Thursday, November 30, 2006

Quotable: Corrupt Manners

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt."

-- Samuel Adams (essay in The Public Advertiser, Circa 1749)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Losing the Enlightenment

Victor Davis Hanson has an important essay in the Wall Street Journal today. To quote the opening:
Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.

But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?

Just imagine in our present year, 2006: plan an opera in today's Germany, and then shut it down. Again, this surrender was not done last month by the Nazis, the Communists, or kings, but by the producers themselves in simple fear of Islamic fanatics who objected to purported bad taste. Or write a novel deemed unflattering to the Prophet Mohammed. That is what did Salman Rushdie did, and for his daring, he faced years of solitude, ostracism, and death threats--and in the heart of Europe no less. Or compose a documentary film, as did the often obnoxious Theo Van Gogh, and you may well have your throat cut in "liberal" Holland. Or better yet, sketch a simple cartoon in postmodern Denmark of legendary easy tolerance, and then go into hiding to save yourself from the gruesome fate of a Van Gogh. Or quote an ancient treatise, as did Pope Benedict, and then learn that all of Christendom may come under assault, and even the magnificent stones of the Vatican may offer no refuge--although their costumed Swiss Guard would prove a better bulwark than the European police. Or write a book critical of Islam, and then go into hiding in fear of your life, as did French philosophy teacher Robert Redeker.

And we need not only speak of threats to free speech, but also the tangible rewards from a terrified West to the agents of such repression. Note the recent honorary degree given to former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, whose regime has killed and silenced so many, and who himself is under investigation by the Argentine government for his role in sponsoring Hezbollah killers to murder dozens of Jewish innocents in Buenos Aires.
This speaks to the fundamental question of our age: are we willing to stand and fight to preserve the system and society that allowed us become what we are today?

Speaking entirely for myself - the way of life I enjoy, the living I make, and the manner in which I worship could not exist without the Western civilizational ideals that are now under attack from without and within. The very idea of each man and woman being an individual, with rights and responsibilities, is being eroded.

Read the whole thing. (If it is no longer available, I have posted it in its entirety at The Pacific Slope.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Friday Furo Questus - Veteran's Day

Quetus Furore - To You From Failing Hands
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

The war goes on, heedless of elections, of arguements, of invective. Our foes are not detered, continuing to promise death and destruction on those who oppose the terrible world they wish to build. And men and women still leave their homes and loved ones to place themselves between what they hold dear and our enemies, in places all around the world.

Tomorrow we honor those who have served, and those who do serve. Theirs is the honor and ours is the debt.

Remember, and give thanks.

A Few Notes
Veteran's Day was orginally called Armistice Day, and was a commemoration of the end of the Great War. But men are too easily disposed to hate and war, and just a generation later savage men combined to plunge an unwilling world into war once more.

As a result, the day became instead dedicated to the soldiers who fought and won our battles. In the member states of the British Commonwealth, the day is considerably more somber, as it takes on the role of our Memorial Day as well. And for them, the First World War was far more costly.

Some Recommended Reading
The Great War

And here's a worthy cause: Project Valor-IT.

Thought of the Week“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance at being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
John Stuart Mill

Churchill Quote of the Week
"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"
Sir Winston Churchill

And a question for you: I'm considering doing a series or articles on the First World War. Does this interest anyone?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In Case You Were Wondering...

"Gee, I wonder what Tyler thinks of this whole Kerry mess?"

You can find out here. (I didn't want to post the whole thing here - it is rapidly becoming yesterday's news.)