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Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Like Rabbits
posted by Bathus

From: Bathus
To: Victor Davis Hanson
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2005 1:30 PM
Subject: Why Do We Hate Us

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Thanks for another excellent analysis, which I would refine to this extent:

All three phenomena--moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism--which you identify as the cause of the left's "false narrative" can be traced to a single origin: relativism. That origin seems to me to be obvious as to the first and the last of the three, and less directly, but no less completely to account for utopian pacifism as well. (I've explored this topic in my usual clunky and round-about way in a recent blog post titled The Final Paradox.)

The question (I ask rhetorically) is, What is it that seems to make contemporary Western culture so especially susceptible to the seductions of relativism?

I think the source of that susceptibility can be located in the predominate passion of a democratic people, the passion Tocqueville catalogued so well: the love of equality. Relativism appears to allow one to hold all things equal, which is the first instinct of the democratic soul.

Add to that instinct the Western intellectual heritage of self-examination and self-doubt (e.g., Socrates and Descartes), a heritage grotesquely corrupted by relativism; and then add to that relativism's false promise to free us from the weight of moral judgment, thereby allowing all of us to do (with a clear conscience and mutual "tolerance") whatever our desires suggest, and relativism's seduction is, for us good democrats, almost irresistible.

The left's "false narrative" you recount is merely a particular manifestation of the intellectual confusion and moral self-loathing that relativism finally engenders.

So then the question becomes: What: can we do about it? What sort of thing can help democracy resist this dangerous inclination toward relativism?

Formerly, the main answer was religious instruction, but that doesn't seem to be working out so well these days. Perhaps our saving grace might be the painful yet fortuitous reception of external forces, which by creating a clear and immediate threat to our very survival would cause us, as a matter of self-preservation, to abandon the self-indulgent luxury of self-doubt. However, that "solution" works only so long as the external threat has a certain intensity and immediacy. In other words, if the Islamists are smart, they will treat us somewhat like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water: more 7/7s but no more 9/11s. (Don't you think bin Laden would admit in hind-sight that 9/11 was a too spectacular to serve his ends?)

One is rescued more often by one's enemies' vices than by one's own virtues. In that regard, I would add another animal analogy: If we aren't going to fight this war aggressively (an uncertain matter after the expiration of GWB's term of office), perhaps our best hope is that the "chase instinct" of our adversaries will divert them from the more patient and cerebral tactic of boiling the Western frog slowly, i.e., that the jihadists' vicious passions will tempt them to close in for the kill prematurely, or at least to kill too many too soon. Indeed, one could say that the jihadists' animal instinct to kill what they see as weak and contemptuous (i.e., us!) is almost the only explanation for their resort to terrorism because, without setting off a single bomb, the jihadists could more easily defeat us demographically and culturally, as they are now defeating the French and the Germans. How strange it would be if it turned out that the better course of action for us, rather than sitting idle like frogs in the pot, might be to run like rabbits--enticing our enemies to chase and to corner us while we still retain some latent capacity to resist. (Salamis!)

That's all very interesting, to me at least, but perhaps the best solution to our confounded moral, military, demographic problem is a lot more straightforward over the long haul: Marry and have babies!

Thanks again for all your fine writing.


posted by Bathus | 7/15/2005 01:49:00 PM
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Anonymous Texas Redneck said...

It seems to me that the liberal position is one of self-loathing, so much to the extent that they want others to feel their pain.

I think a lot of this is due to moral decay of our society. The Leftists do not believe there are any absolute truths. Everything is a shade of gray. If it feels good, do it. Marriage has become just short of a one-night stand. This is a microwave, fast food, and disposable society. Getting a young woman pregnant resulted in marriage, now it results in abortion. Bankruptcy used to be a social stigma, now it may be considered a badge of honor. And then there is the blame game. It is always the fault of someone else. Few are willing to take personal responsibility for their actions. Felons are suing homeowners because they were injured by the homeowner during the commission of the crime. And don't forget "political correctness" because we do not want to offend someone.(The only offending that can be commited now is bashing Chrstians and Jews.)

I expect the next thing will be thought police hauling us off to some place for intense brainwashing. Of course, they can't do that to terrorists in Gitmo.

The golden rule has been changed to "do unto others before they do unto you."

Keep up the good work, Bathus.

10:27 PM, July 15, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone remember what we promised these people?

4:16 PM, July 16, 2005  
Blogger lostingotham said...

While I don't take issue with Texas Redneck's central premise that the liberal position is one of self-loathing, I will venture to point out that his next paragraph evidences no small measure of self-loathing, itself. All of those things TR decries are, after all, the fruits of western civilization as they are of none other. The world Osama bin-Laden envisions contains no one-night stands, no microwaves, no abortion, no fast food and no bankruptcy.

The left's self-loathing is Oedipal--it is an expression of the adolescent desire to enjoy the fruits of his father's labor without making the sacrifices and compromises that make those fruits possible. But at least it can be said that adolescents generally outgrow this phase.

But the Oedipus myth also describes the self-loathing of the right, which is the far less excusable denial of the parent who is disappointed in what he has begot. The laudable society that TR implicitly praises--the one where unmarried women didn't get pregnant, where burglars couldn't sue their victims, and where bankruptcy was a stigma--gave birth to the one we have now. It would appear that TR finds the present West as malformed and misbegotten as King Lauis found Oedipus, and one one suspects if had his druthers, he'd follow Lauis's example into infanticide.

The Oedipus story had a bad ending for all concerned. Fortunately most families--and most societies--faced with the eternally renewed rift between imagination and experience manage to master their passions and their tongues while the crisis passes (as it inevitably will).

Liberals and leftists may not be the ideal children of the Western tradition, but they are ours nonetheless. I'm not ready to give the total license just yet--they would do themselves an injury--but neither am I ready to abandon them to the elements. Not only is that course impious, it tends to produce monsters that eventually wind up knocking one on the head.

7:54 PM, July 17, 2005  
Blogger Bathus said...

For more on on the relativists, the multiculties, and the moral equivocators, see:

Diana West: "In not discussing the roots of terror in Islam itself, in not learning about them, the multicultural clergy that shepherds our elites prevents us from having to do anything about them. This is key, because any serious action — stopping immigration from jihad-sponsoring nations, shutting down mosques that preach violence and expelling their imams, just for starters — means to renounce the multicultural creed. In the West, that's the greatest apostasy."

Mark Steyn: "Back to business as usual. In yesterday's Independent, Dave Brown had a cartoon showing Bush and Blair as terrorists boarding the Tube to Baghdad. Ha-ha. The other day in Thailand, where 800 folks have been killed by Islamists since the start of the year, two Laotian farm workers were beheaded. I suppose that's Bush and Blair's fault, too."

Charles Krauthammer: "British Islamists had spoken of a 'covenant of security' under which Britain would be spared Islamic terror so long as it allowed radical clerics free rein. Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, for example, a Syrian-born, exiled Saudi cleric granted asylum 19 years ago, openly preaches jihad against Britain. He is sought by the press for comment all the time. And, a lovely touch, he actually lives on the British dole — even though he rejects the idea of British citizenship, saying, 'I don't want to become a citizen of hell.'"

. . . and my other recent post on this subject.

7:21 PM, July 18, 2005  

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