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I am sorry to say that after its brief revival, my old blogging home of Polemics has closed up shop for good. My thanks once again to Jon Luker for his work on Polemics and for his tremendous support in making this blog possible.
The questions Crunchy Cons are posing are not about theocracy, or reaction, or nostalgia, but whether we can retain our humanity in this new era. ~Angelo Matera, Crunchy Cons
I take Mr. Matera’s larger point, and he is correct that crunchies and crunchy-friendly folks do not hold the views they hold out of a burning desire for theocracy or reaction. They hold them because they believe them to be true and live as they do because it seems the most sane, edifying and dignified. Most people who complain about incipient theocracy don’t much care for the commands tou Theou either, and most who use reaction and reactionary as scare terms regard the last two centuries as more or less uninterrupted progress. That, as Goldberg has become fond of saying, is not a trivial point.
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So I’ll put the question to Jim and any other “conservative” very directly: Are you willing to state that “with a few exceptions, anyone who would place an infant in daycare is a negligent parent and a negligent citizen”? Let’s put some cards on the table. ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons
Caleb doesn’t kid around–he drives the dagger home. One of the interesting things to observe in the anti-crunchy reaction is the incoherence of it all. When it suits them, the critics reliably inform us that crunchy conservatism is just a “lifestyle,” which means for them it has no intellectual heft and cannot be debated or taken seriously; at another time, it is an ideology of statist coercion bent on forcing everyone to make their own granola; at yet another time, it is some Savonarola reborn coming to tell you how to live your life (horrors!). These critics try to make it appear irrelevant, terrifying and hypocritical all at once, but in the process they have never engaged with much of the substance of what has been said.
So here is Caleb’s question on a very concrete point, and we will see what, if anything, the critics have to say. Predictions: someone will complain that Caleb wants the government to lock up the people who run day-care centers, or accuse him of hating working women or that he is meddlesome. Oh, wait, we’ve already had the last one: one of my readers doesn’t like Caleb’s “disturbing” habit of using his moral judgement in matters of everyday life. That is really what the anti-crunchy retort amounts to: “You aren’t the boss of me!” Nothing could better vindicate the crunchy critique of individual autonomy and modern self-absorption better than this response.
…or so Little Pod complains.
Happy Shrovetide! Kelly Torrance has a fun post on IHOP’s National Pancake Day. It appealed to me because one of my professors just had an early Pancake Day party on Sunday to which I was invited. It was a fine time, though I do have to wonder what meaning the pancakes had for most of the people there, most of whom I can safely guess will probably not be swearing off all meat and dairy products until Easter. As an Orthodox Christian, I have the advantage of getting to have two pancake days this year (of course, the Russians call theirs blinnis, but no matter) before we move into the Lenten season, so I should be thoroughly pancaked out by next week.
Richard Weaver made a similar criticism of Edmund Burke in The Ethics of Rhetoric, which is not as popular as, but is a more important work, if you ask me, than Ideas Have Consequences. Weaver contrasts Burke’s “arguments from circumstance” with Lincoln’s “arguments from definition” to make the case that Lincoln was the more conservative of the two. Indeed, Weaver seems to doubt that Burke should be called a conservative at all, much less be seen as the “father” of conservatism. Weaver maintains, like Ross, that a “conservatism of stasis” cannot prevail against an adversary culture, because it cedes the framing of the debate to its enemies. ~Mitch Muncy, Crunchy Cons
Weaver had a wonderful distinction between argument from circumstance and argument from definition, but unfortunately applied this distinction rather badly in the two chapters of Ethics of Rhetoric Mr. Muncy mentions. Weaver made a very compelling claim that arguments from circumstance (which are roughly what we would in today’s parlance call pragmatic arguments) are not compelling nor should they be, as these sorts of arguments object only to the means of a thing and do not argue about fundamentals. This is why most opposition to the Iraq war, to use a contemporary example, was so pitifully weak and easily bowled over–it had the rhetorical power of weak tea. Practically everyone on the antiwar side would always concede that, yes, Hussein was evil, and, yes, someone really ought to do something to get rid of him and, yes, he is dire threat, but let’s just stop and think about this some more. The initiative and the rhetorically stronger, albeit cruder, argument remained with the pro-war folks until today. Someone who argues from definition will not only make the better rhetorical argument, but he will also be making an argument based in some universal definition or principle. Given Weaver’s commitment to Platonic idealism, it was almost inevitable that he would prefer the man who invokes universal definitions to the man who identifies all sorts of practical flaws in an idea. But, if I may say so, this was always Weaver’s (and Plato’s) mistake, as if practical flaws had no bearing on the worthiness of the idea itself.
Where Prof. Weaver went horribly wrong (in addition to his fairly inexplicable choice of Lincoln as conservative exemplar) was in assuming that someone who holds to some kind of general principle, or accepts some definition of, say, human nature, is therefore always the person who is the “true” conservative. Whether he has the right definition or not seemed not to enter into the discussion, yet it is surely in right definitions and the correct use of language–as opposed to Lincoln’s rhetorical and demagogic maneuverings–that a greater part of a conservative sensibility resides.
Russell Kirk very gently and amicably pointed out to Weaver in a review of his book that Bolsheviks make arguments from definition, too, and this does not make them conservative, and that, I think he would have agreed, arguments from circumstance may be rhetorically weak but may still very well be the morally right view of the matter. Of course, Kirk could not have liked the shot taken at his man, Burke, but it was a fairly clumsy and not very well-aimed shot that was actually one of Weaver’s least impressive efforts.
The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. Nearly nine of every 10 - 85% - said the U.S. mission is “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,” while 77% said they believe the main or a major reason for the war was “to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.” ~John Zogby
Bear in mind that this comes from the same survey that says that 72% of soldiers deployed in Iraq want the U.S. to exit within a year, which probably means that most, if not all, of the soldiers who want the U.S. to leave still believe this war has something to do with al-Qaeda and, more incredibly, with 9/11. One wonders how much more interested in leaving they would be if they knew (as they apparently do not know) that both of those rationales for the war were complete nonsense.
Moreover, saying the free market is a materialist construct steals a base. Critics of the free market say it is materialist. But, with the exception of some Randians, defenders of the free market do not ground their case in materialism. Adam Smith didn’t. Friedrich Hayek didn’t. Michael Novak doesn’t. ~Jonah “Lie for a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons
Goldberg likes the base-stealing analogy. He never tires of using it. He seems to regard this as some sort of rebuke, when in baseball successful base-stealing is regarded as something of a virtue. So it isn’t a very good analogy.
Materialism is a word that gets thrown around quite a lot, especially in economic and political debates where the term takes on a number of different meanings depending on who is using it and how. There are two ways that crunchies might be using it: as a word referring to the ethos that prizes consumption, acquisition and the satisfaction of desires (in which case, most Americans are materialists and contemporary conservatism is a cheerleader for this materialism) or a word that refers to philosophical materialism and a confirmed belief in monism that rules out the existence of anything other than the empirically observable material world in man and in nature (which few, if any, conservative Americans openly embrace).
The two are not necessarily related, but in his criticism of modern conservatism I believe Rod is linking the two in one way. That is, conventional or “mainstream” conservatism has made a virtue out of acquisition and consumption (which it puts under the umbrella of “freedom”), and has in practise privileged material conditions as the main and ultimately most important things in life. People continue to believe in God, and think that they have souls, and some of them undoubtedly believe this very strongly, but in their way of life many do not substantially differ in the least from the secularist across the street or across town who does not believe these things. They are not actually committed philosophical materialists, but they live as if they might as well be.
Goldberg is, as usual, ducking the issue. The issue is not what any particular theorist says in defense of the free market but the practical effect an unduly positive and uncritical view of the market and its effects has on the way all Americans, but particularly conservative Americans who should know better, live. Rod’s book is an account of the habits of people, habits formed in reaction to the superficiality and ugliness of the world of disposable and transient goods that modern Americans have made an unduly large part of their life. Likewise, what he is critiquing are the habits of “mainstream” conservatives. That’s what has really agitated Goldberg–it’s almost as if conservative ideas might mean something for how we should live, and that the “mainstream” conservatives have managed to get it, well, basically wrong. It isn’t that there is only one precise lifestyle for conservatives, but that conservatives, if they took their own ideas seriously, really should live in a broadly defined way that is not at war with creation, their own nature or their natural affinities. A materialistic lifestyle, whether lived by fine, church-going folk or not, is a life lived in conflict with those three things. Stated broadly, lots of conservatives will shout their agreement. Yes, don’t be at war with creation–that’s a crazy, leftist thing to do! But do they follow up on that agreement in their own way of life? Many don’t, and that’s Rod’s point. Goldberg can talk about stolen bases until the Kingdom comes, and he won’t be able to evade this reality.
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It is healthier for the disillusioned American to concede that in one theater in the Mideast, the postulates didn’t work. The alternative would be to abandon the postulates. To do that would be to register a kind of philosophical despair. The killer insurgents are not entitled to blow up the shrine of American idealism. ~W.F. Buckley, NRO
Via Antiwar Blog.
I suppose this is Buckley’s way of offering Mr. Bush a face-saving way out: “It’s not our wild-eyed optimistic ideas that are really out of whack–it’s those damn Arabs! Anybody else would have jumped at the chance of Freedom and maybe even made it work. Nice try, Mr. President. Let’s try somewhere else!” Of course, this is half true.
This “idealism” failed in Iraq because of both the idealism and the Iraqis together and because of their basic incompatibility. This is not necessarily to say something against the Iraqis–the managerial and welfarist state model with elections and rampant individualism attached that we frequently call democracy is not something I would inflict on my worst enemy, so it is not necessarily a knock on the Iraqis that they are not making a go of it.
Far from being the world-conquering, inevitable force of Fukuyamian historical evolution that some imagine it to be, this model is deeply flawed, in many respects contrary to human nature and incredibly fragile and in need of a very particular environment. We may as well plant an orchid in the desert and then condemn the sand for failing to help it grow–instead, why not blame the buffoon who put an orchid in the desert?
But that begs the question whether there are suitable environments for this orchid in many parts of the world. After being disproved enough times, it may be that the “postulates,” as Buckley calls them, really are just as false as their critics have said all along. At what point do we stop putting our faith in these “postulates,” much less continue to make them the centerpiece of our foreign policy? My answer would be to stop now and save ourselves the suspense of watching another transplanted orchid die so pitifully.
Already critics have jumped out of their Manhattan apartments to accuse Rod Dreher of selling a kind of lifestyle conservatism; that crunchy conservatism is another “choice” in the panoply of lifestyles that are afforded to us by the free market. Dreher’s book, often at great pains, tries to demonstrate that the sensibility that informs crunchy conservatism is a natural expression of the traditional values that political conservatives claim to honor. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty, AFF’s Brainwash
Why is it irrelevant, in a war against Arab and Islamic terrorists, to question the transfer of control of our East Coast ports from Great Britain to the United Arab Emirates?
Our cosmopolitan Brooks lives in another country. He has left the America of blood and soil, shaken the dust from his sandals, to enter the new Davos world of the Global Economy, where nationality does not matter, and where fundamentalists and flag-wavers of all faiths are the real enemies of progress toward the wonderful future these globalists have in store for us. ~Pat Buchanan
Bush’s logic in defending the right of a Middle Eastern company to enjoy the same access to America’s strategic infrastructure as a British company is the same logic that has granted millions of Muslims equal access to this country’s green cards and passports, thus creating the main terrorist threat that America faces today. It is the logic of globalization and anti-discriminationism. It is not merely flawed, it is evil, and it presents a mortal danger to our civilization. ~Srdja Trifkovic
Dr. Trifkovic also lays out the numerous glaring security and conflict-of-interest problems that also make the deal an outrage and a scandal. For starters, the basic due diligence at Homeland Security was evidently superficial and perfunctory, and not the kind of review one might imagine would or ought to go on when a major contract like this is being awarded. It doesn’t take a great mind to see that granting a foreign company administrative control over key ports invariably makes information on the security for those ports availale to that company’s home government, and if that government is less than 100% reliable as an ally it provides an opening to that government to use or sell this information to those who could use it to the detriment of Americans. Of all the companies they could have chosen, one from the UAE is uniquely dangerous. But the point is well taken that Mr. Bush’s complete inability to see why the UAE and Britain are not at all different is the most bizarre and dangerous aspect of the entire episode.
I’m not an economist, but I disagree that efficiency is the foundation of the free market. Competition seems a more likely candidate. If government regulations prevent an organic meat producer from getting his product for a reasonable price to those who would want it, then in what sense is the market “efficient”? It hasn’t fulfilled its function because one producer has moved to stifle competition. ~Mitch Muncy, Crunchy Cons
One basic point: efficiency is a technical description of obtaining maximum value at minimum cost as measured by money. In this view, efficiency is the desired goal for any transaction, and things that impose extra costs are held to have introduced inefficiencies into the system. These might be tangible things, such as a government regulation, or seemingly intangible stigmas and social norms that stress loyalty to community or local firms.
What is deemed valuable depends on what commands the greatest monetary value, as money is the only thing with which to measure “preferences”–he who is willing to pay the most decides what is most valuable. If no one is willing to pay for those seemingly intangible goods by paying the higher prices on commodities that maintaining these goods might entail, for example, the “preference” for them is less valuable than the “preference” for a major chain store. Here is part of Paul Heyne’s very concise and useful definition:
Economic efficiency makes use of monetary evaluations. It refers to the relationship between the monetary value of ends and the monetary value of means. The valuations that count are, consequently, the valuations of those who are willing and able to support their preferences by offering money.
From this perspective a parcel of land is used with maximum economic efficiency when it comes under the control of the party who is willing (which implies able) to pay the largest amount of money to obtain that control. The proof that a particular resource is being used efficiently is that no one is willing to pay more in order to divert it to some other use.
I think we can see that efficiency, as described here, is the guiding principle of modern economic life, and it is what informs the indifference or hostility of homo oeconomicus to those primary moral, political and spiritual goods that stand in the way of economic efficiency. In a slightly roundabout way, I think the Kelo decision relies on this conception of efficiency: to make the greatest use out of a property, its current owner will not be allowed to hold the property when a developer is willing to pay more for its purchase than the owner is willing to pay for its continued possession. That the owner should not need to pay anything to be secure in his property rights is obvious to sensible people, but sensible people have little to do with the current form of economic development or modern jurisprudence. The local government can now legally compel him to give up his property, so that it might be turned to a more efficient use. In a world in which efficiency is one of the chief virtues, even personal property rights can become an obstacle to be knocked down.
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I’m no close student of Wendell Berry’s. He may be brilliant and he may not be. I only know him by reputation and scattered bits and pieces. That you put so much stock in him inclines me to give him the benefit of the doubt. Also, perhaps there is a larger context that makes the passage below into something more sensible than it appears to me now. That is as charitable as I will be. Now, look at this passage:
The “conservatives” more or less attack homosexuality, abortion and pornography, and the “liberals” more or less defend them. Neither party will oppose sexual promiscuity. The “liberals” will not oppose promiscuity because they do not wish to appear intolerant of “individual liberty.” The “conservatives” will not oppose promiscuity because sexual discipline would reduce the profits of corporations, which in their advertisements and entertainments encourage sexual self-indulgence as a way of selling merchandise. ~Jonah Goldberg quoting Rod Dreher’s citation of Wendell Berry, Crunchy Cons
This is one of Goldberg’s favourite tactics against the crunchy con idea. He cites something that Rod Dreher has said or quoted, solemnly avowed that nobody he knows has ever said these things and therefore declares that Dreher’s point is either irrelevant or, in this case, sophomoric. However deficient his arguing style is, though, I think Rod Dreher gave him an easier target than Goldberg deserved.
As Marshall Wittmann of the Democratic Leadership Council observed last week, “We are in the midst of a jihadist offensive. The bombing of [Iraq’s] Askariya Shiite Shrine is another indication of the world-wide jihadist offensive against the West. ~William Kristol, The Weekly Standard
I’m not the greatest geography buff. In fifth grade, I didn’t advance in the National Geography Bee beyond taking first at my elementary school, so my qualifications may be limited here. But how dense do you have to be to cite the sectarian bombing of a shrine in Iraq as proof of an offensive, jihadist or otherwise, against the West? How dense do you have to be to quote someone saying that as if it were an obvious endorsement of your argument?
Shi’ite mosques and Christian churches are shot up in Pakistan with alarming frequency, and no one imagines that these represent parts of an anti-Western offensive. Kristol’s geographical genius reminds me of Stephen Fry’s depiction of Wellington: “We plan to take Boney completely by surprise via the North Pole.” To listen to Kristol the hysterical tell it, jihad is on the march everywhere. There are serious problems in Europe, but most of Kristol’s obsessions involve undermining American security and starting a war with Iran–both of which aid the jihadists and makes a further mockery of his dwindling movement.
What are Kristol’s proposals for the administration? Only one makes any sense at all: solidarity with Denmark. Otherwise, Kristol openly calls for the approval of the ludicrous Dubai-American ports deal and subverting the government of Iran (plus getting ever deeper into the Iraqi mess)–how this will prevent more destruction of the kind that took place in Samara is anybody’s guess. I suppose inflaming Shi’ites to bomb Sunni mosques will be taken as proof that Kristol’s plan is “working” and the West is back in fighting form?
Quick style note: It really bothers and confuses me how so many reporters use Catholic when they mean Roman Catholic. Catholic means universal and Roman Catholic refers to that church based out of, well, Rome. There is a difference. Many people who are not Roman Catholic consider themselves catholic — and even Catholic sometimes. ~Mollie, GetReligion
The journalists who label Roman Catholics simply as Catholics are not making a decision based on style (and are certainly not making one based on ecclesiology)–they are trying to convey the information with as few words as possible. And it isn’t a question of style–insisting on calling a Catholic a Roman Catholic is a bit pejorative, as it is designed to qualify Catholicism in terms of its relation to Rome, which is ultimately incidental to its own conception of the Catholic Church’s catholicity. To be fair, no one else readily self-identifies using the label Catholic except for “Roman Catholics,” so how bothersome and confusing could it really be? Old Catholics might have a more meaningful complaint against this sort of thing, and perhaps followers of Lefebvre also, but most other Christians would be hard pressed to be either bothered or confused by this usage.
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I’m no libertarian but I think no major government decision should ever be made unless there’s a libertarian in the room explaining to people why he thinks it’s a bad idea. The libertarian won’t always be right, but he’ll be right often enough that he should always be listened to. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg, Crunchy Cons
I wonder what Goldberg must think of the Bush administration. There has never been any danger of any libertarians being in any rooms where the major decisions of this administration were being made. So Goldberg is highly critical of the wanton excesses of the Bush administration and its failure to listen to libertarian warnings about its policies, right? Oh, that’s right, all of this talk about libertarians is just a pose to make the “crunchies” seem like scary “statists” out to inflict organic chicken and homeopathy on the masses by fiat. Is this the best the anti-crunchy forces can muster?
Such is the response from the critics of the entire “crunchy con” phenomenon and the blog Crunchy Cons. “Don’t impose your crunchy values on me!” they cry. The blog has only been around for three days, and already there is such a strained and hysterical reaction–just imagine what a month of Crunchy Cons will provoke!
Are anarcho-syndicalist communes crunchy?
One more thought in response to those who would object to this discussion as certain people “imposing” their view of conservatism on the rest. First, regarding the word “conservative” itself and whether all this spilled ink can be justified by what is, after all, “just a word,” the answer is, yes, it is justified. The word conservative, like few others in the American lexicon, has an immensely powerful purchase on the American political/cultural/religious mind in a way that words like Tory, Whig, Mugwump, or Bull Moose just don’t. So long as that is true, debates like this will and should occur. Second, none should know this better than Buckley’s crew and their readers. As the premiere intellectual outlet of movement conservatism over the last fifty years, NR periodically engaged in these kinds of discussions exorcising first the John Birchers, then the Randians, and recently the Buchananites from the respectably conservative fold. That’s an observation, not necessarily a criticism. The point is just that the content of “conservatism” matters, and to suggest otherwise, or to pretend that no one can “impose” their version of what is conservative, is, shall we say, disingenuous.
Crunchy conservatism has to be having some impact when Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg begins dusting off old NR heroes and invoking them as authorities in the debate against…other old NR heroes. Beset by a coherent and elaborate defense of traditionalist conservative ideas in their “crunchy” manifestations, Goldberg has been reduced to invoking this fellow who invokes Wilmore Kendall in his criticism of Weaver and Kirk, such as this citation from The Conservative Affirmation in America:
I make no sense, that is to say, of calling “Conservative” the man who takes a dim view of his country’s established institutions, feels something less than at home with its way of life as it actually lives it, finds it difficult to identify himself with the political and moral principles on which it has acted through its history, dislikes or views with contempt the generality of the kind of people his society produces, and — above all perhaps — dissociates himself from its founders, or at least holds them at arms’ length. Such a man may be the better or nobler or wiser for all this dim-viewing and the yearning-away-from; he may be right as rain. But I fail to see where you can get by calling him a Conservative (or where he gets by calling himself one) (p. xxv).
Many have often used the term conservative (and Conservative) in just this sort of conventional way. There has always been the option of being a status quo man in all things. Likewise, there has always been the option of being an unthinking man with no interest in whether something is true and good or not. You can call that conservative if you like, but this is the sense in which bureaucrats are conservative. That this degenerates rapidly into what we might call Sir Humphreyism is no secret to anyone.
Conservatism is the clunky, overused name for the practise of wisdom, prudence, temperance and courage–it rebukes a people given over to indulgence and folly, just as it praises the virtues of a people. It does not indiscriminately embrace institutions of any and all kinds anymore than it embraces traditions of all kinds because they are very old and venerable. It tests the “moral and political principles” of its people against justice and charity as these are understood in the light of venerable and confirmed traditions of collected wisdom and reflection. To do less is to become not a free man, but a cipher.
One of the reasons why M.E. Bradford spoke of a “reactionary imperative” was precisely to escape this sort of mediocre conservatism that maintains some kind of veneration for, for example, the New Deal programs because they were here before we were or they have now been well and truly established. It is an established institution! Bow before it! The Department of Education commands your respect! It has been established–it must therefore be worth keeping.
Conservatives guard and preserve what has been established on the assumption that whatever has preceded us almost always deserves a certain deference, but not forever and not always. Institutions must possess legitimacy, but more importantly they should not subvert the common good nor dedicate themselves to remaking according to inhuman and unnatural designs the very people whose welfare they supposedly champion. More to the point, conservatives possess a memory (because they have cultivated a memory) that lasts longer than a voting cycle, longer than their own lives, longer than a couple of generations: usurpations from 140 years ago have never ceased to be usurpations, and the degenerate qualities that all modern Americans, myself included, share are not things that a seriously principled conservative can look on with equanimity, much less pleasure.
When the “moral and political principles” of earlier generations are pretty well repudiated on an ongoing basis, with official encouragement or indeed at the hands of officers of the state, the institutions that have replaced the old, venerable institutions deserve no great respect. The people who regularly endorse and acquiesce in usurpation deserve as much respect as they give themselves in their slavish adoration of their chosen faction, which is to say not much. Conservatives are those who generally respect authority, but do not make idols out of those who happen to be in power. They are those who generally respect their own tradition and defer to it on most occasions, but do not abdicate the use of discernment. They acknowledge something worthwhile in institutions that have stood the test of time, but this does not mean that they are obliged to accept the assumptions or justifications of the men who created those institutions, unless they are found credible and worthy of acceptance.
Supposing Mr. Kendall was right in his general description of conservatives, why would anyone want to call himself conservative? That label, as defined in that quote, would include many an apparatchik and tool of illegitimate usurpers–surely that is not what Mr. Kendall intended here. It is, however, the use to which Goldberg and “CPA” at Three Hierarchies are putting Mr. Kendall’s statements.
Via The New Pantagruel.
We sing thy praises as the gem and fairness of the Church, and as a diadem and pattern of all Christian queens, O all-lauded and divinely-crowned Theodora; for in bringing back the icons to their rightful place, thou didst cast usurping heresy out of the Church. Hence, we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Sovereign most venerable.
I’m glad Bruce brought up Schumpeter, for it is he, rather than Schumacher, who ought to be the patron economist of crunchy conservatism. Not only did Schumpeter argue that capitalism undermined the very social institutions which gave it birth and guarded its existence, leading to socialism, he pointed out that universal rationalization through cost accounting exposed more natural ordering structures—the classically understood “ties that bind”—to a brutal new calculus in which they did not perform well at all. Commitment to kin, community, and place entail making heavy economic sacrifices and provide benefits not easily entered on a balance sheet. For Schumpeter, the key piece of evidence for his theory was declining birth rates in industrialized nations. As a result, he argued, we have created a new species of “homo economicus” which has lost “the only sort of romance and heroism that is left”—the romance and heroism of “working for the future irrespective of whether or not one is going to harvest the crop oneself.” ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons
This is an important corrective for many a libertarian and “conservative” who will refer to “creative destruction” as if it were a good and highly desirable thing and invoke Schumpeter as if he were a proponent of the social and moral disintegration that he observed at work in such a system. What these people seem to forget, or never knew, is that prophets of “creative destruction” share more with nihilists and anarchists than with any sort of civilised human being. It was Bakunin, after all, who said, “The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”
To be honest, I’m a lot closer to Amy than to Rod on this. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in rural/small-town America where there still existed a fading conservative sensibility that reflected, in an almost completely unarticulated and unselfconscious way, the Kirkean values Rod writes about. I have never experienced what Rod describes as taking up something “hippie-ish … not in spite of your conservatism, but because of it.”
I grew up despising hippie culture. I found, and still find, virtually all of the Boomer cultural affectations to be utterly false and preening; I find the nihilism of their intellectual and popular leaders to be entirely banal and unromantic; their radical egalitarianism was, I thought, an emasculation of all the good things in life. Rather than donning Birks and tie-dye t-shirts, I dreamed about sword-canes and black capes. My image of a conservative hero came from men like Theodore Roosevelt, Andre Malraux, T.E. Lawrence, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Men of action and adventure yet also of refined taste and intellect. Men who wore black, fought for the old world, were on intimate terms with both life and death, and who never went anywhere without their driver or their butler. The image is about as far as one can get from John Lennon. ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons
I don’t think I ever shared Mr. Stegall’s youthful enthusiasm for TR, but by the start of high school the image of the knight-errant, the Cavalier aristocrat, the Jacobite Highlander and the Confederate cavalry commander all captured my imagination as men who regarded those terribly quaint virtues of honour and loyalty as preeminent and all-important. Many of my best friends were and are of the “hippie-ish” kind, but I agree with Mr. Stegall that there has never been anything attractive about what I associate with being “hippie-ish.” Unless listening to reggae and Indian sittar music on occasion counts, you would hard pressed to find a lot of “hippie-ish” affinities in me.
As a brightly-shining lamp that was illumined with the Spirit’s fiery beams, O Zachariah most renowned, thou didst prefigure with clarity the Savior’s great and untold condescension toward us.
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation. ~Zachariah 2:10-13
Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee! Dance now and be glad, O Zion, and you too rejoice, pure Mother of God, at the arising of him to whom you gave birth. ~Ninth Ode of the Paschal Canon
I do not have a high degree of hope for any version of movement conservatism, towards which I remain skeptical. I put much more stock in what amounts to monasticism, in the broadest sense, which includes all of the crunchy virtues Rod discusses and more, though in a very natural and inarticulate way. This would include the many lay movements in the Church, local economic coalitions, and various traditional cultures that do much more doing than speaking and theorizing. One does not need to theorize how to view and engage secular modernity if one daily concentrates on self-sacrifice, prayer, and simply doing the work of God and disciplining the body and mind to order themselves according to their place and heritage. One of the great things about the book is in the way Rod shows many such “ordinary” people doing just this.
Is crunchy conservatism necessary? No. In fact, it may be in danger of posing an additional hurdle to real recovery by becoming just another lifestyle option in a culture awash with narcissistic lifestyle choices (a danger I think Rod recognizes in the book). Is an authentically conservative response to the challenges of late modernity necessary? Yes, now more than ever. ~Caleb Stegall
I want to return to Mr. Stegall’s remarks about “monasticism,” but I’m afraid that I must run to get to classical Armenian on time. I’ll add more later.
Connected with the release of Rod Dreher’s book, Crunchy Cons, which comes out today, there is a new blog at NRO called Crunchy Cons. There Caleb Stegall, editor of The New Pantagruel, had this to say:
The result of this history has been the gradual eclipse of our religious/moral heritage in the beaker of liberalism’s universal solvent. Conservatives intent on defending the older moral orders of society have, to gain purchase on the essentially progressive American mind, been forced in the main into tracing their cultural or policy prescriptions to some basis in individual or natural rights. American conservatism has thus developed an instrumentalist and mechanical view of the “crunchy” virtues: they exist only as a means to preserve the maximum freedom and efficiency of individual action. Or perhaps, diluting the mix even more, they exist only as one valid expression of the individual will among many other equally valid expressions. So when the putatively conservative David Walsh argues against abortion, for example, he does so on rights-based grounds: abortion weakens the sanctity of all individuals; the sanctity of the individual is the foundation of personal autonomy and freedom; therefore, abortion must be opposed to preserve personal autonomy and freedom.
In the end, however, the underlying philosophical conception of man, society, and God will trump any specific policy goal or cultural norm. I would suggest that this is the reason conservative arguments against the expansion of the marriage license seem to have less and less purchase on the American mind as time wears on. If marriage is simply a contractual arrangement for the mutual fulfillment of two peoples’ desires in a social sanctioned way (which is the prevalent view of marriage in conservative, and even religious circles), then opposition to making this contract more widely available begins to chafe against our sense of fair play.
This is the situation Rod describes so well in the book. A conservatism which, based on the essentially liberal and progressive virtues, has become unrecognizable to an older understanding of reality embodied by such conservative luminaries as Russell Kirk. And as such, incapable of offering a coherent vision of our social order as an alternative to the dominate liberal-progressivism of modernity.
The latest issue of The New Pantagruel is now up, and I strongly recommend it to you all. In addition to my short essay on the incompatibility of the Christian and Enlightenment inheritances, Paul Seaton astutely discusses the judicial philosophy and consequences related to the landmark “privacy” case, Griswold v. Connecticut and Dan Knauss elaborates on the problems of modernism and post-modernism and the Christian humanist alternative to the modernist/post-modernist divide. There is also poetry by Elizabeth Bailie, Matthew Browning, Max Heine and Sam Kean.
We Shall Not See His Like Again
Learning and eloquence and wit are rare. But what I want to point to on this occasion is something much rarer, which Sam had in abundance—his courage. Courage is rare, and intellectual courage, such as Sam displayed all his life, is the rarest courage of all.
We all know of the emoluments and honours that could have been his—if he had been willing to sell off just a little of his integrity—in the normal and almost universal American manner. But that would have required him to compromise just a little bit of the truth. Sam was one of those rare souls willing to pay the price for truth-telling in a time that honours it not.
When I think of Sam I think of what was said about his fellow Tennessean, General Bedford Forrest. “He bought a one-way ticket to the war.” That means that Forrest, once committed to a good cause—the defense of his people—devoted his all to the cause and never looked back. Such a man was Sam Francis. ~Clyde Wilson
I don’t think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind. ~Fred, Barcelona
Stillman: “Somewhat” Reactionary
I applaud Ross Douthat’s defense of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (now added to the pretentious and prestigious Criterion Collection), made slightly famous in conservative circles by the book of essays, Doomed Bourgeois In Love, edited by Mark C. Henrie, whose adventure in Pantagruelism I mildly critiqued way back in August ‘05 here. Austin Kelly at Slate makes some rather annoying comments about Metropolitan, which Mr. Douthat answered pretty well. I don’t have much to add, but I have been looking for an opportunity to write a Whit Stillman post, if only so I could use that line from Barcelona, the second of Stillman’s creations, quoted above. A line like that has to be quoted on a reactionary’s blog–the possibilities for what it could mean are virtually endless.
For those not familiar with Metropolitan, it is the story of the life of upper middle class New York debutantes. Put that way, it might not sound especially interesting, and as his first in the Doomed Bourgeois “trilogy” (they actually have no relation to each other, except for a few holdovers in casting selections) it is the shakiest and weakest in some ways. But for those of us who do not understand New Yorkers or their way of life, it is a sort of anthropological journey into a strange and new country–one feels a bit like Liudprand of Cremona coming to Constantinople for the first time. It is a smart and somewhat endearing film. If you watch enough Whit Stillman, you will also begin catching yourself inserting the word “somewhat” in many of your statements.
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Last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn’t get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden. ~Paul Craig Roberts
Perhaps next year the CPAC crowd can start singing this one:
Wille schafft das Neue,
Wille zwingt das Alte,
Amerikan’scher heilger Wille
Immer jung uns halte;
Uns den Führer gab,
Wir geloben Bush
Treue bis ins Grab.
No, what Mr. Fukuyama sees is not merely the end of neoconservatism. It is conservatism itself that lies discredited and discarded at the feet of George W. Bush. He was anointed the standard-bearer for a philosophy he did not even understand. Conservative thinkers looked the other way while Bush set their house on fire. All they can do now is clear away the charred ruins and begin, painstakingly, to rebuild. However, they are fooling themselves if they think the new structure will resemble the old. ~Uncommon Sense
There were a notable few who noticed Mr. Bush playing with the matches, suggested that someone take the matches away from him and began making a lot of noise when the fire broke out, but, of course, we all “know” that those people hated America. Fortunately we have dishonest Canadian ex-pats with no principles to tell us these things, or we would really be in trouble.
What he’s describing is just regular old liberal internationalism , a set of ideas that’s fallen into political eclipse during the Bush years, but that are as robust and important as ever, if not more so. ~Matthew Yglesias
Yglesias closes in on something important in the Fukuyama article, which is the similarity of Fukuyama’s imagined foreign policy to the kind of foreign policy practised under Clinton. Fukuyama’s invocation of Kosovo was not an accident. Kosovo marked, and was very consciously promoted by Blair as marking, the beginning of the interventionism based on “human rights” that should transcend national sovereignty, which is why the “Leninist” neocons liked it as much as the Menshevik neocons a la Fukuyama.
Fukuyama wants interventions for human rights, he wants more Kosovos (thus apparently wanting more unjustified bombing campaigns that hand over European territory to Islamists and criminals), and he wants less of the global hegemon that enjoys his own hegemony promoted by the “Leninist” neocons. Benevolent hegemony no more–Fukuyama would like to see a sort of international consortium of human rights-friendly states or organisations of states that beat up on designated “offender” nations, just as NATO smashed Yugoslavia. His approval of the Kosovo attack is a good example of why a post-neocon internationalism and interventionism will remain just as wrongheaded, dangerous and subversive of real American interests as the current neocon interventionism.
Responding to Fukuyama’s obituary of neoconservatism, Joseph Knippenberg completely misses the point and says this:
So it’s not neo-conservatism properly understood that Fukuyama rejects, just its caricature.
Um…no. He really does reject neoconservatism as it exists today. He might describe what Kristol et al. have done to neoconservatism as a caricature or oversimplification of what was somewhat more complex in the past, but he really does reject neoconservatism and contemporary neocons. Honest. He says so right here, just above the quote Knippenberg cites:
In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States.
Maybe I’ve missed something, but usually when someone compares a movement to the Bolsheviks it isn’t often meant as a compliment. Not even on The New York Times op-ed page. He calls the neoconservatism of Kristol and Kagan a “farce” in its present state. He not only rejects what it has come to represent, or what people associate with it, though he does that, too, but the “body of thought” itself. That’s a pretty serious rejection. It would be akin to my saying that I reject the permanent things and eternal verities–it would mean that I am really rejecting them and abandoning the convictions I had previously held. Fukuyama has given up on neoconservatism because he clearly finds it riddled with problems, errors and mistakes (his solutions and answers are not those I would give, but many of his criticisms happen to be fairly powerful). No doubt about it–Fukuyama has jumped ship and is headed off to the shores of post-neocon transnationalist interventionism.
Update: By the way, what in the world is the “spiritual element” of democracy promotion?
But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point. ~Francis Fukuyama, The New York Times
As the world’s first “post-neoconservative,” Fukuyama has some interesting things to say on the final discrediting of the old dispensation and presents a short history of the neocons that should establish, pace Max Boot and other such intellectual giants, that they do actually exist. Of course, Fukuyama has a forthcoming book, After the Neocons, to promote, so the more he can poke his former colleagues in the eye the better it will be for sales.
In fact, Fukuyama is surprisingly forthcoming and honest about the many different parts of neocon history: the old Trotskyites, the Straussian connection, the Wohlstetter disciples, and so on. Fukuyama also points up the irony (or irrational internal contradiction–I choose the latter) that it was the old skeptics of social engineering, who belittled “root causes” arguments in social policy, who wound up pushing the Mother of All Root Causes: the lack of democracy in the Near East.
What’s more, the controversy seems perfectly formed to dramatize for a global audience the more authoritarian, intolerant, and illiberal aspects of a faith that George W. Bush has called a “religion of peace.” ~Justin Raimondo
The “more authoritarian, intolerant and illiberal aspects” of Islam? As opposed to the “more democratic, tolerant and liberal” aspects? What would those be exactly? Where would we find them? There is always the appeal to the “silent majority”–most Muslims aren’t really on board with this sort of authoritarian, intolerant and illiberal style, we are reliably told. Good people, great values, some would like us to believe. The point is not whether there are good people with great values, so to speak, among Muslims in the world today or in the past, but whether Islam works to encourage what is best in those people or if it instead drags them down. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ reply to the atheist’s comparison of the morally ugly Christian and the relatively “moral” atheist: how much worse would the Christian be if he were not Christian, and how much better would the atheist be if he were? It is a bit of a rhetorical escape, perhaps, but not without truth. Now apply the same idea to Islam: imagine how much better all those decent, upstanding Muslims we keep hearing about would be if they were not Muslims and were not required to live and believe as they do.
This is rather like hoping that most self-styled conservatives aren’t really on board with Mr. Bush’s policies. Except that they are, and keep endorsing those policies at every election and in every poll. In fact, the more conservative one considers oneself on these polls, the more often he supports Mr. Bush and the bizarre policies Mr. Bush favours. Will they continue to support the GOP as they have Mr. Bush? Maybe not, but it becomes increasingly difficult to say that “conservatives” are not the ones doing a lot of the damage to the country right now, even if we can make very powerful arguments about why they are not real conservatives. Maybe in this sense the Muslims who manifest all these “authoritarian, intolerant and illiberal” aspects of Islam really are not “real Muslims.” But, judging by this standard, there haven’t been any “real Muslims” since the beginning, except perhaps for the big losers in Islamic history, and perhaps not even among them.
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Well, this raises a delicate question. Before there was Mark Steyn, there was and remains George Will. And I think many of us in the business of opinion journalism respect his work over a long period of time. But I’m beginning to worry if he’s going Pat Buchanan on us [italics mine], Mark Steyn. Today he wrote a column blasting the idea that the authorization for the use of military force somehow authorized the president to conduct surveillance on al Qaeda. And Andrew McCarthy answered this at National Review. But it’s an absurd column by one of the elder statesmen of conservatism. What’s going on? ~Hugh Hewitt
Via Clark Stooksbury.
Here is part of George Will’s “absurd” column:
But, then, perhaps no future president will ask for such congressional involvement in the gravest decision government makes — going to war. Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges from the administration’s stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president’s inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was written to regulate wartime surveillance.
Will does a great job pointing to the myriad flaws in the administration’s argument, though he is rather late in getting around to it (the story was over two months old when Will wrote this on 2/16). Basically, what Will says is not particularly provocative or absurd. It is rather limited, actually, and only someone like Hugh Hewitt of “low-brow rabble-rousing” fame would regard it as being similar to anything Mr. Buchanan has to say. (In fact, not that the uninformed Hewitt would know this, Mr. Buchanan’s view of the President’s surveillance powers in “wartime” is unfortunately a lot closer to that of Hewitt and Steyn than to George Will.)
Will tracks down the inconsistencies in the administration position pretty quickly, points them out as inconsistencies and warns that, if the President has the power he claims to have, Congress and, well, the law are pretty much superfluous and unnecessary. At bottom, the President is not freed of his obligation as chief executive to enforce and, of necessity, respect and obey the laws just because “there is a war on.”
But Will’s warning ultimately lacks any real teeth, because he wants Congress to rubber stamp whatever Mr. Bush did to make it all neat and legal from here on out. No muss, no fuss, and definitely no crazy impeachment talk–all of that is left unsaid, but Will obviously does not want to be mistaken for someone like me. Unfortunately for him, Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn are not quite quick enough to pick up on his establishment irony.
Pardon me if I fail to see the barn-burning radicalism and Buchananesque rebellion of George Will. It is classic Will in the Bush years: talking up a tremendously serious (if George Will became any more serious, I think he would explode) criticism of some official Republican line that ultimately collapses back into partisan loyalty and full support for the administration. Yes, the President broke the law, which was wrong, but not really that wrong, because he was doing good. So let’s just tie up those legal loose ends and ignore that Mr. Bush believes he is an autocrat with unlimited power!
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On Sunday evening, January 29, 2006, the St Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel was packed during Vespers for the feast day of the Three Hierarchs, followed by the annual Fr Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture. During the service, a collective gasp was heard as a prayer was intoned for the ailing Avery Cardinal Dulles, the keynote speaker for that evening’s lecture. At the end of the service, Dr Paul Meyendorff, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, announced that the Cardinal had fallen ill earlier that day and would be unable to present his talk on “The Imperative of Orthodoxy”.
In his place, Rev Joseph T Lienhard, SJ, professor of theology at Fordham University read the cardinal’s prepared speech. A diverse and standing-room-only crowd filled the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium. The speech began with a clarification of the word, “orthodoxy” as it was used in the title. Fr Joseph read, “Orthodoxy is right praise in liturgy and right teaching; doctrine which is true, sound and concordant with the church.” Several subsections of the speech included, the value of orthodoxy, the history of orthodoxy, objections to orthodoxy and the perils of orthodoxy. He concluded with, “Orthodoxy is like a romance, full of surprises for those who explore it.” ~St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
This event came to my attention at church yesterday, and all of us who heard were rather bewildered by the idea that a Catholic cardinal would give a talk on Orthodoxy (or even “orthodoxy”) at an Orthodox theological seminary. It is, of course, unfortunate that Cardinal Dulles became ill, and I, for one, hope that he is well, but the entire episode brings to mind a question: “What were they thinking?”
Let me preface this with a few irenic points. From the little snippet in the description at the seminary website, there was nothing obviously objectionable in Cardinal Dulles’ remarks (though I daresay the seminary would hardly publicise anything that might be objectionable), and they seem profitable in much the same way that Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is mostly profitable. Second, I understand that the Orthodox do not have a monopoly on the use of the word orthodoxy, just as Catholics do not have one on the words catholic and catholicity. Third, I grant that the more serious Catholic theologians, of which Cardinal Dulles is certainly one, presumably have as much commitment to their understanding of what constitutes orthodoxy as the Orthodox have to theirs. All of that being granted, again I ask, “What were they thinking?”
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My colleagues at Enchiridion Militis are writing some excellent posts on the challenge of Islam, particularly as illuminated by the Danish cartoon controversy, and the need for reform and restoration within our own civilisation. Just to get an idea of what is going on there, here are a few examples of the work the great writers at EM are doing.
Josh Trevino covers Islam and the cartoon controversy in a couple posts, Maximos (Jeff Martin) writes on the Western impulse to tolerance and submission as an inverted, mock kenosis, Michael Dougherty makes the calls for Western solidarity and Christian cultural regeneration and Paul Cella explains why we should stand with the Europeans while taking a few much deserved shots at Mark Steyn. I recommend them all to you.
At the inaptly named American Thinker is this whiny article by one J.R. Dunn, who so completely misunderstands both Rod Dreher and Mark Gavreau Judge that taking apart his argument is almost too easy. It’s so very easy, it doesn’t even count towards ending my writer’s block. Someone who refers to the “pre-’60s paleoconservative golden age” is so badly informed (unless we are referring perhaps to the 1860s or maybe better yet the 1060s) that it is almost not fair to take him to task.
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“What we are witnessing today has little to do with Western democratic values and everything to do with a European media that reflects and plays to an increasingly xenophobic and Islamophobic society,” wrote John Esposito, who teaches Middle East studies at Georgetown University. ~Jim Lobe, Antiwar.com
I expect the likes of the Islam-enabling John Esposito to say ridiculous things like this, but I would expect more from Jim Lobe than to accept this as a serious observation. Arguably, Mr. Lobe is reporting different perspectives and not necessarily accepting any of them, but when the structure of, “Neocon says A, anyone else says B,” we can be pretty sure that Mr. Lobe intends to endorse position B. In the case of the cartoons, the neocons are accidentally right–not because they particularly care about free speech, but because their desire to invade the Near East repeatedly requires them to stoke the home fires with the right kind of rhetoric. If opposing free speech and Europeans’ way of life were a better route to encouraging more wars in the Near East, they would be the first in line.
US President George W. Bush said overnight that ending violence in Darfur will probably require double the number of peacekeepers there now, led by the United Nations with strong NATO support.
“We need more troops,” Mr Bush stressed, saying that the 7,000-strong African Union (AU) deployment there “was noble, but it didn’t achieve the objective.”
“I’m in the process now of working with a variety of folks to encourage there to be more troops, probably under the United Nations,” he said days after meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
“But it’s going to require a NATO stewardship, planning, facilitating, organizing, probably double the number of peacekeepers that are there now, in order to start bringing some sense of security,” said Mr Bush. ~The Herald-Sun
Of course, NATO has no mandate to lead peacekeeping forces in Africa or anywhere else. NATO does not exist for peacekeeping missions. NATO should no longer exist. It no longer has a purpose. The conflict in the Sudan is tragic and dreadful, but is a) not our business and b) not genocide.
Oh, look, another pretentious Bosnian War film has won a major award.
The Italian reform minister who angered Muslims by wearing a T-shirt decorated with Western media cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad has resigned.
Roberto Calderoli stepped down a day after rioting outside the Italian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi led to at least 10 deaths. ~BBC News
True to form, Berlusconi has shown us how much he values his allies in the Northern League. Let’s recap: an Italian minister engages in free speech, Libyans riot, ten people die in the rioting the Libyans started and…the Italian minister resigns. Not exactly Italy’s finest moment. I understand that Mr. Calderoli was trying to save the Liga Norda from added difficulties and sniping from their own government coalition partners, but it is preposterous that he has been held accountable for being one of the only Italian politicians to stand by his principles in a crunch.
Looking over the last few days of my blogging here, I have to apologise to my readers for the decline in my usual excess of verbiage. Normally I am never at a loss for something to say, but over the past few days I find that the usual suspects of the war, neocon baiting, attacks on the Enlightenment, belittling democracy, mocking First Things and defending the Danish cartoons are not lending themselves to much discussion. I may have to dig deep into my bag of tricks and begin discussing the merits of the scholarly usage of the term miaphysite as opposed to monophysite (yes, there is actually something of an argument over this). For your sakes, I hope my Muse returns to me soon.
Dr. Baltar: Talk wireless is just an excuse for low-brow rabble-rousing.
You’ve grown accustomed to Ross flying solo, and there’s no denying that he has been soaring majestically overhead, like a pterodactyl with a mewling kitten in its beak, wearing a sweater vest and letterman jacket and a stocking cap, all monogrammed with the letters “R” and “D.” “Republican” and “Democrat”? No. “Ross” and “Douthat,” now and forever. ~Reihan, The American Scene
What in the name of blackest reaction is going on at the Scene? I haven’t seen something this odd on a blog since I read about “flame-orcs of vice.”
Seek us out, who are perishing. O Most-holy Virgin, thou dost not punish us according to our sins, but hast mercy on us according to thy love for mankind: do thou deliver us from hell, sickness and need, and save us. ~Troparion
What might that be? Bollywood, of course. With apologies to Tertullian (to whom the original credo quia absurdum quote is often wrongfully attributed), whose preference for veiled women would not have endeared him to Bollywood, I think that statement just about sums up my attitude towards Bollywood. There are very few Bollywood movies that can be taken more or less seriously. Among these I would count Lagaan (which was nominated for Best Foreign Film), the original Pyaasa and the classic Mughal-e-Azam, which is as pretentious and over the top as the great Cecil B. DeMille films, albeit nowhere near as compelling.
Most of the so-called masala genre are perfectly predictable love stories with carbon-copy dialogue (oh, that’s right, I could be describing Hollywood movies just as easily). The difference between the schlock Hollywood churns out in the romantic comedy genre and the average Bollywood film is that the latter is a lot cheaper, the acting is about the same quality and there is song and dance enough to make you forget how bad the plot you’re watching really is. Some of the songs are quite good (provided you like either traditional folk rhythms, as I do, or Asian disco-pop).
Rani, Mera Dil Ki Rani
The artifice, arbitrariness, predictability and often complete irrelevance of the dance scenes allow for a movie experience that is as fun as it is ridiculous. The genius of Bollywood is that it rarely pretends that film is this terribly serious medium for delivering important social messages. The Bollywood movies that make the mistake of trying to be “about” something are either ludicrously chauvinistic nationalist agitprop pieces or ludicrously secularist (in the Indian sense) agitprop exhorting us all to get along and be friends.
The great, or at least memorable, films of recent years, such as the ever-popular Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the more modern hit Dil Chahta Hai and the budget-busting period piece, Devdas (mostly memorable for Madhuri Dixit’s enchanting performance), are the ones to go for if you have three or four hours to kill and have no desire to watch anything that pretends to be serious social commentary. Paheli, starring the lovely Rani Mukherjee (above), is this sort of movie. Bollywood is extravagant, entertaining fluff that knows that it’s fluff, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I was going over St. Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Church for the homeschool church history class I teach to some Orthodox youths, St. Cyprian’s use of the passage about Christ’s seamless garment, for which the soldiers cast lots at the Crucifixion, struck me in a surprising way.
St. Cyprian: Do not rend the garment of Christ
Here, I thought, is a reference to the “seamless garment” in its proper theological and specifically ecclesiological context, as St. Cyprian compares schismatics to those who would not only cast lots for His garment, but actually rend the garment they have received:
This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ’s garment, who should rather put on Christ. Holy Scripture speaks, saying, “But of the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be.” That coat bore with it an unity that came down from the top, that is, that came from heaven and the Father, which was not to be at all rent by the receiver and the possessor, but without separation we obtain a whole and substantial entireness. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ. On the other hand, again, when at Solomon’s death his kingdom and people were divided, Abijah the prophet, meeting Jeroboam the king in the field, divided his garment into twelve sections, saying, “Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten sceptres unto thee; and two sceptres shall be unto him for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to place my name there.” As the twelve tribes of Israel were divided, the prophet Abijah rent his garment. But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, His robe, woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who possess it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church.
It then occurred to me that the conventional, almost entirely political usage of this phrase nowadays was shockingly inappropriate, not to mention the product of rather confused exegesis. Though this sort of usage began among the religious supporters of the political left as a way for them to claim to be comprehensively pro-life (and thus to make supporting abortion rights more palatable for religious Democrats) because their policies allegedly defended the sanctity of life more thoroughly and more often, the “seamless garment” rhetoric on matters of human life has overtaken people across the spectrum, some of whom embrace the logic of the argument and some of whom reject it, to the point where I sometimes wonder whether the people using the phrase can entirely recall where it comes from. On the other side, supporters of the death penalty might make and have made clever arguments about “rending the seamless garment” in a way that makes the rending desirable.
But it seems clear to me now that using the language in this way is confusing at best and probably alien to the mind of the Church. Rending that garment is never desirable, because that garment is a symbol of the Church. Thinking of the garment as a metaphor for an abstract principle of life is hardly any better, when the significance of its seamlessness is not the arrangement of policies or the consistent maintenance of a “principle,” but a representation of unity in Christ.
Here is a brief summary of the life of St. George.
To live without speaking is better than to speak without living. For the former who lives rightly does good even by his silence, but the latter does no good even when he speaks. When words and life correspond to one another they are together the whole of divine philosophy. ~St. Isidore of Pelusium
O God of our Fathers,
Take not away Your mercy from us
But ever act towards us according to Your kindness,
And by the prayers of Your Saints
Guide our lives in peace. ~Troparion
The church has found you to be a new morning star, O glorious Isidore,
Enlightening it with the clarity of your teaching.
It cries out to you:
Rejoice, O Isidore, most blessed,
From the height of your spiritual wisdom! ~Kontakion
Today on the Orthodox Old Calendar, February 3/16, the day when we commemorate St. Symeon and St. Anna the Prophetess, also happens to be the day when the Orthodox Church commemorates the Enlightener of Denmark and Sweden, St. Ansgar. May his memory be eternal!
Ever moved by love for God and man, O Ansgar, like the apostles thou didst journey afar to bring salvation to the benighted, offering up thine afflictions upon the altar of thy heart, in thy toils and distress bearing witness unto thy Saviour like a martyr, enduring perils on land and at sea for His sake, undaunted by temptations and tribulations. Wherefore, pray with boldness, that our souls be saved. ~Troparion to St. Ansgar
Not satisfied with being a curmudgeon and reactionary here at Eunomia, I am now writing at another blog as well. The blog is Enchiridion Militis, whose founder, Josh Trevino, graciously invited me to join their hardy band of defenders of the West and Christian civilisation. Go read my unusually optimistic post there, which cites some important lessons from Byzantine history for the defense of our civilisation now.
…but Nikephoros Phokas pushed Islam back
Kelly Jane Torrance reviews Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons at The American Enterprise. She gives a generally positive assessment, though no review would be complete without at least one shot across the bow:
There are some policy prescriptions, however, and most of them involve bigger government. His frequent rants against modern agriculture ignore how many people those methods have fed. He also advises, “Use government, within limits, to look after the poor and the weak without creating a culture of dependency.” Politicians and social scientists have been trying to devise such programs—without success—for decades now. Dreher’s earnestness sometimes gets the better of him. Perhaps his happy medium between a free market and a cohesive but overpowering society tilts too much in one direction at times. He’s learned a lot from Russell Kirk. But he may have forgotten some of the lessons of Milton Friedman.
We also choose to ignore the fact that not all terrorists even claim to be Muslim - there are many Hindu, Jewish, Atheist, and yes, even Christian terrorists. ~Mephistophocles
Via A.C. Kleinheider.
I suppose there might be some of each out there (mostly atheists of one variant of communist guerrilla band or other, be it in Colombia, Peru or Nepal), but where this “there are terrorists of every kind” argument always breaks down is when it comes to the differences between the different sorts of terrorists. There may be terrorists who are Hindus, Jews and Christians, but it is far more rare to find terrorists who are committed to engaging in terrorist activities as part and parcel of their religious duty or define their activities in terms of their religion. To say “there are many” of these other kinds of terrorists, especially when referring to Hindus, Jews and Christians, doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny.
Proponents of Hindutva are charged by their enemies with fomenting sectarian violence that takes the form of anti-Muslim riots (such as occurred in Gujarat after a deadly attack on a train of Hindu pilgrims), but they do not go around shooting up government buildings, detonating bombs, taking hostages or doing any of those things that terrorists do. Say what you will about them, but they are not terrorists, and yet they are the best example of specifically Hindu religious extremism around. There are myriad ethnic and tribal resistance movements inside India, many of whose members are presumably conventionally Hindu, but their Hindutva, so to speak, has nothing to do with why they are fighting central and state governments.
Yes, Tamil Tigers are terrorists, they are Hindus and they were the ones to bring us the suicide bomber, but unlike Islamic terrorists they conceive of their struggle in principally, perhaps entirely, ethnic and nationalist terms. Islamists may latch onto ethnic and nationalist grievances and even adopt some of the rhetoric of the nationalist (as Hamas and Hizbullah do), but their principal identity and ultimate justification is found in their understanding of their religion, which, it might be noted, lends itself to their kind of interpretation.
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This blog is usually political, cultural and religious in its focus, and scholarly and professional questions usually come up only tangentially. But there is an interesting shift in some of the thinking about Rome and late antiquity that is taking place that should be of more general interest and merits a few comments.
Just from the brief summaries of two new books on late Roman history that have come out recently, I sense that the scholarship is turning back to the model of decline and fall that late antique historians, especially cultural historians, have worked so strenuously to put in the background. Part of this was surely necessary, as the claim that Roman cities underwent “change” but not “decline” was simply a way of avoiding taking the real structural, physical and economic changes in account. It was also a way of protecting late antiquity against the charges of being a derivative and inferior age, charges from which it (and Byzantium along with it) has only just recently begun to escape.
With the increasing prominence of archaeology in general studies of late antique history, it has become much harder to ignore the physical shrinking of the Roman city and a fundamental transformation in its character. Prof. Liebeschuetz in The Decline and Fall of the Roman City sets forth the archaeological evidence that shows this very convincingly.
It is very right to recognise that the breakdown of the curial classes was part and parcel of the creation of the new Byzantine state and its Christianised society (as the exemptions granted to curiales for work in the civil service, clery and Constantinopolitan senatorial aristocracy sucked the lifeblood from traditional Roman urbanism, or, to put it less dramatically, transferred these resources to other goods), but to do this one has to take account of the real consequences this had for the cities, and these consequences were, at a structural level, largely negative.
If later Roman historians are now demolishing this and other aspects of the rhetoric of “transformation” in late antique history, answering Piganiol’s question about the death of Rome (assassination or natural causes?) with a definite, if not quite so blunt, “assassination” verdict (which, as far as the west was concerned, Jones had accepted long ago), it bears remembering why the rhetoric of “transformation” seemed compelling for many scholars over the last 40 years.
There were two good reasons why late antique historians took this approach. First, there was a real need to shore up the idea of the period from roughly 395-600 (or 284-717 or 306-622–the boundaries are always a bit fuzzy) as something other than its conventional, dismissive association with the idea of a general “Dark Ages” bequeathed to us by classicists and liberal historians for whom the collapse of empire and the consequent birth of Christendom were the great calamities of ancient history. Second, on a related point, inherent in modern classicism and the liberal slant given to it by Gibbon and others who shared his prejudice against Christianity is the conviction that not only did political institutions and economic life decline in this period, but also that late antique culture was basically inferior in every respect that mattered to classicists: the literature was worse, because there was less secular literature and reams of theological and hagiographical writing, and the religion supposedly less reasonable and more fanatical almost by definition. Changes of meaning were viewed through the same lens of decline, which implicitly devalued and belittled the cultural achievements of the Christian empire.
These judgements could not stand and, happily, have been fading for decades, almost certain never to return in their older, cruder forms. Unfortunately, in the enthusiasm to rehabilitate this period and its cultural transformation as things to be studied in their own right, and not viewed distastefully from the Olympian heights of the classical ideal, late antique historians overreached and rejected even thinking in terms of decline, because of the unfortunate legacy of that idea in the historiography. This has opened them up very easily to the powerful criticisms that Profs. Heather and Ward-Perkins are probably making, though I will have to wait to judge on just how powerful they are until I see them.
Many people justify buying the latest household machine as a way to save time, but family life seems as rushed as ever. Judging by how Americans spend their money—on shelter magazines and kitchen gadgets and home furnishings—domesticity appears in robust health. Judging by the way Americans actually live, however, domesticity is in precipitous decline. Families sit together for meals much less often than they once did, and many homes exist in a state of near-chaos as working parents try to balance child-rearing, chores, long commutes, and work responsibilities. As Cheryl Mendelson, author of a recent book on housekeeping, observes, “Comfort and engagement at home have diminished to the point that even simple cleanliness and decent meals—let alone any deeper satisfactions—are no longer taken for granted in many middle-class homes.” Better domestic technologies have surely not produced a new age of domestic bliss.
Ironically, this decline in domestic competence comes at a time of great enthusiasm for “retro” appliances and other objects that evoke experiences that many Americans rarely have. We seem to value our domestic gadgets more and more even as we value domesticity less and less. Wealthy Americans can purchase an expensive, “old-fashioned” cast-iron Aga stove, but they cannot buy the experience it is intended to conjure: a cozy kitchen filled with the scents and signs of a person devoted to the domestic satisfaction of those who share a home. And middle-class Americans can buy machines that aim to make their domestic chores more pleasurable or efficient, but the ideal of transforming domestic labor into a “lifestyle” is a fantasy. The machines promise to restore peace and comfort to domestic life, but such nostalgia (whose literal meaning is “homesickness”) is not a recipe for domestic happiness. ~Christine Rosen, The New Atlantis
Ms. Rosen’s article touches on Rod Dreher’s piece in the 2/27 TAC, where he discusses the disconnect between people with conservative ideals living this way of life that directly contradicts what they claim to hold dear. Just in time for the release of Crunchy Cons next week.
And the anti-American right, or at least Patrick Buchanan, has perfectly revealed himself; he doesn’t believe in defending America and the West, he believes in surrendering to and appeasing Muslims at all costs. ~Lawrence Auster
Auster often makes basically good observations that he then manages to ruin through either his monomania about Islam or his gift for hyperbole (coming from me, that is really saying something). As I have written a couple times, Mr. Buchanan’s reaction to the cartoon controversy has been puzzling and, frankly, disappointing, but I am not so daft as to forget the decades of yeoman-like work Mr. Buchanan has put in on behalf of the defense of the West and Christian conservatives in this country. Indeed, one would have to be tremendously ungrateful and obnoxious to disregard an entire life’s work to this effect because of two columns that have gone awry.
It is one thing to say that Mr. Buchanan has missed something crucial in the cartoon debate, and that his reaction seems to contradict some other central ideas in his conservatism, and quite another to accuse him in ludicrously Frum-like fashion of being anti-American and an “appeaser” of Islam. This is simply insulting and clownish. No sensible person could accuse Mr. Buchanan of appeasing Islam, when his magazine’s forthcoming cover suggests that, as far as the American interest is concerned, Muslims in the Near East and elsewhere should probably not be allowed or encouraged to vote. TAC does not generally trot out the shopworn rhetoric that only “extremist” Muslims are the problem with the Islamic world, nor does it entertain notions that we have any common ground with Islamists. If you want “appeasers,” if you really want to drag out that tired, worthless and now largely meaningless holdover from the 1930s into this debate, I believe Rich “Give Sistani a Nobel Prize” Lowry has a better shot at it than Mr. Buchanan ever would.
Posing serious objections to what we regard as mistakes is what intelligent political writers and critics do. Throwing around labels of “anti-American” and “appeaser” is the practise of hacks and goon squads. Now we know, if we didn’t already, which one Auster is.
Citing my surprisingly popular post on the lack of much potential for Christian conservative “common ground” with Muslims, Michael Brendan Dougherty has a post at Enchiridion Militis, one of his many waystations, that includes an interesting use of historical analogy to put contemporary Europeans’ secularism and decadence in a proper perspective:
[H]istory is full of examples of decadent eras that were transformed into ages of piety. Late Antiquity was decadent and then bloomed an age of Faith. The depraved Renaissance popes were succeeded by the Popes of the Counter-Reformation. Regency England was followed by the Victorian era. But where Islam replaces Christianity there is no example of a people reverting to Christianity. The great Churches of North Africa never returned. The Ottoman Empire was erected on the corpse of formerly Christian lands. The lands that make up modern Spain were not re-converted in 1492 but rather reconquered by Christians. The pagans were baptized. And many decadent men of the last two centuries converted on their deathbed. Today’s modern pagans and decadents may do the same.
Whether or not one agrees with every analogy of decadence and renewal, the lesson is that there is always a chance for repentance as long as there is life. Surely it is not good for the prodigal to join a militant cult that practices a kind of “clean living,” even if he were to better himself a little in the process, as the cult ultimately dooms his soul and his hope of perfection by grace.
This also points to the need for mission. The pagans were not baptised because they all came rushing to the river to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, but because holy men, monks and bishops ministered to them in circumstances a good deal more trying than modern Paris. Likewise the reconquista probably seemed like a fool’s errand circa A.D. 800, and the prospects had not improved all that much three hundred years later. To retake Europe from its spiritual barbarians will take generations, just as it took generations to Christianise the barbarians the first time.
St. Symeon beholds his Lord and God, Jesus Christ
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. ~Luke 2: 22-38
Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, for from thee hath risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those in darkness. Rejoice, thou also, O righteous Elder, as thou receivest in thine arms the Redeemer of our souls, Who also granteth unto us the Resurrection. ~Festal Troparion
Tomorrow, February 2/15, is the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple. During the reading of the Hours we often hear this phrase that St. Symeon speaks: “A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” There are few single sentences in Scripture that embody Christ’s salvific mission as well as this one.
Slava Tebye, Gospodi, slava Tebye! Charite, kecharitomene, O Panagia Theotokos!
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Later, Fenerbahce fans unfurled a giant banner with the picture of Sultan Mehmet the Conquerer, the Ottoman ruler who captured Istanbul in 1453, ending the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Empire, which ruled from the city for centuries.
“Since 1453, Istanbul,” the banner read. ~BBC News
Via Enchiridion Militis.
Nobody’s business but the Turks’?
I wasn’t expecting Turkish football hooligans to know their own history, but this display of ignorance does merit a couple remarks. Colloquially, the city of Constantinople was known in Greek simply as The City (Hi Polis), and Istanbul, so one story goes, was the Turkicised version of the simple directions “to the City,” which was “eis tin Polin.” Through a few changes in pronunciation, you can see how it might have become Istanbul. But Konstantiniye or Konstantinoupolis continued to be used until Ataturk had it officially changed to mark a break with the Ottoman and all other non-republican pasts. Pre-republican sources in any language would have referred to it as Constantinople (or some version thereof), which has been its proper name for the better part of 1600 years (with Byzantion a distant second at around 900). For what it’s worth, Polis remains the colloquial name for the city in Armenian to this day.
This seems worth mentioning not only to point up the ignorance of the Turkish fans on this point, but also to remind us that Constantinople was one of our cities for a lot longer than it has been one of theirs and Anatolia was “our East” (hence the name), to borrow a Greek slogan, for far longer than it has been theirs.
Update: Take a look at Josh Trevino’s comments on Turkish entry into the EU at Enchiridion Militis.
Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, who gained popularity for his staunch criticism of President Bush, has dropped out of the Democratic race for U.S. Senate in Ohio, according to a published report.
Hackett told The New York Times for Tuesday’s editions that the same party leaders who urged him to run for Senate after his political debut in a House race last year had turned on him.
“This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me,” Hackett said. ~The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
As the 2/27 issue of TAC reports, Hackett apparently got into this fix with the Ohio Democrats because he made very clear, very public statements strongly opposing illegal immigration because, well, it’s illegal (that crazy kid!). Don’t let the P-I story fool you–Brown’s decision to enter likely had a great deal to do with the Dems not wanting a restrictionist on their ticket. When Hackett says “people like me,” I wager that is what he is referring to.
I mean, that sort of thing might even make them competitive in Ohio, and that would be unacceptable. With decisions like this one, the Dems certainly will be the party of electoral defeat (again). This is a real shame, as a veteran and serious opponent of the war and illegal immigration running on the Democratic ticket might be enough to scare some life and integrity into the Ohio GOP and put up a serious conservative candidate. Okay, sorry, I was getting carried away there. DeWine is the uninspiring incumbemt, and regardless let’s remember that this is the Ohio GOP we’re talking about. The people of Ohio have lost out here.
Bishop Artemije will not give up, even if the times appear desperate. His diminutive frame conceals a fighter unused to admitting defeat. In the final years of the Milosevic regime Bishop Artemije was accused of “treason” and had no access to government-controlled media because of his opposition to violence and condemnation of any crime, regardless of the culprit’s ethnicity. This earned him no friends across Kosovo’s ethnic divide, however. After the KLA took over the province under NATO’s occupation in June 1999 and started blowing up Serbian churches and monasteries by the dozen, his life was in danger. Since then he has emerged willy-nilly as a political figure, although politics for him “has never been an ambition but a necessity” in order to save what can be saved of his people’s lives and lands.
Bishop Artemije is an accomplished master of rhetoric but on this occasion his tone is somber. The “final status talks” in Vienna, he suspects, may lead to the creation of yet another Muslim state in Europe. Since 9-11, he says, “the United States has been engaged in a global struggle against jihad terrorism, which threatens not just America but peaceful people of all faiths and nationalities. That is why we who live in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija find it difficult to understand why so many voices of influence in Washington support a course of action that would hand to the terrorists a significant victory in Europe.” ~Srdja Trifkovic
But, unless there are drastic changes in U.S. policy, Kosovo will be abandoned to Islamists and Albanian nationalists, and the Christians will retreat before the Muslim advance in Europe yet again.
Well, I must say I haven’t snapped as quick as Mr. Larison. I am constantly amazed by the visceral dislike that most on the Right have for fundamentalist Islam. Sure, a lot of it is about the acts of terror that have been done in its name but it seems to go beyond that. Why, is my question?
Why do good salt of the earth red-staters have such animus for these people? To me, it seems that one would see the similarities, rather than the differences, here. The terrorists are wicked fiends, of course, but your average Muslim strikes me as a man of faith and a man who takes his heritage, both ethnic and spiritual, seriously. These are people who try to live simply and by a code. They despise secularism and atheism and the chaos such ideas (or lack thereof) bring. Why do we hate them? ~A.C. Kleinheider
Hate seems like a blunt way to describe the attitude towards Muslims themselves. If I were asked why I vehemently reject and oppose the influence of Islam and the immigration of Muslims into Western countries, which is what the cartoon controversy in particular centers on, it would be fairly simple. Their piety is not ours, their tradition is not ours, and what counts for virtue among them is sometimes either of dubious value or is plainly vicious by the lights of our Faith. At bottom, Muslims are generally remarkable as the most hostile and destructive heretics the Faith has ever encountered. They are rather like militant Arians, and they tell falsehoods about Christ God and have routinely persecuted those who confess Him. I can understand why Muslims resent those who mock their “prophet.” How much more, then, should I resent and oppose those who mock and deny Christ’s Divinity? A few cartoons have dishonoured their prophet–their entire religion specifically mocks our God. Is that not enough reason to find so little “common ground”?
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It was a central aspiration of the Enlightenment, an aspiration the formulation of which was itself a great achievement, to provide for debate in the public realm standards and methods of rational justification by which alternative courses of action in every sphere of life could be adjudged just or unjust, rational or irrational, enlightened or unenlightened. So, ti was hoped, reason would displace authority and tradition. Rational justification was to appeal to principles undeniable by any rational person and therefore independent of all those social and cultural particularities which the Enlightenment thinkers took to be the mere accidental clothing of reason in particular times and places. And that rational justification could be nothing other than what the thinkers of the Enlightenment had said that it was came to be accepted, at least the vast majority of educated people, in post-Enlightenment cultural and social orders.
Yet it is of first importance to remember that the project of founding a form of social order in which individuals could emancipate themselves from the contingency and particularity of tradition by appealing to genuinely universal, tradition-independent norms was and is not only, and not principally, a project of philosophers. It was and is the project of modern, liberal, individualist society, and the most cogent reasons that we have for believing that the hope of a tradition-indepdendent rational universality is an illusion derive the history of that project.~Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? [italics above mine]
MacIntyre’s body blows to Enlightenment thought are well known, and I won’t pretend that I can indict the incoherence of that thought better than he already has. I remain an enthusiastic amateur in these matters, of course, but if MacIntyre’s characterisations are right I do take some consolation that my earlier descriptions of Enlightenment ideas on morality were not nearly as superficial as some had claimed.
Chris Roach has an interesting post that asks where all the libertarians have gone to when it comes to talking about the cartoon row:
But the overall sense from the left and libertarian side of the blogosphere is that this is a natural and perhaps forgivable response to an intentional offense. Or it is simply not very interesting.
Mr. Roach is mostly correct. The LRC Blog is empty of any mention of it, and except for a couple of prominent articles at Antiwar and you would get the sense that paleolibertarians have no views on the matter one way or the other. (I bet we could make pretty accurate guesses as to what their views would be.) For their part, some of the folks at Reason and their blog, Hit and Run, have been following the controversy pretty closely. Here is one recent post by Tim Cavanaugh. Whether the libertarians are capable of developing a response more elaborate than “free speech is good” remains to be seen.
The only alternative to the gentle courtesy of surrender is a reassertion of Christianity as the religion of the West, but such a revival is hardly likely in France or the U.S. and even less likely in Scandinavia, where Christianity came under attack before it had actually had time to bite deep into the Nordic soul. Liberalism, which is defined as a self-undermining philosophical posture, is only a transitional phase between Christianity and something else, and it is beginning to look as if that something else will be Islam. My advice to the Danes is to learn to live with it and make the best deal they can. Better to be Muslims than what they are. ~Thomas Fleming
Dr. Fleming is right that the only alternative that will, in the long view, halt the gradual Islamic transformation of Europe is a revival of Christianity. As we are discovering in the mixed, confused response of many Westerners to the controversy, liberal “values” and the right to mock are hardly the stuff of a substantial, living tradition, and he is right to remind us that these things are the weapons by which Christian civilisation has been sapped and undermined from the inside.
But surely one of the causes of great problems that the Europeans have brought on themselves is the attempt to make a deal with Muslim immigrants on the terms of the latter. Can we really say that it is better for Europeans, confused, decadent and deracinated as most of them assuredly are, to succumb and make their deals with the Muslims? We know that any such deal will be a bad one. Why would we in any way encourage the Danes to yield at the moment when some of them are just beginning to recover at least some desire to protect their nation and their way of life? Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a far cry from being a new Don John (and in his reflexive support for Mr. Bush he has shown himself to be capable of very bad judgement indeed), but he and his must be preferrable to Ali Pasha and his cohorts.
I don’t pretend that the liberal way of life is the way of life that they or we ideally ought to have, nor I do claim that liberal Europe will not ultimately fail if things continue to go as they have been going, but as long as the Crescent does not rule in Elsinore, so to speak, there will always remain a chance, however slight, for a revival of the old Faith. When the Crescent rules in Denmark, and in Europe generally, we know that this will mean the final death blow for Christianity there for centuries to come, perhaps forever, just as it did historically in North Africa and much of Anatolia and the Near East.
A story from the seventh century tells us that the monophysites rejoiced at the lifting of the Chalcedonian yoke when the Zoroastrian Persians invaded and successfully drove the Byzantines all the way back to Constantinople. For the monophysites, their vindication was obvious: God had struck down the arrogant and heretical Chalcedonians, and they, the real orthodox Christians, would be the privileged Christian confession. The monophysite patriarch of Antioch, Athanasios the Camel-driver, was reported to have said: “The entire world rejoices in peace and love, for the Chalcedonian night has passed away.” Athanasios was wrong about the peace and love.
The Persian occupation was reportedly brutal and devastating and intensely anti-Christian in character, including the sack of Jerusalem and the plundering of her relics, including the True Cross. The victory of the infidel was universally lamented throughout the Christian world. Athanasios’ rejoicing in the fall of his confessional enemies was extremely short-sighted.
Later, when the Muslims crashed in on the weakened Byzantine world, most monophysite Christians were horrified at the ruin of their empire, having been acquainted with the “liberation” of the infidel once already and finding the repeat experience no better. We do not know what Athanasios, who was still alive during the first invasions, would have made of the new “liberators,” but it is noteworthy that monophysite chronicles generally report the horror of the inhabitants at the arrival of Islam.
Once it became clear that there would be no successful Roman counterattacks, these Christians made their deals with the Muslims out of necessity, and would have undoubtedly preferred not to have to make those deals. Because of their deals, they gradually dwindled and disappeared from large parts of Syria and Egypt where they used to be the overwhelming majority. They were free of Chalcedon at last, and most of them and their descendants ended up praying towards Mecca.
The alternative to the admittedly crass, incoherent and often appalling liberal order is a future Islamic Europe. The future can be much worse than the present state of affairs, however much we may rightly object to how things are now. Historically, societies do not usually recover from being overtaken by Islam. Once they go under, unless something is done to resist the tide, they almost always remain under the green banners, and this is not a desirable end for any person. “Better to be Muslims than what they are”? Better to be dead than green, I should think.
Notice the similarity between the position of the Christian and moralist conservatives as discussed above, and that of the left. Like the Christian “conservatives,” the left also believes in celebrating the Other and lashing ourselves. Both sides believe that America is woefully flawed as it is, and both sides believe that the way to fix America is to hand it over to non-Westerners. ~Lawrence Auster
Of course, Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett represent Christian and “moralist” conservatives about as well as Bill Clinton represents the monks of Mt. Athos. If they are conventionally considered as exemplars of conservatism (as far as I know, Kemp’s main qualification is that he likes lower taxes), this is a problem with conventional ideas of what passes for conservative or being on “the right.” Bennett may hold forth and bloviate about “virtue,” but the Kristols like to talk about virtue, too, and every neocon and his brother invokes some vacuous “morality” in which the first, second, third and fourth commandments are, “Ye shall make war and not appease.” By their fruits shall ye know them and by their sympathies with the reheated leftism of the neocons shall ye understand them. Most every serious Christian conservative and moralist who comes to mind regards mass immigration as a grave problem and a serious danger to this country.
A decade after Appomattox, faced with a situation similar to ours in Iraq — a society half-reshaped and restive, a low-level insurgency, a mounting financial cost — the North elected to abandon Reconstruction, return power to the defeated slaveholders, and forsake the people it had fought a war to free. For a long time they were praised for it by pro-Southern historiographers who saw Reconstruction the way the Left sees the Iraqi occupation, as an overzealous attempt to impose a way of life by force on an unwilling culture. Later it was pointed out that Reconstruction was hardly worse than the apartheid that came after and that perhaps the North should have stayed longer and done more to root out the pathologies of the conquered South. ~Ross Douthat, RealClearPolitics.com
Hat tip to Michael Brendan Dougherty.
The language of Sozialtechnik and the therapeutic state drips from Mr. Douthat’s review of Harry Stout’s Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War. Thus pre-war Iraqi society was “dysfunctional” and the post-bellum South still suffered from “pathologies” that, in hindsight, might ought to have been “rooted out” by far-seeing Yankee do-gooders. By Mr. Douthat’s reckoning, atrocities seem to be the inevitable (a word that comes up frequently in Mr. Douthat’s column) product of idealistic wars for high-minded (and abstract) goals. Why this does not lead him to conclude that these sorts of wars are inherently flawed and wrong does puzzle me.
Societies do not really have pathologies, though many of us have become accustomed to this sort of language being thrown around in discussing social conflicts. What are the “pathologies” of the South? Perhaps it is the South’s “failure” to embody the principle of equality bandied about (but not necessarily practised) by zealous Yankees? But, even by the standards of an advocate of the therapeutic state, the South can only be held to have such a pathology if there is something actually abnormal and diseased about such a society, which is to let Reconstruction rhetoric establish the bounds of what is normal and healthy. This is a pretty dubious premise. Thus military occupation and the tyrannical disenfranchisement of men who dared to act on commitment to principles of self-government are the vehicles of moral authority and represent only the beginning of the mass psychological “cure” that Mr. Douthat plainly believes Southerners needed. More drastic and permanent measures were apparently required to “root out” what was wrong with the Southerners. Generally conservatives leave this sort of rhetoric of uprooting growth and the excision of social tumours to revolutionaries who have few scruples about the human and moral costs of this kind of political therapy.
Just war theory does not exist, as he claims, to “ease the tensions between Christian ethics and the nature of warfare,” but to draw bright, clear lines beyond which Christians cannot conscientiously go in their support for wars that do not meet the exacting standards of the theory. On the other hand, George Weigel and his colleagues, for example, are very good at “easing the tensions” between Christian ethics and the nature of warfare–they have eased them so much that the requirements of the former disappear almost entirely.
It is one of the great errors of many modern Christians, many of them self-styled conservatives, that they seem to regard just war theory as a kind of fortunate loophole, a way of allowing them to support war just like a ‘normal’ person would without having too many reservations about it. Without the proper elaboration of just war theory, there would not be “tensions” between Christian ethics and warfare, but fierce and outright opposition to Christian participation in war in general. Just war theory enhances, indeed creates, the tensions between our normal obligations as Christians to justice and charity and our contingent, proper obligations to our secular authorities and the claims of justice and charity in particular cases as they relate to the good of our commonwealth. When these two sets of claims do not fundamentally conflict (as they certainly would do in the case of, say, an unprovoked war of aggression waged for someone’s notion of “noble ideals”), Christians can and ought to recognise the justice of a particular cause and come to its aid.
Conservatives rage in rebuttal that Islamic nations tolerate cartoons, books, billboards and TV shows far more anti-Semitic and anti-Christian than these cartoons were anti-Islamic.
All of which is true, and none of which is relevant. For this is not a debate over double standards. It is a battle for the hearts and minds of Islamic peoples. And if we are to have any hope of winning that battle, we cannot condone insults to what they hold most sacred and dear: their faith. ~Pat Buchanan
I suppose the argument that Islamic newspapers routinely engage in publishing demeaning, provocative and genuinely far more spiteful images of Jews and Christians is not strictly relevant to the question of the Danish cartoons, because it would have been right to print and defend the printing of the Danish cartoons regardless of what images Muslims put in their newspapers. Their newspapers could (but are not going to) stop printing what are pretty obviously anti-Semitic and hateful cartoons tomorrow, and this would not make their threats of violence and demands for censorship of a European newspaper (that printed moderately satirical cartoons) any more acceptable, nor would it relieve us of our obligation to stand with the Danes and all those who republished the cartoons.
Maybe in this case, for me, it is something as elemental as what Dr. Fleming has called “the call of the blood,” and so I would be identifying out of a distant ethnic loyalty with my Danish cousins regardless of the principle at stake. Maybe, maybe not. But there also happens to be a rather important principle at stake, and I think Mr. Buchanan would have the same view of this principle if, if I may be so blunt, instead of Muslims protesting Danish cartoons of Muhammad there were Mexicans protesting the satirical depiction of one of their national heroes in an American newspaper by reacting with intimidation, threats and perhaps burning down a consulate in Acapulco. Would we want to accommodate and understand their grievances, or defend American rights? We could chide the cartoonists for being crude and the editors for being thoughtless of the larger consequences of their publishing such things, but in the final analysis we either side with the people who most share our way of life or we abandon them. In reading Camp of the Saints, you can sympathise with the handful of holdouts who resist what Raspail called “the Beast,” or you sympathise with the government that capitulates to it.
If the satire of Muhammad is even more offensive to Muslims than would be the case the Mexican example, their response is even more intolerable because it arises not simply from one provocation or a few inflammatory incidents, as might be the case in comparable controversies, but from a fundamental rejection of the idea that it is permissible in a free society for non-Muslims to satirically depict someone whom they do not regard as a prophet and may, in fact, regard as something closer to a war criminal. The shoving of alien values down somebody’s throat usually causes resentment in the people on the receiving end, and if we recognise our own way of life in that of the Europeans at all it seems to me that we ought to resent it as well.
Tradition must become inheritable, or always-already inherited, to be wholly itself. It must become a gift of givenness, given to the point of being so formative it is ineradicable even from minds that turn against it. It must be so given that it is liable to be taken for granted, in need of rethinking and renewal–but without schism and interminable question-filled ‘conversations.’ ~Fr. Jape, The Japery
Mark Noll, in an interview for IgnatiusInsight.com regarding his book Is the Reformation Over? noted that he and his co-author did not realize that different teachings (or the lack thereof) regarding the nature of the church define the really critical difference between Evangelicals and Catholics (and the Orthodox and most confessional Protestantism) until they’d been working on their book for a year and a half–and after thirty years of teaching a lot of Catholic history. This is worth further attention later, but in the mean-time, see what ex-evangelical Orthodox blogger Daniel Larison has suggested as an explanation of this evangelical blind-spot. ~Fr. Jape, The Japery
I recommend Fr. Jape’s post to anyone interested in ecclesiology and evangelicalism, but I would like to make a correction about this identification of me as an “ex-evangelical.” That simply isn’t the case, and actually gives me too much credit as an authority on evangelicalism, but I suppose I can see why it might have seemed to be true (I did say relatively positive things about Wheaton College, after all, concerning their firing of Prof. Hochschild).
It is probably not always easy to determine just what my religious background was before I became Orthodox from what I write here on Eunomia, so I should clarify things. Both sides of my family are almost entirely Protestant, mostly in what are now considered the “mainline” denominations of Methodist and Presbyterian, and both of my parents were Protestants, but came from different denominations and could not determine how I should be raised, which meant by default that I was raised with virtually no understanding of Christianity whatever.
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The New World is the best movie of the year. ~Ross Douthat
On the other hand, he might also regret saying something as genuinely silly as this:
Malick has made a movie about the past that both takes the actual events seriously and raises them to the level of myth, or parable, and a movie about a cultural encounter that dares to embrace both cultures, to mourn the doom of one while celebrating both.
Except that the “cultural encounter” itself is a myth in its completely fictional rendering of John Smith and his relationship with the teenaged Pocahontas, and most of the “actual events” evidently fell by the wayside, except perhaps for the arrival of the English.
Kelly Jane Torrance points out the truly weird Post breakdown of the Alito confirmation vote by astrological sign. Most of the Libras (including New Mexico’s own Jeff Bingaman) were against him. We Capricorns were almost split down the middle, but just managed a majority in favour, while the Virgos were overwhelmingly supportive. Bear that in mind the next time you go to vote.
Evangelical Protestantism, especially in the US, was/is really only able to thrive in an a-historical environment, in sort of the mystical, Wesleyan, pentecostal model. When you just have Scripture and Holy Spirit, you can be very independent and thumb your nose at the Catholic Church. Learning Church History changes that.
Via The Japery.
Ms. Welborn’s impression is an interesting one. However, my admittedly anecdotal experience suggests otherwise, at least when it comes to Protestantism and Orthodoxy. It is difficult to impress on a fellow Orthodox Christian, including the converts from Protestant churches (and there are more than a few such converts at my own parish), just how unconcerned many evangelicals are with church history as a source of authoritative or normative truth about Christianity. Anything in the post-Apostolic period is simply irrelevant. Protestants raised to rely solely on Scripture do not begin doubting this principle when they are confronted with the certain truth that all Christian exegetes since before Origen have relied on an authoritative Church Tradition–they are simply convinced, in my experience, that this proves that all of those exegetes are unreliable and are capable of distorting the meaning of Scripture. The best that can be said of the Tradition is that it does not contradict Scripture, and the worst that it is all just made up nonsense, another form of paganism or idolatry or simply extra-Biblical invention.
The writings of the Fathers, the lives of the Saints and the elaboration of Christian doctrine might be interesting to them in a sort of antiquarian way, the way that many Americans gape at European cathedrals without any interest in the sort of religion that created them. But these are not texts that provide authoritative teachings, or even represent an authoritative Tradition. They may produce some very adept students of patristics and church history, but there is simply no question that Protestants are necessarily more inclined to the great hierarchical churches once they start learning their own history. If anything learning that history only confirms for them the absurdity of ecclesiastical boundaries and hierarchy. Instead of marveling at the continuity and integrity of doctrine, on which they themselves now rely, there is indifference mixed with contempt at the political wrangling inevitably associated with something as important as an ecumenical council.
Our Shadowed Present shows that the past offers more than its disparagers think. Clark makes a persuasive case that the provocative conceptual frameworks that dominate academe are passing fads like the flies of summer. Humane skepticism and a stress on empiricism and contingency constitute an approach to intellectual life that remains a fecund and fundamentally Tory source of understanding. As William Faulkner observed in a different context, “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” ~William Anthony Hay, Modern Age
Via Orthodoxy Today Blog.
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, along comes something like this:
i combat the flame-orcs of vice! i ambush the sulfur-dragons of despair! the shackles of pessimism are useless against me! the hydra of defeatism fail to paralyze me! glory will be mine, flow-gush will be supped and the sparklo-dolphins will be seen! ~Kyle Foley, Comet-Flash
Hat tip to Rachel McAdams (and Michael Brendan Dougherty).
Terry Mattingly asks if we thought we would ever see a news story like this, the attempted Swedish government shutdown of a website for supporting the publication of the Danish cartoons and calling for readers to send in their own. The answer is, yes, of course. The Swedish government’s action is unusually extreme even for Europe, but this is the continent that brought you the banning of the Vlaams Blok, the boycott of Austria, the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, the Stalinesque hysteria about Le Pen and the trial of Nick Griffin. I will believe just about anything is possible in Europe these days, and that includes believing that there might be Europeans who will finally find the resolve to resist this sort of petty tyranny.
The trouble with those cartoons is not at all that they offend fervent Muslims—that sort are offended by our very existence—but that by their placid humor they humanize a man with a hugely problematic legacy, and thereby offended the memory of untold millions of victims of Jihad through the ages.
The cartoon controversy confirms the validity of Bat Ye’or’s warning (in 1993) that no “Europeanization” of Islam is on the horizon anywhere: there is no move or gesture that would be expressed in “a self-critical view of the history of Islamic imperialism, an acceptance of the principle of equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, a retroactive recognition of the rights of the peoples decimated and degraded by the system of dhimmitude, and an attitude of moral humility—a necessary stage on the path toward reconciliation between peoples. We are light years away from such a development.”
The experience of France last November and Denmark today raises the issue that America, too, ought to ponder: how far is a receiving country expected to go in order to accommodate the religious, moral, and political demands of often unassimilable and hostile immigrants? And why should it do any such thing at all? A further question (courtesy of Chilton Williamson) is where exactly one-billion-plus members of the biggest cult on earth get off telling the rest of us their “prophet” must not be criticized under pain of death: “It is, of course, an insane position. Has any other ‘religion’ in the history of the world made such a claim? Not to my knowledge anyway.” ~Srdja Trifkovic
Amir Taheri has a book review of the tract of a British apostle of neoconservatism, Douglas Murray, who wants to remake the Tories in the neocon image.
The video makes a simple, powerful appeal for leaving Iraq and serving the interests of Americans.
Go see the video for Merle’s song here.
The question raised by the Danish cartoons is whether reasonable people should choose to show a cartoon deliberately blaspheming Islam. Really, it is about the status of Islam — how important we think it is.
Another part of the First Amendment is freedom of religion. Legally, this is about freedom from the government. Again, there is a cultural side dish: In America we make religious freedom work by not attacking the other fellow’s beliefs.
That is what those cartoons do. The believer thinks it’s a sin to picture Muhammad, and we do it anyway and say, “Hey! Get a load of this.”
It is not the drawing alone. A sketch of a bearded man with a bomb in his turban is fine. You may imply he’s a Muslim, and that’s OK. Say it’s the prophet, and you insult 1.5 billion believers.
None of this means it is OK to stir up a riot and burn down a foreign consulate. It’s not, the West has said it is not, and even the spokesman for Hamas asked people not to do it. Nor does it mean the press has to bow to every person who has his feelings hurt, or else discussion would end.
It does mean that citing freedom of speech is not enough. There has to be judgment. Not censorship, which is what government does, but judgment, which is that cultural side dish that goes along with free speech. ~Bruce Ramsey
Apparently reasonable people did choose to show cartoons “blaspheming” Muhammad, unless we want to declare everyone who has republished them to be ipso facto unreasonable. Apparently the cartoonists and publishers thought the right to express some opinion, whatever its quality, was guaranteed by Danish law (which it is) and that this was more important to them than Islam, a religion to which none of them (so far as we know) belongs. For them, as for most of us, Islam is not very important, or rather it is not very meaningful. It is important in obvious geopolitical and demographic senses, and most of the appeals to repudiate these cartoons and their publication rest on the idea that we shouldn’t upset Muslims because of the potential geopolitical consequences.
This is a classic example of what Richard Weaver called an argument from circumstance, as opposed to an argument from principle (even if he himself used this distinction rather oddly): of course we ought to defend free speech as a matter of principle, these folks might say, but not in this case, because it will cause us too many problems in Iraq or elsewhere. Best to lie low, they tell us.
Besides, all of that was in poor taste and lacked good judgement. So what if it was, and so what if it did? Instead of chiding the offenders for what we regard as poor taste and bad judgement but defending the principle, in which we all have some general stake, we want to throw the people who lacked the proper discretion to the wolves, figuratively speaking, without further comment? This is a strange response indeed.
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The European Union is the vehicle of the leftist totalitarians. On Monday it succeeded in bringing down the Slovak government. As our regular readers will remember, a European Union advisory panel of legal experts issued a statement last December saying that medical professionals are not allowed to refuse to participate in abortions. According to the EU “Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights” doctors should sometimes be forced to perform abortions, even if they have conscientious objections, because the right to abort a child is an “international human right,” while the right to conscientious objection is not “unlimited.”
The statement of the EU legal experts [pdf] was drawn up in criticism of a proposed treaty between the Vatican and Slovakia, which included a guarantee that Catholic hospitals in Slovakia would not be legally obliged to “perform artificial abortions, artificial or assisted fertilizations, experiments with or handling of human organs, human embryos or human sex cells, euthanasia, cloning, sterilizations, [and] acts connected with contraception.” ~Paul Belien, The Brussels Journal
While we rightly side with the Danes and other Europeans who are resisting Muslim and now international intimidation, we should always keep the tyranny of the EU firmly in mind and take up with the cause of the Slovaks, whose actual religious freedom and religious convictions are under assault for having the temerity to make an agreement with the Vatican that confirms that Catholic doctors in Slovakia will not be obliged to perform acts that are manifestly contrary to their faith. In other words, the EU has openly declared against freedom of conscience. This is an official abuse that is as important to repudiate and reject as the threats and intimidation of Muslim crowds.
The north is a matter of identity for Canadians. As Canadian icons Bob and Doug McKenzie’s hit single said, ‘Take off to the great white north, it’s a beauty way to go!’ In practice, most Canadians have no desire to do anything of the sort. It’s cold up there and besides, as I can personally testify, there aren’t any Tim Hortons doughnuts once you get as far north as Churchill, let alone on Hans Island. Alert, on Ellesmere Island, may be the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited settlement, but there’s a reason it has a population of only 170 government workers. Still, Canadians like to know that the north is there, and that it’s theirs. It’s part of what being Canadian is all about, and they don’t want any damn foreigners (especially Americans) messing with what doesn’t belong to them.
Second, there are valuable resources in the region, most notably oil. Canada’s border with America in the Beaufort Sea oil-fields is another area of dispute between the two countries. Concessions elsewhere in the Arctic might be perceived as weakness which would permit American encroachment there also.
Third, and most seriously, the ice in the Arctic is melting rapidly, shrinking by nearly 10 per cent a decade. At the present rate, by 2050 the Arctic Ocean might be entirely ice-free in summer. If you were that nervous Vancouver couple and wanted to live on Queen Elizabeth Island, Hans Island, Ellesmere Island or anywhere else up there, this could only be a good thing. As the title of a University of Toronto seminar once asked, ‘Global Warming. Who cares? It’s cold here’. Already, with the demise of the Soviet Union, the air routes over the Arctic are opening up to commercial traffic, and now global warming offers the possibility that the Northwest Passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans will become fully navigable, shortening the journey from Europe to Asia by 9,000 miles. By the end of the 21st century the islands of northern Canada may find themselves on one of the busiest thoroughfares in international commerce. ~Paul Robinson, The Spectator
When I was young and stupid, I thought Canadian nationalism was one of those contradictions in terms such as bureaucratic efficiency or military intelligence. How could Canadians be nationalist, I foolishly asked myself, when they live in a place like Canada? Of course, I knew nothing about Canada and still have never been to visit our friends to the North (having been in Chicago for over four years, this really is embarrassing), but I had been raised in the fine, old Americanist tradition that regarded Canada as some sort of great historical mistake, the product of the Englishmen who made the obviously “wrong” choice in 1776 and have, so to speak, been paying for it ever since. The vague rumblings of discontent in the western plains suggested to my facile mind of ten years ago that it would only be a little while longer before there would be an inconvenient, all-American land route to Alaska. Being stupid, I assumed this would have been an improvement.
Then I grew up, became a little less stupid, read some George Grant and also came to respect the forefathers of the Confederation, the Loyalists, as the last real American conservatives, whom we foolishly drove out of the country as soon as we could. We have been paying the price ever since. So in this relatively new respect and even admiration for the old Canada, combined with my usual annoyance at all signs of American hegemonism, I say categorically that Washington ought to leave Canada alone and treat it as if it were our good neighbour and not our continental colony. Washington may not care about American sovereignty, but it can at least make some effort to respect that of one of our most trusted allies and neighbours.
You would not have to be an acute psychologist, for example, to descry the insincerity and fear in the expressions of sympathy for Muslim outrage emanating from both British and American governments. It is abject nonsense to say that we understand and even share to some degree the primitive Muslim outrage expressed — belatedly, and often with state encouragement — at the Danish cartoons, in the unctuous Clintonian sense of feeling their pain. Perhaps we understand the outrage in the anthropological sense, as a symptom of injured pride and the thuggishness that injured pride generates. But that is not what Jack Straw, the Neville Chamberlain de nos jours, meant, or rather intended us to think he meant.
We do not, most of us, respect Islam any more than we respect people who speak in tongues. What we respect is the right of Muslims to practise their religion in perfect peace, in so far as it does not conflict with our laws. We also hope that we can find common ground with them in many other aspects of human existence: in business, in the professions, in literature and so forth. Tolerance is not a matter of respecting what is tolerated — if it were, tolerance would hardly be necessary. Tolerance is the willing, conscious suppression of distaste or disdain for other people’s ideas, habits and tastes for the sake of a wider social peace.
As it happens, the Danish cartoons were making a morally serious point, if not very well; which is why, of course, they provoked such outrage. It is a sign of our moral frivolity that we have failed to defend and protect the Danes with the utmost vigour, without equivocation, on a point of the most profound principle.~Theodore Dalrymple, The Spectator (registration required)
If he does think that, then this shows once again how the Buchanites have become purely reactive in their thought processes, not directed toward a rational good, but only reacting against what they don’t like. They don’t like the secular left, so they automatically sympathize with our Muslim enemies who are the opposite of the secular left. Not only is this position immoral and treasonous, it even fails on its own terms, since it is the secular left that has encouraged the Islamization of Europe. It hasn’t occurred to the Buchananites that some people in Europe are trying to resist the secular left, by defying Islam. The Buchananites cannot see any of this, because they only see reality through their “script,” a script written in the ink of resentment. ~Lawrence Auster
I’m afraid that I happen to agree for the most part with Mr. Auster on this particular point, but I think it is a mistake to generalise from Mr. Buchanan’s rather odd take on the Danish cartoon business about the entirety of his thought or that of those who generally agree with him, much less to make general statements about their “psychology.” Imputing a desire for surrender to Islam to Mr. Buchanan’s remarks clearly takes things too far, as no one could seriously believe that Mr. Buchanan wants anything of the kind.
My tendency of late to critique some of Mr. Buchanan’s columns comes from the conviction that the Buchananism of A Republic, Not an Empire, The Death of the West and now The American Conservative defends certain principles that these recent columns have seemed to be compromising or muddling. But there should be no doubt that I would consider myself a Buchananite (that’s certainly how I voted in 2000), and that Mr. Buchanan may have made a bad judgement in this case but has not thrown in the civilisational towel.
As I noted in an earlier post this week, I found Mr. Buchanan’s reaction entirely puzzling. If Europe is not going to roll over and die, not just demographically but as part of the Western world with a particular way of life, these are the sorts of fights the Europeans must fight. Perhaps it is only by showing them that their liberal order is genuinely in danger from large-scale Muslim immigration, as the Dutch have already started to understand, that they will find the desire to defend what they have. It is telling that the Jyllands-Posten is a paper of the right, expressing the tremendous dissatisfaction in Denmark with Muslim immigration that catapulted a specifically anti-immigration party to a strong third-place finish in the last round of national elections. Albeit a little more crude, perhaps, the Jyllands-Posten readership probably shares some of the same basic concerns of Buchananites in America, and with good reason.
If far-left newspapers republished the cartoons and did so in a general spirit of contempt for religion, which is not the main issue, that does not make the cartoons illegitimate nor does it make the response of threatening violence and calling for censorship any more justifiable in the eyes of religious Americans. Generally, Mr. Buchanan has been at the forefront of warning Europe against its collapse and arguing for solidarity with Europeans for cultural and strategic reasons. He would be the last to elide the differences between Islam and other religions in support of an anti-secularist or anti-leftist “ecumenical jihad” or anything of the kind.
Perhaps what he intended with this column was more of a warning along the lines that you should not insult a proud and angry man, because he will come after you to answer the insult. Unfortunately, what has come across is the idea that we should somehow feel a certain solidarity or understanding for radically alien Muslims who have been offended rather than side with the people and the way of life with which we are actually connected and in which we have a meaningful, albeit remote, stake. I briefly entertained these ideas at one time, imagining that there could be some kind of right-wing international united against various and sundry revolutionary forces, but I snapped out of that pretty quickly.
What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery. ~John Piper
Via Russell Moore at Touchstone’s Mere Comments.
Looking over my posts this week, I see that I have fallen into a Danish cartoon rut after my belated entry into the fray. Therefore, I will offer up something entirely new and, I suspect, never before seen in an English language blog: a verse from Sayat Nova. For those who don’t know, Sayat Nova is the nom de plume of Harutiun Sayakian, the great eighteenth century Armenian poet and bard, whose poems I have been looking over in relation to my Armenian class. So here it is:
K’ani voor jan im, yar, k’i ghoorban im, apa inch anim.
Artasunk’ anim, shat hokuts’ hanim, yar, ghadet tanim.
Asir “jeyran im,” tugh k’i seyr anim, yar, mtik anim.
Moot bagchen nazov, k’iz govim sazov, yar, iltimazov.
As long as I live, love,
I will sacrifice myself for you
What else would I do?
I will weep, I will sigh heavily,
Love, I will take away your pain.
You say, “I am a gazelle,”
I will stare at you,
Love, I will gaze upon you.
Enter the garden gracefully, I will praise you with the saz,
Love, I will praise you with entreaty.
My Armenian teacher, Dr. Haroutunian, helped me complete the translation, but any errors in the English rendering are, of course, solely mine. If there are any Armenian poetry buffs out there who would like to offer corrections or suggestions, I’d be very glad to hear from you.
It’s all tangential, at most, to the essence of the matter. People who tread the soil of Denmark only because the Danish people graciously (naively perhaps) let them or their parents take refuge in that orderly, if somewhat boring, country — these people are now brandishing slogans promising bloody vengeance. So much for gratitude. So much for imitating Romans when in Rome. ~The Russian Dilettante
If multiculturalism is incompatible with a free and lively society, as some implicitly now concede, then the sensible response is not to gradually chip away at Western freedom but to ensure that immigration from non-Western cultures proceeds at a rate that is assimilable culturally as well as economically. In other words Muslims coming to Europe or America would automatically adjust to the freedoms of a free society because they would lack the numbers to insist on everyone else changing to suit them — which is currently the Islamist demand.
That demand is, finally, the reason for applauding those French, German, Spanish and other European newspapers that have reproduced the cartoons as a gesture of sympathy with Jyllands-Posten and those politicians, such as France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, who have supported them. Even if the arguments for laws against blasphemy were valid — and they are not trivial — that would count as a secondary consideration alongside the need to resist plain blackmail, intimidation and murder. Those who take refuge in the false equivalence of the “two sides” argument are, in the end, guilty of cowardice. They should seek some “Dutch courage” by ordering a glass of acquavit with a Carlsberg chaser. ~John O’Sullivan
Amen to that, Mr. O’Sullivan.
But Abu Laban’s real face has now been revealed. In September, the imam immediately condemned Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons and led protests at the local level. Danish politicians and media, busy with local elections, ignored him. But Abu Laban is not the kind of person who gives up easily. After having contacted ambassadors from Muslim countries in Copenhagen, he put together a delegation with the goal of touring the Middle East to “internationalize this issue so that the Danish government would realize that the cartoons were not only insulting to Muslims in Denmark but also to Muslims worldwide,” as he explained in an interview with “Islam Online”. The delegation met with, among others, Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi. The delegation showed each of these leaders the 12 cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten, along with others that had never been published by any Danish publication. The new cartoons were every more offensive, as showing the Prophet Mohammed with a pig face or having sexual intercourse with a dog. While the delegation claimed that the differentiation was pointed out to their interlocutors, there is no other evidence, and rumors about the more blasphemous images began to circulate in the Middle East. Moreover, the booklet that was presented by the delegation contained several other lies about the “oppression” of Muslims in Denmark, claiming Muslims do not have the legal right to build mosques and are subjected to pervasive racism.
With emotions about the cartoons mounting, Qaradawi, the real brains of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international network and a key opinion maker in the Middle East thanks to his weekly show on al Jazeera, attacked Denmark directly, warning that an apology would not be sufficient, and that “a firm stance” should have be taken by the Danish government. As Prime Minister Rasmussen refused to intervene, referring to the cherished tradition of freedom of the press in his country, Qaradawi and his ilk unleashed their propagandistic war against Denmark. Abu Laban, from his mosque in the Copenhagen suburb of Nørrebro, is now happily reaping the fruits of his hard work. But, in a quintessential exercise in taqiya (double-speak), Abu Laban has tried to hide his satisfaction to the Danes. Speaking on Danish television, Abu Laban has wept crocodile tears, condemning the boycott of Danish goods and the other consequences of his actions. Yet, interviewed by al Jazeera, the imam has said just the opposite, praising the outrage of the Muslim world at his adoptive country. ~Lorenzo Vidino, National Review
Via Orthodoxy Today Blog.
Tovább színesíti a képet, hogy ezúttal nem két kiló krumpliról, hanem a nyugati társadalmak egyik alapértékéről, a nyugati életforma sine qua nonjáról, a sajtószabadságról van szó.
What is at stake in this controversy is not two pounds of potatoes, but a basic value of Western societies, the sine qua non of Western life, the freedom of the press. ~Istvan Vancsa, Elet es Irodalom (Life and Literature)
Translation from signandsight.
Hat tip to FaceRight.
Neocon conspiracy or a protest of Islamic presumption and intransigence?
I must not have gotten the memo from headquarters. Apparently, the Danish cartoon controversy is the result of a sinister plot of neocon propaganda and a heavy dose of European secularism to boot. While it is undoubtedly regrettable that the culture editor of the Jyllands-Posten may have anything to do with Daniel Pipes, why consorting with a known Islamophile and apologist for Islam proves a sinister neocon-oriented conspiracy for provoking Muslim outrage does escape me. The neocons do not need a Danish newspaper outlet to offend Muslims worldwide–they influence vital aspects of U.S. foreign policy that have already had far more long-term effects on Muslim attitudes towards the West than this newspaper row ever will.
As for the charge of galloping secularism, I am a little confused. Near as I can tell, this was a fairly mild response to the growing frustrations in Denmark and throughout Europe at Muslim immigrant demands for special treatment. This all together mild rebuke was the answer to the insistence that the majority respect Muslims’ separate, distinctive identity while at the same time wanting the majority to provide them with all the advantages of the European welfare state, while also requiring a virtual ban on criticisms of Islam (to which many silly “anti-racists” and the like in Europe reflexively agree) and increasingly expecting (in Denmark especially) that shari’a should govern many of the domestic affairs of Muslims now there.
This was one instance of a symbolic poke in the eye of people who seem to expect consistently that they can come to European countries, change little or nothing about themselves and expect their norms to become the norms of the entire society. That is what this controversy represents: the struggle to determine who controls the setting of those norms and what those norms will be. If those of us warning about the eventual death of Europe want the Europeans to stand up and begin defending their way of life, admittedly largely secularist as it is, because at the very least we believe the alternative to be much, much worse, it makes little sense to turn around and chastise them for having the temerity to stand up and begin reasserting their claims to defining public space and public discourse. Think of these cartoonists as probably unwitting and more aggressive cultural Minutemen. Of course, the moment the controversy erupted the paper immediately apologised for any offence that had been given.
Europeans have been engaged in cultural unilateral disarmament vis-a-vis their immigrants for decades, and now a few of them have decided to do a little skirmishing. The American response? All too often, Americans have appeared shocked and dismayed that defending a way of life could be so, well, crude or unpleasant. Contesting control for the identity of one’s society might make someone angry, and apparently we wouldn’t want that. It’s almost as if some want Europe to defend itself, but not at the cost of offending anyone, least of all the Muslims, in what is a strange imitation of the very hypersensitivity that has helped bring Europe to its current pass.
Leave it to Joseph Bottum to take the simple proposition of mocking The Boston Globe for its double standard in the Danish cartoon row and somehow manage to muddle the issue:
Tolerance for diverging viewpoints isn’t the reason the Globe refuses to publish racist material; if anything, such tolerance ought to require publishing the vile stuff. Newspaper [sic] don’t publish racist remarks because they’re wrong—and error has no rights. Oh, the erroneous holders of such errors may have some rights, but the error itself has no business in a newspaper.
This is an interesting thing for Mr. Bottum to say. He might well be right that error should have no rights, but that would take him deep into my kind of reactionary country where neither he nor any of his colleagues at First Things wants to go. A liberal society with “freedom, democracy and all that good stuff,” as Col. Tigh would say, is supposed to allow speech of all kinds, including those opinions that the majority finds erroneous and even pernicious. This is one reason why people do not long maintain a liberal society.
Obviously, newspapers cannot simply print known falsehoods and libel, but in the realm of opinion (where both racist remarks and the “inflammatory” cartoons would fall) “error” certainly does have rights, because it is not (yet) legally anyone’s business to ban “error” from print and other media. Newspaper publishers choose to ban certain kinds of things, but fortunately they do not get to determine whether a given opinion is actually outside the protection of the law.
This state of affairs is, if I may be rather blunt, why Mr. Bottum can continue to write the foolish and wrong things that he so often does. It is also why Muslims and any number of other religious minorities can express their outrage at having their prophet or religion mocked. Under a different, older dispensation, the “error” of Islam would have few or no rights. But, of course, the only “error” Mr. Bottum and his colleagues are prepared to censure with such ferocity is their favourite bogeys of racism and “racist remarks,” the definition of which is ever expanding and elastic.
Error may not have rights, but these Muslims are sure taking a few liberties with the Danish consulate in Beirut.
Via Caymanian Compass
Over at I, Ectomorph, Andrew Cunningham reflects seriously on the crisis of the Enlightenment project and discusses the opposition between the Enlightenment’s ideal of universal man (championed by the Jonah Goldbergs of the world) and the particular kinds of men who actually exist.
I’m not sure what this means. Yes, Enlightenment thinkers placed normative priority on our identity as rational moral agents over our more parochial identities. However, most also did not deny the significance of the latter. ~Akrasia
No, they didn’t exactly deny the significance of the latter. But they did deny that these parochial identities compelled any moral obligation independent of the choice of the “agent”–family authority, kinship, nationality, place of birth, tradition and custom have no moral weight. These are accidental and they are incidental to what really matters. They do say that. They did (and their successors today do) regard these “parochial identities” on the whole as baneful influences when these “more parochial identities” condition and constrain the lives of “rational moral agents” (also sometimes known as people).
Akrasia assures us elsewhere that no one believes that an “abstract man” is actually out there running around somewhere. Well, I suppose not. Put that way, no sane person could believe in such a thing. Even universalists have to be from a particular place, and even liberals are heirs to a tradition. Maistre denied abstract man the same way Lady Thatcher denied the existence of society as something abstract. Society is not something theoretical to which individuals give their consent and thus constitute society, but it is rather a real network of obligations and relationships into which people are born. That’s the real problem for the Enlightenment liberal, or so it seems to me: we are defined by circumstances that we cannot control and that we do not choose. O, autonomous man, where is thy autonomy? Man does not exist independent of his nation, culture, traditions and the place and circumstances of his life, all of which define his identity. Many Enlightenment thinkers did acknowledge this, even if they despised it, but Mr. Goldberg could not even understand this much.
One could easily get the impression from statements just like the one quoted above that there are people who believe that we act as “rational moral agents” rather than as people with specific loyalties and obligations. Communities recognise and verify what is and is not normative, always in connection with some received tradition, and “agents” could choose to reject those norms, but everything that the agent does is defined and constrained by what he has received and learned from the community. To say that he is acting rationally in the sense that Enlightenment philosophers mean it is to assume quite a lot. By their standards, a man does not act or choose rationally until he acts and chooses independently of these things according to self-styled “rational” standards of, say, self-interest, and that it is unethical to impose obligations on someone who does not consent (or no longer consents) to them.
There are certainly more than a few people who would like nothing more than a sort of uniform man modeled on a man with as little “cultural baggage” (a term that must have been invented by a universalist) and “parochial identity” as possible. That is what Goldberg is seeking, what I believe most Enlightenment philosophers also desired, and what Maistre and I reject.
Akrasia goes on:
We have far more in common qua human beings than differences qua Englishmen versus Danes. If it’s a normative claim, then why privilege the local and contingent over the universal and noncontingent? That move needs to be defended. If it’s simply a claim about human psychology — so what?
I’m sure we’re all grateful for this basic lesson in anthropology, but I’m not quite sure what he’s getting at here. We do have more in common as human beings than we differ between different nations, but as a general rule Englishmen have the most in common with other Englishmen, Yorkshiremen with other Yorkshiremen and so on down the line. It seems to me that we privilege the “local and contingent” because it is at the level of the local and contingent that people identify with one another the most and the level at which they recognise their norms. The local is the field where all action takes place. A local or parochial identity (or a set of these) is the source of virtually all meaning in a person’s life.
Universalist ethics cannot, for example, really recognise patriotism as ethical, because it cannot recognise it as rational, as this sort of loyalty or sentiment has already been ruled out beforehand as irrational. Yet there seems to me to be few other more naturally occurring virtues than this.
One of my religion professors once observed that Kant’s ethics were remarkably similar to the sentiments and requirements of late 18th century German middle-class morality, to which I’m sure Kant would have taken exception. After all, to have one’s habits and customs overwhelmingly shaped by anything so irrational as inherited cultural norms would be rather embarrassing for the master of universalist ethics.
We’ve seen in the last few days that this is not a normal boycott. This is a riot, a boiling over of a resentful, angry, and fanatical constituency, complete with the burning of the Danish embassy in Lebanon. One is tempted to dismiss these as the acts of a few fanatics, a facsimile of extreme Western behavior of, say, the 15th-17th Centuries. But it is different. The solution to the vices of Christendom could be found in Christianity itself, which teaches a fundamental equality of man rooted in the belief that each person is entitled to respect as a creature made in the image of God. That is to say Christians could collectively learn they were behaving un-Christianly and that our modern liberal, democratic way of life more fully recognizes this principle than its predecessors. ~Chris Roach
On the Christian understanding of equality, I have often puzzled over why so many people have concluded that Christianity teaches that, for lack of a better phrase, “all men are created equal.” Because we believe that man is created, and the differences among men are not considered simply a product of the Fall but rather more of providential order, very plainly all men are not created equal. This may sound scandalous to modern, American ears, and no doubt one could find a raft of modern theologians who would assure you that I am making this up. That is, to be blunt, the modern Americans’ problem, and I am not making this up.
As a Faith that accepts created difference as something basically good, it seems to me that Christianity has embraced and the early Fathers (St. Gregory the Great springs to mind as especially noteworthy here) have understood it to have embraced the inherent inequalities among men, but in a way that transforms these inequalities into sources of mutual obligation and love rather than causes for strife. Speaking of Christians themselves, not all members of the Body of Christ are equally “important,” but this is not supposed to be an occasion for abuse or pride, as all do possess an inherent, irreducible dignity (which is quite different from equality, except in our common nature) and are bound together with one another in a reciprocal way that makes the natural inequalities into complements.
But theological quibbling aside (though it is really quite important to get even these most basic claims right), the troubles of the 15th-17th centuries, or of earlier centuries when Christians used coercion or violence against one another, do not stem from a denial of anyone’s equality but precisely from a denial of someone’s true Christianity.
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Pakistan and Turkey condemned publication of the satirical drawings of the prophet Muhammad, originally published in a Danish newspaper. Underlining the extent of the international divide over the issue, the German government pointedly defended the right of papers across Europe to publish the cartoons, including four in Germany. But the British government, in an unusual divergence from the rest of Europe on such issues, sided with Pakistan and Turkey.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was quoted in the Turkish press saying: “Caricatures of prophet Muhammad are an attack against our spiritual values. There should be a limit of freedom of press.”
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, denounced the decision to republish the cartoons, saying press freedom carried an obligation not “to be gratuitously inflammatory”. Mr Straw, at a press conference in London, said that while he was committed to press freedom, “I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been insulting, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong”. He praised the British press, which up to yesterday had not published the cartoons, for showing “considerable responsibility and sensitivity”.
By contrast, Wolfgang Schauble, the German home minister, defended the decision by four German newspapers to publish the cartoons: “Why should the German government apologise? This is an expression of press freedom.” ~The Guardian
Via Andrew Stuttaford.
I’m sorry that I haven’t weighed in one the side of my Danish and German cousins before now (Larison is, in case you didn’t know, a Danish name, and I have German ancestors on my father’s side), and I have to give Frau Merkel’s government some credit for not capitulating to intimidation from Muslims and her preciously multiculti fellow Europeans.
Schaeuble has it right, and Erdogan reveals still one more reason why Turkey should not be allowed to join the EU. His “spiritual values” and the political values of Europe do not mesh, and never will, unless Europe’s political values change drastically and quickly. Erdogan has just shown what a more democratic Turkey means for Europe, which is an AK Islamist government that by definition cannot be committed to the same “values” that Europeans across the spectrum share. Of course, our allies, the British, are predictably in full multiculti meltdown, having been sufficiently Mau-Maued by the July 7 bombings that they would not dream of doing the least offensive thing to provoke their Muslims.
Two things are at stake here in this controversy: whether European “hate speech” restrictions are going to become even more strict and oppressive than they already are, and whether the political norms of European countries are going to be dictated by Muslim immigrants and our so-called allies in the Islamic world. In a free society, the offended Muslims would be able to protest these cartoons to their hearts’ content in writing, organise boycotts and hold protests, but inciting or threatening violence or insisting on government censorship are not the responses of citizens of a free society. Many of the protesters against these cartoons are demonstrating their fundamental incompatibility with free society and making the point of immigrant restrictionists both in Europe and here.
Can America be America absent Wilsonian ideals? Perhaps not. But an America intoxicated with its self-assigned mission of salvation while disregarding prudential considerations will court exhaustion, both moral and material. Our present circumstances may not dictate a full retreat. But they do require a revived appreciation of what we can and cannot do. Contriving phony charges of isolationism to dodge tough, practical questions is not only dishonest, it is reckless and irresponsible. ~Andrew Bacevich, The Los Angeles Times
I gave Prof. Bacevich a hard time for saying some nice things about FDR and WWII (really, it was the FDR part that had me going) a few months ago, and my response to this article is much the same. On the plus side, I appreciate that Prof. Bacevich is debunking Mr. Bush’s nonsense with his usual clarity and vim, but I don’t much care for the implication that if there were real “isolationists” in control of some important media outlets or political forces they would deserve to be dismissed and ridiculed. Why the ambiguity over Wilsonian ideals? What good thing can be said of them?
Invoking George Washington is all very well, but the “isolationists” smeared in the 1930s and 1940s are right with Washington’s view of no permanent alliances, modified by the “no entangling alliances” position of Jefferson. What would have made Prof. Bacevich’s article even better was to reject the label categorically. As long as proponents of U.S. neutrality and nonintervention are around, they will be smeared by the interested parties as “isolationists” partly because there never seem to be enough neutralists and noninterventionists willing to recognise the much-maligned “isolationists” of the 1930s and ’40s as holding exactly the same views thay they do today. As long as noninterventionists and realists are embarrassed by our own predecessors, the power of the label “isolationist” will continue to intimidate and control debate.
For 60-odd years we have allowed our opponents to define all the terms and set all the rules of debate. Little wonder that we have always lost. Playing their game, they always have the benefit of the doubt, and we are always deemed vaguely fascist, even though they are the ones who bomb civilians and invade countries without cause. (Quiz: How many countries have noninterventionists ever invaded?) But it is little wonder that they keep winning–they take and keep the initiative.
Properly speaking, “isolationists” have never existed–they have always been imagined by paranoid and dishonest internationalists since the question was first framed this way in the 1930s. Thus we have such memorably bad lines from Casablanca as: “My dear Rick, when will you realize that in this world, today, isolationism is no longer a practical policy?” To accept the legitimacy of “isolationist” as a pejorative label is to accept, at some level, this question and everything it implies about foreign policy.
The mistake of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking to begin with, that people are people — pretty much the same the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. It must be what everyone wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this kind of talk suggests racism — You mean we are not all the same? — or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that’s how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas. ~Richard Cohen, The Washington Post
These aint Dole voters, that’s for sure.
But don’t cheer the vulgar and the stupid. ~Hugh Hewitt
Perhaps next we’ll have George Bush lecture someone about fiscal restraint (oops, already had that this week!) or listen to Alan Keyes complain about carpetbagging politicians. If Hugh Hewitt were really against “the vulgar and the stupid,” he wouldn’t have much of a show left.
By the way, Hewitt is in trouble if Little Pod regards him as wise.
Cargo cults closely resemble the cult of economic growth that has gripped our supposedly advanced democracies, and which our economists and ‘development’ experts hold out as a model for the world. ‘Growth’ has become the alpha and omega of political discourse, the place where ‘right’ and ‘left’ converge, the goal for which activists of both camps become cheerleaders. As a substitute for religious faith, its theology is uncomplicated. Like the cargo cultists, the disciples of growth believe that resources are limitless rather than finite. Because they are fundamentalists, all evidence to the contrary merely strengthens their dogma.
The growth cult equates consumption with progress and expects us to live suspended in the present, because nothing is permanent except ‘modernisation’ and change, nothing has lasting value and everything is in a constant anticipatory flux. Partisans of growth do not believe in miraculous craft — except for those provided by cut-price airlines — but they have their own superstitions. It is revealing to hear economists who pride themselves on their rigorous secular rationalism speak mystically of a ‘hidden hand’ directing our fortunes, as if economic policies and structures were of divine rather than human origin. ~Aidan Rankin, The Spectator
Congratulations to Mr. Raimondo for using the word camarilla in the title of his new article on the neocons, which is worthwhile in its own right. I haven’t seen that word used outside of certain roleplaying games that I indulged in during my frivolous, younger years. Maybe we can get it back into the common parlance.
Perhaps that has something to do, too, with the reason I, Jane American, want people in the Sudan to be free and those killing them to be put out of power…even if it’s not something that’s directly affecting my everyday life. I sound like Miss America, and it’s certainly true that I can’t and won’t spend my day thinking about what happened but, “I don’t care about Egyptians” sounds unnecessarily callous. ~Kathryn Jean Lopez, The Corner
Maybe Derb’s line was a bit blunt (though the truth often sounds callous to drippy sentimentalists), but what is worse than callous is the affectation and display of empty compassion. In some vast, universal sense, I would like to see killing stop in Sudan and elsewhere, but the one conflict that does directly and immediately concern me is the one in Iraq because my fellow-countrymen (and we are already at the breaking-point of abstract fellowship here) are fighting there.
Do I pretend that I am really that personally concerned about a given group of people in a war in Sudan? No. Am I remotely sorry that a great many people have died in the Red Sea today? Of course, much as any decent person is generally sorry to hear of terrible accidents or unexpected deaths, but not terribly sorry and not in a way that will affect me an hour from now. If I were particularly disturbed by this, I would have to make myself feel generally upset for every traffic death and murder that takes place in the world, and no normal person will or even can manufacture compassion for that many people.
And the key word is manufacture, because there is no natural affinity that would summon the compassion without a concentrated act of will–I do not need to manufacture compassion for my family or neighbours, because their sufferings directly concern me and there may be something meaningful I can do for them. Wishing fellow humans well and even praying for them because we are all human is about as shallow as it gets. In my old church in Santa Fe after the Beslan massacre, we held a pannykhida for the murdered victims, because there was some obvious and clear connection between those Russians, many of whom if not all were Orthodox, and ourselves as Russian Orthodox. That simply makes a lot more sense than having a service for the victims of the South Asian tsunami, with whom we had only the most general connection. With the grace of a saint, it might be possible to have genuine compassion for suffering everywhere, but I am not so ridiculous as to pretend that I can do the works of a saint with saccharine humanitarianism.
I suppose you can identify some things on the left and make your point on about an explosion of “everyone is the same” thinking. But truth be told, I generally see the exact opposite phenomena. Identity politics is deeply, deeply reactionary and illiberal. It is on the left where were hear the most about the iron cage of identity. Many strands of feminism espouse female essentialism. It is on the left, not the right, where we hear the most about the “permanence of race.” Quotas aren’t premised on the idea that everyone is the same, they’re premised on the idea that we are all different and that we need exposure to the “black perspective,” “the Hispanic perspective,” the “female perspective” etc. The rage against dead white males is an identity politics argument, and a deeply illiberal one. It is on the left that we hear about “white logic” — as if such a thing exists. De Maistre would have aligned himself with this view (as I wrote
here and elsewhere).
I think conservatives get into a lot of trouble when they over-read the significance — real or potential — of group differences. Even if such differences are profound, a decent conservative in the American tradition should still advance a colorblind state, colorblind laws, and colorblind standards. That’s why I’ve never found the science about group differences to be as relevant as some do. I think it’s interesting, but I can’t imagine a scenario that would cause me to change my mind about the proper orientation of the state. We should take people as individuals, not representatives of groups. Period. That’s what it means to be equal in the eyes of the law. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg, The Corner
Let’s suppose for a moment that “identity politics” is “deeply, deeply reactionary and illiberal.” No explanation is given, of course, because here ‘reactionary’ and ‘illiberal’ function as “fascist” does in foreign policy debates at NR: it identifies and vilifies the thing being described, regardless of content. If there is some substance and meaning to the differences among groups of people, that is part of our reality and not something that we can blithely ignore because some other people have abused some inkling of that same knowledge.
All of this is what we would expect from Goldberg, but the cheap shot against Joseph de Maistre simply can’t go unanswered. Maistre would endorse “white logic”? What? Goldberg will enlighten us:
For de Maistre, you couldn’t be just a “man.” You had to be a man of Italy, a man of France, a man of Persia, etc. The new American republic was so much folly, in de Maistre’s eyes, because its Constitution was blind to this unchanging fact of life. The Declaration’s bold proposition, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” ran completely counter to everything de Maistre believed.
Besides apparently being too dense to understand that Maistre objected to a universalist, abstracted category of man precisely because it was theoretical and did not exist in the real world, Goldberg provides no demonstration that you can just be “a man,” as if any of us could exist outside of the contingency and particularity of our lives that are defined by language, custom, descent, community and, in most cases, religion. Maistre was making an observation of fact. Whether one attaches moral significance to that undeniable fact, as Maistre did and I do, or not, simply making the observation does not irrevocably link you to “identity politics” or its zanier branches of speculation. But the bigger problem is that “identity politics” of all kinds is ruled out not because it makes no sense, but because it is all together too appealing and threatens to overthrow the myth of equality.
As for equality, the burden of proof has always rested with the egalitarian to demonstrate that this is true. But the egalitarian does not even make the attempt all that often. Like Jefferson’s phrase, before which we are supposed to bow reverently because it is in the Declaration, regardless of whether it is true or not, it is simply an assertion of something they take to be “self-evident,” when it is anything but self-evident. What this has to do with “white logic” (which is, I suppose, logic that only white people possess?) does escape me. That’s all right, though, since I’m pretty sure that Goldberg has no idea what he’s talking about.
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In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don’t care about Egyptians. ~John Derbyshire, The Corner
Exactly. Just as all the bleeding-heart appeals for the people of Darfur and Iraq mean so little to me. They have frankly never made any sense to me. We are all moved in times of cataclysmic natural disasters to render aid, but this is something all together different from pretending that we are deeply concerned with the welfare of Sudanese. We are not, we cannot really be, and when we pretend that we are we are lying to ourselves and to the people with whom we supposedly sympathise.
We usually consider it normal to be fairly unconcerned about the fate of strangers even in our own metropolitan areas, which might be less justifiable, but modern humanitarian politics dictate that we must be deeply moved and compelled by the suffering of people, with whom we have no connections, on other continents. Derb’s reaction is perfectly natural and normal, and confirms what Dr. Fleming has had to say about natural affinities, charity and the “pornography of compassion.”
Then there’s this, which may interest some of you:
The promise of the “highest” form of classical liberalism, though — the promise that tribalism, nationalism, etc. will melt away in the sun of Reason, the promise that inspired early 20C socialists and one-worlders like Shaw and Wells — is an empty promise. To the degree that Reason can be identified with scientific method, in fact (discuss among yourselves), the windsocks are all pointing the other way.
Which is to say, if we press on a little more, that the promise of Mr. Bush’s brand of “conservatism” is an empty promise, and that many of the promises of the Enlightenment project are also simply empty. Most people not, in the end, want to be free in a high classical liberal way, though they may think that autonomy sounds very good because it keeps them from having to fulfill all sorts of obligations.
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So far so good. Where I got off the bus was when he said, “liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.” This is another way of putting the signature Bush line, “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.” Maybe Bush means this in some aspirational, rather than factual sense, but I’m sorry, it’s just not true.
People might not affirmatively yearn for oppression, but they can certainly value and desire all sorts of things more than freedom, at least freedom as we would define it. We have just seen that in the Palestinian elections. A lot depends on how you interpret them, but it certainly seemed that the Palestinians valued the destruction of their neighbor, national (or pre-national) honor, and religious chauvinism more than freedom.
In general people can desire order, power, fealty to religious faith, ethnic pride, and/or sexual purity more than freedom. Which it is very important to remember when you’re trying to re-make foreign societies. ~Rich Lowry, The Corner
Via Lawrence Auster.
What, no comment on what American elections reflect about the “desire for freedom” here? I think the answer would not be very encouraging for the democratists.
I’m not in the mood to analyze the intricacies of Bush’s speech except to say that his descent into more liberal, grand, and utopian ideas gets worse by the day, e.g., “America rejects the false comfort of isolationism. We are the Nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed, and move this world toward peace.” Of course, we did those things after being attacked and ultimately in defense of our own national interest. It was a defensive war unlike our proposed continued interventions in places like Iran or Taiwan.
At the same time, he continues to flee the historic, inherited America in favor of abstractions like “the growing economy.” He says, “Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. Others say that the government needs to take a larger role in directing the economy, centralizing more power in Washington and increasing taxes. We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy – even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction – toward a stagnant and second-rate economy. ” Bush insults his audience by suggesting our only concerns should be economic and that all restricts on immigration are one stepped removed from socialism. It’s no more a Berlin Wall to have protected one’s borders and limited entry than are the walls around one’s home. Remember, the Berlin Wall kept people from leaving; we want to keep people from coming in. A jail is not a home, though both have walls.
There is little conservative about this man or his administration. ~Chris Roach
I would simply say Amen, but I am having a little trouble seeing what little conservatism Mr. Bush might possess. Still, it’s a very solid, succinct dismantling of Mr. Bush’s rather shoddy claims.
It was, and remains, a historical force. I think one could argue that To Kill a Mockingbird did for twentieth-century race relations, or at any rate for white attitudes toward blacks, what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for white attitudes about slavery in the antebellum nineteenth century. And yet it is rarely examined as a work of serious literature, not to mention one whose convicting force changed the moral life of the nation. ~Wilfred McClay, First Things
The book is s staple of education across the country now (I had to read it in seventh grade), which tells me more about the political priorities of American English teachers and curriculum committees than it does about the social influence of the book. As part of a program of instilling guilt in young white children, rather than teaching them a principle of justice (as it might do), the book has probably had some influence on my generation through its deliberate use as a kind of propaganda.
The book is, as I recall from all those years ago, a decently written novel, and the film version provided Gregory Peck with the perfect political moralising role that he seems to have so desperately sought throughout his career, but can anyone seriously claim that this novel revolutionised white attitudes or transformed American race relations? We might give as much credit to In the Heat of the Night. That would make about as much sense.
Once upon a time it made sense for loyal Americans to acquiesce in the pious fraud that equated “democracy” with responsible and limited constitutional government. Those days are gone. Among the many evils of democracy is the root idea that since the people are good they deserve to get what they want. But “the people” is no better than people in general. As human beings we suffer from original sin or, if you don’t like the religious tone of the language, from the inherent frailties of a greedy and silly race of slightly evolved simians who will each other’s babies, if they can get away with it, and mistake gibbering for wisdom.
Americans, if they wish to do any good in the world, must learn to give up all the cliches they were taught in civics textbooks and patriotic speeches and look at the reality of the world our rulers have created. Even the briefest look at this made-in-America Hell would scare the most stalwart Republican out of the GOP and the yellowest dog out of the Democratic party. Don’t hold your breath. Self-deception is the rule here, and although the lies neither begin nor end with “democracy,” they all culminate in that lie to trump all lies. When fans get to elect a quarterback—something they really care about—I’ll believe democracy in America is something possible. ~Thomas Fleming
I like the way Dr. Fleming phrased that first line. Even when we used to allow the equation of democracy with our proper constitutional government, it was still a “pious fraud.” There was never a time when that equation was true. Now we can just drop the adjective pious from that and we would have a fine description of modern democracy.
Are you a “good citizen” of modern America? Find out here. I have to admit that I did very badly indeed–I’m just not up-to-date!
Just to show that I do agree with Mr. Suderman on something, I see that he wrote a review of the new Battlestar Galactica and had this positive assessment on NR:
All of this adds up to what can only be referred to as realism. Despite the geeky presence of ribbed leather jumpsuits and space fighters, the dimly lit, metallic corridors of the Galactica house a poignant, human reality that belies its fantastic setting. A shining, distant star in the outer reaches of niche cable, Battlestar Galactica burns with a combustive mixture of political turmoil and human drama that is as achingly real and relevant as anything on television.
For what it’s worth, I think his very complimentary review does underrate the show a little (I can’t be expected to agree with him 100%, now, can I?) and neglects what I think is its most intriguing element: the Cylon desire to become as human as possible with the ultimate goal of replacing humanity. There’s something insightful in this, as it suggests that all creatures instinctively or naturally desire to imitate their creators, but at the same time it does not take away from the horrible consequences of man’s Frankensteinian presumption to create artificially intelligent beings.
What I find interesting, in all this talk about allegedly separates Islam from Christianity, is the assumption that “Render unto Caesar, render unto God” actually entitles Caesar to anything. As I understand it, and I may be wrong, Jesus was merely refering to the dinar with Caesar’s profile on it, and not some great “sphere of life” where Caesar was entitled to taxes and loyalty. Given the totality of the Gospel, I’m not entirely sure Caesar is entitled to take anything. Caesar takes anyway.
The invention of Christendom — the merging of God and Caesar — created a process, entity and set of expectations among many Christians little different from what Muslims would create with dar al Islam: the expectation that Islam would always rule, that Muslims would be privileged in Muslim society, and that the law and culture would reflect scripture and the prejudices of the majority. The slow unraveling of Christendom over the last several centuries, an unraveling at the hands of the total state and of secular ideologies gives us a wonderful opportunity to reclaim the Gospel as a way of living that doesn’t also expect the state and the culture to look certain ways, that doesn’t expect that Caesar will be on “our” side and uphold “our” values. ~Charles Featherstone, LewRockwell.com Blog
Aside from the obvious citation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans that would address the first point, as well as the obvious observation that unlike in Islam Christians do not expect and do not want the pope, patriarch or bishop to have secular authority, the provenance of the interpretation that Christians owe allegiance to legitimate earthly authorities is so venerable and well-established that I am truly surprised when someone challenges it.
Contrary to what Mr. Featherstone seems to be suggesting, Christendom was never like the dar al-Islam. There was no question of Christian privilege or supremacy, because there was hardly anyone who was not Christian in Christendom, but of rightly ordering social and political life as if Christ God ruled over all of our lives, almost as if Christ were our Lord and Master. But what could that have to do with the Gospel?
It is that claim that Christendom (which is as a word, incidentally, etymologically indistinguishable from Christianity) makes on men that so annoys certain kinds of people: that there is nothing in life that is safely none of God’s business, including political life. There is a common mistake to think that defenders of the idea of Christendom, or of an “integrated” Christian political order in which our religion has a prominent role, are preoccupied with power or lording it over someone. Christendom is the product of the understanding that there can be profane or Christian rulers, that Christian rulers are obviously better for the Faith, and that it pleases and glorifies God to have rulers submit to Him and govern more in accordance with His will. One would have thought the history of the 20th century would have brought home how true this is.
Christendom was not the Kingdom, and never could be, and historians of it are more aware than anyone how far short of God’s glory it often fell, but that it is, for Christians at least, immeasurably more desirable as an idea for organising political and social life than what has come since seems inescapable. If that sort of order does not ultimately return, so be it–unlike the modern gnostic, our Faith does not require us to achieve immanentist goals to reach our salvation, and unlike the Muslim we are not obliged to conquer anyone or increase the territory of any polity to do God’s will. Contrary to Patriarch Antony’s famous letter, there is and always has been a Church without a Christian empire. But that it was better for the Orthodox, for example, when there were Orthodox Christian states is so obvious that it seems redundant to have to say so.
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