In a piece in the Telegraph on Saturday, Charles Moore alluded to on the conflict between the State and our intermediate institutions, and the paradox of the reach of our Human Rights laws in eroding our essential freedom.
The authority of families and intermediate institutions will always be weak when the State is strong, and vice-versa.
The ethos of the regiment has been the strength of the British army since the eighteenth century. As with a family, it gave protection, provision, identity and pride; in return it demanded loyalty and obedience. It was a self governing, self regulating unit with its own laws and customs, an institution that enjoyed a high degree of devolved authority, beyond the pallid damp clasp of civil servants and politicians. It trained men for success in war. Soldiers put their 'human rights' on hold when they sign-up - and never mind the 'right of free speech', the essential paradox of war is that those who fight it recognise that the 'right to life' that is the basis of Human Rights law can only be upheld by men who are prepared to die in its defence.
As with the regiment, so with other institutions; the Navy, the Church, our professional bodies, the police. Many others. The strength of institutions lies in the extent to which their members subjugate their individual 'rights' to the authority of the institution. And as with institutions, the authority of the family.
A State that offers a direct relationship with every individual recognises no authority other than its own, and no framework other than a myth of freedom and liberty based on the absolute rights of the individual. Your sergeant-major is rude to you? Take him to court for bullying. Your parish congregation doesn't support your public transvestism? Claim your right in law. Your Chief Constable doesn't like you appearing in porn films? Assert your right to free speech. Your mother smacks you? Prosecute her for assault.
When you lose the authority of institutions, you lose something infinitely precious to freedom; you lose the opportunity for any devotion, any attachment to anything other than yourself. You lose the opportunity for allegiance and loyalty to something intimate and close yet greater than yourself. My father loved his regiment until the day of his death, loved it with a fierce possessive pride. He sought to make its virtues his own. As Moore says, writing of the Navy,
Behind that account is a world we have lost - of unreasoning, lifelong devotion, of love for an institution above self. If you don't have that, it is only a matter of time before you don't have a navy.