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?
Every day brings further evidence that contemporary liberals have lost their minds.
A yoga class has been cancelled at the University of Ottawa on the ground that participants are complicit in 'oppression' and 'cultural genocide.' By the way, we are talking about hatha yoga here which is essentially just stretching.
So you might think that re-labelling the course 'Stretching' would solve the problem. But no!
This is a good place to observe that stretching is an essential ingredient in a balanced physical fitness program along with aerobic exercise (walking, hiking, running, biking, etc.), anaerobic work (weight-lifting), and activities that maintain good hand-eye coordination (tennis, pickleball, etc.) The Maverick recommends a four-pronged approach.
Why is Canada such a Pee Cee place? I should think that with all that rugged country up there, those vast empty expanses, and the ass-freezing temperatures a tougher breed of cat would live there and not a bunch of pc-whipped pussies.
Another 'interesting' development is the assault on free speech. According to Pew Research, 40% of millennials think it acceptable to limit speech offensive to minorities.
Trouble is, almost anything will be found offensive by the members of some minority or other. Some blacks have shown themselves to be absurdly sensitive to the slights they imagine embedded in such words and phrases as 'niggardly,' 'denigrate,' 'black hole,' and 'watermelon.'
Some take offense at 'chink in the armor.' But if 'chink in the armor' is about Asians, then the Asians in question would have to be rather tiny to hang out interstitially in, say, a coat of mail.
Why not take offense at 'chunk'? Someone might get it into his Pee Cee head that a chunk is a fat chink.
There is no end to this madness once it gets going, which is why we sane and decent people need to mock and deride liberals every chance we get. Mockery and derision can achieve what calm reasoning cannot.
One cannot reason with those who are permanently in a state of self-colonoscopy.
Commenting on a recent post of mine, Malcolm Pollack takes issue with the notion that values are objective. While granting that there are objective truths, he denies that there are objective values because of a theory of value that he holds according to which values have their origin in valuing beings and merely reflect the needs and interests of these valuing beings.
The wider context of the debate is the assault upon Western values by those who would infiltrate our societies and foist Islamic values upon us. I had made the claim that in defending the values of the West we should insist that these are not just values for us in the West but are values for all. In this sense these values are universal and valid for all human beings even though not universally recognized as valid for all human beings, and even though they were first 'sighted' in the West. I pointed out that values could be universal without being universally recognized. That is indisputably true. What is not indisputably true, however, is the claim that there are objective values. If there are objective values, then these values are universal, i.e., valid for all. Does the converse also hold? Is it also true that if there are universal values, then they are objective? I don't think so. It may well be that some values are universal despite their being non-objective.
What I am going to argue is that, even if one were to concede what I don't concede, namely, that there are no objective values, it still would not follow that that there are no universal values. But first we need to discuss the question of the objectivity of values and give some examples of the values that we are concerned with.
I claim that there are some objective values. Malcolm claims that there are no objective values. He doesn't deny that are values, and I am confident that he and I agree on what some of the Western values are; what he denies is that these values are objective values. But first some examples of Western values.
Open inquiry I take to be an example of a Western value. Inquiry is open to the extent that it is not interfered with by religious or political authorities. The value of open inquiry presupposes the values of knowledge and truth. Inquiry is a value because knowledge is a value, and knowledge is a value because truth is a value. But the pursuit of truth via inquiry requires the free exchange of ideas. So freedom of expression is a value, whether in speech or in writing. Connected with this is the value of toleration. We tolerate other voices and opposing points of view because their consideration is truth-conducive. There are of course other values championed in the West such as equality of rights. But I will take as my central example the value of truth.
When I say that truth is a value I mean that truth is something that has value. I mean that truth is a valuable item. In general we ought to distinguish between an item that has value and its property of being valuable. And neither is to be confused with an act of valuation or with a disposition to evaluate.
The question, however, is whether truth is objectively valuable or else valuable only relative to beings having interests and needs.
In this discussion 'truth' is to be taken extensionally as referring to truths (the propositions, beliefs, judgments . . . that are true) and not intensionally as referring to that property in virtue of which truths are true. Now on to Malcolm's axiological theory.
Where do values come from? In general values represent some interest of their owner, and such interests range from such hard-wired preferences as biological survival and the survival of our offspring, to whether one roots for the Yankees or the Red Sox. In particular, many of the most important valuations humans make have a social context; in addition to valuing such obvious things as food, pleasure, comfort, sex, and shelter, humans tend to value those things that elevate their status in their group, and that help their group compete with other groups. Indeed, for creatures like us, social values can often trump more personal interests — because if your group is wiped out, you are too. Humans will make tremendous personal sacrifices both for the well-being of the group, and to attain and signal high status in whatever way it is acquired and displayed.
[. . .]
Let me put this another way: for a fish, a pre-eminent “value” is to be, at all times, fully immersed in water. This is not the case for a cat. Human groups may not differ from each other as much as fishes and cats do — but they differ enough, I think, that one group’s cherished value can be another’s damnable sin.
Let's examine this admittedly plausible view. The idea is that nothing is valuable or the opposite, in itself or intrinsically. If a thing is valuable, it is valuable only relative to a being who wants, needs, or desires it. If a thing lacks value, it lacks value only relative to a being who shuns it or is averse to it. In a world in which there are no conative/desiderative beings, nothing has or lacks value. Such a world would be value-neutral. This is plausible, is it not? How could an object or state of affairs have value or disvalue apart from a valuer with specific needs and interests? (As Malcolm might rhetorically ask.)
Imagine a world in which there is nothing but inanimate objects and processes, a world in which nothing is alive, willing, striving, wanting, needing, desiring, competing for space or scarce resources. In such a world nothing would be either good or bad, valuable or the opposite. A sun in a lifeless world goes supernova incinerating a nearby planet. A disaster? Hardly. Just another value-neutral event. A re-arrangement of particles and fields. But if our sun went supernova, that would be a calamity beyond compare -- but only for us and any other caring observers hanging around. For we are averse to such an event -- to put it mildly -- and this aversion is the ground of the disvalue of our sun's going supernova, just as our need for light and a certain range of temperatures is what confers value upon our sun's doing its normal thing.
An axiological theory like this involves two steps. The first step relativizes value claims. The second step provides a naturalistic reduction of them.
First, sentences of the form 'X is good (evil)' are construed as elliptical for sentences of the form 'X is good (evil) for Y.' Accordingly, to say that X is good (evil) but X is not good (evil) for some Y would then be like saying that Tom is married but there is no one to whom Tom is married.
The second step is to cash out axiological predicates in naturalistic terms. Thus,
D1. X has value for Y =df X satisfies Y's actual wants (needs, desires)
D2. X has disvalue for Y =df X frustrates Y's actual wants (needs, desires).
It is clear that on this theory value and disvalue are not being made relative to what anyone says or opines, but to certain hard facts, objective facts, about the wants, needs, and desires of living beings. That we need water to live is an objective fact about us, a fact independent of what anyone says or believes. Water cannot have value except for beings who need or want it; but that it does have value for such beings is an objective fact.
The needs of fish and the needs of cats are objective facts about fish and cats respectively; but the value of being totally immersed in water at all times is a value only for fish, not for cats. It follows on the axiological theory we are considering that values are relative: they are relative to the needs and interests of evaluators.
Does it follow from this that no value is universal? No. (Recall that 'universal' in this discussion of Western values in the context of the civilizational struggle between the West and the Islamic world means 'valid for all human beings.' It does not mean 'universally recognized.') It doesn't follow because a value could be non-objective in that it is necessarily tied to the needs/interests of evaluating beings and thus relative to beings having these needs/interests while also being universal. This will be the case with respect to all values that originate from needs that all humans possess. Thus being fully immersed in water at all times (without special breathing apparatus) is a universal disvalue for all human beings. And ingesting a certain amount of protein per week is a universal value.
There are also universal values for all living things, or at least for all terrestrial living things. For they all need our sun's light and a certain range of temperatures. The corresponding value is a value for all terrestrial biota despite the fact that this value is not universally recognized by these organisms. So once again a value can be non-objective, universal, and not universally recognized. Indeed, not even universally recognizable. For there is no possibility that an amoeba recognize the value of what it needs to exist.
As for the fish and the cats, they both need oxygen and they both get oxygen, but in different ways via gills and lungs respectively. So getting oxygen is a universal value for the union of the set of fish and the set of cats, and this despite the fact that this value is not only not universally recognized by these critters, but not recognized by them at all. The point I have just made is of course consistent with the fact that being fully immersed in water at all times is a value for fish but not for cats on the axiological theory under examination. (Note that it is not only not a value for cats, but a disvalue for them.)
As for truth, we presumably agree as to the first-order claim that truth has value. And I hope we can agree also on the first-order claim that truth trumps human feelings, that truth is of higher value than that no injury to human feelings occur, though I cannot expect any contemporary liberal to perceive this. The dispute occurs at the meta level: given that X (e.g. truth) has value, what is it for X to have value?
Suppose that values are non-objective: they merely reflect the interests and needs of evaluators. Given that truth is a value, the ground of truth's being valuable is that we need truth. And we do need it, and not only for the life of the mind. We need it to live well as animals. Truth is conducive to human flourishing, indeed, to a human existence that is not nasty, brutish, and short. Since we all need truth, truth is a universal value. Thus it is a value even for those who do not value it: it is a value even for those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its value for us.
The values of the West areuniversal values. They are not Western values or Caucasian values except per accidens. They are universal, not in that they are recognized by all, but in that they are valid for all. If a proposition is true, it is true for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its truth. If a value is valid or binding or normative it is these things for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its validity.
What I didn't realize at the time I wrote this was that the quoted paragraph is consistent both with my view that values are objective and with those views according to which values reflect the interests and needs of evaluators.
On my view, the universality and intersubjective validity of values is secured by their objectivity. On a view like that of Malcolm's, the universality of (some) values is secured by the objective fact that all the members of a class of evaluators share the need that is 'father' to the value. Thus all human beings, and indeed all intelligent beings, need truth to flourish, whence it follows that this value is universal even if non-objective.
What is crucial here is the distinction between a value's being universal and a value's being universally recognized. This distinction 'cuts perpendicular' to the distinction between objective and non-objective values. The Islamic world, benighted and backward as it is, either will not or cannot recognize certain values that are conducive to human flourishing, all human flourishing, including the flourishing of Muslims.
The message we need to convey to the Muslims and to the leftists who will listen is not that Western values are superior because they are Western but that they are best conducive to everyone's flourishing even that of Muslims and leftists. We have to convince them that we are not out to foist 'our' values on them, but to get them to recognize values that are valid for all.
An important essay by Niall Ferguson. The meat of the article (emphases and parenthetical material added):
Let us be clear about what is happening. Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defenses to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.
The distant shock to this weakened edifice has been the Syrian civil war, though it has been a catalyst as much as a direct cause for the great Völkerwanderung [migration of the tribes/peoples] of 2015. As before, they have come from all over the imperial periphery — from North Africa, from the Levant, from South Asia — but this time they have come in their millions.
To be sure, most have come hoping only for a better life. Things in their own countries have become just good enough economically for them to afford to leave and just bad enough politically for them to risk leaving. But they cannot stream northward and westward without some of that political malaise coming along with them. As Gibbon saw, convinced monotheists pose a grave threat to a secular empire.
It is conventional to say that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Europe are not violent, and that is doubtless true. But it is also true that the majority of Muslims in Europe hold views that are not easily reconciled with the principles of our modern liberal democracies, including those novel notions we have about equality between the sexes and tolerance not merely of religious diversity but of nearly all sexual proclivities. And it is thus remarkably easy for a violent minority to acquire their weapons and prepare their assaults on civilization within these avowedly peace-loving communities.
I do not know enough about the fifth century to be able to quote Romans who described each new act of barbarism as unprecedented, even when it had happened multiple times before; or who issued pious calls for solidarity after the fall of Rome, even when standing together in fact meant falling together; or who issued empty threats of pitiless revenge, even when all they intended to do was to strike a melodramatic pose.
I do know that 21st-century Europe has only itself to blame for the mess it is now in. For surely nowhere in the world has devoted more resources to the study of history than modern Europe. When I went up to Oxford more than 30 years ago, it was taken for granted that in the first term of my first year I would study Gibbon. It did no good. We learned nothing that mattered. Indeed, we learned a lot of nonsense to the effect that nationalism was a bad thing, nation-states worse, and empires the worst things of all.
“Romans before the fall,” wrote Ward-Perkins in his “Fall of Rome,” “were as certain as we are today that their world would continue for ever substantially unchanged. They were wrong. We would be wise not to repeat their complacency.”
"Roughly 150 Black Lives Matter protesters reportedly stormed a library at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, Thursday night to berate students studying there for their supposed racial privilege." Here.
The solution, of course, is to expel the BLM thugs. But that would be a 'racist' thing to do. So is it the leftist view that blacks are thuggish by nature and simply cannot be expected to behave in a civilized manner? So who are the real racists here?
TRIGGER WARNING! The above contains careful thought and big words and will upset and offend the 'safe space' crybullies, the BLM thugs, and the liberal- left scum who apologize for them.
Addendum (11/20): If the secular sphere has a 'sacred' space, that would be the university library, the repository of the best thoughts of humanity. The university is finished if such a space is allowed to be invaded and disrupted by thugs and savages.
A 'pastafarian' idiot was allowed to wear a colander in an official DMV photo in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bring on the hoodies, the sombreros, the ski masks . . . . Story here.
Does this have anything to do with the decline of the West? Something. It is just another little indication of the abdication of those in positions of authority. A driver's license is an important document. The authorities should not allow its being mocked by a dumbass with a piece of kitchenware on her head. But Massachusetts is lousy with liberals, so what do you expect? A liberal will tolerate anything except common sense and good judgment.
A penne for her thoughts as she strains to find something to believe in. If only she would use her noodle.
Responding to a commenter who states that one exposes oneself to tremendous risk by speaking out against leftist insanity, Malcolm Pollack writes:
Most bloggers who write from a contrarian position about these things seem to use noms de plume. In fact, I do have another blog I’ve set up for this purpose, but I almost never post anything to it. I prefer to speak under my own name — not because I’m trying to be “brave”, which this really isn’t at all, but just because it feels more honest, and because I have a right to, and because I’m ornery. (Running into that theater in Paris to try to save the people inside, knowing you are overwhelmingly likely to be killed: that’s brave. Writing grumpy blog-posts from the comfort and safety of my home is not.)
I would underscore the First Amendment right to free speech under one's own name without fear of government reprisal. Use it or lose it. (Unfortunately, the disjunction is inclusive: you may use it and still lose it.) But use it responsibly, as Pollack does. The right to express an opinion does not absolve one of the obligation to do one's level best to form correct opinions. Note however that your legal (and moral) right to free speech remains even if you shirk your moral (but not legal) obligation to do your best to form correct opinions.
I would add to Pollack's reasons for writing under his own name the credibility it gives him. You lose credibility when you hide behind a pseudonym. And when you take cover behind 'anonymous,' your credibility takes a further southward plunge, and shows a lack of imagination to boot.
Pollack is right: it doesn't take much civil courage to do what he and I do. I've made mine, and he is on the cusp of making his, if he hasn't already. (You could say we are 'made men.') We don't need jobs and we have no need to curry favor. And our obscurity provides some cover. Obscurity has its advantages, and fame is surely overrated. (Ask John Lennon.)
This is why I do not criticize the young and not-yet-established conservatives who employ pseudonyms. Given the ugly climate wrought by the fascists of the Left it would be highly imprudent to come forth as a conservative if you are seeking employment in academe, but not just there.
What is civil courage? The phrase translates the German Zivilcourage, a word first used by Otto von Bismarck in 1864 to refer to the courage displayed in civilian life as opposed to the military valor displayed on the battlefield. According to Bismarck, there is more of the latter than of the former, an observation that holds true today. (One example: there is no coward like a university administrator, as recent events at the university of Missouri and at Yale once again bear out.) Civil courage itself no doubt antedates by centuries the phrase.
Mark Steyn is a profile in civil courage unlike the 'safe space' administrative and professorial pussies who now infest the universities. Where have all the John Silbers gone, long time passing? Some delightful excerpts:
When the Allahu Akbar boys opened fire, Paris was talking about the climate-change conference due to start later this month, when the world's leaders will fly in to "solve" a "problem" that doesn't exist rather than to address the one that does. But don't worry: we already have a hashtag (#PrayForParis) and doubtless there'll be another candlelight vigil of weepy tilty-headed wankers. Because as long as we all advertise how sad and sorrowful we are, who needs to do anything?
With his usual killer comedy timing, the "leader of the free world" told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning, America" this very morning that he'd "contained" ISIS and that they're not "gaining strength". A few hours later, a cell whose members claim to have been recruited by ISIS slaughtered over 150 people in the heart of Paris and succeeded in getting two suicide bombers and a third bomb to within a few yards of the French president.
Visiting the Bataclan, M Hollande declared that "nous allons mener le combat, il sera impitoyable": We are going to wage a war that will be pitiless.
Does he mean it? Or is he just killing time until Obama and Cameron and Merkel and Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull fly in and they can all get back to talking about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century? By which time France and Germany and Belgium and Austria and the Netherlands will have been long washed away.
Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight's events as "an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share".
But that's not true, is it? He's right that it's an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world - an attack on one portion of "humanity" by those who claim to speak for another portion of "humanity". And these are not "universal values" but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta "universal" when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those "universal values" are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.
This is very good and needs to be said and endlessly repeated for the sake of self-enstupidated liberals, but I think Mr Steyn stumbles on one important point, and in a way that may give aid and comfort to relativism. The values of the West are universal values. They are not Western values or Caucasian values except per accidens. They are universal, not in that they are recognized by all, but in that they are valid for all. If a proposition is true, it is true for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its truth. If a value is valid or binding or normative it is these things for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its validity.
This is very important. There is no such thing as Western physics; there is just physics. There is no such distinction as that between German physics and Jewish physics any more than there is a distinction between Protestant and Catholic mathematics. There are Muslim mathematicians, but no Islamic mathematics. There are Arabic numerals but no Arabic numbers. If a mathematically competent Arab and a mathematically competent Roman do a sum they will get the same result despite the difference in their notations. When a Palestinian terrorist makes a bomb he relies on the same underlying science as does the Israeli surgeon who re-attaches a severed limb. There is no such thing as Soviet philology or Soviet biology. If Judeo-Christian values are valid and life-enhancing then they are Judeo-Christian only per accidens.
There is no contradiction in saying that salvation came from the Jews and that this salvation is salvation for all. "How odd of God to choose the Jews." Odd, but possible.
The fact that the science of nature and the discernment of universal values "sprang from a relatively narrow segment of humanity" does not make them any less universal. In fairness to Steyn, however, he may be using using 'universal values' to mean 'universally recognized values.'
The rest of his piece earns the coveted MavPhilsigillum approbationis. (I just now made up that Latin off the top of my head. If it is wrong shoot me an e-mail.)
And then Europe decided to invite millions of Muslims to settle in their countries. Most of those people don't want to participate actively in bringing about the death of diners and concertgoers and soccer fans, but at a certain level most of them either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live - modern, pluralist, western societies and those "universal values" of which Barack Obama bleats. So, if you are either an active ISIS recruit or just a guy who's been fired up by social media, you have a very large comfort zone in which to swim, and which the authorities find almost impossible to penetrate.
[. . .]
To repeat what I said a few days ago, I'm Islamed out. I'm tired of Islam 24/7, at Colorado colleges, Marseilles synagogues, Sydney coffee shops, day after day after day. The west cannot win this thing with a schizophrenic strategy of targeting things and people but not targeting the ideology, of intervening ineffectually overseas and not intervening at all when it comes to the remorseless Islamization and self-segregation of large segments of their own countries.
So I say again: What's the happy ending here? Because if M Hollande isn't prepared to end mass Muslim immigration to France and Europe, then his "pitiless war" isn't serious. And, if they're still willing to tolerate Mutti Merkel's mad plan to reverse Germany's demographic death spiral through fast-track Islamization, then Europeans aren't serious. In the end, the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love.
It began in the universities in the '60s. And now it is in full 'flower.' I recall Dennis Prager putting it this way: "There is no coward like a university administrator." Now hear David French:
Fortunately for the radicals, our universities are populated by the craven and the cowardly. Push a professor, even slightly, and it’s likely he’ll fold. Demand faculty support for your protest, and dozens will rush to join, self-righteously advancing their own false oppression narratives even as they enjoy lives billions of others would covet. There is nothing brave about these people. They are not “elite.” They don’t deserve a single dime of taxpayer money or one cent of student tuition. They dishonor their schools and their country.
Closeted campus conservatives are worse than useless. Indeed, their very timidity contributes to the narrative that there is something shameful about their beliefs. To read anonymous letters from professors who are afraid to “out” themselves in a hostile campus culture is to read the sad dispatches of people too pitiful for their profession. Do something else, anything else, than merely sit and watch while the revolutionaries shred the Constitution, reject our culture, and assert their own will to power.
The true shame is that it doesn’t even require actual courage to defeat the university Left, just a tiny bit of will — a small measure of staying power. No one is shooting at trustees. No one is beheading professors. There’s no guillotine in the quad. Instead, campus “leaders” tremble before hashtags and weep at the notion of losing a football team so inept that it couldn’t score a touchdown through most of the month of October. Let them strike. With an offense that inept, the SEC won’t even notice.
These are the times that try men’s souls? No. These are the times of men without chests. The Left has the will to power. University leaders have no will at all. They have earned nothing but contempt.
Many of my sons’ teachers were trained at Columbia University’s Teachers College or the nearby Bank Street College of Education. At these citadels of progressivism, future educators were inculcated in the “child-centered” approach to classroom instruction. All children, in this view, were “natural learners” who—with just a little guidance from teachers—could “construct their own knowledge.” By the same token, progressive-ed doctrine considered it a grave sin for teachers to engage in direct instruction of knowledge (dismissed as “mere facts”). The traditional, content-based instruction that had worked so well for my generation of immigrant children from poor and working-class families was now dismissed as “drill-and-kill” teaching that robbed kids of their imagination. Progressives also rejected the old-fashioned American idea, going back to the Founders, that the nation’s schools should follow a coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum that not only included the three Rs but also introduced children to our civilizational inheritance.
I am tempted to explain just how wrong this is. But I will resist the temptation. If you are a regular reader of this weblog, then you don't need it explained to you. But if you are the sort of liberal who accepts the above claptrap, then you don't need explanations, you need treatment. Please seek it for your own good.
Arthur C. Brooks deplores the lack of ideological diversity and the prevalence of 'groupthink' in academia in an October 30th NYT editorial entitled "Academia's Rejection of Diversity." He is of course right to do so. But this is nothing new as any conservative will tell you. And we don't need studies to know about it, which is not to say that studies are not of some slight use in persuading doubters.
What I would take issue with, though, is Brooks' apparently unqualified belief that "being around people [ideologically] unlike ourselves makes us [intellectually] better people . . . ." I have added, charitably I should think, a couple of qualifiers in brackets.
Interaction with ideological opponents can be fruitful, and sometimes is. That goes without saying.
But I think it is very easy to overestimate the value of interactions with people with fundamentally different views. It is a mistake to think that more and more 'conversations' will lead to amicable agreements and mutual understanding. This mistake is based on the false assumption that there is still common ground on which to hold these 'conversations.'
I say we need fewer 'conversations' and more voluntary separation. In many situations we need the political equivalent of divorce. In marriage as in politics the bitter tensions born of irreconcilable differences are relieved by divorce, not by attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable. Let's consider some examples. In each of these cases it is difficult to see what common ground the parties to the dispute occupy.
1. Suppose you hold the utterly abhorrent view that it is a justifiable use of state power to force a florist or a caterer to violate his conscience by providing services at, say, a same-sex 'marriage' ceremony.
2. Or you hold the appalling and ridiculous view that demanding photo ID at polling places disenfranchises those would-be voters who lack such ID.
3. Or you refuse to admit a distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
4. Or you maintain the absurd thesis that global warming is the greatest threat to humanity at the present time. (Obama)
6. Or, showing utter contempt for facts, you insist that Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was an 'unarmed black teenager' shot down like a dog in cold blood without justification of any sort by the racist cop, Darren Wilson.
7. Or you compare Ferguson and Baltimore as if they are relevantly similar. (Hillary Clinton)
8. Or you mendaciously elide distinctions crucial in the gun debate such as that between semi-auto and full-auto. (Dianne Feinstein)
9. Or you systematically deploy double standards. President Obama, for example, refuses to use 'Islamic' in connection with the Islamic State or 'Muslim' in connection with Muslim terrorists. But he has no problem with pinning the deeds of crusaders and inquisitors on Christians.
10. Or you mendaciously engage in self-serving anachronism, for example, comparing current Muslim atrocities with Christian ones long in the past.
11. Or you routinely slander your opponents with such epithets as 'racist,' 'sexist,' etc.
12. Or you make up words whose sole purpose is to serve as semantic bludgeons and cast doubt on the sanity of your opponents. You know full well that a phobia is an irrational fear, but you insist on labeling those who oppose homosexual practices as 'phobic' when you know that their opposition is in most cases rationally grounded and not based in fear, let alone irrational fear.
13. Or you bandy the neologism 'Islamophobia' as a semantic bludgeon when it is plain that fear of radical Islam is entirely rational. In general, you engage in linguistic mischief whenever it serves your agenda thereby showing contempt for the languages you mutilate.
14. Or you take the side of underdogs qua underdogs without giving any thought as to whether or not these underdogs are in any measure responsible for their status or their misery by their crimes. You apparently think that weakness justifies.
15. Or you label abortion a 'reproductive right' or a 'women's health issue' thus begging the question of its moral acceptability.
On each of these points and many others I could write a book demolishing the hard Left position that underlies the points and that dominates the universities, the mainstream media, the courts, and our current government. So what's to discuss? What conceivable motive could a conservative have to enter into debates with people who, from a conservative point of view, are willfully wrongheaded and demonstrably mistaken? There are open questions that need discussing, but the above aren't among them.
VDH asks: "What has become of free speech, free markets, and the rule of law?"
Essential reading. I am tempted to quote big chunks of it. Maybe later. For now, this:
Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.
As I have asked more than once: Did the US defeat the SU only to become the SU?
Could Europe’s liberal political traditions, its religious and cultural heritage, long survive a massive influx of Muslim immigrants, in the order of tens of millions of people? No. Not given Europe’s frequently unhappy experience with much of its Muslim population. Not when you have immigrant groups that resist assimilation and host countries that make only tentative civic demands.
Assimilation is key. Are the Muslim immigrants willing to assimilate? Are they willing to adopt the values and culture of successful societies that promote human flourishing? Or is it their intention to enjoy the benefits of successful societies while retaining the values and culture that account for the unsuccess of the societies from which they flee?
Remove the question mark from the above caption and you have the title for a New York Timeseditorial for 16 October. Here are the first three paragraphs with my comments interspersed:
Lawmakers in Washington and around the country are in an uproar over what they derisively call “sanctuary cities.” These are jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, or try in other ways to protect unauthorized immigrants from unjust deportation.
"Derisively call"? Here is a well-known leftist tactic. Words and phrases that have long been in use, have clear meanings, are descriptive rather than emotive, and are therefore innocuous, are given such labels as 'derisive,' 'insulting,' demeaning,' 'racist,' and so on. 'Anchor baby,' 'illegal alien,' and 'Obamacare' are three examples that come immediately to mind. As for 'anchor baby,' Alan Colmes recently opined on The O'Reilly Factor that it is demeaning because it likens the babies of illegal border crossers to weights that place a burden on American society. I kid you not. That's what our boy said. But the term implies no such thing. Anchor babies are so-called because, if you will permit me to change the metaphor, they provide a foothold in the U.S. for their illegal alien parents. This is because, on current law, anyone born within the boundaries of the U. S. is automatically a citizen of the U. S. Now whether this is or ought to be an entailment of Section 1 of Amendment XIV of the U.S. Constitution is an important question, but not one for the present occasion.
Notice in the second sentence of the first paragraph the phrase "unjust deportation." If you will excuse the expression in this context, it takes cojones to call unjust the lawful deportation of illegal aliens. Cojones or chutzpah, one.
The Senate is voting Tuesday on a bill from David Vitter of Louisiana to punish these cities by denying them federal law-enforcement funds. The House passed its version [hyperlink suppressed] in July. North Carolina’s Legislature has passed a bill forbidding sanctuary policies. Lawmakers in Michigan and Texas are seeking similar laws.
This a distortion of Vitter's proposal. The truth: "Vitter’s legislation would withhold certain federal funding from sanctuary states or cities that fail to comply with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued detainer requests for illegal aliens." (Emphasis added)
These laws are a false fix for a concocted problem. They are based on the lie, now infecting the Republican presidential campaign, that all unauthorized immigrants are dangerous criminals who must be subdued by extraordinary means.
It takes unmitigated gall to claim that your opponents are lying, when you are lying. I'd like to know who among Republicans has claimed that ALL illegal aliens are dangerous criminals. So who is slandering whom here?
At this point I stopped reading. Three paragraphs, four howlers: first a trade-mark leftist act of linguistic obfuscation, then an outright lie, then a distortion of the truth, then another outright lie.
But of course few if any contemporary liberals will agree with what I have just written. This leads us beyond this particular issue to a strange, ominous, and yet fascinating development in American life which of course has been long in the making: we can't agree on much of anything any more. We are, unbelievably, arguing over what really are beneath discussion, over issues that ought to be non-issues. And every year it gets worse. Suing gun manufacturers? Aussie-style gun confiscation? No photo ID at polling places? Sanctuary cities? Social Security benefits for illegal aliens?
Now you can perhaps understand why I often refer to contemporary liberals as morally and intellectually obtuse. There is really nothing reasonably to debate on these and many other, not all, current hot topics. Those who think otherwise and are willing to use the power of the State to enforce their crazy and deleterious ideas are making a very strong argument, nolens volens, for Second Amendment rights.