Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ridgebacks, a Schnoodle, and existential threats

The weather finally cooled off enough to make an early-morning trip to the river. I didn't feel up to it. Susan's Schnoodle, Duffy, kept me awake until about 05:00, but I didn't want to pass up a chance to get to the river; so I got my knapsack and loaded it, my two Ridgeback girls, and Duffy into the Jeep and off we went. This was Duffy's first ride in my Jeep and he wasn't sure what to make of it. When we started down the dirt road toward the river, Duffy saw Ginger in the backseat staring off into the distance, but before he could try and see what she was looking at we were there. The Jeep ride had befuddled, but once he was on the sand, his confidence returned. It was 08:15.

Duffy's fur made an excellent foxtail collector; so he and I walked on clear sand as much as we could.

I knew the girls would get as much exercise as they needed by chasing rabbits if they could find any or each other. As to Duffy, I kept him on leash. My goal was to get him used to being down there. I wanted him to enjoy himself; so I let him sniff whatever he liked. At one point he took a mouthful of sand -- I suppose he was interested in learning whether it was good to eat. I gather he decided it wasn't.

Duffy communicated his wishes extremely well. He would tell me when he wanted me to carry him by looking up at me and pawing at my leg. And when he wanted back down he would squirm. Our outing took a little over an hour. The girls got their exercise and Duffy got his first exposure to the river.

As for me, I found myself thinking about something someone wrote in a forum yesterday. He argued that the 9/11 attack was not an existential threat, and since it wasn't, what we did in response was an over-reaction. We were at the halfway point in our hike. I poured some water into a little dish and held it for the girls and Duffy to drink. But the interesting thing about that water stop is that we were attacked by a great number of bugs. When we had been walking along, they left us alone, maybe it was still too cool for them to be chasing after anyone, but when I kneeled down and took the water bottle and the dish out of my knapsack, they attacked. They were an annoyance to be sure, but I asked myself, "are they an existential threat," and had to answer that they were not.

I thought about boot camp. Bugs would land on us while we stood at attention, but we were forbidden to swat them. The first person who swatted on was called out in front of the platoon and informed by our Drill Instructor that as "boots," we were a lower form of life. To strike a bug would involve attacking a higher form of life which we were forbidden.

Ironically, that's what Arab Islamists think about themselves, that they are something like a higher form of life. They think of themselves as the most blessed of all people because Allah chose to send his messenger to them. Arab arrogance based on being the first Muslims tends to show up from time to time in conflict or competition with other Muslim ethnicities. My lack of sleep seemed to blend ideas together. Would my getting out the Ben's 30, Wilderness Formula Insect Repellent be an overreaction? No, no, I thought. These bugs were not an existential threat, especially after the girls finished the water and we started back.

We were only at the river for a little over an hour but what if we lived in such a place? Bugs would have us at their mercy. Would Ben's bug spray be justified under those circumstances? Hey, I rationalized; maybe Ben's doesn't kill bugs. Maybe it only makes them sick. I have never actually seen a bug die from an encounter with Ben's insect repellant.

"Oh you hypocrite," my Pacifistic alter ego said. "That is very like what they said about Agent Orange. But do you really care about those bugs? They land on your shirt or neck and then perhaps fly off, but do you wait around to see the hundreds of bugs born with birth defects? Do you care about the weeping bug mothers who rock their still-born bug babies in their arms? No, of course you don't. You are just another insensitive Jarhead looking for something to kill."

Well, I knew that wasn't true. I didn't go "looking" for those bugs. They came looking for me. If you don't want a reaction then leave the back of my neck alone. You might sneer and accuse me of making up an enemy so I can be a hero, but if you land on the back of my neck; then I'm reaching for the Ben's Insect Repellent and whatever happens after that is going to be on your head and not mine.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bin Talal, Rauf, and the Ground Zero Mosque

Someone in response to my complaints that the Left has no arguments painted a Business Journal with ad hominem innuendo. What does the business journal article say? This is interesting because we both, this person and I, jumped to conclusions. I thought it only a matter of time before Rauf was exposed as the Sharia supporter I believed him to be, but this person I am referring to on the other hand jumped to the conclusion that anyone who attacked the Mosque backers or the Mosque must be associated with Fox News and Glenn Beck. Is that bizarre? Not to him, obviously.

While I don't watch Fox News or Glenn Beck, I don't believe that the mere invoking of their names is an argument. Is what they say true or not, that ought to be the focus, and since they are among the many things-people I pay little attention to I am not going to be able to answer that question. But I can scoff at people who invoke names as an argument.

As to the billionaire Saudi Al-Waleed bin Talal, I'm sure he spreads his money around quite a lot, but I am only concerned about his political orientation. Saudi Muslims are Wahhabi, and that fundamentalist Sunni sect is the predecessor of the Muslim Brotherhood out of which Sayyid Qutb came. I haven't studied bin Talal personally, but I would ask him, if I could, whether he is a religious Muslim, for if he is, then he is sure to be Wahhabi. A Wahhabi billionaire might invest in many things to make his money grow, but if he supports a religious cause then it is going to be consistent with the Wahhabi religious orientation. Osama bin Laden came out of that milieu as did all those who took place in the bombing of the Twin Towers. Osama's beliefs are consistent with both the Wahhabi sect and Islamism. Their disagreements are more about who should be running things than substance. It was no very great leap for the Wahhabi Osama to broaden out to the Islamist leader of Al Qaeda. Of course the Wahhabi's denounce Osama bin Laden, but that was only to be expected.

If I tell someone I'm Presbyterian, then it wouldn't be out of line for someone to ask me about Presbyterian doctrine. Questions about my religious beliefs logically follow from who I say I am. As far as I know the Wahhabi sect is the only form of Islam being adhered to by Saudis; so is Al-Waleed bin Talal a Wahhabi or not? That is a fair question. That he is associated with the Muslim Brothers which grew out of the Wahhabi sect isn't surprising. Wahhabis and the Muslim Brothers have a traditional relationship. To question his relationship with the Muslim Brothers is another logical question we can ask.

Let's look at one of Rauf's statements, that the American form of government is Sharia compliant. One writer, Nonie Darwish of FrontPageMag took the trouble of creating a list of Sharia requirements. Rauf never said precisely what he meant but he did say that he thought our form of government "Sharia Compliant" so it isn't out of line to look at some Sharia requirements to see whether we agree:

"Imam Feisal Abdel Rauf claims that the U.S. constitution is Sharia compliant. Now let us examine below a few laws of Sharia to see how truthful Imam Rauf is:

1- Jihad, defined as “to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion,” is the duty of every Muslim and Muslim head of state (Caliph). Muslim Caliphs who refuse jihad are in violation of Sharia and unfit to rule.

2- A Caliph can hold office through seizure of power meaning through force.

3- A Caliph is exempt from being charged with serious crimes such as murder, adultery, robbery, theft, drinking and in some cases of rape.

4- A percentage of Zakat (charity money) must go towards jihad.

5- It is obligatory to obey the commands of the Caliph, even if he is unjust.

6- A caliph must be a Muslim, a non-slave and a male.

7- The Muslim public must remove the Caliph if he rejects Islam.

8- A Muslim who leaves Islam must be killed immediately.

9- A Muslim will be forgiven for murder of: 1) an apostate 2) an adulterer 3) a highway robber. Vigilante street justice and honor killing is acceptable.

10- A Muslim will not get the death penalty if he kills a non-Muslim, but will get it for killing a Muslim.

11- Sharia never abolished slavery, sexual slavery and highly regulates it. A master will not be punished for killing his slave.

12- Sharia dictates death by stoning, beheading, amputation of limbs, flogging even for crimes of sin such as adultery.

13- Non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims under the law. They must comply to Islamic law if they are to remain safe. They are forbidden to marry Muslim women, publicly display wine or pork, recite their scriptures or openly celebrate their religious holidays or funerals. They are forbidden from building new churches or building them higher than mosques. They may not enter a mosque without permission. A non-Muslim is no longer protected if he leads a Muslim away from Islam.

14- It is a crime for a non-Muslim to sell weapons to someone who will use them against Muslims. Non-Muslims cannot curse a Muslim, say anything derogatory about Allah, the Prophet, or Islam, or expose the weak points of Muslims. But Muslims can curse non-Muslims.

15- A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim.

16- Banks must be Sharia compliant and interest is not allowed.

17- No testimony in court is acceptable from people of low-level jobs, such as street sweepers or bathhouse attendants. Women in low level jobs such as professional funeral mourners cannot keep custody of their children in case of divorce.

18- A non-Muslim cannot rule — even over a non-Muslim minority."

Darwish's list isn't complete. Sharia is far more extensive than this list, but this list is accurate. The items on it are part of Sharia law; so it would be fair to confront Rauf with this list and ask him what he meant when he said our foe of government was Sharia compliant -- specifically how his words could be made to relate to Darshish's list.

Ground Zero Mosque’s Saudi Patron

One of the open questions about Rauf and the Ground Zero Mosque has to do with where he is getting the financing. While Rauf wouldn't tell us, in this modern age of information we could be assured that someone would dig it out, and someone has: This article appears in the Investors Business Daily.

The Saudi individual identified as a Mosque backer has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. What is the relationship of The Muslim Brothers to Islamism? Sayyid Qutb, the chief ideologue of Islamism was a Muslim Brother. Arabic Islamism originated in the Muslim Brotherhood, and its influence spread throughout the Muslim world and beyond. Now its influence is being increased in New York. I can't say it will be a new thing in New York because the Al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn has been a hot-bed of Islamist training.

The Muslim Brothers are not a "Moderate" Islamic organization. And the Wahhabi Saudis pushing their agenda aren't Moderate either.

Perhaps some Leftist or Liberal (I have the same problem distinguishing between them that I do distinguishing between Moderate and Radical Muslims) can read this same article and tell me how harmless it sounds -- perhaps it is nothing more than the First Amendment at work. Or maybe the Investors Business Daily is a seething cauldron of Right-Wing propaganda. It looked like just another business journal to me, but I'll leave it to the Left to sniff out enemies of the Left-Wing-Moderate-Radical-Islam -- just as some of the rest of us are good at sniffing out enemies of Liberal Democracy.

The Sudden Jihad Syndrome at work in Canada

In our never-ending search for Moderate Islam, we visit a Canadian Mosque. Just yesterday (August 27th) two moderate members of this moderate Mosque in Brossard, south of Montreal were arrested in an "alleged plot to bomb Canadian targets."

Canadians can't make sense of this, for these two worked at a Montreal hospital and even played on the same Muslim ball hockey team.

"A former McGill classmate, who didn't want to be identified, tells QMI Agency that Sher was a calm man who showed no signs of radicalization at school.

"It's a huge surprise,' he said. "I never would have expected this. I can't believe that a calm guy like that could plan such violent acts."

"He must be a decent fellow"

Indeed yes, they both must be -- two more "Moderate Muslims" attending a "Moderate Mosque" who fell victim to the Sudden Jihad Syndrome.  It’s a great mystery.  Who can explain it?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Klavan, Islamaphobia, and the motivation of the Left

The above is an article by Andrew Klavan entitled "Name-Calling" and subtitled "'Islamophobia': the latest charge to try to stifle legitimate debate."

Klavan makes a couple of points I haven't heard presented quite like Klavan does. I'll leave them in context:

"Recently, in defending an imam’s proposal to build a triumphalist “Muslim Cultural Center” near Manhattan’s Ground Zero—where, we may remember, so many innocents were slaughtered in the name of Allah—the Left has outdone itself. Rather than engage in serious debate with the vast majority of New Yorkers and Americans who oppose the project, the mosque’s defenders have simply dubbed the opposing viewpoint “Islamophobia.” As ever when this naming device is used, the left-wing media seem to rally as one. Within the space of a single week, Time put the word on its cover, Maureen Dowd accused the entire nation of it in her column, and CBS News trotted out the charge in reporting on mosque opposition.

"For anyone born with the gift of laughter, the term is absurd to the point of hilarity. A phobia, after all, is an irrational fear. Given that Islam is cancerous with violence in virtually every corner of the globe, given the oppressive and exclusionary nature of many Islamic governments, given the insidious Islamist inroads against long-held freedoms in western Europe, and given those aspects of sharia that seem, to an outsider at least, to prohibit democracy, free speech, and the fair treatment of the female half of our species, those who love peace and liberty would, in fact, be irrational not to harbor at least a measure of concern."

And in response to the Left's constant hammering of everyone else over the Islamic right to build a Mosque at Ground Zero because of the hallowed "Freedom of Religion" guaranteed by the First Amendment, Klavan writes, "With a hostility toward Christianity second only to Dracula’s, the Left has no credibility on the subject of freedom of religion."

"Which is to say that perhaps opponents of the mosque should question the motives of those who question their motives. In any case, they should greet the designation of Islamophobia with the derision that it deserves."

Here is something from Wikipedia on "Phobias" "A phobia . . . is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus. When the fear is beyond one's control, and if the fear is interfering with daily life, then a diagnosis under one of the anxiety disorders can be made.

"This is caused by what are called, neutral, unconditioned, and conditioned stimuli, which trigger either conditioned or unconditioned responses . . ."

"Phobias are a common form of anxiety disorders. An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 8.7% and 18.1% of Americans suffer from phobias. Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than 25. . ."

"Phobias are generally caused by an event recorded by the amygdala and hippocampus and labeled as deadly or dangerous; thus whenever a specific situation is approached again the body reacts as if the event were happening repeatedly afterward. Treatment comes in some way or another as a replacing of the memory and reaction to the previous event perceived as deadly with something more realistic and based more rationally. In reality most phobias are irrational, in the sense that they are thought to be dangerous, but in reality are not threatening to survival in any way."

COMMENT: Given the above definition of "phobia" we should seek to replace our "irrational" fear of Radical Islam with a picture of Radical Islam that is benign, but alas, such a picture does not exist. It is relentlessly opposed to Liberal Democracy and bent upon replacing it by fair means or foul with Islam. How much does one need to read about Rauf, the force behind the Cordoban Mosque, to be suspicious of him? He is described as a "moderate" because he says that the American Constitution is "Sharia compliant." That doesn't sound moderate to me. It sounds as though he wants to make America more and more "Sharia compliant."

And what of the Arabic title of his book about America: " A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11." Doesn't that title indicate that the American Constitution isn't the primary concern in his desire to establish a Mosque on the site of the former Trade Center? How paranoid must an objective observe be to imagine that Rauf is proud to be standing in the "World Trade Center Rubble," and not because he is seeking to bridge a gap between "Moderate Islam" and "American Liberal Democracy." American Liberal Democracy has proved itself well capable of tolerating all other points of view willing to tolerate the others view held in America. The one thing Ameican has never tolerated until now is "intolerance." But now, the Left, has decided, for reasons never made clear, to embrace this intolerant position that slides between Radical and Moderate Islam as the Islamic spirit moves it.

Klavan wonders, "Does the Left really cherish the rights of Islam, or is theirs but a short-sighted alliance with the enemy of their enemies?"

I have wondered the same thing. I have been criticized for my numerous opinions by the Left, but I have never heard an argument or explanation, at least not a credible one, for why they so vociferously support Radical Islam. Since the Left won't or can't explain itself on this matter, it is left for the "opponents of the mosque" [and opponents of Radical Islam in general] to "question their motives."

This issue continues to puzzle me. Anyone who has read the writings of Sayyid Qutb or any of his derivative acolytes must know that if Radical Islam succeeds as it hopes to, the Left will be the first to have their heads chopped off. Those of us on the Right who are also Christian or Jewish will be given the opportunity to become Dhimmi, but not those of the Left who have no religion. They are hopeless and deserve to be executed at once. Would you like a hood, Mr. Blogblather?

There are several groups that seek to expose the association of the Left with Radical Islam. Jihad Watch is one that comes to mind. Another is Front Page Mag : It is depressing to read these Blogs. Issue after issue deals with the same sort of thing, and the evidence is overwhelming that there is collusion between the Left and Radical Islam and that Radical Islam is bent on world conquest. The Leftist response is invariably puerile: You are all Islamophobic!

David Horowitz wrote a book entitled, Unholy Alliance, Radical Islam and the American Left. I have on more than one occasion asked someone on the Left what they thought of Horowitz's evidence. "Horowitz?" They would respond and sneer in ASCII. Horowitz is a . . . . I must admit that they have an interesting collection of attributes to apply to Islamophobic people like Horowitz. These attributes will be applied to Klavan on the basis of my title. But they never answer my question. Calling Horowitz, Klavan and me "Islamophobic" is all they can do.

No self-respecting Leftist is actually going to read my blog note, but if one, in a moment of weakness were to read it, I would ask him if he understood the meaning of "phobia." During the hot months I walk my dogs (two Rhodesian Ridgebacks) at night. I'm reminded of the Army motto: "we own the night." When my Ridgeback girls and I walk at night it is as though we own it. We might as well own it because no one else is out there. Do all those who stay indoors have a "phobia" about "the night"? Is their fear of going out for a walk at night "irrational"? I don't think so. The night would be the time that muggers might be lurking about. The papers have frequent accounts of people being robbed, beaten, raped and murdered, primarily at night.

Now if we move back to the subject of Islamophobia, we might very well find an equal number of newspaper accounts describing the excesses of Radical Islam: people being murdered, beheaded, scalded with acid, raped, and bombed -- at night and in the day-time. So if the fear of walking at night is not a phobia, the fear of Radical Islam isn't either. Both fears are rational.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Understanding Nietzsche and Fukuyama (Part 2)


Fukuyama describes how the West's aristocratic warrior's ambitions have (for the most part) been successfully transformed by Liberal Democracy into peaceful equivalents of war:

"The desire to be recognized as superior to other people we will . . . label . . . megalothymia. Megalothymia can be manifest in the tyrant who invades and enslaves a neighboring people so that they will recognize his authority, as well as in the concert pianist who wants to be recognized as the foremost interpreter of Beethoven. Its opposite is isothymia, the desire to be recognized as the equal of other people . . ."

"The social embodiment of megalothymia, and the social class against which modern liberalism declared war, was the traditional aristocracy. The aristocratic warrior did not create wealth, he stole it from other warriors . . . His behavior was fenced in by dictates of pride and codes of honor which did not permit him to do things beneath his dignity. . . War . . . remained central to the aristocratic way of life, and war, as we well know is 'economically suboptimal.' Much better, then, to convince the aristocratic warrior of the vanity of his ambitions, and to transform him into a peaceful businessman, whose self-enriching activities would serve to enrich those around him as well."

"An American politician could harbor ambitions to be a Caesar or a Napoleon, but the system would allow him or her to be no more than a Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan -- hemmed in by powerful institutional constraints and political forces on all sides and forced to realize their ambition by being the people's 'servant' rather than their master."

And this is the Liberal Democracy that Fukuyama views as the end of history. It has taken the desire to distinguish oneself on the field of battle and transmuted it into the desire to distinguish oneself in activities that preserve and enhance Liberal Democracy. Once all nations have become Liberal Democracies than there will be no more war and history will be at an end, but not everyone viewed this future with equanimity.

"The greatest and most articulate champion of thymos in modern times, and the prophet of its revival, was Friedrich Nietzsche . . . Nietzsche was once described by a contemporary as an 'aristocratic radical,' a characterization he did not dispute. Much of his work can be seen, in a certain sense, as a reaction to what he saw as the rise of an entire civilization of 'men without chests,' a society of bourgeois who aspired to nothing more than their own comfortable self-preservation. For Nietzsche, the very essence of man was neither his desire nor his reason, but his thymos: man was above all a valuing creature, the beast with red cheeks' . . . Nietzsche's well-known doctrine of the 'will to power' can be understood as the effort to reassert the primacy of thymos as against desire and reason, and to undo the damage that modern liberalism had done to man's pride and self-assertiveness. "

What happens with this Liberal Democratic "man with no chest" has to defend himself against people without his fine sense of such things as "the first amendment"? There is no easy answer to that. The "man with no chest" sees his system as superior and worthy of emulation, but he has given up his will to fight for it. Fortunately for this system, not every member is born "with no chest." Fukuyama writes, "Nature, on the other hand, will conspire to preserve a substantial degree of megalothymia even in our egalitarian, democratic world. For Nietzsche was absolutely correct in his belief that some degree of megalothymia is a necessary precondition for life itself. A civilization devoid of anyone who wanted to be recognized as better than others, and which did not affirm in some way the essential health and goodness of such a desire, would have little art or literature, music or intellectual life. It would be incompetently governed, for few people of quality would choose a life of public service. It would not have much in the way of economic dynamism; its crafts and industries would be pedestrian and unchanging, and its technology second-rate. And perhaps most critically, it would be unable to defend itself from civilizations that were infused with a greater spirit of megalothymia, whose citizens were ready to forsake comfort and safety and who were not afraid to risk their lives for the sake of dominion. Megalothymia is, as it always was, a morally ambiguous phenomenon: both the good things and the bad things of life flow from it, simultaneously and necessarily. If liberal democracy is ever subverted by megalothymia, it will be because liberal democracy needs megalothymia and will never survive on the basis of universal and equal recognition alone."

So while Fukuyama is considered the modern father of the idea that Liberal Democracy is "the end of history" we see him here wrestling with the idea that megalothymia is needed in some form for its survival. As long as Liberal Democracy is satisfying this need by providing opportunities for those who want to be superior, then the need will remain benign. But what happens if someone's need is greater than anything provided by Liberal Democracy?

We who are comfortable living in our Liberal Democracies hope there will never be such people as the "Aristocratic Warrior" again. We like things the way they are. But Nietzsche didn't: "He hated societies that were diverse and tolerant, preferring instead those that were intolerant, instinctive, and without remorse -- the Indian Chandala caste that tried to breed distinct races of men, or the 'blond beasts of prey' which unhesitatingly lay (their) terrible claws upon a populace.' Nietzsche's relationship to German fascism has been debated at great length, and while he can be defended from the narrow charges of being the forefather of National Socialism's simpleminded doctrines, the relationship between his thought and Nazism is not accidental. Just as in the case of his follower, Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche's relativism shot out of all the philosophical props holding up Western liberal democracy, and replaced it with a doctrine of strength and domination. Nietzsche believed the era of European nihilism, which he was helping to inaugurate, would lead to 'immense wars' of the spirit, objectless wars whose only purpose was to affirm war itself."

The "last man" for Nietzsche "resembles the slave in Hegel's bloody battle that began history. But the last man's situation is made worse as a result of the entire historical process that has ensued since that time, the complex cumulative evolution of human society toward democracy. For according to Nietzsche, a living thing cannot be healthy, strong, or productive except by living within a certain horizon, that is, a set of values and beliefs that are accepted absolutely and uncritically. 'No artist will paint his picture, no general win his victory, no nation gain its freedom,' without such a horizon, without loving the work that they do 'infinitely more than it deserves to be loved.' . . . That is why modern man is the last man: he has been jaded by the experience of history, and disabused of the possibility of direct experience of values.

"Modern education, in other words, stimulates a certain tendency toward relativism, that is, the doctrine that all horizons and values systems are relative to their time and place, and that none are true but reflect the prejudices or interests of those who advance them. The doctrine that says that there is no privileged perspective dovetails very nicely with democratic man's desire to believe that his way of life is just as good as any other. Relativism in this context does not lead to the liberation of the great or strong, but of the mediocre, who were now told they had nothing of which to be ashamed. The slave at the beginning of history declined to risk his life in the bloody battle because he was instinctively fearful. The last man at the end of history knows better than to risk his life for a cause, because he recognizes that history was full of pointless battles in which men fought over whether they should be Christian or Muslim, Protestant or Catholic, German or French. The loyalties that drove men to desperate acts of courage and sacrifice were proven by subsequent history to be silly prejudices. Men with modern educations are content to sit at home, congratulating themselves on their broadmindedness and lack of fanaticism. As Nietzsche's Zarathustra says of them, 'For thus you speak: 'Real are we entirely, and without belief or superstition.' Thus you stick out your chests -- but alas, they are hollow!'

COMMENT: I enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 during a war. Sixty years later I have not changed my mind as to that being the right thing to do. I don't believe wars are pointless. In this year, 2010, I don't believe a war between Islamism and Liberal Democracy pointless. I am no relativist. On the other hand I have never had much megalothymia pertaining to war. I was a sergeant in the Marine Corps and that's all I ever aspired to be. My chest was large enough to be willing to defend my country, but not so large that I wanted to start a war for personal aggrandizement. I liked living in a Liberal Democracy, but I was no "last man." The idea of running off to Canada to avoid being in a war was appalling. If a Liberal Democracy had value as a place to live, then it was worth fighting for.

I say I never aspired to being more than a Sergeant, but that isn't all I felt. I had a certain mistrust of officers. I wasn't sure we needed them. Sergeants, at least Marine Corps Sergeants, were perfectly capable of fighting a war. That may not have been true, but that is what I thought when I was in the Corps, and that is sort of what I think today. We don't need military ambition, at least not the sort of ambition that some of the Greek aristocratic warriors displayed. I am of the American "Jacksonian" tradition. We believe in defeating the enemies and then taking off our uniforms and going home. If you aren't willing to do that "then you ain't much of a man," or as Nietzsche would say, "you haven't much of a chest."

I do feel ambivalent about our current situation. Our Liberal Democracy has fostered a complacency, one in which the men with no chests listen to their "great leaders" who encourage them in their relativistic beliefs. They are encouraged to think one belief is as good as the next, that there is no point in fighting against Islamism because Islamism is just as good as anything we believe in. We as a prosperous Liberal Democracy can afford quite a lot of these "Hollow men," but should their relativistic philosophy ever prevail, should there ever be a time when an adequate number of men with chests could not be found to defend Liberal Democracy, then the Liberal Democratic world would end -- as T.S. Eliot wrote in 1925 in his poem "The Hollow Men":

"this is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

On understanding Nietzsche and Fukuyama (Part 1)


While Richard (see his comment below) doesn't precisely say what it is I've written that he disagrees with, he has an interesting way with innuendo. One of the aspersions he may have been casting has to do with young people. Such people, he may be implying, may not be capable of understanding Nietzsche, or if they do, may not be capable of understanding him as well as a seasoned philosopher from Mainz. For the sake of discussion I will assume that is what he is implying.

My first thought, when I thought Richard was saying that young people are less likely to be able to handle complex ideas than older people had to do with mathematicians and logicians. Not so long ago I was interested in Alfred Tarksi. Rather than search through Fefferman & Feferman's Alfred Tarski, Life and Logic for the passage I was interested in, I turned to Wikipedia where I found: "Tarski's first paper, published when he was 19 years old, was on set theory, a subject to which he returned throughout his life. In 1924, he and Stefan Banach proved that, if one accepts the Axiom of Choice, a ball can be cut into a finite number of pieces, and then reassembled into a ball of larger size, or alternatively it can be reassembled into two balls whose sizes each equal that of the original one. This result is now called the Banach–Tarski paradox." My impression is that logicians and mathematicians such as Tarski do their best work when they are young.

Also, in The World Turned Upside Down, Christopher Hill discusses young people: On page 366 he writes, "Part of the ebullience I have been discussing springs from the youth of the actors. Young men of ability have far more chance of coming to the top in a revolution. I have already quoted accounts of the appeal of religious radicalism to the young. Brailsford pointed out how very young were the Agitators of 1647. It was true of higher ranks in the Army too. Fairfax was Commander-in-Chief of the New Model Army at the age of 33, Ludlow military ruler of Ireland at the same age. Henry Ireton was only 40 when he died in 1651. John Lambert was perhaps the second most powerful person in the kingdom at the age of 35; his political career was finished when he was 41, though he languished for another 23 years in gaol. The New Model offered one career to the talents; but leaders of democratic sects also had to establish their ascendancy in open competition, and most of them were very young when they entered on these careers. Bidle was born in 1616, Nayler in 1617 or 1618, Coppe in 1619, Fox in 1623, John Rogers in 1627, Richard Hubberthorne in 1628, Edward Burrough in 1634. All were under thirty when the civil war ended. James Parnell was still not 20 when he died in 1656. It was a young man's world while it lasted."

Since Richard hasn't offered any particular objection to anything I've written -- only innuendo; which if I am smart enough (now being over 20) I may be able to figure out and comment upon, I offer the above as impressions or illustrations of how the young men in certain disciplines (mathematics and logic) and in a certain very memorable time in British History were capable of showing a high level of ability. And I venture to assume that understanding Nietzsche at age 25 was far less difficult than the activities described above. I don't recall finding Nietzsche "difficult." I did find it difficult to understand him in any systematic way. He presented his philosophy as literature (Thus Spake Zarathustra) or as raging; which suited me at the time. Were I to have devoted my life to the study of Nietzsche, I would have added experience and additional data over the years -- not necessarily "ability."

Richard hinted that he also disapproved of Fukuyama's perception of Nietzsche's Ubermensch. I would be interested in learning whether Richard has actually read Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man, or drawing his hinted conclusion from what I said about him. My impression is that Fukuyama's discussion of Nietzsche's "Last Man" is the part least discussed by those interested in his book. And this should not be surprising. We are all familiar with Marxi having turned Hegel on his head in order to argue that Communism rather than Capitalism would be "the end of history." So after the fall of the Soviet Union it was fascinating to have someone (Kojeve and Fukuyama) argue that Hegel was right after all. Capitalism (now known as "Liberal Democracy") was to comprise the "end of history" and not Communism.

One of Fukuyama's professors, Samuel P. Huntington, kept attention on that aspect of Fukuyama's thesis by writing (in 1994, two years after Fukuyama's End of History was published) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Many of us speculated about which theory would turn out to be correct. The fly in Fukuyama's ointment was Islamism. When he wrote his book, he considered the Islamist threat, but thought that it wouldn't be able to compete militarily or economically with Liberal Democracy. Huntington on the other hand, broke the world into several "Civilizations" and argued that they would not in the foreseeable future be at peace with each other. There would always be clashes along their "fault lines." Also, each Civilization had a "core state" that protected or kept in line the member states. While Huntington's argument gets a bit tenuous if we try to fit all nations into his thesis, it is fairly clear when we argue that Russia is the "Core State" of the "Orthodox Civilization," and the U.S. is the "Core State" of the "Western Civilization." And, following Huntington, we can see that part of the reason that the "Islamic Civilization" is in such a chaotic condition is that it has no "Core State."

It is an interesting fact that many in the Islamic world have taken to Huntington's thesis. The idea that they are "clashing" with other civilizations appeals to them. The question of which nation is to be the "Core State" is also of interest. It can't be Turkey, because they aren't religious enough. It can't be Indonesia because they aren't Arab. It can't be Iran because Iran is Shiite. It can't be Saudi Arabia because it is too small. It might have been Iraq if it hadn't been dominated by that scoundrel, Saddam Hussein, but wait. Could a revitalized Iraq assume that mantle?

Has Huntington's thesis replaced Fukuyama's? I don't believe so. Fukuyama discussed the Muslim civilization and believed the Islamist threat, while theoretically a challenge to Liberal Democracy, was not in the long run up to the task. But in the "short run" it might, and in the short run Fukuyama and Huntington represent two useful ways to view the Islamist threat.

Fukuyama was taken up as the theoretician of the Neocons. At first Fukuyama was probably flattered, but when he perceived that they were trying to advance the spread of Liberal Democracy by military means, he wrote America at the Crossroads, Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy and "resigned" from the Neocon movement. To advance Liberal Democracy by military means would be neither "Liberal" nor "Democratic" and could be counter-productive. Fukuyama's thesis was that Liberal Democracy would become "the end of history" by virtue of its values and effectiveness. Wars should be fought for the old reasons of self-defense or self-interest and not to advance Liberal Democracy.

This thesis of Fukuyama's is in part dependent upon the belief that Islamism will not succeed. And in reading his America at the Crossroads we see him invoking Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy in support of the idea that Islamism is not the threat that some believe it to be. I read Kepel and Roy and when Fukuyama created The American Interest to at the very least deal with his approach rather than the Neocon approach used in The National Interest, I subscribed to it. Is Islamism a serious threat? Well, yes, Fukuyama would say, but not as serious as such writers as Bat Yeor, Oriana Fallaci, Claire Berlinski, Bruce Bawer, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Mark Steyn, and David Selbourne say it is -- not that Fukuyama has read all these writers, but I have and believe he would agree with what I have written here.

If I were to voice an opinion about the future, it would be a tentative one. Fukuyama may well be right, but only strategically. That is, in the long run, Liberal Democracy may very well be "the end of history," But in the short run, in a tactical sense, it strikes me as foolish to act on that belief -- as though it were not tentative but an established fact. Consider a fact of history: Hitler and his Third Reich lost World War II, but this loss in the 1930s and a few years into the 1940s was not a foregone conclusion. Hitler could have won World war II. The military historian, Bevin Alexander wrote a book entitled How Hitler could have won World War II, the Fatal Errors that Led to the Nazi defeat. It took a lot of hard work and the sacrifice of a great number of lives to defeat Hitler. Now consider the Islamists. Is it a foregone conclusion that they will be defeated by Liberal Democracy -- without the forces of Liberal Democracy having to work toward that defeat? Or are there things we should be doing tactically to assure our victory?

When I argue, for example, against the Ground Zero Mosque, I have in mind what would further our cause tactically. That the Islamists intend to defeat the West isn't a matter of debate. They do. They have argued that they do, and they have acted in accordance with that argument. On the spectrum of Islamic belief we can put Islamism on the far right and Turkish secularism on the far left. We can only guess and have less than provable opinions about where any particular person or group fits on this spectrum. I have argued that the building of the Cordoban Mosque is toward the Islamist end of the spectrum. It can be claimed as one more victory for Islamism. I have been disappointed that those on the Left have no wish to put the building in the spectrum at all. It is as though the Islamic opinion is of no value in coming to a conclusion. All that matters is American opinion; so they look to our bill of rights and trot out "freedom of religion," and say "case closed." Perhaps the case will be closed from the standpoint of New York City and the building of this mosque, but the case is wide open in regard to the advance of Islamism. Islamism can theoretically win "World War III" if its enemies do nothing to stop it.

[I'll consider Nietzsche's "last man" and "superman" in Part II]

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard

Jesus was, and Lawrence is, worried about the "blind guides" of the people, for Jesus, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, for Lawrence, the "Journalists [his capitals] and political hacks who use nothing but their extremely-faulty opinions to influence the ordinary descendants of those who lived during a time" (long gone, 1650) when better people than nowadays still knew how to "use their 'freedom' to formulate their own philosophy." When Lawrence was in his 20s he was "a great admirer of Nietzsche" and read all his works then published, but now, to refresh his memory in answering my critique of his understanding of Nietzsche's Superman, he Googles a Michigan State English major in his 20s who says that Nietzsche, "[i]n eliminating the idea of God and the values attached to it in his system ... is forced to give us a parallel substitute, that is, another god like figure from whom we may receive our new values in order to fill the void which is created." The young man's essay will eventually end on a "thumbs up," at least for the time being, for the Christian over the Nietzschean "doctrine" of beliefs and values: "So though we are here given two equally important doctrines it seems for this present day and age, though it may be dying out, the idea of Christianity is more useful in that we as a whole are still far too reluctant to part with its ideas about life."

Whether the real problem is Fukuyama's (mis?)conception of "Nietzsche's fear for the future and his belief in the necessity of Superman," I cannot say, but I do seem to be having, perhaps "faulty" visions of capes and big Ss. And that cannot be attributed to Nietzsche. Until he wrapped his arms around the dray's head in a Turin street and began addressing postcards to friends signed by the Crucified One, he had no particular fear for the future, his personal, Europe's or the world's, and only knew what a burden it was to use his freedom to formulate his own philosophy, and not rely on a deity, or whatever hardwiring Lawrence has, to determine what is a "faulty" opinion or idea or value or belief.


University of Mainz

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Nietzsche’s Superman and Faulty Opinions


Richard (see Richard’s comments below),

I was once a great admirer of Nietzsche and read all the works of then published, but this was back when I was in my 20s and I am now half way through my 70s; so when I see a comment like yours I wonder whether I have forgotten what I read in some respect. Rather than reread Thus Spake Zarathusthra, I checked the Internet and the first comment I discovered matches my recollection:  "We see that an understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy would not be complete without an understanding of the idea of the superman, the central and most crucial aspect about it. In eliminating the idea of God and the values attached to it in his system he is forced to give us a parallel substitute, that is, another god like figure from whom we may receive our new values in order to fill the void which is created." This is from

I've discussed Nietzsche elsewhere from time to time, especially in regard to Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. While Fukuyama's "end of history" addressed Hegel, Marx and Kojeve, his "and the last man" addressed Nietzsche's fear for the future and his belief in the necessity of Superman. So I can't tell what your concern is -- unless you are quibbling about my use of the word "leader" for superman or ubermensch.

As to your second concern, that there is really no such thing as a "faulty opinion, let alone an extremely faulty opinion" I must also disagree, at least about the former expression. I mean by this an opinion based upon faulty evidence; which I believe is the common understanding.

Here is the legal use of the term: ". . . a mistaken or incomplete legal opinion may be grounds for a professional malpractice claim against the attorney, pursuant to which the attorney may be required to pay the claimant damages incurred as a result of relying on the faulty opinion." [from]

I think I understand what you mean, however. If someone were to voice an opinion about the future, then there would be no evidence about whether it was true or false, valid or invalid, accurate or faulty, but if someone were to voice an "opinion" that can be judged against facts or evidence (as in the legal definition) then it becomes like an argument. It can be valid or invalid, accurate or faulty.

In the Biblical reference you allude to, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the "blind guides" of the people. They voiced their opinions and their opinions were widely accepted at the time. Were Jesus to follow your suggestion he would not be willing to touch those opinions. He would not be able to call them faulty, and yet he did -- not in those words of course, but that was the intent. Their opinions or beliefs were their own and in a certain sense genuine. Nevertheless Jesus criticized them as hypocrites and blind guides. Their opinions can therefore be termed faulty without violating the meaning of the Biblical text.



From: Richard
Subject: Re: Christopher Hill and thinking for oneself

To what extent [d]o we rely upon others to do our thinking for us? ...  [From Lawrence Helms's blog this past Monday under the title in the subject line]...

While today neither the Church nor the State imposes their authority upon us, we are not free of the authority of the Journalist. Many, as a recent discussion I was in suggested, would rather invoke a Journalist of the Left or Right than think the various issues they are concerned with through for themselves. While this phenomenon seems to go against the Leftist view that man is in a state of continuous "progress," it wouldn't surprise such philosophers as Nietzsche ... who argued that the common man would always need a "leader" to tell him what to think.

It would, for instance, be a sorry thing to invoke this as an example of Nietzsche's philosophy, "that the common man would always need a 'leader' to tell him what to think."

There is a Biblical concept that would probably occur to any Christian during a discussion of the Nuremberg trials, namely that we shall be held accountable for the teachers we set over us. The blind that follow the blind shall both end up in the ditch. But in this age where many, perhaps most, fear neither God nor man, it is interesting that they do not use their "freedom" to formulate their own philosophy, but instead rely upon Journalists and political hacks who use nothing but their extremely-faulty opinions to influence the ordinary descendants of those who lived during a time in which "The World Turned Upside Down."

"Extremely-faulty opinions": did you ever ask yourself why it makes no sense to call opinions "faulty"? That would be like criticizing someone for his false beliefs or her faulty imagination. Even the tacking-on of the qualifying "extremely" is a tacit acknowledgement of the faulty construction "faulty opinions," as if to say, "OK, all opinions are of course a little faulty, but these go beyond the acceptable extremes of off-base, out-of-line, wacko opinions, so don't go there; don't be persuaded by them." On the other hand, "faulty memory" seems to make perfect sense. Why is that?

I'll tell you why. It's ordinary language (philosophy).


University of Mainz

Chomsky, National Defense, and Islamism


Slave Revolt left the following response to "The Democratic Left and the Ground Zero Mosque":

Come on now, play fair. There have been many Euro-Christian/American Pie-addled fanatics from the West that have engaged the task of conquering the entire world.

As far as the "Islamists" are concerned, which are you speaking of?

You do know that there are 1.6 billion people that practice variations of "Islam". You paint with a rather broad brush. That worked at the heights of abstract expressionism, but the world has changed in half a century.

You grope for metaphors and tropes that have long since lost their intellectual chache and spark.

But the guilt-by-association of the McCarthy era are still quite potent, and especially suited for this internet age of blog screeds.

Comment: "Slave Revolt" also left comments on two of my posts regarding Chomsky -- back in January of 2009. He is rather fond of Chomsky and suggests that I have the courage to debate him. SR writes, "Certainly, you haven't bothered to publically or privately debate the man.
"Far easier to sit on a blog and throw thought-turds--while your bevy of half-wit acolytes praise you for your intellect.
"Sorry, but that doesn't cut it for developing compelling arguments and then defend those arguments in any way that is convincing. "

I'm sure Chomsky would demolish me if we stood up some place and just talked. He does that for a living. I don't think he would be quite that successful if we were to exchange comments in such a forum as this one. Then too my "bevy of half-wit acolytes" isn't all that large; so he probably wouldn't think either course worth his while.

But in the absence of Chomsky, let's consider your comments in regard to the Ground Zero Mosque. Your first sentence seems to imply that since "fanatics from the West . . . engaged in the task of conquering the entire world," we should not fault the Islamists from wanting to conquer us. You might be right if "fairness" trumped national survival. However it never has and doesn't now; although you are not alone in thinking it should. Apparently many on the Left would rather be "fair" and "politically correct" than safe. Perhaps they take comfort in the layers of power that exist between them and actual danger, but all that could change if the Islamists have their way.

Which "Euro-Christian/American Pie-addled fanatics from the West that have engaged the task of conquering the entire world." I gave you the benefit of doubt in the previous paragraph, but I don't know to whom you refer. The only one from the West who some have purported to desire the "conquering of the entire world" was Hitler, and I am inclined to favor the "continental" interpretation of Hitler's desires (see Trevor-Roper on this). If you are referring to Europe's "colonial" aspirations, it would be even harder to prove that there was a desire on any nation's part to "conquer" the entire world. And to argue that these European nations were somehow working together to conquer the world could not be borne out by any historian I am aware of.

You ask "As far as the 'Islamists' are concerned, which are you speaking of?" I am using the definition that Islamists like to use for themselves, but we in the West have also used Militant or Radical Islam. In the early days, a favorite term was Islamic Fundamentalism. Arabic Islamism has been in the forefront of the attacks against the West. It can be traced from Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The chief ideologue of the Muslim Brothers was Sayyid Qutb and his chief contribution to Militant Islam was his emphasis on the Jihad. Islam traditionally considered a greater and lesser Jihad. The "greater" was something like that described in the Ephesians 6, but Sayyid Qutb revised the lesser Jihad to be the overriding demand of the Islamic religion for any Muslim who wished to enter paradise. In brief, he taught that Mohammad set about conquering the entire world with military force. After he died, the Righteous Imams followed his path, but after that, there was a falling away, an abandoning of Mohammad's path. Sayyid Qutb argued that true Muslims should resume Mohammad's Jihad and carry it through to completion -- completion being the conquering of the entire world in the name of Allah.

While Qutb's teachings have spread beyond the Arab world, there are two other schools of Islamism. The first is the Pakistani school created by Maududi. The Deobandis which produced the Taliban are largely of the Maududi school although his teachings have been combined with the teachings of Sayyid Qutb to some extent.

The third school was originated by Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite School of Islamism. Khomeini's teachings are very like those of Sayyid Qutb's, but for comparison's sake, we might say that the Khomeini school took a Stalinistic turn. Just as Stalin sought to build up Soviet Russia rather than convert the entire world, so Khomeini sought to build up Iran. This school extends very little beyond Iran and its military arm, Hezbollah. Sayyid Qutb, by contrast, would be the Trotsky of the Islamist world, seeking conversion of the entire world and not the advancement of any single Islamic nation.

In addition, the Proto-Islamist school of Wahhabism is still powerful as a result of Saudi Arabian wealth. We see the Wahhabi influence in Islamic regions beyond the ones mentioned.

Moving along, I don't know what you meant by "You grope for metaphors and tropes that have long since lost their intellectual chache and spark." I just reread the note you are responding to and don't see the "metaphors and tropes" you refer to -- although Metaphors are tropes, complicating my attempts to understand your sentence. I assume you also mean "cache" when you write "chache." I hope you aren't referring to my reference to "The Wretched of the Earth," for that is a famous book by Franz Fanon and not any "metaphor or trope" of my own.

Your final sentence reads, "But the guilt-by-association of the McCarthy era are still quite potent, and especially suited for this internet age of blog screeds." I can only guess at what you mean by this. The only thing that makes sense is that you are unaware that the earliest apologists for Islamism, Edward said and John Esposito were Marxist in orientation and dismissed the idea that Islamism was an influential ideology. They preferred the idea that the phenomenon perceived as an ideology was in actuality an anti-Colonial movement such as the Algerian resistance described in Franz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth."

One final note, I have a policy of deleting the messages that are pure insult. You haven't quite gone that far, but if anything I have written in the above inspires you to take that direction, you might want to reconsider.

On a working definition of “Journalist”

Lest some of us get too far afield, and in hopes of restoring the context of the discussion (at least I had hoped that there might be one) on thinking for oneself.

Billy Blogblather sent the following note:

Just wanted to give Lawrence a heads-up -- be sure to read Maureen Dowd's column today:

And that of Frank Rich:
The second url should have been

I read both of these articles and was perplexed. I didn't see how they related to the current subject which I took to be the Ground Zero Mosque. Blogblather didn't explain. He not only didn't do any "original thinking" about these articles, he didn't do any demonstrable thinking at all; which is to say that he "might" have thought about them, but he didn't demonstrate or write about his thoughts. So I took him to be invoking Maureen Dowd and Frank rich as authorities. I took him to be saying, "here, Lawrence, this is my argument against what you have said."
And that reminded me of some things written by the historian Christopher Hill. Now it is true that I didn't define "journalist" precisely, but the context of the discussion did provide such a definition. Frank Rich defined the "right wing journalists."

Here are the people and groups that Frank Rich denigrated:
"Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats. . . ."
"Laura Ingraham, filling in on “The O’Reilly Factor,”
"the Rupert Murdoch axis of demagoguery"
"The Fox patron saint Sarah Palin."
"Bernie Kerik, who smuggled a Twitter message out of prison to register his rage at the ground zero desecration"
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.”
While Frank Rich didn't supply a list of the journalists he denigrated, by emphasizing Fox News he was at least including their big names. I doubt that I could name them all, but Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck come to mind.
And then, after Blogblather's note, the one cited above, I did provide the following definition: This is quoted from a note I posted on 8-23: "There is no one on Frank Rich's list of Right-Wing demons that I read. So to learn that Blogblather read's their Left Wing equivalent, and offers them up with approval disappointed me . . ."
I continued thinking about this issue, the issue of relying upon less-than-stellar-minds for one’s opinions, and eventually invoked Christopher Hill's The World Turned upside Down, and provided the quote and comment to be found at
It is true that I did say in this article, "There is a Biblical concept that would probably occur to any Christian during a discussion of the Nuremberg trials, namely that we shall be held accountable for the teachers we set over us. The blind that follow the blind shall both end up in the ditch. But in this age where many, perhaps most, fear neither God nor man, it is interesting that they do not use their "freedom" to formulate their own philosophy, but instead rely upon Journalists and political hacks who use nothing but their extremely-faulty opinions to influence the ordinary descendants of those who lived during a time in which "The World Turned Upside Down."
And it is also true that I didn't define "Journalists" in this article but intended the Frank Rich definition of the Right Wing Journalists" and further intended their Left-Wing equivalents, whoever they are. Whether the comments made about my article detract from it or provide examples of what I have argued against, I will leave up to the people who have read it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Christopher Hill and thinking for oneself

To what extent to we rely upon others to do our thinking for us? The age in which the English began freeing themselves from the authority of the Church and Monarchy interested the historian, Christopher Hill. Consider the following passage from his The World Turned Upside Down, Radical Ideas during the English Revolution. It is from his "Conclusion":

". . . I have tried to stress in this book the most unusual stimuli which during the revolutionary decades produced a fantastic outburst of energy, both physical and intellectual. the civil war itself, the intellectual forcing house of the New Model Army and its Army Council, regicide, the conquest of Ireland and Scotland, the Dutch and Spanish wars, physical and social mobility, the continuous flow of pamphlets on every subject under the sun -- one could list a great many more ways in which the energy manifested itself.

"For a short time, ordinary people were freer from the authority of church and social superiors than they had ever been before, or were for a long time to be again. . . They attacked the monopolization of knowledge within the privileged professions, divinity, law, medicine. They criticized the existing educational structure, especially the universities, and proposed a vast expansion of educational opportunity. They discussed the relation of the sexes, and questioned pars of the protestant ethic.

"The eloquence of power, of the simple artisans who took part in these discussions is staggering. Some of it comes across in print -- Fox the shepherd, Bunyan the tinker, Nayler the yeoman. We tend to take them for granted. But far more must have been lost, even of those men and women who left writings. And what of those who did not? The 'men of acute wit and voluble tongues', as an enemy described them, who visited Coppe in jail at Coventry in 1650? How overwhelmingly right Milton's pride had been in the 'noble and puissant nation, rousing herself like a strong man after asleep and shaking her invincible locks, . . . a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest human capacity can sour to'."

COMMENT: Would I be wrong to suggest that our modern-day equivalent of "the simple artisans" would far rather spend time immersing themselves in the sensual and mentally stimulating "benefits" provided them by science than engage in the soul searching and intellectual investigations that occupied those Hill is here describing with admiration? Were we as intellectually curious as our "simple artisan" ancestors, we could use the many aids that are literally at our fingertips. Despite their relative disadvantage, those "simple artisans" ground out their own opinions and voiced their own arguments. As Hill wrote, they developed their opinions free "from the authority of church and social superiors."

While today neither the Church nor the State imposes their authority upon us, we are not free of the authority of the Journalist. Many, as a recent discussion I was in suggested, would rather invoke a Journalist of the Left or Right than think the various issues they are concerned with through for themselves. While this phenomenon seems to go against the Leftist view that man is in a state of continuous "progress," it wouldn't surprise such philosophers as Nietzsche and Thomas Carlyle who argued that the common man would always need a "leader" to tell him what to think.

There is a Biblical concept that would probably occur to any Christian during a discussion of the Nuremberg trials, namely that we shall be held accountable for the teachers we set over us. The blind that follow the blind shall both end up in the ditch. But in this age where many, perhaps most, fear neither God nor man, it is interesting that they do not use their "freedom" to formulate their own philosophy, but instead rely upon Journalists and political hacks who use nothing but their extremely-faulty opinions to influence the ordinary descendants of those who lived during a time in which "The World Turned Upside Down."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Horace and the preparation for war


Horace:  "Of the following two, which one has the better chance

Of remaining self-assured in vicissitude:

The man who has accustomed his mind and magnificent body

To all the luxuries or the man who, content with little,

Fearing the future, provides in time of peace,

As a wise man should, the equipment required for war?"


Lefty:  Come off it Lawrence,

Horace died in Eight B.C.

At fifty-seven.  You must

Know we have advanced

Since then  -- the Romans

And the Greeks were primitives.

What are you, seventy-seven?


Lawrence: Almost.  In medicine perhaps

But Horace here was

Writing of avarice

And war.  We are

At least as avaricious

As they

In the world of his day.


Lefty:  But surely we are

Wiser in regard to war --

That self-destructive

Folly has surely plagued

Us for the last time.

We have subdued our warlike

Madness and mastered peace.


Lawrence:  If you look only in Europe

And on our own east coast,

But how do you subdue war

While there is an enemy in the field

Who wields the bomb and gun

And propaganda as well as anyone,

And who vows our death?


Lefty:  Lawrence, fie!  They were only

Having a some fun.  You take

Them way too seriously.

What's a few burned cars

Or roadside bombs or severed

Heads when the stake is peace.  Shall we

Break the bonds of peace for irrelevancies?


Lawrence:  And the twin-tower destruction?

How can you forget that,

Or their ideology, their

Firm resolve to see us all

Destroyed, their seeking WMDs

And swearing to destroy

Our ally Israel?


Lefty:  Don't speak of WMDs.

I'm surprised at your audacity,

And the destruction of the towers

Was not an act of war.

You are being bizarre.  Consider

Who it was that flew those planes:

Some college kids on a prank or lark?


Lawrence:   A prank or lark that killed

Three thousand souls?

That was no lark or prank

But the inspiration

Of Bin Laden and his base,

And they continue planning

And carrying out their plans.


Lefty:  Lighten up, Lawrence, or I

Will leave.  What are a few

Misfortunes in the broader scheme?

You can see now, I hope

The folly of your invasion

Of Iraq and Afghanistan,

Those bastions of tranquility,


Bush surely represented

A national wish for death

And very nearly managed.

There is hardly an Arab

Nation that trusts us now,

And Europe's disgust is palpable.

And will you spend our money on more vain war?


Lawrence:  Horace would

Say we were imprudently

Unprepared for these,

And are spending more

On quibbles than

On learning from

Our mistakes.


Lefty:  We didn't leave the world

Alone.  That was our mistake.

We could have let Saddam

Deal with Iran's nuclear

Ambitions.  Did you ever think

Of that?  And where's the threat

From the harmless Taliban?


Lawrence:  I did, actually, and when I

Played it out like chess

It always ended in

Nuclear conflagration, and

The end of fossil fuel

Before we'd developed

Something in its stead.


Lefty:  Did you ever think

You should have lived

In Horace's day --

With all those simple-

Minded poets and philosophers?

Did you master the use of the sword

In your Marine Corps time?


Lawrence:  I see no progress in these

Times, neither in common

Sense nor in preparation

For war, for the next

One will come as the last

In every age since Horace lived,

This is our nature and how we survive.


Lefty:  I'm leaving you.

You are far too pessimistic

For my sunny soul.

How can you live

With such gloomy thoughts --

Of an enemy at every gate

And in every doorway?


Lawrence:  Adieu, then, Lefty.

May your wish for peace be true,

But may we find enough wise

Souls in case it's not.

May they prudently prepare for war.

And may the Islamists be no more

Unified than we.