|Liberals Are Not All Alike||Government Expenditure|
by Christopher Chantrill
November 30, 2007 at 3:30 am
OUR LIBERAL friends seem to think that the biggest domestic problem Americans face is the lack of univeral health care. And on the global stage the science is settled. The biggest threat to the planet is man-made global warming.
Conservatives beg to differ. We think that the biggest threat to life-as-we-know-it is the present eruption of radical Islam out of the Middle East. One of the most original voices making this case is that of Lee Harris. A couple of years ago in Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History he characterized the conflict as a war between the western team and the the eternal gang of ruthless men. Now in The Suicide of Reason: Radical Islams Threat to the West he takes a darker view.
Can the western culture of reason, he asks, adequately defend itself against the tribal fanaticism of radical Islam? We in the west, conservatives and liberals, today live under the myth of modernity first advanced in the Enlightenment when men came to believe that the law of the jungle could be permanently abolished... that life-and-death struggles between cultures and civilizations are a thing of the past. Harris warns that
this myth... is the product of wishful thinking on the part of those people for whom the very thought of such life-and-death struggle is too disturbing to their own complacency to be seriously entertained.
What happens when such a society is confronted by a fanatical culture like Islam, in which individuals, instead of following their own bliss, are willing to die... in order to impose their cultural traditions on people like us? The west has forgotten that people are not born to follow their bliss. The individualism we prize is only possible in a society where the jungle has been hacked back and turned into a fruited plain.
To answer his question Harris retells the story of the west since Hobbes tried to reason his way out of the war of all against all that he was living through, the English Civil War of 1642 to 1688. He warns that it was not historical inevitability but accidents and unique circumstances that gave us our culture of reason. It started with the Protestant Dissenters, men who learned to reason by studying the Bible and who set the stage for the full-scale idolatry of reason during the Enlightenment.
Along the way we abandoned the old shaming code of tribal unity, the shared and visceral group fear of the Other, and built a new code in which children were taught to be reasonable and think and act for themselves.
But Islam has not changed its shaming code. It remains a tribal culture of Us vs. Them ruthlessly dedicated to the expansion of its Dar el-Islam.
Can Islam win against the vast cultural weight of the west? Perhaps it can, warns Harris. The fanatics of the Middle East seem to be seizing the historical momentum, making all the action and forcing their adversaries into reactive mode. [N]obody can confidently predict who will be ruling Iraq or Pakistan or Iran two or three years from now.
Harris finished his book in the fall of 2006 in the dark days before a change in US strategy showed that the people of Iraq did not want to be ruled by Islamic fanatics. But the challenge he poses still stands. Can the western culture of reason withstand the ruthless attack by the radicals of Islam?
Harris worries that the task of resisting the challenge of Islam is likely to lead to a crash of civilization in which the west will have to abandon its culture of reason and become as ruthless as Islam.
Such questions cannot be answered in books, any more than football championships are decided by the ratings of sportswriters.
It is in the field of action that these questions will be answered. And the experience is likely to be as challenging as the struggle of the Napoleonic wars or the recent Cold War.
But the question must be asked, and we are fortunate to have conservative scholars to ask them in the true spirit of the culture of reason and with penetrating insight into the grand narrative of the west.
Did you know, for instance, that it was the Marquis de Condorcet, the last of the French philosophes, who proposed in 1792 a government education for all? That is what it would take, he argued, to lead the common people out of the darkness of their prejudices and superstitions and into the light of reason. The fanatical Jacobins thought him too moderate, and ordered his arrest.
The Jacobins of the French Revolution were first fanatics of the modern age, and the first such movement that was stopped by the rising commercial and military power of the Anglosphere.
Such victories do not come cheap. Each fanatic movement has spilled the blood of millions before it was defeated.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists
conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family.
Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So dont.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy
Paul Dirac: When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated
by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that
I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion.
However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and
inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he
suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.
John Farrell, The Creation Myth
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization