There are always schemes afoot for remaking the human race against its inclinations. In a letter to supporters, the Fellowship of St. James (for whose magazine Salvo I write, e.g., see this), recalls one we hadn’t heard of:
Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary older brother, Alexander Ulyanov, was executed in 1887 for his role in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. He had been influenced by Dmitry Pisarev, a nihilist writer and critic. Pisarev wrote of a new kind of human being, ascetically dedicated to science and to working for the “good of humanity.” These new people are unable to tolerate internal discord. “Conscience—moral duty—must perfectly harmonize with action, reason with feeling, egoism with the love of humanity.”
New men don’t sin and don’t repent; they always reflect, and they only make mistakes in calculation, and then correct their errors and avoid repeating them in the future. For new people goodness and truth, honesty and knowledge, character and intellect are identical; the more intelligent a new person, the more honest he is because fewer mistakes creep into his calculations. (Philip Pomper, Lenin’s Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution, WW Norton & Co. 2010)
No sin and no repentance. It seems we now live in a Country for New Men, for whom scientific technique and scientifically enlightened government is the path to paradise on earth. More.
Which we see busting out all around us, thanks to such efforts.
Curiously, it was another Russian, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who got it right:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956
It is a very old principle, but anyone who claims greater wisdom is certainly bringing trouble.
See also: There is a country for old men.