Canadian artist and author Michael O’Brien discusses the “soft totalitarianism” of secularism’s “friendly dragon.”

Walker Percy once wrote about the Western writer’s tendency to what he called “Solzhenitsyn-envy.” Percy’s witticim is tongue in cheek, and insightful, but it begs a deeper look: Why is the envy there in the first place? Why would one envy a suffering, persecuted man?

…In the case of the writer who is rooted in the moral cosmos, this kind of envy is a symptom not so much of his personal moral failure as it is his moral dilemma. The creative person sincerely seeking truth can no longer find his bearings with the aid of his social environment. His native culture is no longer his own. He is, in a sense, a kind of exile, but without the fugitive consolations of the exile’s heroism. He is not a sign of contradiction against an oppressive regime; rather he is too often a disoriented wanderer, a stranger in a strange land, and, worse, it is his native land. Thus, he senses that the heroic figure far away in the mysterious East, in facing the dragon of overt totalitarianism, had a cleaner task, a defined task. More threatening to life and general well-being, to be sure, but not nearly so confusing or demoralizing. It might kill his body but it could not so easily kill his soul.

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