Former Weekly Standard editor in chief Bill Kristol suggested in a tweet that if he faced a choice (and under what surreal circumstances would that happen?) between the constitutionally, democratically elected president and career government officials’ efforts to thwart or remove him, he would come down on the side of the revolutionary, anti-democratic “deep state”: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it [emphasis added], prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” No doubt some readers interpreted that as a call to side with anti-constitutional forces against an elected U.S. president.
[. . .]
Fake news proliferates. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Representative Elijah Cummings recently attacked departing national-security advisor Michael Flynn by reading a supposed Flynn tweet that was a pure invention. Nor did Trump, as reported, have a serious plan to mobilize “100,000” National Guard troops to enforce deportations.
Other false stories claimed that Trump had pondered invading Mexico, that his lawyer had gone to Prague to meet with the Russians, and that he had removed from the Oval Office a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. — sure proof of Trump’s racism. Journalists — including even “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post — reposted fake news reports that Trump’s father had run a campaign for the New York mayorship during which he’d aired racist TV ads.
However, most people understand their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
This sentence features a misuse of 'understand.' 'Understand' is a verb of success. If you understand something, then it is the case. For example, if you understand that both 2 and -2 are square roots of 4, then this is the case. Otherwise there is a failure to understand. 'Understand' in this respect is like 'know' and unlike 'believe' or 'think'. My knowing that p entails that p is true. My believing or thinking that p does not entail that p is true. My understanding that my side is good entails that it is. The above sentence should read as follows:
However, most people THINK their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
Not necessarily, says Taubes, who suggests that the ad hoc societal test of the low-carb solution lacks certainty. “If you understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that your disease is caused by sugar and flour and refined carbohydrates,” he says, “you are more likely to adhere to a diet that cuts them out.”
Some will say that usage changes, to which I will reply: no doubt, but not all change is change for the better.
Call me a prescriptivist if you like, but don't confuse me with a school-marm prescriptivist. If you end a sentence with a preposition, I won't draw my weapon. For that is a piece of pedantry up with which I shall not put!
In 2013, a college student assigned to research a deadly substance sought help via Twitter: "I can't find the chemical and physical properties of sarin gas someone please help me." An expert at a security consulting firm tried to be helpful, telling her that sarin is not gas. She replied, "yes the (expletive) it is a gas you ignorant (expletive). sarin is a liquid & can evaporate ... shut the (expletive) up."
[Samuel] Huntington is most famous for arguing in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that the post-Cold War world would not be defined by the universalization of liberal values but by ethnic frictions within nations and civilizational clashes between them (the most volatile fault lines, he said, were between the West and Islam and the West and China). Even more prescient, at least as far as the United States is concerned, was Huntington’s 2004 book, Who Are We?, which described “nationalism versus cosmopolitanism” as the central dividing line in American politics, with immigration as its focal point.
Huntington identified two forms of cosmopolitanism—neoconservatism, popular on the right, which promised to bring America’s values to the world, and multiculturalism, popular on the left, which promised to bring the world’s values to America—both of which he attacked as destructive and unsustainable. The 2016 election campaign was one long demonstration of how right Huntington was, and how blind were his liberal and neoconservative critics who had no idea of the forces building in American politics.
The neocon mistake was to imagine that our superior system of government could be imposed on benighted and backward peoples riven by tribal hatreds and depressed by an inferior religion. The folly of that should now be evident. One cannot bomb the benighted into Enlightenment.
The mistake of the multi-culti cultural Marxists is to imagine that comity is possible without commonality, that wildly diverse sorts of people can live together in peace and harmony. Or at least that is one mistake of the politically correct multi-cultis.
Along comes Trump. Whatever you think of the man and his ostentation, self-absorption, slovenly speech, occasional feel-ups of members of the distaff contingent, and all the rest, he is a powerful vehicle of a necessary correction away from both forms of cosmopolitanism/globalism toward a saner view.
Donald J. Trump, the somewhat unlikely vehicle of a necessary correction. Without course correction the cliff is up ahead to be approached either by Donkey Express (Hillary) or more slowly but just as surely by Elephant (Jeb! and colleagues).
So how does the Left respond? In their usual vile and thoughtless way by the hurling of such epithets as sexist, Islamophobic, xenophobic, racist, fascist . . . you know the litany. According to Chris Mathews of MSNBC, Trump's inaugural speech was "Hitlerian."
The alacrity with which these leftist bums reach for the Hitler comparison shows the poverty of their 'thought.'
Addendum. Tony Bevin writes:
In your post you write:
The neocon mistake was to imagine that our superior system of government could be imposed on benighted and backward peoples riven by tribal hatreds and depressed by an inferior religion. The folly of that should now be evident. One cannot bomb the benighted into Enlightenment.
This is of a mind with Milton Friedman's observation about the Euro. He noted that one cannot impose a common currency that is not supported by a common political will [emphasis added by BV]and gave the Euro 10 years before it became extinct.
I think he (and you above) are correct. Friedman may have only been wrong about the timeline. By the way, the Euro, which consistently traded at about $1.33 is now down to the $1.02-$1.05 range and Deutsche Wealth management expects it to be about $0.85 toward the end of this year. With Brexit, Italexit and other countries beginning to discuss the possibility of leaving the EU, is the beginning of the end near? We shall see.
Madonna's opening line at the awards gala was edited out of the shortened official video: "I stand before you as a doormat — oh, I mean a female entertainer." Merciful Minerva! Can there be any woman on Earth less like a doormat than Madonna Louise Ciccone? Madonna sped on with shaky assertions ("There are no rules if you're a boy") and bafflingly portrayed the huge commercial success of her 1992 book, Sex, as a chapter of the Spanish Inquisition, in which she was persecuted as "a whore and a witch."
C.P. is often a good antidote to P. C., not that that I would award Miss Paglia the much-coveted plenary MavPhil endorsement.
Yet another example. (HT: Karl White) "University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
The Telegraph title isn't even grammatical. The stupid demand is that these greats BE removed. Has England declined so far that its journalists can no longer write or speak correct English and must take instruction from an American blogger?
Demands refer to future events. I can demand that you leave my house, but I can't demand that you not have entered it, or that you are leaving it. I could of course demand that you continue the process of removing your sorry ass from my premises, but that too is a future-oriented demand.
I demand that you are stopping to be a willfully stupid leftist and that you are removed from my presence!
UPDATE (1/10). Horace Jeffery Hodges comments,
I think the statement is British English:
"University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
American English requires a subjunctive form:
I demand that they be removed . . .
This is one of the things I dislike about British grammar.
I don't know. I may be wrong, and Jeff may be right. In any case, it makes no bloody sense to use the present tense to refer to a future event. It is in the nature of a demand that it point us to the future for its satisfaction or the opposite. There is more to grammar than usage; there is also logic broadly construed. But then I am something of a prescriptivist. The distinction between singular and plural, for example, is logical and good grammar respects it.
Correct: A polite chess player thanks his opponent for the game, whether he wins or loses.
Incorrect: A polite chess player thanks their opponent for the game, whether they win or lose.
What about this: A polite chess player thanks her opponent for the game, whether she wins or loses.
I argued years ago that if 'his' can be correctly used gender-neutrally, then so can 'her.' And this despite the fact that in 'standard English usage' (admittedly a tendentious phrase) 'his' but not 'her' can be so used. Lydia McGrew got her knickers in a knot over this, thinking that I had succumbed to political correctness. This goes to show that for some conservatives one can never be too conservative. The least little concession to liberals shows that one has 'sold out.'
But more important than quibbling over language is defeating the Left and the contemptible shitheads who would remove Plato and Kant from the curriculum.
What these cranially-feculent morons fail to grasp is that really to understand their own crack-brained POMO ideology, they would have to study Kant. Kant's defensible constructivism was part of the set-up for their indefensible constructivism. Besides, you need Kant to understand Hegel, and Hegel Marx, and Marx the Frankfurt School . . . .
Some European newspapers have reported lately – very quietly – that, according to police in Germany’s North Rhineland/ Westphalia region, from 2011 to 2016 there were 3500 cases of vandalism/desecration of Christian churches. About two per day in only one region of Germany, every day for the past five years.
That's the bad news. The good news is that Trump defeated Hillary who would have continued Obama's ostrichism.
Change and hope for 2017!
We, of course, can coexist with Muslims who want to coexist with us. But the presence of jihadists – essentially an amorphous armed force within our society – is going to drive us quite close to religious tests for entry into the country and perhaps more.
Royal is assuming that Islam is a religion like any other. Not so. It is a hybid religious-political ideology that promotes values inimical to the West and its flourishing. Sharia and the West do not mix. Muslim immigration ought to be curtailed because of Muslims' destructive Sharia-based political values. They have no right to come here, and we have no obligation to let them in. There is no net benefit to their immigration when you factor in the destruction, which is not merely physical, wrought by jihadis. The Europeans are learning this the hard way. May they learn their lesson well.
No one should be allowed to immigrate who is not prepared to assimilate.
No comity without commonality.
While diversity is good, it is good only up to a point. A diversity worth wanting presupposes a unity of shared principles.
A good part of the problem here is the silly liberal conceit that 'deep down' we are all the same and want the same things. False! There really are crazies ought there who want to disembarrass you of your head because you differ with them on some abstruse point of theology. Leftists, who cannot take religion seriously, think that no one else really takes it seriously either so that what motivates terrorists are things like "lack of jobs" as the foolish Obama once said. A very stupid form of projection!
But we will soon be rid of the feckless fool.
That being said and rejoiced in, Happy New Year! By OUR calendar.
"Because of recent events at the school where I teach, Providence College, I have come to see that the winning side of the so-called culture wars has no interest in rational or equable conversation about the neuralgic issues of our time." Here.
Defund the bastards, I say. It does no good to speak truth to power when those in power believe only in it and not in truth.
Europe is very, very, ill, a victim of a weak but highly opportunistic pathogen, and if it cannot soon mount a robust immune response it will die. Even if it can manage such a response, at this late hour it will be a close-run thing — and we have already passed the point, I think, where it can recover without some very serious “unpleasantness”. But the choice is now very plain: awaken or die.
Most likely it will die, I think. (Already there are calls to close down the traditional Christmas-markets for the sake of security. This is what late-stage cultural immunodeficiency looks like.)
When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in.
– John Howard
I wonder: when the last native Europeans have dwindled to a final few, and they are forced to watch one another put to the sword, will they worry, most of all, about an anti-Muslim “backlash”? Will they wonder, in that moment, how things might have been if they had stood for themselves — and then say, just as they are annihilated, “But that’s not who we are”?
“Not ‘who you are’?” says Gnon, with majestic indifference. “Right, perhaps not. Very well, then. Goodbye.”
It may be too late for decadent Europe, but we still have time, and with Trump in the saddle, a fighting chance. The defeat of Hillary the hopeless is a change that brings hope.
All visible tattoos deliver the same message: I am not interested in being hired for any position that involves interacting with the public. Tattoos on the neck and face deliver the message in capital letters.
Time was when tattoos were found mainly only among the demimonde of grifters, members of outlaw motorcycle gangs, rough trade, a certain segment of merchant seamen, and other denizens of the dark side.
I tend to take a dim view of tattoos, seeing them as the graffiti of the human body, and as yet another, perhaps minor, ingredient in the Decline of the West. Christians who believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit ought to consider whether tattoos deface the temple. But I do not dogmatize on this topic. You can reasonably attack my graffiti analogy, and if you insist that tattoos are beautiful, not ugly, I won't be able to refute you. Or at least I won't be able to persuade you.
If you argue that there is no, or needn't be, a connection between tattoos and cultural decline, you may have a case. You might even be able reasonably to maintain that the bodily temple is sometimes beautified by judicious inking. Leviticus 19:28 forbids the practice, but that text does not settle the matter. I tend to think that fascination with the ugly and grotesque does not ennoble us. The connection between the aesthetic and the moral needs to be explored.
But I celebrate the liberty of the individual and tolerate the tattooer and the tatttoed.
I only advise caution: permanent or semi-permanent modifications of the mortal coil are to be made only after due deliberation. You might want to consider such things as: the signal you're sending, your future employability, and, for the distaff contingent, how ugly that tattoo will look on your calf when you are 45 as opposed to 20 and the ink is cheek-by-jowl with varicose veins and cellulite. Cute baristas in hip huggers with tattoos on their lower backs bending over the espresso machine invite impertinent questions as to how far down the pattern extends. "Does it come up the other side?"
If you are thinking of a career in public relations, a bone through the nose is definitely out, as are facial hardware and a Charley Manson-style swastika tattooed onto the forehead. And if you sport a 'tramp stamp,' keep it covered.
Something you allude to, but don’t completely address, is the allure of fashion, and its strange nature. Fashion has a lifetime of at most ten years, usually in a way that what once conferred stature and gravitas turns into the ludicrous. Fortunately we can discard clothes, and change our hairstyle. This is more difficult with tattoos.
I.e. it’s not just that the tattoo will look ugly when the ink is ‘cheek-by-jowl with varicose veins and cellulite’. It’s that it will look ugly and ridiculous in itself.
I haven’t seen any theory that neatly explains the transformative power of time over fashion. Those of us who are older and have been through a few cycles of such changes are aware of it, and are somewhat, though not completely, impervious to it. It is philosophically challenging. How can the very same thing turn almost into its exact opposite? Moreover, when you look at what is now most ridiculous about the fashion, it was the very thing which in a bygone era was the most fascinating and important.
Some things do not date, and perhaps that is the essence of great art. I also think writing dates much slower. I mean, you can read Strawson or Moore and you don’t have a strong sense that it was written 50 or 100 years ago. Then you look at pictures of the writers, and they look quite silly in tweeds or glasses or smoking a pipe.
Fascinating questions. Why are people swayed in their sartorial choices by what is clearly ridiculous and non-functional? Ghetto blacks strutting around in baggy cargo shorts hanging half-way off their butts; women prancing in high heels; stout lesbians stomping around in work boots at a poetry reading; Beltway boys in their bow ties. The absurd corsets and bustles of yesteryear. Statement-making and sexual signaling are part of what's going on.
The Opponent seems to be suggesting that tattoos will go out of fashion and come to look ridiculous. I don't know.
Members of the party of 'tolerance' and 'inclusion' go on the rampage as captured in this collection of videos.
Trump won fair and square despite all the chicanery of the Dems. Now just as most Muslims are not terrorists, most Dems are not street anarchists. But the latter constitute a significant subset of Dems. What does it say about them that they breed elements who reject the very system of government that allowed for Obama's accession to power for two disastrous terms?
'Interesting' days up ahead. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Here is the delusional Paul Krugman soiling, once again, the already piss-poor Op-Ed pages of The New York Times. His title is the hyperventilatory "Thoughts for the Horrified."
The political damage will extend far into the future, too. The odds are that some terrible people will become Supreme Court justices. States will feel empowered to engage in even more voter suppression than they did this year. At worst, we could see a slightly covert form of Jim Crow become the norm all across America.
Terrible people? Voter suppression? Jim Crow? This is crazy stuff, beneath reply. And Krugman's outburst is no isolated incident. Lefties can't seem to grasp that we reject their ideas and policies and that we have good grounds for doing so.
And then we have the leftist punks clogging the highways and byways. What are they protesting? The proper functioning of a democratic republic in which a bloodless transfer of power has occurred? The brainwashed punks have no legitimate grounds for protest. They simply don't like the outcome.
But we conservatives didn't like the outcome when Obama beat Romney in 2012. I don't recall any right-wing gangs in the streets protesting. Yet another difference between the Left and the Right. Perhaps now you understand why I often refer to the Left as destructive.
The Left's long march through the institutions has been successful. We now have hordes of young people with no understanding of the greatness of America. The punks have been brainwashed, and we conservatives can blame ourselves for retreating into our private lives and not battling the Marxist cultural termites early on.
But the focus on what really matters, the private, is of the essence of conservatism, and so it is our conservative attitude that unfits us for battle with the totalitarians of the Left who work to destroy the institutions of civil society.
More proof of the collapse of American universities and Catholic universities in particular. As a result of the abdication of authority on the part of administrators, 'Catholic' universities have become anti-Catholic leftist seminaries, hotbeds of cultural Marxism. Am I exaggerating? Read Rod Dreher's interview with Professor Esolen and see for yourself. Here is the message that has to go out to parents thinking of sending their children to Providence College (PC !), or DePaul, or Georgetown, or Notre Dame, etc.:
What advice would you give to young Christian academics? To Christian parents preparing to send their kids to college?
It’s long past the time for administrators at Christian colleges to abandon the hiring policies that got us in this fix to begin with. We KNOW that there are plenty of excellent young Christian scholars who have to struggle to find a job. Well, let’s get them and get them right away. WE should be establishing a network for that purpose — so that if a Benedictine College needs a professor of literature, they can get on the phone to Ralph Wood at Baylor or me at Providence or Glenn Arbery at Wyoming Catholic, and say, “Do you have anybody?”
Christian parents — please do not suppose that your child will retain his or her faith after four years of battering at a secular college. Oh, many do — and many colleges have Christian groups that are terrific. But understand that it is going to be a dark time; and that everything on campus will be inimical to the faith, from the blockheaded assumptions of their professors, to the hook-ups, to the ignorance of their fellow students and their unconscious but massive bigotry. Be advised.
There is little or no point in writing letters of protest to the administrative and professorial crapweasels that oversee and enable this leftist insanity. They will ignore your respectful objections and go back to calling you racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc. To these willfully enstupidated shitheads you are just bad apples at the bottom of Hillary's "basket of deplorables."
What you have to do is cut off their funding. If you are an alumnus of DePaul or PC -- how felicitous the abbreviation! -- refuse them when they ask for donations. And let them know that you will not send your children there.
That will get their attention.
I believe it was Lee Iacocca who said, "When money talks, ideology walks." We need to give leftist ideologues, especially stealth ideologues like Hillary, their walking papers.
How does one explain to a victim of an unfortunate appellate panel’s ruling that “I could have voted for a federal judiciary that would protect the Constitution and refrain from legislating from the bench, but a braggart was recorded 11 years earlier, boasting in filthy terms, saying that he then did filthy, disgusting things that were less filthy and disgusting than what his opponent actively defended her husband and clients for doing. So I am sorry for losing the federal judiciary. And for abandoning America’s influence in the world. And for allowing more destructive drugs to enter the country illegally by permitting the border to become even more porous. And for the economy remaining mired with no meaningful job growth or income gains. And for the loss of affordable health coverage and for losing access to preferred doctors. And for not voting finally for change to stem the steep decline in the Judaeo-Christian religious and social values that built this great country and that shaped America’s extraordinary character.”
Perhaps the complacent Italians need to be reminded that "the sweet life" (la dolce vita) won't be very sweet under Sharia and that an Italy without its Christian antiquities and art treasures won't be a very attractive tourist destination. Italians may no longer care about their culture, but everyone cares about his wallet.
I have posed this question in several forms over the past few years. In his latest, Publius Decius Mus offers an excellent exposition and answer:
Comprehensive Conservative Failure
If I may address professional conservatives directly: It seems to me undeniable that you have already failed. Don’t take it personally. I can rephrase that as “we” if you like, even though I was never much of an operative within Conservatism, Inc. But I was a fellow traveler and supporter, so if you want to lay part of the blame on me, fine.
We failed. We didn’t do what we set out to do. We lost the political and culture wars decisively. Our economic victory turned out to be fruitless: all the gains have accrued to those we nominally “defeated,” as evidenced by the fact that the Democrats are now the party of the super-rich. Our victory in the Cold War also turned to ashes, as we lost our heads pursuing unrealizable foreign ambitions while fighting in ways that preclude the possibility of victory. Not that we know what victory entails or have any idea what to do with it if we achieve it—but that doesn’t matter, because since 1991, we never have. Worse, we were crushed in the war of ideas:
It would not be the first time that a nation, defeated on the battlefield and, as it were, annihilated as a political being, has deprived the conquerors of the most sublime fruit of victory by imposing on them the yoke of its own thought.
You don’t have to be alt-right to see that this is a perfect description of the USSR’s posthumous intellectual victory in the form of “Cultural Marxism.” Climb down from the egghead mountaintops and the defeat becomes even clearer. A principal Soviet export was crude anti-Americanism—grounded in high theory, to be sure, but simplified to be understandable by even the meanest capacities. We “won” the Cold War, but that export nonetheless spread like a virus—so much so that anti-Americanism is now and has been for at least 20 years the civil religion not just of all Third World populations, not just of Western allies, but of American elites and their foot soldiers.
We failed to preserve a true understanding the principles of the Declaration of Independence. We failed to preserve the proper working order of the Constitution. We failed to protect and nurture that virtue in the people necessary to sustain the Constitution. We failed to defend the family from relentless assault. We failed to maintain any semblance of a shared public morality. We allowed—through a combination of active cheering and ineffective opposition—demographic and cultural replacement. We lent a great deal of our talent to serve rapacious interests in the name of “economic freedom.” All the things we were supposed to conserve—the nation, its people, its way of life, its governing structure—we have not conserved.
This is exactly right. It also helps explain the rise of Donald Trump -- and why you ought to vote for him despite his manifest negatives. He is our only hope to stop, or at least impede, America's leftward slide into oblivion.
Since when did we decide that men and women are interchangeable in hand-to-hand combat on the front lines? Why do we insist on women in combat but not in the NFL? Because we take football seriously. That’s no joke; it’s the sad truth.
We take panem et circenses seriously, but not the defense of the Republic.
Thomas Sowell on the sad state of our elite universities. Excerpt:
There is no barbed wire around our campuses, nor armed guards keeping unwelcome ideas out. So there is no "iron curtain." But there is a curtain, and it has its effect.
One effect is that many of the rising generation can go from elementary school through postgraduate education at our leading colleges and universities without ever hearing a coherent presentation of a vision of the world that is fundamentally different from that of the political left.
There are world class scholars who are unlikely to become professors at either elite or non-elite academic institutions because they do not march in the lockstep of the left. Some have been shouted down or even physically assaulted when they tried to give a speech that challenged the prevailing political correctness.
Harvard is just one of the prestigious institutions where such things have happened -- and where preemptive surrender to mob rule has been justified by a dean saying that it was too costly to provide security for many outside speakers who would set off campus turmoil.
Despite the fervor with which demographic "diversity" is proclaimed as a prime virtue -- without a speck of evidence as to its supposed benefits -- diversity of ideas gets no such respect.
I spent the whole day yesterday at an auto dealership buying my wife a new car. But last night I didn't dream about the car, but about Hillary who appeared young and stunning and topless, but with very small breasts. What does this dream mean?
My subconscious was telling me that Hillary came across in the first debate much better than Trump (young and stunning) and that therefore she 'won' the debate despite her indefensible position (toplessness) and weak arguments (small breasts).
And 'win' she did. She threw the Orange Man onto the defensive and made him look bad. Despite his allegations of her lack of stamina, she stood there strong as a bull. She threw a lot of bull too, but it doesn't matter in these so-called debates. It's all about appearances. That's what the world runs on. That's what impresses people. Remember Ronald Reagan's contentless 'zingers'? "There you go again!" "Where's the beef?" (An allusion to a Wendy's restaurant commercial of the time.)
Some of us recall Nixon-Kennedy, 1960. You could see Nixon sweat. Sweat and scowl. An introvert in an extrovert's profession, he was no match for the charming and charismatic and lovable Jack Kennedy. He lost on appearances. But Nixon was the better man with the better arguments despite playing Captain Ahab to Kennedy's Prince Charming.
Trump missed opportunities to nail Hillary. She spouted standard liberal nonsense about 'gun violence' as if guns are violent, but nary a peep escaped her lying lips about the thug culture in black ghettos which is the real root of the problem. Similarly on the 'stop and frisk' matter. But Trump was stymied by his need to appeal to black voters.
You can't say to black people that, as a group, they, and in particular young black males, are more criminally inclined than whites, and that this is what justifies 'stop and 'frisk' profiling, for they will take it as racist insult, not as the plain truth, which is what it is.
I predict a win by Hillary in the general, by a small margin. I hope I am wrong.
A Hillary win will concern me as a citizen. But as a philosopher it will be of no concern. For the owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk.
Addendum 1. 'Gun epidemic' is another obfuscatory phrase Hillary used last night. A characteristic conflation of the moral and the epidemiological that could arise only in the febrile brain of a liberal. The problem in the black ghettos is not too many guns, but too few fathers.
Addendum 2. I said above that a Hillary win would concern me as a citizen but not as a philosopher. But this was an uncharacteristic undialectical lapse on my part. For one cannot flourish as a philosopher in prison or in a totalitarian regime. The embodied philosopher must concern himself to some extent with politics as with the material conditions of his philosophizing.
Corrigendum 1. Dennis M. writes,
A correction: “Where’s the beef?” was from a Reagan debate, but it was a line Mondale used against him. That one didn’t do much, but Reagan’s quip about not using Mondale’s youth and inexperience against him did a lot to kill the worries people had after his somewhat listless performance in their first debate.
Leszek Kolakowski has a message for New Atheists, leftists, transhumanists and any other bunch of religion bashers who think religion will wither away, be put out of business by some technological advance, or will eventually be confined to the sphere of the merely private. The following quotations are from an interview with the philosopher conducted by Nathan Gardels entitled Man Does Not Live by Reason Alone. (HT: Karl White) Emphasis added. For more on Kolakowski poke around in the Kolakowski category.
Moreover, the rationalist predictions about religion also turned out to be wrong. I don’t expect the death of religion or the death of God. Secularization hasn’t eradicated religious needs.
[. . .]
So, far from secularization inexorably leading to the death of religion, it has instead given birth to the search for new forms of religious life. The imminent victory of the Kingdom of Reason has never materialized.
As a whole, mankind can never get rid of the need for religious self-identification: who am I, where did I come from, where do I fit in, why am I responsible, what does my life mean, how will I face death? Religion is a paramount aspect of human culture. Religious need cannot be excommunicated from culture by rationalist incantation. Man does not live by reason alone.
Gardels | The cultural catastrophe being that without a set of rules that comes from religious tradition there are no moral brakes on man, particularly on the gluttony of homo consumptus?
Kolakowski | Yes, no moral brakes. When culture loses its sacred sense, it loses all sense. With the disappearance of the sacred, which imposes limits on the perfection that can be attained by secular society, one of the most dangerous illusions of our civilization arises—the illusion that there are no limits to the changes we can undergo, that society is an endlessly flexible thing subject to the arbitrary whims of our creative capacities.
[BV Comment: You can see this today in the nonsensical social constructivism according to which people incoherently speak of race and sex as social constructs.]
In the end, as I have written in the essay “The Revenge of the Sacred in Secular Culture,” this illusion sows disastrous despair. The modern chimera, which would grant man total freedom from tradition or all pre-existing sense, far from opening before him the perspective of divine self-creation, suspends him in a darkness where all things are regarded with equal indifference.
To be totally free from religious heritage or historical tradition is to situate oneself in a void and thus to disintegrate. The utopian faith in man’s self-inventive capabilities, the utopian hope of unlimited perfection, may be the most efficient instrument of suicide human culture has ever invented.
To reject the sacred, which means also to reject sin, imperfection and evil, is to reject our own limits. To say that evil is contingent, as Sartre did, is to say that there is no evil, and therefore that we have no need of a sense given to us by tradition, fixed and imposed on us whether we will it or not.
As you put it, there are thus no moral brakes on the will to power. In the end, the ideal of total liberation is the sanctioning of greed, force and violence, and thus of despotism, the destruction of culture and the degradation of the earth.
The only way to ensure the endurance of civilization is to ensure that there are always people who think of the price paid for every step of what we call “progress.” The order of the sacred is also a sensitivity to evil—the only system of reference that allows us to contemplate that price and forces us to ask whether it is exorbitant.
The values whose vigor is so vital to culture cannot survive without being rooted in the realm of the sacred. This is true not only of the values of which Milosz spoke —honesty and personal dignity—but others as well.
[. . .]
Gardels | At the end of the last modern century, can secular man reintroduce the sacred? Can we base ethical values on reason instead of revolution? Must personal responsibility be rooted in transcendent beliefs?
Kolakowski |It is obviously possible for individuals to keep high moral standards and be irreligious. I strongly doubt whether it is possible for civilizations. Absent religious tradition, what reason is there for a society to respect human rights and the dignity of man? What is human dignity, scientifically speaking? A superstition?
Empirically, men are demonstrably unequal. How can we justify equality? Human rights is an unscientific idea. As Milosz says, these values are rooted in a transcendent dimension.
Gardels | It strikes me that totalitarianism of a different kind could emerge from the new global capitalist order—a totalitarianism of immediate gratification in which reason is conditional to self-interest.
What is to defend dignity and human rights from total commercialization?
Kolakowski |The absence of a transcendent dimension in secular society weakens this social contract in which each supposedly limits his or her freedom in order to live in peace with others.
Such universalism of interest is another aspect of the modern illusion. There is no such thing as scientifically based human solidarity.
To be sure, I can convince myself that it is in my interest not to rob other people, not to rape and murder, because I can convince myself that the risk is too great. This is the Hobbesian model of solidarity: greed moderated by fear.
But social chaos stands in the shadows of such moral anarchy. When a society adheres to moral norms for no other reason than prudence, it is extremely weak and its fabric tears at the slightest crisis. In such a society, there is no basis for personal responsibility, charity or compassion.
Now, with the ecological imperative, a new ethos of species self-preservation is being discussed. To some extent, it may be true that we are instinctively programmed for self-preservation of the species. But the history of this last modern century has certainly demonstrated that we can destroy members of our own species without great inhibitions. If there is species solidarity at some deep biological level, it hasn’t saved us from civil destruction.
Thus, we need instruments of human solidarity that are not based on our own instincts, self-interest or on force. The communist attempt to institutionalize solidarity ended in disaster.
When Richard Nixon tried to weaponize the IRS, top officials at the Service made a stink. Under Obama, the IRS weaponized itself.
And, of course, the press is in the tank for the Democrats as usual. Bad news about Obama and Clinton has been soft-pedaled, with reporters sometimes admitting that they don’t want to help Trump.
So if the choice in 2016 is between one bad candidate and another (and it is) the question is, which one will do the least harm. And, judging by the civil service’s behavior, that’s got to be Trump. If Trump tries to target his enemies with the IRS, you can bet that he’ll get a lot of pushback — and the press, instead of explaining it away, will make a huge stink. If Trump engages in influence-peddling, or abuses secrecy laws, you can bet that, even if Trump’s appointees sit atop the DOJ or FBI, the civil service will ensure that things don’t get swept under the rug. And if Trump wants to go to war, he’ll get far more scrutiny than Hillary will get — or, in cases like her disastrous Libya invasion, has gotten.
So the message is clear. If you want good government, vote for Trump — he’s the only one who will make this whole checks-and-balances thing work.
Right you are, my man.
But more than good government is at stake. Government itself in the American style is at stake. We are at a tipping point. If the destructive, corrupt, lying leftist is elected, it is all over for the USA as she was founded to be. Despite what the bow-tied pussy-wussies say, there will be no recovery after four-to-eight more years of leftist infiltration of all our institutions and capitulation before our enemies.
So we come back to the concept of Sharia, which you rightly mentioned in one of your posts. This is really the thing where Islam stands out from other religions, the idea that religious belief should be the basis of law. Here I found Islamic Law: The Sharia from Muhammad's Time to the Present (Hunt Janin, André Kahlmeyer) useful. The concept of Sharia is essential to Islamic belief. See Sura 33:35—36. Islam means ‘submission’: the primary duty of human beings is to submit totally to the will of God. The sharia shows the faithful how this submission should be put into practice in daily life.
[The sharia] does not grow out of, and is not moulded by, society as is the case with Western systems. Human thought, unaided, cannot discern the true values and standards of conduct; such knowledge can only he attained through divine revelation, and acts are good or evil exclusively because God has attributed this quality to them. In the Islamic concept, law precedes and moulds society; to its eternally valid dictates the structure of State and society must, ideally, conform.
Notwithstanding the great outpouring of books and articles which have appeared in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Islamic world is still not understood in the West today. The sharia is, beyond any question, one of the most important concepts of Islam, but most non-Muslims know almost nothing about it.
I wholly endorse the foregoing as an understanding of Islam. Islam is a hybrid ideology: both a religion and a political system. Sharia, or Islamic law, is essential to it. Coming from God, it cannot be questioned by man: man must submit to it. The primary meaning of 'Islam' is submission. God's law must be imposed on all and woven into the fabric of everyday life. There is no provision in Islam for mosque-state separation. But that is to put it in the form of an understatement. Islam positively rules out mosque-state separation.
John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion (Yale UP, 1989, pp. 48-49):
From the point of view of the understanding of this state of islam [submission to Allah] the Muslim sees no distinction between the religious and the secular. The whole of life is to be lived in the presence of Allah and is the sphere of God's absolute claim and limitless compassion and mercy. And so islam, God-centredness, is not only an inner submission to the sole Lord of the universe but also a pattern of corporate life in accordance with God's will. It involves both salat, worship, and falah, the good embodied in behaviour. Through the five appointed moments of prayer each day is linked to God. Indeed almost any activity may be begun with Bismillah ('in the name of Allah'); and plans and hopes for the future are qualified by Inshallah ('if Allah wills'). Thus life is constantly punctuated by the remembrance of God. It is a symptom of this that almsgiving ranks with prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and confession of faith as one of the five 'pillars' of Islam. Within this holistic conception the 'secular' spheres of politics, government, law, commerce, science and the arts all come within the scope of religious obedience.
What Hick calls a "holistic conception," I would call totalitarian. Islam is totalitarian in a two-fold sense. It aims to regulate every aspect and every moment of the individual believer's life. (And if you are not a believer, you must either convert or accept dhimmitude.) But it is also totalitarian in a corporate sense in that it aims to control every aspect of society in all its spheres, just as Hick points out supra.
Islam, therefore, is profoundly at odds with the values of the West. For we in the West, whether (old-time) liberals or conservatives, accept church(mosque)-state separation. We no doubt argue heatedly over what exactly it entails, but we are agreed on the main principle. I regularly criticize the shysters of the ACLU for their extremist positions on this question; but I agree with them that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." This implies that the government shall not impose any religion upon the people as the state religion.
This raises a very serious question. Is Islam -- pure, unEnlightened, un-watered-down, fundamentalist, theocratic Islam -- deserving of First Amendment protection? We read in the First Amendment that Congress shall not prohibit the free exercise of religion. Should that be understood to mean that the Federal government shall not prohibit the establishment and free exercise of a totalitarian, fundamentalist theocratic religion in a particular state, say Michigan?
The USA is a Christian nation with a secular government. Suppose there was a religion whose aim was to subvert our secular government. Does commitment to freedom of religion enjoin toleration of such a religion?
Obviously not! Sharia is essential to true Islam. But Sharia is subversive of our system of government. So we are under no obligation from the Constitution to tolerate Sharia-based Islam. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. This implies that Muslims who do not renounce Sharia should not be eligible for positions in the government.
"But this violates Article VI of the Constitution!" No it doesn't. There we read that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." But this cannot possibly be interpreted in such a way as to allow into the government elements subversive of the system of government the Constitution defines.
Why is Islam incompatible with the West? It is because Islam violates the separation of the religious and secular spheres. But why should they be kept apart? One reason is that we in the West have come to realize over the centuries that no one can legitimately claim to know the answers to the Big Questions about God, the soul, the purpose of human existence, the nature of the good, and so on. Only if one were absolutely certain of the answers to these questions would one be justified in imposing them via state power on everyone and forcing everyone to live in accordance with them. If we know that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that God has condemned sodomy, and sanctioned the killing of sodomites, then we would perhaps be justified in outlawing sodomy and punishing it by death as it is indeed punished in some ten Muslim countries.
But surely no one of us KNOWS that God exists, let alone that God has revealed himself to man, let alone in a particular book or set of books, let alone inerrantly. Not knowing these things we have a good reason to tolerate homosexual and heterosexual sodomites, subject to certain restrictions, e.g. 'between consenting adults,' etc. We have reason to allow such behavior as legally permissible even if it in fact morally impermissible. For again, even if sodomy is is in fact morally impermissible because condemned by God , no one can legitimately claim to KNOW that it is.
Is diversity our strength? Or anybody's strength, anywhere in the world? Does Japan's homogeneous population cause the Japanese to suffer? Have the Balkans been blessed by their heterogeneity -- or does the very word "Balkanization" remind us of centuries of strife, bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities, extending into our own times?
Has Europe become a safer place after importing vast numbers of people from the Middle East, with cultures hostile to the fundamental values of Western civilization?
Read the whole thing in the light (darkness?) of Orlando.
This is a repost, slightly redacted, from 2012 to help stem the tsunami of folderol sure to wash over us from the orifices of the mindless gun-grabbing Left in the wake of the Islamist Orlando rampage.
Without wanting to deny that there is a 'gun culture' in the USA, especially in the so-called red states, I would insist that the real problem is our liberal culture. Here are four characteristics of liberal culture that contribute to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
1. Liberals tend to have a casual attitude toward crime.
It is interesting to note that Connecticut, the state in which the Newtown massacre occurred, has recently repealed the death penalty, and this after the unspeakably brutal Hayes-Komisarjevsky home invasion in the same state.
One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
The wife was raped and strangled, one of the daughters was molested and both girls were left tied to their beds as the house was set on fire.
The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.
Anyone who cannot appreciate that a crime like this deserves the death penalty is morally obtuse. But not only are liberals morally obtuse, they are contemptibly stupid in failing to understand that one of the main reasons people buy guns is to protect themselves from the criminal element, the criminal element that liberals coddle. If liberals were serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of guns in civilian hands, they would insist on swift and sure punishment in accordance with the self-evident moral principle, "The punishment must fit the crime," which is of course not to be confused with lex talionis, "an eye for an eye." Many guns are purchased not for hunting or sport shooting but for protection against criminals. Keeping and bearing arms carries with it a grave responsibility and many if not most gun owners would rather not be so burdened. Gun ownership among women is on the upswing, and it is a safe bet that they don't want guns to shoot Bambi.
2. Liberals tend to undermine morality with their opposition to religion.
Many of us internalized the ethical norms that guide our lives via our childhood religious training. We were taught the Ten Commandments, for example. We were not just taught about them, we were taught them. We learned them by heart, and we took them to heart. This early training, far from being the child abuse that A. C. Grayling and other militant atheists think it is, had a very positive effect on us in forming our consciences and making us the basically decent human beings we are. I am not saying that moral formation is possible only within a religion; I am saying that some religions do an excellent job of transmitting and inculcating life-guiding and life-enhancing ethical standards, that moral formation outside of a religion is unlikely for the average person, and that it is nearly impossible if children are simply handed over to the pernicious influences of secular society as these influences are transmitted through television, Internet, video games, and other media. Anyone with moral sense can see that the mass media have become an open sewer in which every manner of cultural polluter is not only tolerated but promoted. Those of use who were properly educated way back when can dip into this cesspool without too much moral damage. But to deliver our children over to it is the real child abuse, pace the benighted Professor Grayling.
The shysters of the American Civil Liberties Union, to take one particularly egregious bunch of destructive leftists, seek to remove every vestige of our Judeo-Christian ethical traditiion from the public square. I can't begin to catalog all of their antics. But recently there was the Mojave Memorial Cross incident. It is absurd that there has been any fight at all over it. The ACLU, whose radical lawyers brought the original law suit, deserve contempt and resolute opposition. Of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the initial clause of the First Amendment, to wit, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." But it is hate-America leftist extremism on stilts to think that the presence of that very old memorial cross on a hill in the middle of nowhere does anything to establish Christianity as the state religion. I consider anyone who believes that to be intellectually obtuse and morally repellent. One has to be highly unbalanced in his thinking to torture such extremist nonsense out of the First Amendment, while missing the plain sense of the Second Amendment, one that even SCOTUS eventually got right, namely, the the right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right.
And then there was the business of the tiny cross on the city seal of Los Angeles, a symbol that the ACLU agitated to have removed. I could continue with the examples, and you hope I won't.
3. Liberals tend to have low standards, glorify the worthless, and fail to present exemplary human types.
Our contemporary media dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
4. Liberals tend to deny or downplay free will, individual responsibility, and the reality of evil.
This is connected with point (2) above, leftist hostility to religion. Key to our Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Central to this image is that mysterious power in us called free will. The secular extremist assault on religion is at the same time an assault on this mysterious power, through which evil comes into the world.
This is a large topic. Suffice it to say for now that one clear indication of this denial is the bizarre liberal displacement of responsibility for crime onto inanimate objects, guns, as if the weapon, not the wielder, is the source of the evil for which the weapon can be only the instrument.
Self-identify as one and then enter their track and field and other events. This is actually happening and the mommies of the girls are none too pleased. Don't the mommies understand that sex and race are matters of personal decision?
Saturday marked the 44th anniversary of Angela Davis’s acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy. Remember Angela Davis? I asked several of my younger colleagues: No one under 35 had heard of her. But the former Black Panther, recipient of the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize, and two-time vice-presidential candidate on the Communist Party ticket with Gus Hall, was once a household name. That was enough for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, which last Thursday bestowed on Ms. Davis the 2016 Sackler Center First Award, “honoring women who are first in their fields.”
Previous honorees include the novelist Toni Morrison, Miss Piggy and Anita Hill—pioneers all, no question. Ms. Davis is surely the first person to have parlayed an appearance on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list into a tenured professorship at the University of California.
Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night gushed over the late boxer as a "transcendent" specimen of humanity. Her over-the-top performance put me in mind of what I call the 'Pincers Passage' in Heidegger's 1935 lecture, Introduction to Metaphysics (tr. Ralph Manheim, Doubleday 1961, p. 31, emphasis added.
This Europe, in its ruinous blindness forever on the point of cutting its own throat, lies today in a great pincers, squeezed between Russia on the one side and America on the other.From a metaphysical point of view, Russia and America are the same; the same dreary technological frenzy, the same unrestricted organization of the average man. At a time when the farthermost corner of the globe has been conquered by technology and opened to economic exploitation; when any incident whatever, regardless of where or when it occurs, can be communicated to the rest of the world at any desired speed; when the assassination of a king in France and a symphony concert in Tokyo can be 'experienced' simultaneously, and time as history has vanished from the lives of all peoples; when a boxer is regarded as a nation's great man; when mass meetings attended by millions are looked on as a triumph -- then, yes then, through all this turmoil a question still haunts us like a specter: What for? -- Whither? -- And what then?
Here is the first stanza of "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), a fitting epigraph to our entry into the twilight. But for the philosopher there is consolation: "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk." (Hegel).
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
The Western elites have lost all conviction and are sitting ducks for the passionate intensity of radical Muslims.
Perhaps you have noticed that radicals are rather less interested in speaking truth to power after they get power than before. Their transgressive speech and behavior becomes curiously 'conservative.' Giving umbrage gives way to taking umbrage.
What happened to shrugging at an opinion with which you disagree and leaving it at that? That notion is history, as communications executives seem to have convinced themselves that they are not censoring dissenting opinions but rather protecting the innocent from crude speech.
Twitter took that phony stance, too, when it announced a "Trust and Safety Council" in February. "Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue. That starts with safety," CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted.
This is a good example of the sort of Orwellian mendacity we have come to expect from contemporary 'liberals.' War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A defense of religious liberty is a violation of religious liberty. Those who protest being forced by the government to violate their consciences and religious beliefs are imposing their religious beliefs. Curtailment of speech is free speech. 'Inclusion' is the exclusion of dissent.
The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
The open forum is a 'safe space' in which no one's feelings are hurt.
Freedom of speech is freedom from 'micro-aggressions.'
And notice that at bottom it's about money. Twitter and ESPN toe the party line because it is profitable to do so. A curious development: significant numbers of once anti-capitalist leftists are now driven by the profit motive to spread Pee Cee drivel.
Because of what Europe has become, it now has few viable choices in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism. Its dilemma is a warning to Americans that we should turn away from a similar path of national suicide.
[. . .]
Europe’s perfect storm is upon us. A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort. In the Middle East, the fundamentalists are growing in numbers, and they most certainly do believe that their own lives are nothing in comparison to the Phoenix-like resurrection of their Caliphate and the sensual pleasures in the hereafter that will reward their martial sacrifices in the here and now. Of all the many reasons why immigrants to Europe so often dislike their generous hosts, the simplest may be because they so easily can. Even H. G. Wells could not dream up any better harvest of Eloi by Morlocks, and it would take another St. Jerome (“All were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew. Who could believe this?”) to chronicle the Western tragedy. As a general rule, whatever Europe is now doing, we should do the opposite — for our very survival in an increasingly scary world.
Come on Victor, man up! Make a definite proposal. Say something plain and blunt. I understand: you are a highly esteemed historian and you are concerned with your professional standing and credibility. You enjoy the perquisites of your position among the established. But what is more important, your professional standing or the continuance of the great country and culture that made it possible for you to have a highly distinguished career and speak your mind freely?
How about this: Propose a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands. Or this: Urge people to vote for Trump if he should garner the Republican nomination.
The following, which might be relevant to current events, is borrowed from here.
St. Jerome was born around the year 340. He came to Rome and was baptized there around 360. He devoted the rest of his life to scholarly pursuits and the translation of the Bible into Latin. He died in 420. He wrote the following observations describing the devastation of the Empire around 406:
"Nations innumerable and most savage have invaded all Gaul. The Whole region between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the ocean and the Rhine, has been devastated by the Quadi, the Vandals, the Sarmati, the Alani, the Gepidae, the hostile Heruli, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, and the Pahnonians.
Oh wretched Empire! Mayence [Mainz, Germany], formerly so noble a city, has been taken and ruined, and in the church many thousands of men have been massacred. Worms [Germany] has been destroyed after a long siege. Rheims, that powerful city, Amiens, Arras, Speyer [Germany], Strasburg, - all have seen their citizens led away captive into Germany. Aquitaine and the provinces of Lyons and Narbonne, all save a few towns, have been depopulated; and these the sword threatens without, while hunger ravages within.
I cannot speak without tears of Toulouse, which the merits of the holy Bishop Exuperius have prevailed so far to save from destruction. Spain, even, is in daily terror lest it perish, remembering the invasion of the Cimbri; and whatsoever the other provinces have suffered once, they continue to suffer in their fear.
I will keep silence concerning the rest, lest I seem to despair of the mercy of God. For a long time, from the Black Sea to the Julian Alps, those things which are ours have not been ours; and for thirty years, since the Danube boundary was broken, war has been waged in the very midst of the Roman Empire. Our tears are dried by old age. Except a few old men, all were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew.
Who could believe this? How could the whole tale be worthily told? How Rome has fought within her own bosom not for glory, but for preservation - nay, how she has not even fought, but with gold and all her precious things has ransomed her life...
Who could believe that Rome, built upon the conquest of the whole world, would fall to the ground? That the mother herself would become the tomb of her peoples? That all the regions of the East, of Africa and Egypt, once ruled by the queenly city, would be filled with troops of slaves and handmaidens? That to-day holy Bethlehem should shelter men and women of noble birth, who once abounded in wealth and are now beggars?"
References: This eyewitness account appears in Robinson, James Harvey, Readings in European History (1906); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome and of the Roman People, vol VIII (1883).
Here. What's the big deal? These things happen. As compared to the number of traffic fatalities in Muslim lands over the last ten years the number of crucifixions is vanishingly small. You are statistically illiterate if you are worried about being crucified as opposed to dying in a traffic accident.
Anyone acquainted with history knows that it’s happened before. Once robust Roman and Christian North Africa, the birthplace of Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Sts. Cyprian and Augustine, Felicity and Perpetua, lacking a strong secular state after the fall of the Western Empire, disappeared under Muslim assault. Except for their moral and intellectual achievements, in today’s North Africa those great figures might as well never have existed.
Something similar is occurring all over the Middle East. It would be foolish to think it cannot also happen, in the longer run, in Europe or the Americas, especially given the West’s demographic collapse.
Obama often says that ISIS isn’t an “existential” threat. By that, he may mean that terrorists and their armies are, for now, too small to conquer or destroy us. But there are many ways to be destroyed – and one of them is by undermining those very “values” the president thinks are “right.” Sometimes the undermining comes, unintentionally, from the very people who think they are defending them.
This from a regular reader, professional philosopher, and Trump supporter:
You're disturbed that so many Trump supporters "refuse to admit the man's negatives". Maybe they do refuse, but I think many of them feel as I do. He has many negative qualities, and maybe in some ways he's even worse than the average politician, but -- as you yourself have often emphasized -- we're no longer in a situation where politics is about people with shared loyalties and values coming together to engage in fair rational discussion with each other. We are in a war. The left simply hates us, wants to destroy us culturally and maybe personally to while they're at it. The real American people are facing an existential crisis.
So what really matters in this situation? Not the personal failings of any candidate, not even the likelihood that he's sincere or able to do what he says he'll do. What really matters for now is that he is taking the crucial necessary _first step_ toward organizing a real movement to defend America and the west. What if, when Muslims were poised to invade France, we found out that Charles Martel was actually a child molester? What if I knew, in 1939, that Churchill was a total fraud and psychopath? I'd say that in that kind of situation these considerations make no difference. If he [Trump] can speak a few basic truths that inspire people to fight back and stand up, for the first and possibly last time, that's all that matters. (My analogies are extreme, but not _that_ extreme.) I realize that we won't agree on this; Trumpites and mainstream conservatives are as badly polarized as Trumpites and leftists (which may have deep implications). But I offer these remarks as a way to understand why the valid criticisms you make of him just don't have much force for me, or for millions of others, I'm assuming.
This is a good response in part because I do reluctantly incline to the view that we are in a war with the Left. So why should I be concerned with the merely personal foibles and failings of the one man with the best chance of stopping the leftist juggernaut? Who cares that he is a low life, a vulgarian, a cultural polluter, a hypocrite, a narcissist, an egomaniac, and a serial liar and bullshitter? One of his most recent lies was the one about not knowing who David Duke is. But not only did he lie, he lied unnecessarily. There was no need for him to tell that particular lie since a disavowal of David Duke and the KKK would not have hurt him much, especially since he had already disavowed Duke. This speaks to Trump's lack of good judgment and also perhaps to a lack of seriousness. Would someone who is serious about winning the presidency lie unnecessarily? He also demonstrates contempt for his audience in telling a lie that is transparently a lie.
But why should we care about any of this? One reason is that these are not merely personal defects but defects that could bring down the conservative movement and lead to a victory, perhaps even a landslide victory, by Hillary come November. This is what lefties are counting on. They hope Trump will destroy the GOP. You say you don't care? But then what party will implement conservative ideas and policies? The Constitution Party?
Another reason is that it is not clear that Trump is better equipped to defeat Hillary. Is he better qualified than Cruz? It is not clear to me or to anyone. If it is clear to my reader, I should like him to tell me why Trump is a more effective culture warrior than Cruz. And let's not underestimate the opposition Trump will get in the general election. Women, minorities, leftists, and a sizeable number of conservatives will align against him. Among the conservatives, many will not vote at all, and some will vote for Hillary to punish Trump and the GOP for supporting him.
I appreciate the force of my reader's historical analogies. But let me try one of my own. Would you have supported the Austrian corporal back in '33 to stop the Communists? Now we know what happened after 1933. Abstract from the sequel and imagine yourself to be a German anti-communist who in '33 is trying to make up his mind about the incendiary outsider. Would you have rolled the dice?
Another spectacular column by Victor Davis Hanson. I will resist the temptation to quote the entire piece.
Today’s campuses have become as foreign to American traditions of tolerance and free expression as what followed the Weimar Republic. To appreciate cry-bully censorship, visit a campus “free-speech” area. To witness segregation, walk into a college “safe space.” To hear unapologetic anti-Semitism, attend a university lecture. To learn of the absence of due process, read of a campus hearing on alleged sexual assault. To see a brown shirt in action, watch faculty call for muscle at a campus demonstration. To relearn the mentality of a Chamberlain or Daladier, listen to the contextualizations of a college president. And to talk to an uneducated person, approach a recent college graduate.
Sanders has little appreciation that he is an artifact of free-market capitalism, which alone has created enough bounty for such a demagogue to call for massive redistribution—in a way impossible for socialists any longer in exhausted Cuba, Greece, Venezuela, or any other command-economy paradise. Where does Sanders think his statism has worked—China, North Korea, Bolivia, Cuba, or the ossified European Union?
Mrs. Clinton is now like a tottering third-world caudillo—she can’t really continue on in politics and she can’t quit trying if she wants to stay out of jail. Her possible indictment depends entirely on her political viability and utility. She and the once disbarred Bill Clinton might appear like tired, tragic dinosaurs, bewildered that politics have left them behind in their late sixties—were it not for these aging egoists’ routine petulance and sense of entitlement.
Donald Trump is probably not a serious student of the European 1930s, but in brilliant fashion he has sized up the public’s worries over a Potemkin economy, exhaustion with wars, and namby-pamby leadership. His own remedy is 1930s to the core: nationalism, crude bombast, mytho-history, and sloganeering without much detail. Trump’s trajectory is predicated on the premise that a jaded public cares more about emotion than logic, and how a leader speaks rather than what he says.
In European 1930s street-brawling fashion, no one knows quite whether Trump is a 1990s Clinton Democrat, a 1980s Reagan Republican, or a Perotist misfit. He has thrown a ball and chain through the pretentious glass of American campaigning. Trump excites voters because he can profane, smear, interrupt, and fabricate—on the premise that as a performance artist he reifies what they think but don’t dare say about a corrupt political class and its warped, politically correct values. Trump reminds Americans what deterrence is: the supposedly courageous media, the so-called truth-to-power leftists, and the sober and judicious careerist politicians are all terrified how he might reply or react to their criticism. None of them want to spend 2-3 days trading smears with Donald Trump.
On Pope Francis:
Not since Pius XII has a pope proved as mysterious and exasperating as Francis. He seems not to have transcended the parochial time and space of Peronist Argentina. The well-meaning and kindly pope acts as if he is unworried about the historical wages of leftwing authoritarianism and government-mandated redistribution. Why would a pontiff, protected by medieval walls and Vatican territorial security, blast U.S. immigration policy toward Mexican illegal immigrants?
Since Obama’s reelection, the southern border has been wide open, in naked efforts to recalibrate American electoral demography. The U.S. has taken in more immigrants, legal and illegal, than has any other country—the only impediment for entry is being educated, skilled, with resources, and insisting on legality. The U.S. last year allowed nearly $80 billion to be sent in annual remittances to Mexico and Latin America, mostly from those here illegally. Certainly, Mexico, in a most un-Christian fashion, has built walls on its own southern border to prevent unlawful entry, published comic-book manuals to instruct its emigrants how to violate U.S. immigration law, and written into its own constitution repulsive racial prerequisites for emigrating to Mexico—all to the apparent ignorance of the otherwise intrusively editorializing pope. Mexico’s own obsession with exporting its indigenous people to the U.S. is predicated on historic Mexican racism, always emanating from grandees in Mexico City.
Segregation, not integration and assimilation, is the new trajectory of racial relations. “White privilege” is said to be such an insidious aid to career success that careerist whites like Elizabeth Warren, Ward Churchill, Shaun King, and Rachel Dolezal will do almost anything to insist that they are really non-white. The president of the United States invited a rapper for a White House visit. The rapper's latest album cover shows a dead white judge lying at the feet of celebratory African-American men, with fists of money and champagne held in triumph—in front of the White House. Reality imitates art. Could the president give another Cairo speech about such symbolism?
Is it perhaps time to give dictatorship a chance?
I would have liked to have read from Professor Hanson a comparison of the sexual decadence of Weimar Germany and that of Weimar America.
This weblog averages about 1,350 page views per day. But yesterday it snagged 10,695 views, and now at 6:20 AM local time it has already racked up 3,200 or so. What explains this? Reddit got hold of my Zappfe post, scroll down a bit, and that must be driving the surge.
Perhaps we philosophers need to pay more attention to anti-natalism as a cultural phenomenon and as a component in der Untergang des Abendlandes.
We are losing the will to perpetuate our civilization and its values. Christians in the Middle East are being slaughtered and their churches pulverized by Muslim savages. So what did Pope Francis say in response to Donald Trump's call for a wall along the southern U.S. border? We don't need to build walls, but bridges. Francis the fool is one dope of a pope.
Evangelicals understand this, though they are too polite and politic to put it the way I just did. This is why, mirabile dictu, so many of them support Trump, the nasty sybarite of Gotham who builds casinos to the greater glory of Lust, Greed, Gluttony, and Lady Luck.
Point of logic: 'Muslim savages' does not imply that all Muslims are savages. Or do you think that 'deciduous trees' implies that all trees are deciduous?
UPDATE 2/27: Traffic settled down a bit yesterday with a mere 4,509 page views. It should get back to normal over the next few days. As every conservative appreciates, the 'regard' of fellow mortals is a decidedly mixed blessing. I am quite happy to bump along at 1, 500 page views per day. Obscurity is bliss and he who craves fame is a fool. Fame is conferred by others and the quality of these others is a good measure of the value of fame.
Not a pretty sight: the representatives of a superior culture abasing themselves before the representatives of an inferior one.
Decadent Europe may already be lost. But we still have time to learn.
Do you think Italy might contain a few cultural treasures worth preserving? Then you may want to inform yourself of the fact that Muslims are not known for their preservation of antiquities. See The Destruction of the Middle East for starters.
There is a deep paradox here that would require a lot of writing to set forth properly. Roughly, it is the very superiority of our culture with its philosophy, science, free speech, open inquiry, toleration of dissent, freedom of religion, and the whole panoply of Enlightenment values together with the advanced technology and prosperity that they make possible that has led and is leading us into decadence. Our superiority is thus breeding inferiority so that we become easy marks for an inferior culture that believes in itself and its benighted values and is, insofar forth, superior to us in its will to dominate us by any and all methods.
UPDATE (2/1): Malcolm Pollack (HT: Bill Keezer) writes:
I meant to comment on this when it happened a few days ago:
In further concession to Iranian president, official dinner with Italian PM does not include wine on the menu
What a craven, flabby, neutered thing our civilization has become. This is what ACID syndrome does to its victims: it sickens and enervates them with doubt; it destroys and disables their confidence, potency, and virility; it paralyzes them in the face of peril; it turns their bones and sinews to jelly.
In contrast: Winston Churchill, who was to host a dinner attended by ibn Saud, was told by the Arabian king that those attending must not drink or smoke in his presence. His response?
I said that if it was his religion that made him say such things, my religion prescribed as an absolute sacred ritual smoking cigars and drinking alcohol before, after and if need be during, all meals and the intervals between them. Complete surrender.
The Dead Smokers' Society hereby registers its opposition to this anti-tobacco Islamo-wackery. Carpe fumam!
The monastery, called Dair Mar Elia, is named for the Assyrian Christian monk — St. Elijah — who built it between 582 and 590 A.C. It was a holy site for Iraqi Christians for centuries, part of the Mideast's Chaldean Catholic community.
In 1743, tragedy struck when as many as 150 monks who refused to convert to Islam were massacred under orders of a Persian general, and the monastery was damaged. For the next two centuries it remained a place of pilgrimage, even after it was incorporated into an Iraqi military training base and later a U.S. base.
But of course, Islam is the religion of peace and no true Muslim would have been involved in such destruction.
"Popular exams in UK to be rescheduled to avoid Ramadan." The UK commits cultural suicide. Not all at once, but little by little, bit by bit, concession by concession. A culture is doomed when it no longer has the will to defend itself. (HT: London Karl)
In the West, Muslims are accommodated. In Muslim lands, Christians are persecuted and suppressed even unto beheading and crucifixion. And Barack Hussein Obama worries about global warming and the National Rifle Association? By the way, his presidency is a clear indicator of our decline: that a feckless fool, a know-nothing, could be elected and then re-elected. We may just be getting what we deserve. A foolish folk, fiscally irresponsible, addicted to panem et circenses, gets a POMO idiot who works to increase the dependency of the people on government while violating their liberties and undermining the rule of law.
Meanwhile, conservative inaction gives traction to the likes of Donald Trump.
"Here is Rhodes, jump here" (through the hoops of political correctness). A graduate of Oriel College, Oxford University, sent me this statement concerning the Rhodes Must Fall petition. A memorial to Cecil Rhodes, that is. Can you say Der Untergang des Abendlandes?
"Here is Rhodes, jump here." From Aesop's Fables #209, "The Boastful Athlete." A man who had been off in foreign lands returns home. He brags of his exploits. He claims that in Rhodes he made a long jump the likes of which had never been seen before. A skeptical bystander calls him on his boast: Here's your Rhodes, jump here!
The moral? Put your money where your mouth is. Don't talk about it, do it!
Perhaps an erudite classicist such as Mike Gilleland could say more on this topic. He would have to do at least the following: dig up all the ancient sources in Greek and Latin; trace the saying in Erasmus and Goethe; comment on Hegel's variation on the saying in the Vorrede zur Philosophie des Rechts, explaining why he has saltus for salta; find and comment on Marx's comment on Hegel's employment of the saying.
Finally, if Alan Rhoda were to rename his cleverly titled, but now defunct, weblog Alanyzer -- and I'm not saying he should -- he might consider Hic Rhoda, Hic Salta. He is a very tall man; I'm 6' 1'' and had to look up to see his face when I met him in Las Vegas some years back. To jump over him would be quite a feat.
UPDATE 12/19: Dave Lull, argonaut nonpareil of cyberspace and friend and facilitator of bloggers, informs me that Dr. Gilleland has taken note of my call for an erudite classicist. This bibliomaniac, antediluvian, and curmudgeon does not, however, consider himself "truly erudite." If his self-deprecatory consideration is just, then he had me fooled.
Laicity is the solution that modern Europe found in order to escape its religious civil wars. But contemporary Europe doesn’t take religion seriously enough to know how to stick to this solution. She has exiled faith to the fantastic world of human irreality that the Marxists called “superstructure”… thus, precisely through their failure to believe in religion, the representatives of secularism empty laicity of its substance, and swallow, for humanitarian reasons, the demands of its enemies.
I haven't read anything by Finkielkraut except the above and a few other excerpts translated and edited by Ann Sterzinger. But that won't stop me from explaining what I take to be the brilliant insight embedded in the above quotation.
Laicity is French secularity, the absence of religious influence and involvement in government affairs. It has had the salutary effect of preventing civil strife over religion. But to appreciate why laicity is important and salutary one must understand that the roots of religion lie deep in human nature. Religion is even less likely to wither away than the State. Leftists, however, are constitutionally incapable of understanding that man by nature is homo religiosus and that the roots of religion in human nature are ineradicable. The Radicals don't understand the radicality (deep-going rootedness) of religion. (Radix is Latin for 'root.') In their superficial way, leftists think that religion is merely "the sigh of the oppressed creature" (Marx) and will vanish when the oppression of man by man is eliminated, which of course will never happen by human effort alone, though they fancy that they can bring it about if only they throw enough people into enough gulags. Leftists cannot take religion seriously and they don't think anyone else really takes it seriously either, not even Muslims. They don't believe that most Muslims really do believe in Allah and divine origin of the Koran and the 72 black-eyed virgins and the obligation to make jihad. They project their failure to understand religion and its grip into others. See my Does Anyone Really Believe in the Muslim Paradise in which I report on the Sam Harris vs. Scott Atran debate.
The issue is not whether religion is true but whether it answers to deep human needs that cannot be met in any other way. My point is not that leftists think that religion is false or delusional, although they do think it to be such; my point that they don't appreciate the depth of the religious need even if it is a need that, in the nature of things, cannot be met.
Not understanding religion, leftists fail to understand how important laicity is to prevent civil strife over religion. And so they don't properly uphold it. They cave in to the Muslims who reject it. Why don't they understand the dire existential threat that radical Islam poses to European culture? I suspect that it is because they think that Muslims don't really believe in all their official claptrap and what Muslims really want are mundane things such as jobs and material security and panem et circenses.
In nuce: leftists, who are resolutely secular, fail to uphold the secularity that they must uphold if they are to preserve their loose and libertine way of life, and they fail to uphold it by failing to understand the dangers of religion, dangers they do not understand because they fail to take religion seriously and to appreciate the deep roots it has in human nature. Even pithier:
Leftists, whose shallow heads cannot grasp religion, are in danger of losing their heads to radical jihadi. Cause and effect of the lapse of laicity.
Two quibbles with Finkielkraut. First, it is not that leftists "do not believe in religion," but that they do not believe that religion is a powerful and ineradicable force in human affairs. You don't have to believe in religion to believe facts about it. Second, if I remember my Marx, the superstructure (Ueberbau) though a repository of fantastic ideas devoid of truth such as religious ideas and the ideas of bourgeois law and morality, also contains all ideology and therefore the 'liberating' Marxist ideology as well. It too is a reflection of the Unterbau, the social base and the means of production. So not everything in the superstructure is "fantastic." This conception leads to relativism, but that's not my problem.
. . . at deriving so much intellectual stimulation from the events of the day. It is fascinating to watch the country fall apart. What is a calamity for the citizen, however, is grist for the philosopher's mill. Before he is a citizen, the philosopher is a "spectator of all time and existence" in a marvellous phrase that comes down to us from Plato's Republic (486a). And if the philosopher is an old Platonist who has nearly had his fill of the Cave and its chiaroscuro, he is ever looking beyond this life, and while in no rush to bid it a bittersweet adieu, is not affrighted at the coming transition either. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk. The old Platonist owl lives by the hope that the dusk of death will lead to the Light, a light unmixed with darkness.
National decline is not just grist for the philosopher's mill, however; it is also perhaps a condition of understanding as Hegel suggests in the penultimate paragraph of the preface to The Philosophy of Right:
When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy's grey on grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the falling of the dusk.
Daughter of Jupiter, Minerva in the mythology of the Greeks is the goddess of wisdom. And the nocturnal owl is one of its ancient symbols. The meaning of the Hegelian trope is that understanding, insight, wisdom arise when the object to be understood has played itself out, when it has actualized and thus exhausted its potentialities, and now faces only decline.
When a shape of life has grown old, philosophy paints its grey on grey. The allusion is to Goethe's Faust wherein Mephisto says
Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie, Und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.
Grey, dear friend, is all theory And green the golden tree of life.
Philosophy is grey, a "bloodless ballet of categories" (F. H. Bradley) and its object is grey -- no longer green and full of life. And so philosophy paints its grey concepts on the grey object, in this case America on the wane. The object must be either dead or moribund before it can be fully understood. Hegel in his famous saying re-animates and gives a new meaning to the Platonic "To philosophize is to learn how to die."
In these waning days of a great republic, the owl of Minerva takes flight. What we lose in vitality we gain in wisdom.
The consolations of philosophy are many.
On the other hand, it ain't over until it's over, and as citizens we must fight on, lest our spectatorship of all time and existence suffer a premature earthly termination. The joys if not the consolations of philosophy are possible only in certain political conditions. We are not made of the stern stuff of Boethius though we are inspired by his example.
To understand the Left you must understand that central to their worldview is the hermeneutics of suspicion which is essentially a diluted amalgam of themes from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.
Thus nothing has the plain meaning that it has; every meaning must be deconstructed so as to lay bare its 'real meaning.'
Suppose I say, sincerely, "The most qualified person should get the job." To a leftist that means: "People of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race."
Or suppose I describe a black malefactor as a thug. What I have actually said, according to the hermeneutics of suspicion, is that the malefactor is a nigger. But 'thug' does not mean 'nigger.' 'Thug' means thug. There are thugs of all races.
Leftists often call for 'conversations' about this or that. Thus Eric Holder famously called for a 'conversation' about race. But how can one have a conversation -- no sneer quotes -- about anything with people who refuse to take what one sincerely says at face value?