Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Victor Davis Hanson reflects on 2500 years Enlightenment values in Western thought, and those who are traitors to that tradition:
The new enemies of Reason are not the enraged democrats who executed Socrates, the Christian zealots who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity, or the Nazis who burned books. No, they are a pampered and scared Western public that caves to barbarism — dwarves who sit on the shoulders of dead giants, and believe that their present exalted position is somehow related to their own cowardly sense of accommodation.

What would a Socrates, Galileo, Descartes, or Locke believe of the present decay in Europe — that all their bold and courageous thinking, won at such a great cost, would have devolved into such cheap surrender to fanaticism?

Just think: Put on an opera in today’s Germany, and have it shut down, not by Nazis, Communists, or kings, but by the simple fear of Islamic fanatics.

Write a novel deemed critical of the Prophet Mohammed, as did Salman Rushdie, and face years of ostracism and death threats — in the heart of Europe no less.

Compose a film, as did Theo Van Gogh, and find your throat cut in “liberal” Holland.

Or better yet, sketch a cartoon in postmodern Denmark, and then go into hiding.

Quote an ancient treatise, as did the pope, and learn your entire Church may come under assault, and the magnificent stones of the Vatican offer no refuge.

There are three lessons to be drawn from these examples. In almost every case, the criticism of the artist or intellectual was based either on his supposed lack of sensitivity or of artistic excellence. Van Gogh was, of course, obnoxious and his films puerile. The pope was woefully ignorant of public relations. The cartoons in Denmark were amateurish and unnecessary. Rushdie was an overrated novelist, whose chickens of trashing the West he sought refuge in finally came home to roost. The latest Hans Neuenfels adaptation of Mozart’s Idomeneo was silly.

But isn’t that precisely the point? It is easy to defend artists when they produce works of genius that do not offend popular sensibilities — Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws — but not so when an artist offends with neither taste nor talent. Yes, Pope Benedict is old and scholastic; he lacks both the smile and tact of the late Pope John Paul II, who surely would not have turned for elucidation to the rigidity of Byzantine scholarship. But isn’t that why we must come to the present Pope’s defense — if for no reason other than because he has the courage to speak his convictions when others might not?

Note also the constant subtext in this new self-censorship: fear of radical Islam and its gruesome appendages of beheadings, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, barbaric fatwas, riotous youth, petrodollar-acquired nuclear weapons, oil boycotts and price hikes, and fist-chanting mobs.

In contrast, almost daily in Europe, “brave” artists caricature Christians and Americans with impunity. Why?

For a long list of reasons, among them most surely the assurance that they can do this without being killed. Such cowards puff out their chests when trashing an ill Oriana Fallaci or Ariel Sharon or beleaguered George W. Bush in the most demonic of tones, but prove sunken and sullen when threatened by a Dr Zawahri or a grand mufti of some obscure mosque.

Hanson suggests that if we want to see what "boutique socialism, utopian pacifism, moral equivalence, and cultural relativism" have wrought, we need only look to the cheap surrender of Enlightenment values and the reflexive cave-in to the demands of Islamic fanatics--all routinely a part of European life now, and done in the spirit of multicultural tolerance and politically correct feeling.

Europe, having given up any objective standard by which to mediate the vastly different perspectives and feelings of its varied populations; having abandoned reason altogether in favor of the expression of feelings no matter how destructive or unreasonable; and, finally, having endlessly touted the critical importance and essential need to "belong" to one's race, tribe, religion or group first and foremost; the outcome is what Stephen Hicks refers to as "group balkinization" --with all its inevitable and inescapable conflict.

That politically correct road which the left has taken us all down--billed as the path to peace and harmony--has instead led to a land dominated by emotions; a place where barbarism of the most primal sort is tolerated and excused.

And, why should we be surprised at this destination? Why would peaceful coexistence result from a movement that has done everything in its power to eradicate universalism and foist multiculturalism into the public consciousness?

Multiculturalism after all celebrates--not belonging to the family of humanity--but to one's sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious identity above all else. Political correctness simply provides the eggshells that everyone can walk around on so as to not offend the feelings in other groups (unless, of course, you belong to that one particular culture that is given a pass because of its unique evil; and for which offending is obligatory--you know which culture that is, don't you?)

Like many ideas of the left, it should now be apparent to anyone with a brain, that--in the case of multiculturalism -- the exact opposite of what was promised ends up being delivered.

Just as the false promises of socialism and communism were found to lead to misery instead of happiness; poverty instead of wealth; enslavement instead of freedom--so too, have multiculturalism and political correctness, instead of harmony, brought lethal discord.

The cheap surrender of 2500 years of Enlightenment values is slowly leaving all of Europe in an impenetrable intellectual and moral darkness. Here in the New World, we need to recognize what is happening there, before that same darkness envelops and paralyzes us.

The very first time we allowed the adherents of a medieval and primitive religion to believe that their feelings about that religion trump all the values of western civiliztion; the minute we began to apologize for our successes and make excuses--or even blame ourselves--for their failures; we stepped onto the same path taken by Europe. That path leads to the same place the Europeans find themselves in now.

It is a place where Reason cannot be appealed to; nor tolerance--for the Islamists believe in neither. So here we are, all of us, on the PC highway to hell.

It may be late in the journey, and it may be too late for Europe, but perhaps it is time for us to get off this path while we still can--if we still can.

I personally have no objection to Islam reaching their final destination of hell alone.

No surrender.

UPDATE: Is it already too late? Wretchard makes this related point:
The frontline of the War on Terror has gradually spread to encompass every activity, place and clime. Its shadow lurks whether one is traveling by air, speaking at a public forum, writing a book, applying to teach at a university or giving a Papal speech, working as a nurse or teaching philosophy. Today you have to be really, really careful. The really ironic effect of multiculturalism in both the Islamic world and the West is that it has brought the return of the clandestine act and secret speech. No longer is it possible:

To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or sham
Exactly what men think I am.

To be that was to enjoy a freedom we have already lost; and it was never free.

As they say, read the whole post.

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