Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Wages of Our Sins Are Coming Due

In the last few days I’ve been catching up on my reading by going through back issues of National Review. This morning I came across an excellent article (requires subscription) by Victor Davis Hanson. It’s a review of Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy by Natan Sharansky, and lines up well with what Fjordman and any number of our commenters have been saying in this space recently.

Several choice paragraphs are worth quoting:

To the extent that identity matters in our post-colonial, post-imperial age of collective guilt, Westerners honor only purported victims of our past sins. People of color, non-Christians, women, and gays, all are encouraged to showcase their “difference” in agitating for “equality,” and for a sort of reparation, either material (through affirmative action) or psychosocial (through white guilt and shame).

Natan Sharansky is not fooled: All these hyphenations have nothing to do with the sort of identity he is advocating, but rather suggest that these supposed victims have in fact shunned their identity. They fail to see that they are Americans or Europeans, who operate within, and benefit from, a particular culture of long ancestry. When Western man finds no strength from kindred souls of the same religion, harbors no hope that his culture or nationality can enrich humanity, he becomes a sort of dead soul, easily manipulated and prone to accept any totalitarian idea — Fascism, Communism, consumerism — to fulfill the great human desire to find commonality with like persons.

Sharansky knows, of course, the dangers of radical Islam and white supremacy — ideologies in which a particular identity replaces humanity — and thus he explains, in detailed arguments, why democratic government is crucial in channeling the expression of natural allegiances in reasonable directions. Without democratic government and constitutionally protected freedom, we devolve into gangs and cliques and tyrannize smaller and weaker groups. And yet without identity, democracy becomes blasé and inhuman, as citizens feel no particular loyalty to their nation, or to a shared culture or religion. It was, after all, postmodern universalist Europe that let thousands die nearby in Srebrenica, did little to come to the aid of the Dutch cartoonists, believes the suicide bomber is on the same moral plane as the Israeli settler, and will, we know, never take many risks to stop the slaughter in Darfur.
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The catalyst for Sharansky’s anger, as we glean from this book, is the West’s double standard when it comes to the Middle East. We exact from Israelis a standard of behavior that we would never demand of the Palestinians, apparently on the assumption that as kindred Westerners they are supposed to be above identity and exhibit little pride in being Jewish or Israeli — utterly ignorant that such political correctness would, and may still, end Israel’s will to confront undemocratic, racist, and intolerant enemies on its borders.

What threatens most of the world may be an absence of freedom, but what threatens the survival of the West is a sort of slavery of the material appetites, and the sloppy belief that all cultures are the same and that we should never judge others by standards that have made us uniquely free, secure, and prosperous. Sharansky believes we are now in an age in which the wages of our sins are coming due, as those who despise the West sense that we believe in little other than cheap platitudes and would never be willing to define others as less successful than ourselves, or even sacrifice to defend what they wish to destroy: “Indeed it is difficult for a society that has been waging war on its own identity in the name of peace to reverse course and now rebuild what they have been systematically trying to dismantle for generations.”

NB: Yes, I think he meant “Danish cartoonists”. Unless he was thinking of Gregorius Nekschot.


Ypp said...

Sharanski does some "lengthy argument" in order to derive his perfectly correct conclusion from some ideologically-motivated necessity for democracy. That comes from the assumption that the atrocities of WWII were caused by nationalism, which is a widespread leftist dogma, but is kind of questionable. We know that Nazis were ideologically motivated, and in some sense fought for "freedom" from what they perceived as "Jewish morality".

The question is: is democracy a crucial component of the West? I don't mean modern West, I mean the West in general.

Identity has two components: 1) national or cultural and 2) religious. Democracy also may have these two components. The example of cultural democracy is Switzerland, but it seems to be coming to the end. Religious democracy is that of of George Bush.

However, it's not that obvious that democracy is intrinsically connected to Christianity. If yes, then Sharanski and Bush are right, and Bush is a great president. Identity is connected to democracy through (Judeo?) Christianity. If no, they are wrong and harmful.

Reactionary said...

I contend that democracy is not a crucial component of the West. Our civilization developed its values before republican government came into vogue. Thinking long-term, we were probably better off without it, or with only limited doses. I would be content enough living under a benevolent monarch, especially one as benign as those of the major European powers in the late 19th century. If anything, democracy and its appeal to the mob is tearing down true Western Civ. Our culture is being sacrificed in an attempt to satisfy public greed and misplaced bleeding-heart sentimentality. What king or queen of sound mind would sacrifice his own people to the Muslims? It would NEVER happen. What monarch would turn over the treasury to non-working welfare scum while paying them to breed like rats? Universal suffrage is the most destructive part of the current system - the worst elements have as much voting power as the best. As a result the productive are bled white for the benefit of the ever-expanding population of the nonproductive.

rohan said...

Reactionary - I simply can't argue against anything you wrote. Our country is broken. This election will buy us a little more time or finish us off. Back in the 1800's people realized a democracy (I know we are a republic) could not survive forever. They were right. We have lost all sense of American pride or excellence.

People want to belong to something. If they don't "belong" to an American ideal they WILL find something else. Victimhood and ethnic groups will do just fine for most.

Anonymous said...


In a similar vein, Stanley Renshon at the Center for Immigration Studies has published a couple of interesting articles on "dual citizenship" and its more insidious effects on the polity.

Afonso Henriques said...

"the dangers of radical Islam and white supremacy — ideologies in which a particular identity replaces humanity"

Well, if that white supermacy is like, let's kill every non-whites then I agree. But, islam?

Are you kidding me?

Islam does not replace humanity as an ideology. Quiet the opposite. Muslims are a bunch of good guys who are doing whatever they can (even kill and die) to save Humanity.

ISLAM IS THE SALVATION OF HUMNAITY, thus, a muslim believe, every non muslim will burn in hell. The conquest of Dar-al-Harb by the Dar-al-Islam is AN ACT OF GOODNESS, muslims do that because they care about humnity, because they are saving people by converting them to the Koran. And the deaths they cause are just a small price to pay for the GREAT GOOD they are offering us, infidels.

Man, I thought we understood islam a little better...

That's also why islam will never die and why muslims are so "worst" than other "ethnics". They are not worst, they are indeed better, they are more civilised (in their own ways, but Civilised).

Afonso Henriques said...

Very nice comments here. So much I could say... I wanted to talk about how abnormal Democracy is to European Civilisation and give an example: The Portuguese flag and heraldic. I probabily will not do that. Today I firmly believe that only Americans and the Suisse should have deomcracies. And I wonder how all the other democracy-lovers (aka usefull idiots) should live under a democratic system or not.

I will just say this. In a democracy, ideology change with the governments, Traditionally, govern changed with the government but the ideology was pretty much the same: The Nation. With democracy, we have people with too many power. I'll just give an example: European Education.

a brief translation of the fist paragraph:

"How History is teached in Portuguese classes:

Communism has been productive to he economy,
the Zapatista army is a “social movement”,
and capitalism wants to transform the world in a “great casino”. No, it's not the program of the Portuuese Communist Party, it's the current school books of History..."

You can not give democracy to those who do not diserve it.

Bela said...

afonso h:

I am devastated for the never ending need to update your database: the US is not a democracy, instead she is a Constitutional Republic, to wit a very different stuff.
You should do your own research but here is a hint:

"America is a Constitutional Republic . . . NOT a Democracy

The critical difference lies in the fact that a Constitutional Republic has a Constitution that limits the powers of the government.
....Declaration of Independence and our constitution do not even mentioned the word "democracy".

This is only a note on your erroneous statement:
"only Americans and the Suisse should have deomcracies."

The majority rule is not recogized nor accepted in the US for the final arbiters are the Courts which can annule any legislation the majority voted for.

NJArtist said...

We Americans have a Constitutional republic as long as the political and social would-be master class are willing to enforce it: against their opponents. Otherwise the republic has slipped away on the wings of entitlements.

Your comeback is probably going to be: well, it is time for the people to stop them. This means open rebellion. There is no other option at this point: with the AIG buyout we just saw what some commentators saw as a nationalization of a major portion of the economy without a peep by the "master class".

Electing McCain will not change things; it will only delay them a couple of years.

rohan said...

I believe our constitutional republic is really only so in theory anymore. As a country we stopped paying attention to the constitution in the 1930s/1940s and it has been downhill ever since.

Democracy, which is what we are actually closer to, is nothing more than the rule of the mob, rather than the rule of law.

Afonso Henriques said...

Thank you Bela, I truly did not know that.

Well, I knew you're a Contitutional Republic but I thouth you were also a democracy.

Your system continues to be better than ours. I am an anti democrat because democracy vallues quantity, not quality. In the English word there's an expression: Our betters, where are they? In Europe it seems they are all stuck in the past. Our current leaders, do not even try to be "our betters". That's why I am against democracy.

I think we have to work the Gramsci way but for our profit.

Bela said...

afonso h:

"Your system continues to be better than ours. "

I am not sure about that.

I prefer to say this way:
I have equally strong reservation for the American system as well: when ONE mortal judge - driven by his/her political leanings - has the power to deny and expunge the will of millions... this condition not an attractive solution for me.
(Activist judges anyone?)

It also depends on the individual judge's interpretation of each word of the Constitution - written centuries earlier, and this attempt at translating and applying archaic text and definitions to the complexity of modern life ....well... one can debate it's merit with no end in sight.

When all is said and done, still the American system offers more room and freedom from the governmental tyranny than the EU parliamentary democracy.

Anonymous said...

"the dangers of radical Islam and white supremacy — ideologies in which a particular identity replaces humanity — and thus he explains, in detailed arguments, why democratic government is crucial in channeling the expression of natural allegiances in reasonable directions"

Sorry, this is so much tofu and not helpful. Anytime someone refers vaguely to "white supremacy" and contrasts it with "humanity," that's a marker for intellectual dishonesty. For the millionth time: white people preferring white people is not "white supremacy." It's freedom of association. White supremacy is a relatively marginal position. Preferring one's own ethnic group doesn't require that one believe it's "supreme."

Everyone knows this, so Hanson and/or Sharansky, in throwing all the white laundry in with the white sheets, show they're hypocrites. I regard them as allies, but not leaders.

CzC said...

This makes me wonder why America wants to spread 'Democracy' everywhere?

Anonymous said...

They fail to see that they are Americans or Europeans, who operate within, and benefit from, a particular culture of long ancestry.

What if the people who "fail to see" their American or European identity are right? They're just being honest, and we should accept the truth and work with it. If everyone accepts the idea advocated by Hanson/Sharansky, that all you have to do to be American or European is to accept the label, why shouldn't mass immigration work, as long as everyone who comes here learns to say "freedom" and "democracy" in English or whatever...Great! There's no problem, then. The only problem is that most immigrants are more honest and in touch with reality than many of our pundits.