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The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2
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A reflection by Fr Luis Garza, LC, on how Catholics can take an effective stand in the culture war today.

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"Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

August 29, 2011. The Catholic Church has been a builder of culture for over two millennia, and has faced different forms of “culture war” throughout its long and battle-scarred history. But perhaps never has the Church faced a challenge like the “battle for the soul of the world” in the 21st century.

For those with an interest in understanding the roots and consequences of the cultural battle underway in today’s world, we present The Battle for the Soul of the World, by Fr Luis Garza, LC. Originally presented as a series of lectures for university students attending a leadership conference, it is offered here as a formation resource for teams and individuals who will find the lecture notes to be thought-provoking material for reflection and discussion.

The complete text with study guide questions can be downloaded in PDF format here. Part 2 of the 10-part series is presented below, and the following parts will be published on the web site on Mondays.

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CHAPTER TWO
Manipulation of Society


Culture and society can be altered if one knows how to use the levers of social change.  However, to turn something good into something bad, it is not enough simply to present ideas; such influence requires resorting to manipulation.  Manipulation makes something bad seem good, not by appealing to reason but to the passions.

There are three battle tactics for using the levers of social change, two ideological and one operational.

1.  Ideological tactics

The first and most important tactic is based on Hegel’s conception of dialectics as the driving force of history.  In Hegel’s view, everything happens through dialectics, which consists of a conflict between thesis and antithesis, resulting in a synthesis.  Marx accepts this hypothesis but brings it down from the world of ideas in to materialism.  Thus, for Marxism, history is the unfolding of dialectical materialism.

Marx’s followers always seek social conflicts to stir up passions.  They pit men against women, rich against poor, Indians against Europeans, white people against black people.  However, the strategy only works if some kind of utopia is promised as the end result (synthesis) of the dispute between the two warring parties (thesis-antithesis).  The perfect historical example of this manipulation is real communism, which pitted the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, claiming that the outcome would be emancipation and freedom for the proletariat.  This never came to be. Instead, the aftermath was a ruthless and inhuman tyranny.

The second tactic is a series of dialectics aimed to persuade.  For clarity’s sake, I offer a few examples:

- Dilemma:  In a discussion a dilemma can be instigated by absolutizing one of its elements.  For example, you say to a teenager, “You’re independent.  How can you obey your parents?”  As we know, one can be both independent and obedient to one’s parents.  However, the first term is presented as if it were exclusive.

- Language manipulation:  Another form of manipulation consists in the so-called “Operation Turtle,” which involves using the same word but with a different meaning.  The concepts of family and marriage have suffered this manipulation.  Today there is much talk in Western society of different models of the family, each of which insists that its meaning must not be restricted.  But in reality there is only one concept of family.  Manipulation also takes place through the so-called “Operation Rejection,” which consists in rejecting an existing term because of the strength of the concept behind it, which does not allow it to be so easily manipulated.  Thus, since the term “sex” cannot be used to promote the homosexual agenda, the use of the word “gender” was promoted instead.  After all, they could make the word “gender” fit with the concept of a man attracted to other men, etc.

- Deifying concepts:  There are concepts, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, rights, etc., that for their inner value and strength are untouchable.  So, they are used in concert with other ideas being promoted.  How many times have we heard phrases like this one?  “You have to accept the rights of homosexuals, including marriage rights.  Otherwise, you are not being tolerant.”

- Conflating consensus and consent:  When a group votes in favor of something and chooses to do it, a consensus is reached, but consent has not necessarily been given.  A majority vote does not create the goodness of the thing voted for.  Yet, democracy is used to decide whether something is good or bad and to make other people accept these decisions.  It is as if we could democratically decide the color of a shirt.  John Paul II said that “when democracy is not based on principles and on what makes a person a human being (on natural laws), it can be the worst tyranny.”

- Manipulation through ad hominem attacks on one’s opponent instead of his ideas: such tactics have denigrated the Catholic priest’s image, making it easier to undermine whatever he says.

- Manipulation by feigning interest in paving a middle road between two different points of view but with the intention of proposing another compromise later on: the typical case is the debate over euthanasia.  Initially there was talk of allowing it for those patients who request death themselves.  Now, there is talk of allowing guardians to request the patient’s death.  And we are starting to see pressure to request euthanasia not only for elderly or terminally ill patients, but also for children who have birth defects but who are still capable of having a worthwhile life.

- Manipulation by labeling the opponent an extremist.  Those who manipulate always present themselves as the reasonable ones.  Those of us on the other side are the fundamentalists.  They are the center; we are the extreme.

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion:

1. There are two main tactics presented in this section: conflict and persuasion. Why is conflict an effective tool for waging a culture war?  What does it destroy or distort in the minds and hearts of those who get caught up in its “logic”?
2. What would you suggest as a constructive alternative to conflict when passions are stirred up on both sides?
3. What other examples of false dilemmas can you give—in the pro-choice field, for example?
4. Why is the manipulation of language a subtle, yet powerful tactic? What does it undermine?
5. What other terms and concepts have been emptied of their content and/or changed to mean something else?
6. Why is the pseudo “middle road” approach particularly dangerous and how have you seen it used?
7. Can you name specific examples of ad hominem attacks or labeling an opponent as an extremist?
8. What would you suggest as an effective response to these strategies?


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-08-29


The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I - Article
The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9 - Article
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10 - Article
 

Related articles
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10
 


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