The Surveillance State

In this season of the “holidays,” it was announced several days ago that Fairfax County schools would be permitted to install video surveillance cameras in High Schools. Fairfax County is frequently lauded as being one of the best public school counties in the nation, but, as residents of the county, we receive regular updates of various assaults, thefts, “gang-banging” and near-riots taking place in the High Schools.

A civilization reveals its deepest commitments through its education – enculturation – of its young. We have whitewashed not only God and religion from the schools, but all questions of the Good in favor of a embrace of relativist toleration and non-judgmentalism, along with an ethic of entitlement, self-realization, and a utilitarian view of education. It has been argued since the beginning of the liberal era that the “bracketing” of questions of the Good would result in civil peace and toleration.

Instead – as Thomas Hobbes told us – we increasingly live within a surveillance State, an all-seeing Leviathan. In lieu of self-sustaining standards of respect, modesty, manners and maturity, we are surrounded by evidence of cultural pollution, social dissolution and irresponsibility. Into the breach fills the State to enforce by diktat what social decencies once governed.

This is the consequence of several centuries of the liberal vision of toleration and peace in place of God and Good – our children “surveilled” where instead they should be gaining deeper understanding and practices of adulthood and even the beginnings of wisdom. But, do not mention the name God or say “Merry Christmas” – that might cause discomfort. Better to turn our schools into panopticons, our children into inmates.
- Patrick Deneen

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