Skip to comments.Civilization and Its Enemies - The Next Stage of History
Posted on 10/28/2004 10:26:07 AM PDT by Noumenon
From the Preface of Civilization and Its Enemies The Next Stage of History by Lee Harris
The subject of this book is forgetfulness.
By this I do not mean our tendency to misplace valuable objects, or our inability to recall the name of he bosss dog, but the collective and cultural amnesia the over comes any group of human beings who have long benefited fro tm the blessings of civilization an amnesia first observed nearly eight hundred years ago by the Arab philosopher of history Ibn Khaldun, contemplating the rise and fall of those great feats of organized life that we call by such terms as societies, states and empires.
Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long accustomed to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stole or whether their children would be sold into slavery by a victorious foe. Even then it is necessary for parents, and even grandparents, to have forgotten as well, so that there is no living link between the tranquility of the present generation and those dismal periods in which the world behaved very much in accordance with the rules governing Thomas Hobbes state of nature, where human life was solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short. When parents have forgotten what that world was like, they can hardly be expected to teach their children how it was or what one had to do in order to survive in it.
Civilized people forget that in order to produce a civilization there must be what German sociologist Norbert Elias ahs called the civilizing process, and that this process, if it is to be successful, must begin virtually at our birth, and hence many long years before the child can have any say about the kind of training that he would have preferred. They forget that the civilizing process we undergo must duplicate that of our neighbors, if we are to understand each other in our day-to0-day intercourse. If you are taught to spit at a man who offers to shake your hand, and do when I offer mine, we will not easily get along.
Civilized people forget how much work it is not to kill ones neighbors, simply because this work was done by our ancestors so that it could be willed to us as an heirloom. They forget that in time of danger, in the face of the enemy, they must trust and confide in each other, or perish. They forget that to fight an enemy it is necessary to have a leader whom you trust, and how, at such times, this trust is a civic duty and not evidence of ones credulity. They forget, in short, that there has ever been a category of human experience called the enemy.
That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadnt done enough for yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, an oversight on our part-something that we could correct.
Our first task therefore is to try to grasp what the concept of the enemy really means. The enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason and not ours. He does not hate us for our faults any more than for our virtues. He sees a different world from ours, and in he world he sees, we are his enemy. That is hard for us to comprehend, but we must if we are to grasp what the concept of the enemy means.
For Himmler, the Jewish children whom he ordered the SS to murder were the enemy because they would grow up to avenge the death of their fathers, who had been the enemy before them. We have killed their parents; they will want to kill our children. Hence we have no choice but to kill them first. The fact that they had done nothing themselves, and were incapable of doing anything themselves, was irrelevant.
This is how mankind always thought of the enemy- as the one who, if you do not kill him first, will sooner or later kill you. And those who see the world this way see it very differently from those who do not.
This is the major fact of our time. We are caught in the midst of a conflict between those for whom the category of the enemy is essential to their way of organizing all human experience and those who have banished even the idea of the enemy from both public discourse and even their innermost thoughts.
But those who abhor thinking of the world through the category of the enemy must still be prepared to think about the category of the enemy. That is, even if you refuse to think of anyone else as an enemy, you must acknowledge that there are people who do in fact think this way.
Yet even this minimal step is a step that many of our leading intellectuals refuse to take, despite the revelation that occurred on 9/11. they want to see 9/11 as a means to an end and not an end in itself. But 9/11 was an end in itself, and that is where we must begin.
Why do they hate us? They hate us because we are their enemy.
It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not. We cannot be the same after we have been defined as an enemy as we were before.
That is why those who uphold the values of the Enlightenment so often refuse to recognize that those who are trying to kill us are their enemy. They hope that by pretending that the enemy is simply misguided, or misunderstood, or politically immature, he will cease to be an enemy. This is an illusion. To see the enemy as someone who is merely an awkward negotiator of sadly lacking in savoir faire and diplomatic aplomb is perverse. It shows contempt for the depth and sincerity of his convictions, a terrible mistake to make when you are dealing with someone who wants you dead.
We are the enemy of those who murdered us on 9/11. And if you are an enemy, then you have an enemy. When you recognize it, this fact must change everything about the way you see the world.
Once someone sees you as the enemy, then you must yourself deal with this category of human experience, which is why societies that have enemies are radically different from those that do not. A society that lacks an enemy does not need to worry about how to defend itself against him. I does not need to teach its children how to fight and how not to run when they are being attacked by men who want to kill them. I does not need to appoint a single man to make instant decisions that affect the well-being of the entire community, and it does not need to train the community to respond to his commands with unthinking obedience.
But societies with enemies must do all of these things, and do them very well, or else they perish.
Yet there is a problem with each of these various things that must be done to protect a society against its enemy. They are illiberal and they a re at odds with those values that civilized life has to offer tolerance, individual liberty, government by consensus rather than by fiat, and rational cooperation. Thus it is not unnatural for those who prize such values to be reluctant to acknowledge the existence of an enemy serious enough to require illiberal measures and the yare correct to feel this way.
Thos who argue that war is not the answer are almost invariably right, and if civilization can be said to inhere in any one characteristic more conspicuously than in any other, it must certainly be in the preference for peaceful over violent methods of resolving conflict. To be sure, civilization consists in more than this, but this more is always dependent upon prereflective certainty that the people you must deal with will not resort to force or threat or intimidation when they are dealing with you.
The first duty of all civilization is to create pockets of peaceableness in which violence is not used as a means of achieving ones objective, the second duty is to defend these pockets against those who would try to disrupt their peace either from within or without. Yet the values that bring peace are the opposite values from those that promote military prowess, and this poses a riddle that very few societies have been able to solve and then only fitfully. If you have managed to create your own pocket of peace - and its inseparable companion, prosperity how will you keep those who envy you your prosperity from destroying your peace?
There is only one way; you must fight back; if your enemy insists on a war to the finish, then you have no choice but to fight such a war. It is your enemy, and not you, who decides what is a matter of life and death.
Once you have accepted this reality, however, you are faced with the problem of how to fight. If the enemy is composed of men who will stop at nothing, who are willing to die and to kill, then you must find men to fight on your side who will do the same. Only those who have mastered ruthlessness can defend their society from the ruthlessness of others.
This was the plight faced by the peasants in Kurosawas masterpiece, The Seven Samurai and by the dirt farmers in the American remake, The Magnificent Seven. Men and women who knew nothing of battle, the impoverished peasants of a remote village found themselves at the mercy of a gang of ruthless bandits who each year came at harvest to steal what the peasants had managed to eke from the soil. In their desperation, the farmers turned to the seven samurai, all of whom had fallen on hard times. But then, once the samurai had defeated the bandits, the question immediately arose in the peasants minds: Now how do we rid ourselves of he samurai?
Such ahs been the lot of most of mankind: a choice between the gangsters who come across the river to steal and the gangsters on this side of he river who do not need to steal because they have their own peasants to exploit. How else could it be? Given what we know of human nature, how could we expect there to be a government that wasnt, in the final analysis, simply a protection racket that could make laws?
Yet this is not how Kurosawas movie ends. The samurai do not set themselves up as village warlords but instead move on, taking only the wages due them for their services. How was this possible? It was possible only because the samurai lived by a code of honor.
Codes of honor do not come cheap, and they cannot be created out thin air upon demand. The fact that you need samurai and not gangsters is no guarantee that you will get them; indeed, you will almost certainly not get them when you need them unless you had them with you all along.
A code of honor, to be effective when it is needed, requires a tradition that is blindly accepted by the men and women who are expected to live by this code. To work when it must, a code of honor must be the unspoken and unquestioned law governing a community; a law written not in law books but in the heart something like an instinct.
A code of honor cannot be chosen by us; it can only be chosen for us. Fro if we look on it as one option among many, then we may opt out of it at will. I which case, the community will never be quite sure of us when the chips are down.
All of which explains why those who subscribe to the values of the Enlightenment find the existence of eh enemy so distressing.
The enemy challenges the Enlightenments insistence on the supremacy of pure reason by forcing us to respect those code of honor whose foundation is far more visceral than rational, a fact that explains the modern intellectuals hatred for such codes in whatever guise they lurk. The enemy requires the continued existence of large groups of men and women who refuse to question authority and who are happy to take on blind faith the traditions that have been passed down to them. The enemy necessitates the careful cultivation of such high-testosterone values as brute physical courage and unthinking loyalty to a leader. The enemy demands instinctual patriotism and what Ibn Khaldun calls group feeling, that is, the sense of identification with ones own people. The enemy propels into positions of command men who are accustomed to taking risks and who are willing to gamble with the lives of others, and shuns aside those who prefer the leisure of contemplation to the urgency of action. Lastly, the enemy shatters the Enlightenments visions of utopia, of Kants epoch of perpetual peace and of the end of history. And this is why so many European and American intellectuals refuse to acknowledge today even the possibility of the enemys existence, concocting theories to explain the actions of Al-Qaeda as something other than what they were.
This is why all utopian projects are set either on a distant island or in a hidden valley: they must exist in isolation from the rest of the world, to keep even the thought of the enemy at bay. Otherwise, they would have to deal with the problem of how to survive without abandoning their lofty ideals.
This is the problem that confronts us today.
The ideals that our intellectuals have been instilling in us are utopian ideals, designed for men and women who know no enemy and who do not need to take precautions against him. They are the values appropriate for a world in which everyone plays by the same rules, and accepts the same standards, of rational cooperation; they are fatally unrealistic in a world in which the enemy acknowledges no rule except that of ruthlessness. To insist on maintaining utopian values when your society is facing an enemy who wishes only to annihilate you is to invite annihilation. And that is unacceptable.
The only solution is for us to go back and unforget some of what we have forgotten, for our very forgetfulness is an obstacle to understanding the lessons of the past, so long as we insist on interpreting the past in ways which give comfort to our pet illusions. We want to believe that civilization came about because men decided one fine morning to begin living sensible, peaceful, rational lives; we refuse to acknowledge what it sot to achieve even the first step in this direction. Unless we can understand this first step, none of the rest will make any sense to us, and we will fail to see what is looming right in front of us.
The Greek way of expressing past and future differed from ours. We say that the past is behind us and the future is in front of us. To the Greeks, however, the past was before them, because they could plainly see its finished form standing in front of them: it was territory they had passed through and whose terrain they had charted. It was the future that was behind them, sneaking up like a thief in the night, full of dim imaginings and vast uncertainties. Nothing could penetrate the blackness of this unknown future except the rare flash of foresight that the Greeks called sophos, or wisdom. Yet even these flashes of wisdom depended entirely upon the capacity to remember that which is eternal and unchanging-which is precisely what we have almost forgotten.
The past tells that there can be no end of history, no realm of perpetual peace, and that those who are convinced by this illusion are risking al that they hold dear. The past tells us that there will always be an enemy as long as men care enough about anything to stake a claim to it, and thus enmity is built into the very nature of things. The past tells us that the next stage of history will be a tragic conflict between two different ways of life, which both have much that is worthy of admiration in them but which cannot coexist in the same world. But the past does not, and cannot, tell us how it will end this time.
That is why it is impossible simply to stand by and not take sides. No outcome is assured by any deep logic of history or by any iron law of human development. Individual civilizations rise and fall; in each case the fall was not inevitable, but due to the decisions or lack of decision of the human beings whose ancestors had created the civilization for them, but who had forgotten the secret of how to preserve it for their own children.
We ourselves are dangerously near this point, which is all the more remarkable considering how close we are still to 9/11. It is as if 9/11 has become simply an event in the past and not the opening up of a new epoch in human history, one that will be ruled by the possibility of catastrophic terror, just a previous historical epochs were ruled by other possible forms of historical catastrophe, from attack by migratory hordes to totalitarian takeover, from warrior gangs to the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Our journey of recollection must therefore begin with 9/11, for was the moment when one epoch closed, and another opened. With 9/11 commenced the next stage of history, one whose direction will be determined by how the world responds to the possibilities that it has opened up.
And yet, have we even begun to understand it?
Looking at Germany today, or Scandinavia or Peru for that matter, does a lot to deflate these “big picture” theories.
Two of the signal characteristics of progressive politics and its adherents are a conviction of moral superiority and an attempt to avoid confrontation with avowed enemies by acknowledging their every complaint as justified and transferring the blame to their own domestic political opponents. This is an attempt to transcend conflict in pursuit of some utopian fantasy-land, hence the conviction of moral superiority.
In today's world this is appallingly dangerous. We had years in the early days of this country before a threat became so extant it had to be answered; as recently as the mid-20th century this had shrunken to months, the months between Pearl Harbor and the growth of a tremendous military effort to answer it. It has shrunken once again. Technological advances in travel, communications, and weapons effectiveness have empowered very small numbers of enemies to have an effect entirely disproportionate to their numbers. The world has not grown more peaceful during the Golden Age of Western civilization, it has grown more dangerous.
But the means of reply have grown equally. What has not grown is the moral character necessary for a strong society to defend itself against existential threats, settle non-existential threats by means short of violence, and especially the experience and wisdom to know the difference. Always there is the tendency of the progressive interested in the appearance of wisdom to deal with the process from moral heights that are a wild luxury in the real world. That luxury tends to get expensive over time, and when it can no longer be paid for, either the society must reject these affectations as the foolishness they are, or it must follow them and pay the price.
The latter has, since 2008, been the United States' polity's chosen course of action. The celebrity politicians in charge are adept not at taking responsibility, but avoiding it; adept not at taking the blame for ineffective or counterproductive policies and correcting them, but in blaming the other fellow and doubling down on them. It is truly a recipe for disaster.
I shall argue in another place my conviction that liberal politics, despite a hurricane of denial, do not actually aim at any egalitarian democracy, but at a return to outright feudalism, in which the ruling classes declare an international brotherhood and the ruled do the dying in pursuit of their masters' vanities. These are the upshots of Marx's doctrines expressed in Marx's own terms. Naturally, as a true progressive, he would deny them and blame somebody else, but it's the truth regardless.
Have a very happy New Year, Ward. We'll pick it up again later.
The history of much of the last century was written in the blood of the victims of war, genocide, political upheaval and social unrest. One of the lessons of modern history lost on most Americans, unfortunately is that our circumstances can change literally overnight. Consider Beirut, Sarajevo, the Islamic mass murders at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and lately - the riots in Greece, Spain, Italy and London. These events were all harbingers of an abrupt, irrevocable and often brutal change in peoples lives.
Consider a Jewish tailor living in Prague in the late 1930s. He could scarcely have understood what was happening to him when he and his family were rounded up by the National Socialists and packed into a cattle car they were told that they were being relocated for their own safety. But, that was World War 2, you say. So lets move forward: in the early 1970s, and in the span of 72 hours, the Khmer Rouge emptied every major city in Cambodia and before they were done, they had slaughtered over a third of the country more than a million people - over the next few years. But, that was during the Vietnam War years and in Asia, you object. Surely, you say, thats over. But nothing could be further from the truth as Goldhagen in Worse Than War points out, it never stopped; it only diminished in intensity. Most of us have forgotten Sarajevo, host of the 1984 Winter Olympics and formerly known as the jewel of the Adriatic. Sarajevo fell into a flame-shot hell of barbarism with a rapidity that stunned its inhabitants. The so-called siege of Sarajevo earned the dubious distinction of being the longest such siege in modern times it lasted almost 4 years. Modern high-rise buildings became death traps as services failed and snipers picked off anyone who tried to leave in search of food, water or something to burn for warmth. World War 2, again? No the siege of Sarajevo took place from 1992 through 1996. But those were Serbs and Croats were not like that, you say. But if you thought that we here in America have some special immunity to circumstances like those, you would be wrong. Those same cultural and inimical social outlooks that were responsible for the blood and slaughter are headed this way.
Here in America, the Watts and Rodney King riots, and hurricane Katrina serve as examples of just how quickly our own civil order can vanish. The recent flash mob robbery/assault phenomenon - where groups of blacks make use of cell phone texting and social networks such as Twitter to organize and swarm retail establishments in order to overwhelm them and to loot them - are becoming increasingly bolder and more violent here in the good old USA. Lately, and in a more ominous turn of events, those same flash mobs have begun to target individual people for racially motivated robbery and assault. You can even see this on YouTube, where many of these incidents are published for bragging rights! Even though the flash rob-mob phenomenon has largely fallen off the media radar (and some might say that it is being deliberately suppressed), it hasnt stopped. It just hasnt been reported by a compliant media with an agenda. And with few exceptions, nobodys going to jail for it.
The recent Occupy movement with its shadowy organizational origins and even more ambiguous sources of funding are another harbinger of social unrest to come. Merely another situation under-reported and misrepresented by a media strangely uninterested in the whole story, but the sentiment of those participating is easy enough to discern: "Capitalism has taught us that no one is ever going to give us anything," said OSC spokesperson Mark Paschal. "You have to take it.'' His comments and many, many others like it have an old familiar ring:
"We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions."
It is almost word-for-word what is coming from the mouths of the OWS crowd, and you would find few among them who would disagree with it. In fact, you would find few among our intelligentsia, our artists, our journalists, even our preachers and pastors who would find fault with it. But its old news, as the quote comes from a speech made in May 1, 1927 by one of the true nemeses and monsters of the last century, one Adolf Hitler. Harbingers. Just where do you think this is coming from?
It cant happen here, you say? Dont bet on it. It already has. The low level ethnic conflict, of the flash mobs, the increasingly violent theater of the Occupy movement, and the systematic abrogation of the rule of law by the Obama regime are merely progressions along the way to something far, far worse.
But no matter. Everything will be just fine. Until the day that it isn't.
I have been very discouraged by her decision (although I think that I understand her reasons) and cannot muster an ounce of support for any of the statist monsters that are likely to emerge from the primary process (one of the main reasons that I've been scarce around here for a few months!). Bleech.
But to the point, I went back and found that section in T & H and re-read it. About half way through it became familiar and I remembered that I was hung up on the physical geographic implications of a "Pakistani" - "Peruvian" Axis when I first read through that section (in some ways I suppose that I still am a bit). Re-reading definitely helped me to process it and I also remembered that it struck some chords in my own memory of having mused over the rather striking sociological & cultural similarities between LA & Arabic societies. While I can't recall specifically what roused those thoughts in my mind many years ago, I do recall dismissing it as nothing more than sheer coincidental & anecdotal comparisons at the time. For certain I didn't have the vast command of history & sociology of Professor Quigley (nor the outsized ego!) to ever consider it past the point of dreamy musings.
I continued reading on and was left wondering why he didn't draw out more of the influence of the Asiatic Despotism, his focus seemed almost exclusively on the Arabic Outlook. Perhaps I was hoping to see a bit more about the Asiatic Despotism since I recently read a very illuminating book on China, Decker & Triplett's: Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama is Hastening America's Decline and Ushering A Century of Chinese Domination. I recommend it to anyone that wants to get a very up to date, fact-filled, objective report on what is really going on between the US and the Middle Kingdom today.
I would suggest that Quigley could have drawn out a bit more depth on the Asiatic Despotism if he spent the time, but it almost seemed to me a a reader many decades removed that he got caught up in the Arabic Outlook aspect and may have simply forgot!
Your Slavic-Teutonic Axis is certainly intriguing and I look forward to seeing it fleshed out soon! Help me out here, am I somehow getting too hung up on the physical geography of these "Axes?" Should I view them more from a purely sociological (rather than geographic) basis?
Most of us are bemused and distracted by the Kabuki theater of what passes for modern American politics, while those who would rule us - and the world - proceed apace with our destruction for their own ends. That may sound, well, a little too extreme for some folks (after all, everything's just fine, isn't it?), but the growing uneasiness that's beginning to haunt people, to creep in around the edges of everyday life suggests that it's all too true.
We wish you a belated Merry Christmas and happy New Year - we're both in he best possible place we could be.
I guess so, but before you were talking about us being alone in a world threatened by Slavo-Teutonic or Scandinavian-Slavic and Pakistani-Peruvian axes, and that's something very different from what you're saying now.
Germany today, Norway and Sweden today, even Peru today don't make up great threats to world peace or to the United States. Sure, things can change, but things have already changed to the point where ideas about a permanent Viking or Teutonic or Hispanic character are questionable.
Those Vikings (after some mixing with the French) also became the Normans who contributed mightily to developing the British model. Indeed, the Vikings weren't so very different from the Anglo-Saxons who provide the another piece of British culture. Getting from the Vikings (or the Byzantines) to later Russian culture was a complicated process that wasn't pre-determined.
And to say as Quigley apparently does that Christianity somehow isn't a major factor in Spanish culture looks quite obtuse. Perhaps he isn't wrong about "more ancient Arabic personality traits" playing a role, but no society, our own included is entirely governed by the "Christian virtues." Hispanic Quigleys, and there were many, saw Northern Europeans as outriders, almost outsiders, of the Christian World just as much as Quigley does Southern Europeans.
Yeah, I'm with you, brother. It's a sad, sorry gaggle of statist clowns, grifters, ruling class elitists and opportunists on offer as our 'choice'. "Death or chi-chi?" as the old joke goes. So Palin's my write-in - praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
I'll definitely add the book you reference to my reading list. Thanks for that!
First of all, the examples of societal collapse are illustrative of the point that culture, ideas and what Quigley characterized as 'outlook do matter - and that they matter a great deal. So much so that the combination of these factors will ultimately determine the direction that a particular nation takes.
This leads us to the second of your assertions. That "Germany today, Norway and Sweden today, even Peru today don't make up great threats to world peace or to the United States." You are correct as far as that goes. But it's what underlies and connects these seemingly disparate nations that does pose a therat to all of us who adhere to the Western ideals of individual freedo, conscience and compassion. As Quigley puts it,
The problem of finding constructive patterns for Latin America is much more difficult than the problem of finding constructive priorities. One reason for this is that the unconstructive patterns that now prevail in Latin America are deeply entrenched as a result of centuries and even millennia of persistent background. In fact, the Latin American patterns that must be changed because today they are leading to social and cultural disruption are not really Latin American in origin, or even Iberian for that matter, but are Near Eastern, and go back, for some of their aspects, for two thousand or more years. As a general statement, we might say that the Latin American cultural pattern (including personality patterns and general outlook) is Arabic, while its social pattern is that of Asiatic despotism. The pattern as a whole is so prevalent today, not only in Latin America, but in Spain, Sicily, southern Italy, the Near East, and in various other areas of the Mediterranean world (such as Egypt), that we might well call it the "Pakistani- Peruvian axis." For convenience of analysis we shall divide it into "Asiatic despotism" and the "Arabic outlook."
So what we're really looking at is not the superficialty of the construct of nations, but of cultural patterns and outlook that have more influence than appeals to a particular nationality. America was always more of a cultural ideal whose roots lay in the foundation of the Christian West.
Thus, the Pakistani-Peruvian axis ofwhich Quigley speaks is is cultural / sociological one; the geographic endpoints of his putative axis are merely place markers to indicate its exent - much like saying "from here to Timbuktu." I'm willing to grant Quigley a bit of hyperbole as he makes his point rather well.
As to the contention that Quigley says that Christianity somehow isn't a major factor in Spanish culture - that's incorrect. What he does say is that much of the nominally Christian culture along his axis had failed to ameliorate or otherwise change the destructive aspects of the outlook comprised of he combination of Asiatic despotism and the Arabic outlook. And that it had in fact become contaminated by those destructive influences. Citing Quigley once again:
Interestingly enough, these attitudes have successfully survived the efforts of the three great religions of ethical monotheism, native to the area, to change these attitudes. The ethical sides of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam sought to counteract harshness, egocentricity, tribalism, cruelty, scorn of work and of one's fellow creatures, but these efforts, on the whole, have met with little success throughout the length of the Pakistani- Peruvian axis. Of the three, Christianity, possibly because it set the highest standards of the three, has fallen furthest from achieving its aims. Love, humility, brotherhood, cooperation, the sanctity of work, the fellowship of the community, the image of man as a fellow creature made in the image of God, respect for women as personalities and partners of men, mutual helpmates on the road to spiritual salvation, and the vision of our universe, with all its diversity, complexity, and multitude of creatures, as a reflection of the power and goodness of Godthese basic aspects of Christ's teachings are almost totally lacking throughout the Pakistani-Peruvian axis and most notably absent on the "Christian" portion of that axis from Sicily, or even the Aegean Sea, westward to Baja California and Tierra del Fuego. Throughout the whole axis, human actions are not motivated by these "Christian virtues" but by the more ancient Arabic personality traits, which became vices and sins in the Christian outlook: harshness, envy, lust, greed, selfishness, cruelty, and hatred.
The upshot of all of this is hat none of us live in an intellectual or political vacuum. The extent of prosperity, liberty, and population are defined by our culture and our world view - or outlook, as Quigley puts it. Human history is a continuum, not merely a series of events, or as someone once put it, "one damn thing after another." The ideas and cultural patterns of antiquity have left their mark on all of the succeeding centuries, no matter what our pretentions and protestations to the contrary. All of it had consequences, consequences that we experience today.
Understand that I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you; it's just that there's more to the story than meets the eye. And that we here in America are in fact very much alone with respect to our unique cultural patterns and outlook, all of which are under assault and have been degraded by generations of the Machiavellian-Gramscian-Marcusian memes.
The essence of it is this: destroy our unique American culture based upon liberty, individual conscience and all of those thigns so eloquently summarized by Quigley as the crown of Western civilization, and very bad things will take its place, courtesy of the confluence of the Pakistani-Peruvian axis and the Scandanavian-Slavic axis. Some have spoken of a thousand years of a new Dark Age. Try ten thousand. Or more. That's what's at stake here.
Look at what you've quoted Quigley several times as saying:
Love, humility, brotherhood, cooperation, the sanctity of work, the fellowship of the community, the image of man as a fellow creature made in the image of God, respect for women as personalities and partners of men, mutual helpmates on the road to spiritual salvation, and the vision of our universe, with all its diversity, complexity, and multitude of creatures, as a reflection of the power and goodness of Godthese basic aspects of Christ's teachings are almost totally lacking throughout the Pakistani-Peruvian axis and most notably absent on the "Christian" portion of that axis from Sicily, or even the Aegean Sea, westward to Baja California and Tierra del Fuego. Throughout the whole axis, human actions are not motivated by these "Christian virtues" but by the more ancient Arabic personality traits, which became vices and sins in the Christian outlook: harshness, envy, lust, greed, selfishness, cruelty, and hatred.
That's quite a fierce and blistering indictment: "Almost totally lacking." It sounds like what you and he want to do is to have it both ways. To make a savage attack on Spain and Latin America as societies where Christianity hasn't had much of an impact and then to deny having made the indictment.
Professors love to do things like that, to lead readers to some extreme conclusion and then attack people for simply connecting the dots. But if you or he want to weasel out of what he's obviously saying, fine, but be aware that other people reading what he wrote aren't going to be taken in by the disavowals.
I don't entirely disagree with you and Quigley. What Quigley writes about Latin America isn't radically different from what Octavio Paz said about Mexico, his own country, but there's a contempt and dismissiveness in Quigley, as well as a complacency about the North American alternative, that Paz didn't share.
There probably are some similarities between Latin America and Southern Europe on the one hand, and the Middle East and Islamic world on the other, at least in comparison to the United States. But Quigley is far too quick to reach the conclusion that Latin American society is more influenced by "ancient Arabic personality traits" than by "Christian virtues." I'd want to study indigenous New World peoples, look at Christian and European societies in other historical periods, and examine how other non-Western cultures handled the issues that he brings up.
I don't exclude the possibility that South and Central America failed in someway to develop as we have, but similar failures occurred in societies with no Arab or Muslim influence at all. Such "failure" may be the norm around the world, rather than something exceptional, and such success as we've had may be more recent and unusual than he assumes.
What Quigley's doing is just what plenty of Southern Europeans and Latin Americans did when they attacked Northern Europe or North America as not really Christian, as given to the worship of Mammon and machines. He just turns their indictment on its head. It was wrong, foolish, and unfair when they attacked us in that way, and what Quigley wrote is equally wrong, foolish, and unfair.
It's bizarre to imagine a Catholic professor at a Catholic college having such a bitter, jaundiced view of some very Catholic societies. Maybe the poor man really understood that what he was talking about wasn't so much Christianity as individualism or classical liberalism, excellent things indeed, but not identical to Christianity.
Also, even if Quigley was spot-on about world problems 40 or 50 years ago, his stuff can't be read today as if it were the last word on other societies. One can't write about Madrid or Buenos Aires or Mexico City today without taking into account the influence modernization and democratization have had on those cities, and their countries and cultures.
I don't think there are many that will argue against the uniqueness of modern Western Civilization as a whole, and in particular the "American Experiment" as it is often named. This uniqueness has two main dimensions (that are virtually all encompassing): 1. When compared to world "civilization" from the beginnings of recorded history, and 2. When compared to the rest of civilization of modern times up to the present. Perhaps I need to clarify the "are many" with "I don't think there are many (that are even moderately informed with mankind's history & don't have a particular agenda to grind) that will argue...."
I think that we both agree with many of the points of this uniqueness that Harris has described in his work. And it is my belief that this uniqueness (with all of its beauty and inherent righteousness) is what we see being constantly assailed by our enemies using the prongs of "multiculturalism" and "moral relevance." This uniqueness is at the root of the attacks, even if they are muffled behind other rhetoric.
While there are many aspects of this uniqueness spread across many dimensions, I believe that it is the combination of Judeo-Christian "outlook" (to use Quigley's term) and the identification of/with, and reverence for, Natural Law & Rights (both of which notably exclude any promotion or validation of the "will to power") that provide the root of our American uniqueness.
So "yes." I agree wholeheartedly that the creeping onslaught (as slow or impotent that it may seem at times) from a combination of these axes (Scandanavian-Slavic and Pakistani-Peruvian), as broad or as narrow as one may be wont to describe them at various points in time, is indeed our ever present enemy. And that this enemy is indeed moving at a greater pace in recent decades. Of note is also the fact that the enemy has made great inroads into our camp and has been extremely successful at bringing to bear a low-grade battle from inside the gates (and one of the greatest aspects of their "success" is the fact that the majority of the populace refuse to even identify its existence!).
And "yes," again, it is indeed for "all the marbles."
Thanks again for the ping to this thread (where we are actually discussing the content of the other thread!), since it has engaged me in the type of thought provoking discussion that I was so fond of at FR in the past. Isee that you have further discussion downthread that I will get to tomorrow. We're settling in for a late dinner soon and some relaxation tonight!
Another “playing for all the marbles” bump. Wake up, folks - it’s now or seriously never.
I hope the book is going well, and all else is well considering the circumstances. Thanks for the ping!
All’s going as well as it can in these times. I’ve re-located my study in the house to a more quiet and open space. I can look out over the horse turnout, the barn, the front yard, and see who might be coming up the driveway.
Glad to hear that you’re making progress on your preparations. Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to be able to sit this one out.
Better preparations and security Bump! (I’ve been thinking about installing some cameras on the property but haven’t done any research on it yet, do you have any links to pointers?) TIA.
Suggest you take a look at the Ubiquiti Networks AirVision / AirCam combination. I’ve been working with these since they were released.
The AirVision controller software could use one more rev before it’s ready for prime time, IMHO, but you can’t beat the price: $106 per camera, including the controller software. www.ubnt.com
Night vision can easily be obtained. Detail later - I’m off to vote in the Idaho primaries. We have a real Constitutional sheriff in our area, thank heavens. The one lone Democrat won’t even admit he’s a Democrat. Heh.
Thanks much, I’ll check them out. Hoping that your Sheriff holds his office, a good Sheriff is indispensable in fighting tyranny!
The good news is - we have a strong Constitutional Sheriff.
The bad news is - those storm clouds aren’t on the horizon any more.
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