Sunday, March 19, 2006

We Are Not Alone

Last week, Isaac Schrödinger (whom I first mentioned here) was kind enough to blog about my essay All For One. I apologize for not having responded sooner, but for whatever it’s worth, here are a few thoughts on his post.

Let me begin by saying that I agree whole-heartedly with Isaac’s appraisal of Western complacency and think that his contention that we will eventually wake up and fight is quite likely (though not assured). However, I’m not as optimistic as he when it comes to predicting our eventual victory, not if victory is understood as preserving the freedoms upon which the West rests. After so many years of cultural nihilism, racist multiculturalist dogma, and the promulgation of numerous collectivist ideologies, I’m not even sure that we can identify what we are fighting for -- which is why I end my piece by citing the danger of some gang taking over and the individual being reduced back to serfdom or its equivalent. I fear that even if we defeat the Islamists, we may well end up with a Christian theocracy or a collectivist state, and in either case free thought and individual freedom will be lost.

As I see it, the two predominant groups in the West today are the nihilists on the Left, who will probably just lie down and die rather than opposing the Islamists; and the conservatives on the Right, who are more and more religiously inspired, and who will therefore tend to fight back in the name of their own religion. In the event that the Right wins out and we do stand up to the Islamists, my worry is that the battle will involve a serious erosion of the separation of Church and State, enabling some form of theocracy to arise. ( Admittedly, a modern-day Christian theocracy almost certainly would be less repressive than those in place in the Islamic world, but it would still be a disaster, as such a government would impose religious values and restrictions on us all – thereby severely impairing and curtailing our individual freedoms.)

Of course, there is still a significant number of proud Westerners who, whatever their religious affiliations or lack thereof, would be against imposing their ideas and values on others through government force, but in my mind they are not yet articulate enough or knowledgeable enough to be able to prevent either the nihilists or the religionists from winning out. Ultimately it is to them that we must appeal if we are to succeed in thwarting the Islamists and in preserving individual rights and freedom. This is by no means an impossible task, but it is certainly not a foregone conclusion.

Isaac also brings up the battle of Thermopylae which, as he notes, is an historic battle marking the rise of the West, and is therefore a truly inspirational event. But we should note that even before that battle, the Greeks already cherished the idea of living as free men, and it was this idea that allowed them to fight against almost impossible odds. Remember that well before Thermopylae, when Darius (Xerxes’ father) sent emissaries to Athens and Sparta demanding earth and water in tribute, the Athenians threw their Persian messenger into a pit, while the Spartans threw their messenger into a well – which was each city’s emphatic way of telling the messengers to get their own earth and water since the Greeks don’t pay tribute to anyone. The Rushdie Affair and the Cartoon Jihad are modern messages similar to Darius’ demand for tribute, but rather than telling Islamists to go pound sand, Western governments have bent over backwards to placate and appease our would-be killers. Not exactly the stuff of legends, nor anything upon which to pin our hopes.

Finally, to add to my general negativity, I think it must be noted that even after all its discoveries from the time of the Thermopylae through the rule of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, Western civilization basically regressed or stagnated after 180 AD and didn’t regain comparable heights until well into the Renaissance. In other words, there is no historical determinism, and the good doesn’t necessarily win -- certainly not if winning is measured in the timeframe of a single person’s life. Unless we re-identify the core ideas which made the West possible in the first place, no amount of fighting will achieve the type of victory necessary to preserve what was once considered the hallmark of the West -- freedom for the individual to pursue his own happiness.

I’m not saying its hopeless -- far from it -- but unless and until we get the proper ideas back into the culture, even attacks worse than 9/11 won’t necessarily prompt us to fight the battle necessary to preserve Western civilization.

PS I have added Isaac’s blog to the blog roll and highly recommend it -- not just for his observations vis-à-vis Islam and Muslim life -- but also for his astute and benevolent general commentary. I’d suggest starting with the posts highlighted in my previous mention (above) and then checking out his excellent entry “What Doesn’t Offend the Muslims". (Caution -- this last contains graphic images unsuitable for the weak of stomach.)

Update: Also read: What Muslims Learn

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