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The Pope Battles Against Dhimmitude Dems 0 for 3 on Terror

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Thug Week: The Pity of It All

by Christopher Chantrill
September 25, 2006 at 4:19 am

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YOU COULD TELL the point at which Thug Week at the United Nations got a bit out of hand. It was when Democratic leaders took a look at the overnight polls and declared that politics ends at the waters edge.

But what did they expect? After six years non-stop trashing of the president, they are surprised that a couple of street bullies decided to join in the fun?

The spectacle of thug dictators riling people up with their thuggish slogans dredged up from thuggish writers and radicals is nothing new. We’ve seen it again and again during the modern era.

What is remarkable is that the West has enjoyed a counter tradition that has tried to understand the apparent chaos of globalization and market-based society instead of trashing it as the thugs like to do.

In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years War, Central Europe looked much like today’s Middle East. It had been fought over in the great religious wars of the previous century, the toy of Great Powers and the victim of religious extremists. But then something unexpected happened. Rene Descartes built a philosophy on doubt, and then Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, and Spinoza began a tradition of political philosophy that marginalized religion as the binding force for political power. It was the beginning of a tidal wave of European skeptical thought that brought everything under critique: traditional society, traditional economy, religion, reality itself.

The result was also unexpected: the most astonishing civilization the world has ever seen, and the first one that ever freed the poor from the edge of starvation.

People couldn’t believe their eyes. They immediately started worrying that the whole edifice would collapse in chaos and return the world to misery and want.

Half a century ago the Egyptian Sayed Qtub, the spiritual father of Al Qaeda, came to the United States and saw, one fateful night at a church dance in Greeley, Colorado, lips meeting lips and chests pressed together. It seemed like the very essence of a world flying apart. As Arnaud de Borchgrave writes,

He viewed the world, as he saw it in 1950, as decadent, corrupt, oppressive and generating endless violence and war because of capitalist greed that was destroying Allah’s creations.

Been there, written that, Sayed. Jerry Z. Muller in The Mind and the Market looks at the ideas of fifteen European cultural critics—chaps like you—who worried about the market and its impact upon the human condition. They generally agreed that the only way the new chaotic market would work is if people like them were given more power. For Edmund Burke, scion of an Ireland suffering from the rapacity of absentee landlords, the solution was an improving nobility. For Hegel, scion of German civil servants, it was an improving civil service. For Matthew Arnold, the cultural brahmin scandalized by the Philistine middle class, it was an improving professoriate. For Marx, radicalized by the chaos of 1845 Germany, it was a revolutionary cadre that would do more than improve: it would transform utterly.

The pity of it is that while these worriers were polishing up their manifestos the object of their concern, the rising working and middle classes, were developing a vast web of new and authentic social institutions to meet the needs of the age, and the center of the web was the United States, as Tocqueville discovered in 1831. They built churches to give meaning to their lives; they built fraternal associations to collectivize the risks of industrial-age life in a convivial lodge; they built unions to enjoy the comforts of solidarity; they built political machines in the city to help immigrants get a start. Farmers out on the great plains wrote the law of homesteading, and miners in California wrote the mineral laws.

All in all, it was an astonishing achievement, so the elite worriers immediately put a stop to it. They trashed the lodges with their welfare state, they nationalized the city machines into the elite-run Democratic Party, and they froze ordinary people out of lawmaking. The churches they left alone because they knew that religion would soon die out.

The result of a century of elite supervision, as Robert William Fogel relates in The Fourth Great Awakening, is that while the material condition of the poor is much better than a century ago,

Such problems [in cities] as drug addiction, alcoholism, births to unmarried teenage girls, rape, the battery of women and children, broken families, violent teenage death, and crime are generally more severe today than they were a century ago.

As the Islamic world encounters modernity it is making every mistake that the Europeans made. It has Wahhabis sowing back-to-basics religious fanaticism. It has the Iranian Revolution trying to ape the wonders of the French and Russian Revolutions. And it has the writings of thinkers like Sayed Qtub inspiring radical whack-jobs to anarchist violence.

The one thing the elites of Islam (and Bolivarian South America) won’t do is leave their people alone to make their own practical step-by-step journey into the modern world. The temptation for thug dictators to rile them up into a frenzy is just too great.

That is already leading to a century of horrors in the Islamic world and of annoyance for everyone else.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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