of St. George News.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.