Near the end of WWII, when the world was going through a shock of another kind, Charles de Koninck wrote: A society composed of individual persons who esteem their private good above the common good, or who confuse the common good with the private good of each conceived as a sort of singular thing, as an abstraction of the collectivity, is a society not of free human beings, but a society of many tyrants. In such a society, one can only lead by force and violence, where the leader is simply the most astute and the strongest among tyrants; and where the subjects themselves forever remain nothing more than frustrated tyrants. To refuse the primacy of the common good is, at its root, a contempt for persons (I translate and paraphrase).

The common good, in this view, is so much more than merely the pursuit of a common welfare. The test, however, of a true common good, is that it is never achieved at the price of the alienation of the individual person. Each world crisis brings us back to this fundamental fulcrum of our existence: Where lives the person amidst the mass of people? Can literature help us define that place?