Editorial: Our obsession with control

We have to learn to let go, argues Joseph Evans.

It struck me yesterday. All of a sudden, like a light bulb turned on. We’re control freaks! This, and principally this, is the root of so many errors and misdeeds which inflict our society: we want to have everything under control.

The solution, therefore, is the willingness to relinquish control. How many problems would be solved, how many errors avoided, if we learnt that we cannot have everything under our thumb, in our grasp … if we learnt to let go.

Why do we damage the environment? Because we try to control it excessively. Instead of working with it, as respectful stewards, we exploit and abuse it. Instead of letting nature run its course, we expect it to be constantly fruitful through chemical fertilisers, whipping the life out of it, surprised that it then responds in erratic ways before giving up the ghost.

What underlies the ever-growing number of authoritarian regimes in our world today? The obsession with control. They must pull every string, dictate every thought, they cannot allow others to think differently. Whether they’re imposing a political or religious doctrine, they cannot deal with dissent, not even – often – with diversity. Free public debate is the one thing to be avoided at all costs.

What lies behind Cancel Culture? The fear of free, uncontrolled thought. There is a new orthodoxy which must be imposed and whatever goes against this must be hounded out and silenced.

What inspires many of the calls for euthanasia? The desire even to control death. If I am determined to have every aspect of my life within my power, the same must apply to its loss.

What inspires the cries for the right to abort and the fury against the US Supreme Court’s revoking of this federal right? A wrongly understood sense of autonomy and dominion over one’s own body. “My body, my choice.” But is that totally true? What if there’s another body inside you, independent of you, which also has a right to live, to grow up to make his or her own choices one day?

Certainly, the rejection of God only leads to this attitude. If I must be in absolute control, I won’t counter a divine being claiming the same prerogative. But atheists too frequently invoke ‘chance’ to support their arguments. “It’s just chance, it just happens, don’t look for a higher explanation.” Which is another way to accept that there are forces beyond our control and knowledge, however you try to explain them – or not.

So here at least, believers and non-believers can agree: we don’t know everything and we can’t control everything. And it’s precisely the effort to do so which is destroying our planet, our society and even perhaps our personal lives.


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Fr Joseph Evans is a Catholic priest and member of the Opus Dei prelature. He has been a journalist and youth worker, and is currently a university chaplain in Oxford. He is co-founder and Editorial Director of Adamah, which he sees as bringing together some of his great passions: good writing, intelligent and honest discussion, and helping young people achieve their full potential.

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