Posts filed under ‘Society & Culture’
Buried in the story about the brouhaha at U.Penn’s clashing endorsements, I find this telling quote:
Meanwhile, the joint Obama letter — signed by the student body presidents of Penn, Temple and Villanova Universities and Haverford College — takes pains to “note that we are speaking on behalf of our own views as prominent student leaders at our institutions, not on behalf of the student body or our student government,” even as it begins with the line, “We, the student government leaders of schools in the Philadelphia region….”
The letter’s argument hinges on Obama’s plans to expand access to higher education: “Barack’s plan to address the concern of financial assistance for higher education particularly resonates with us. His plans to simplify the application process for financial aid, expand Pell Grants to low-income students, streamline Direct Loans for students and create the American Opportunity Tax Credit are critical in truly making higher education available to any American who wants to go to college.”
Well then, apparently, everyone is a special interest group. When privileged college students at Ivy League schools support a candidate because he promises them handouts from the federal trough… I suppose we’ve seen the beginning of the end for the American republic.
This is especially laughable coming from Penn, Haverford, and Villanova students who are paying roughly $30K a year to attend these private schools. If they honestly believed that the lack of government handouts for students is the reason why people aren’t all going to college, then they ought to give up their places at these high-cost schools and hie themselves to the nearest State U, or better yet, nearest community college.
Privileged, pretentious jerkoffs prescribing government medication for the poor and underprivileged… that habit of nobility which Obama embodies so well is being taught well and early apparently in our schools.
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
-Inscription on the Statue of Liberty
Not much more to be said.
If you’re convinced in your bones that your sensations are accurate, that your current experience is reliable, that what you don’t know isn’t likely to hurt you, and that it’s safe for you to act in all important respects like our nation is at peace, then you’ve established an essential precondition, an essential premise, for a particular political decision:
If you’re convinced we’re not at war, then you’re absolutely entitled to insist that it doesn’t matter whether you vote in November 2008 for Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama or for John McCain. In particular, if you consider yourself to be a principled conservative, and you believe we’re at peace, then you’re absolutely entitled to withhold your presidential vote in its entirety, rather than cast it in favor of John McCain. Certainly he’s insulted you enough in the past; certainly he’s betrayed the principles you hold dear; certainly he’s been disingenuous and sneaky and self-righteous and petty, and he’s pretty damned unapologetic about all of that. He’s an old dog now, and he’d rather snarl than even try to learn any new tricks. It would just feel delicious to cast a spite vote against him, wouldn’t it?
*******If, by contrast, you understand in your bones that — despite all the indicia of peacetime I’ve summarized — we are at war; that our enemies are still alive and dangerous; that their lust for our blood is not only unabated but more inflamed by the events since 9/11/01; and that their entire existence is devoted to repeating and eclipsing the events of that day, then you don’t have that luxury. Your “feel-good” vote against McCain, or even your non-vote, carries too high a price.
I fully understand the depth of your loathing for John McCain. My own is considerable, and other than for his record as a Navy pilot and POW, such respect as I am able to summon up for him could serve as a dictionary-precise example of the phrase “grudging respect.”
But the immortal Winston Churchill had it right when, in response to a challenge over his wartime support of Joseph Stalin, he illustrated the need to prioritize one’s villains: “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
McCain, if president, will continue to fight the Global War on Terror. Indeed, he will keep us on the offensive. This is the sole issue on which I have absolute confidence in John McCain. And I have equal confidence that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will, for all practical purposes, refuse to fight it.
And that is the transcendent difference among the remaining presidential candidates. That is the issue in this election that is more important than all of the others combined. There are other things that are important, and from a committed conservative’s point of view, McCain is wrong, or unreliable, on many of them. Clinton and Obama, though, are wrong on most of them. And no matter how many of those issues they’re all wrong together on, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re at war, or the fact that Obama or Clinton wouldn’t fight it effectively.
As always, Beldar makes sense. Which is why it’s almost redundant to write that sentence: Beldar = Sense.
Nonetheless, this wouldn’t be a Sophistry post if there were no questions to be had. Simply agreeing Beldar = Sense is against the grain of sophistry in the first place.
The question is a variation of the same one that I wrote on earlier: Is John McCain the man to fight this war, or the last war?
There is no question that Beldar is correct that there are enormous and transcendent differences between McCain and either of the two Democrats. He would prosecute the war vigorously, and stay on the offensive. The Democrats would quickly seek ways to surrender and capitulate, for “peace in our times” or some such claptrap.
But one can ask whether this war against Islamists can be won that way at all.
It is my belief that we are engaged in what some very smart people are calling “4th Generation Warfare” (4GW). The technical details are beyond the scope of this post (or frankly, beyond my competence as a non-military man) but what does emerge is the idea that one of the main weapons of 4GW is the media. Rather than reducing the enemy’s will to fight through air superiority, military presence, and economic ruin, 4GW does so by manipulating the public sentiment directly. Hence the whole notion that we are fighting for the “hearts and minds” of the Arab public.
Well, apparently the Islamists have far more success in fighting for the “hearts and minds” of the American public than we do, judging by the op/ed pieces, the so-called news stories, and by the opinion polls of the American electorate.
Hold that thought for a moment.
An orthogonal thought is something that Mark Steyn has been hammering for some time now, especially in his book, America Alone, but also in his recent speech at CPAC. His point is that the War on Islamists is not fought abroad, but at home, through domestic issues.
As he says in his speech (I’m transcribing this, and I hope a full transcript is available soon):
Sometimes it doesn’t seem that there is any obvious connection between the War on Terror and the so-called pocketbook issues of domestic politics. But in fact, there is a very precise relationship between the structural weaknesses of the modern Western world and the rise of globalized Islam. In the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood: healthcare, child care, care of the elderly, to the point where it has effectively severed its citizens from even our most primal instincts, including the survival instinct.
There is much more, but the point is clear. If we are in a generational, existential war, then we cannot win it in Iraq, in Iran, in Syria, or anywhere outside of the United States. We have to win it here, at home, by avoiding the descent into frail enervated permanent adolescence that the modern socialist state wants to impose on its citizens.
Is McCain the man to win that war? Has he demonstrated a true commitment to freedom, to preventing the continuing slide into adolescence of the American public, not merely as a domestic issue to assuage fiscal conservatives, but as a component of the war on Islamists?
Combining the two strands of thought here, is McCain the leader we need who can fight a 4th generation war against a stateless enemy, leveraging the power of media, of entertainment, of popular culture, against an ideology that festers because of structural weaknesses in our society?
Or is he still operating under the outdated modes of thinking on war: soldiers, boots on the ground, air power, economic pressure, diplomatic maneuvering, etc.?
I think he could be. But the jury is still out.
There is little doubt that McCain — even if he can’t fight a 4th generation media-centric warfare, and reform the nanny state — is infinitely preferable to the two Democrats. At least he’ll win the third generation war of guns and bombs, whereas they would seek to lose that one right quick.
But his inability to rally the conservatives — who are the only people in the American political landscape who see the connection between Osama bin Laden and Hillarycare, who understands that middle class entitlements are a national security threat — is worrisome. He has made appeals, and he has to continue to do so — not just for political gain, but to help Americans understand that he understands this is a war that cannot be won abroad with guns and tanks. He must show the country and lead the people who have already been enervated by too many government programs and too much coddling by the government out of comfortable dependence into free struggle.
He has to start by first convincing the conservatives. Then he has to show that he can get the media under control, working for our side for a change. That will be a tall order for any Republican. Finally, he must show that he has the political courage and the will to do the things not only unpopular with Republicans and conservatives, but unpopular with the American people, such as eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the nanny state apparatus.
Is he that man?
I hope so. I’m out of choices for 2008.
An enterprising Canadian blogger, Robert Jago, was understandably disturbed by the philosophical leviathans on the Canadian Left who apparently subscribe to the notion of “Free speech for me, but not for thee”. So he emailed one Noam Chomsky for his thoughts on the whole Steyn, Levant kerfuffle.
He posted the response:
So best to start with Americans. I’ve contacted a number of prominent left-wing American writers, editors and thinkers to get their point of view on Free Speech, and the Steyn and Levant cases. I’ll be posting them over the next few weeks.
The first one I’ll start with is Noam Chomsky. I don’t agree with much of what he says, but I know that he is well respected by young people on the left. I asked him this:
A number of prominent right-wing Canadian authors are before my country’s various human rights tribunals and human rights commissions. One of those authors is Ezra Levant, who is charged with publishing the “Muhammad Cartoons”. The other is Mark Steyn, charged with a number of offenses amongst them quoting a European Imam on demographic predictions.
What is your opinion on these Human Rights Commissions and other government restrictions on “hate speech”? Are you generally supportive of these types of measures, or do you oppose them?
Here is his reply:
There should be a very heavy burden of proof on any effort to restrict freedom of speech. I strongly oppose the measures you describe. I do not think the burden of proof is even approached, let alone met. In this respect I agree with the US Supreme Court, which, in the 1960s, set what i think is a proper standard for protection of freedom of speech.
That argument alone shouldn’t convince you to oppose the HRCs. But if this is someone you respect, then just take some time to reconsider your position and see if you can answer these questions: What is your position based on – logic or cultural bias? Can you defend it? If we on the right are hate-mongers for wanting to re-write or scrap the hate speech laws, then don’t you have to apply that same label to people like Chomsky?
First of all, good for Mr. Jago for getting a straight answer from his Manufacturing-Consentness on the issue of the freedom of speech. I fully agree with Chomsky on this question. Oh yes, it was odd to write that sentence, but there it is.
Secondly, I can’t wait to see what other American intellectuals of the Left Mr. Jago gets answers from.
Finally, I do not expect that anyone — even Noam Chomsky — could convince those of the Canadian Left to oppose the HRCs if they don’t already do so. Tyrannies (whether large or small) are seldom deterred by words, or logic, or appeals to authority. History is filled with examples of just what deters tyrants, from the playground bully to Josef Stalin.
That is why in America we say, “Freedom isn’t free.” It’s a lesson that Canadians may be learning for themselves right soon.
Mark Steyn is the best writer of the English language working today.
He gave a fairly long speech at CPAC that has been videotaped. You owe it to yourself to watch him speak. No one speaks with greater gusto, greater humor, and greater urgency on the problems facing the country and the world.
We are a nation at war. And we are going to elect a new executive leader of the country.
There is no question that winning the war against Islamists is our most important priority — at least, if you believe that we are in fact at war, and that we cannot concede or negotiate our way out of it.
This is the #1 reason why I will likely vote for the Republican nominee in November, despite my lack of enthusiasm for McCain, Romney, or Huckabee.
But from the incredible Mark Steyn comes a different perspective that is worth considering:
Right now, the two-party system seems to have decayed into a one-and-a-half-party system, with McCain largely in agreement with the Dems on immigration, pharmaceutical companies, global warming and much else. A President McCain will get media bouquets for his bipartisanship in supporting the Democrat domestic agenda. Against that, he is admired in these parts for his stand on the war.
But if this is, as many argue, a “long war”, then in a two-party system, don’t the Democrats at some point have to take joint ownership of it? Parties don’t wage wars, nations do. One could make the case that the war, rather than being the sole overwhelming reason for electing McCain, is actually a compelling reason, given their convergence on domestic issues, why you might as well stick Hill in there. I don’t think Mrs Clinton will be so eager to lose the thing once it’s on her watch.
One hopes that Steyn is right, for the sake of civilization — that if given the responsibility for defending America and the civilized world from the predations and pretensions of Islamist radicals, even Hillary or Obama would step up to the challenge and discover their inner John F. Kennedy.
But there is another aspect to this thought. We are not only in a war, but we are in what some are calling a 4th Generation War. 4GW has some distinct characteristics that distinguish it from past “generations” of warfare which emphasized things like order and march, firepower, and battlefield maneuver. For example, the authors of the article above write:
To draw our potential fourth generation out still further, what if we combined terrorism, high technology, and the following additional elements?
A non-national or transnational base, such as an ideology or religion. Our national security capabilities are designed to operate within a nation-state framework. Outside that framework, they have great difficulties. The drug war provides an example. Because the drug traffic has no nation-state base, it is very difficult to attack. The nation-state shields the drug lords but cannot control them. We cannot attack them without violating the sovereignty of a friendly nation. A fourth-generation attacker could well operate in a similar manner, as some Middle Eastern terrorists already do.
A direct attack on the enemy’s culture. Such an attack works from within as well as from without. It can bypass not only the enemy’s military but the state itself. The United States is already suffering heavily from such a cultural attack in the form of the drug traffic. Drugs directly attack our culture. They have the support of a powerful “fifth column,” the drug buyers. They bypass the entire state apparatus despite our best efforts. Some ideological elements in South America see drugs as a weapon; they call them the “poor man’s intercontinental ballistic missile.” They prize the drug traffic not only for the money it brings in through which we finance the war against ourselves — but also for the damage it does to the hated North Americans.
Highly sophisticated psychological warfare, especially through manipulation of the media, particularly television news. Some terrorists already know how to play this game. More broadly, hostile forces could easily take advantage of a significant product of television reporting — the fact that on television the enemy’s casualties can be almost as devastating on the home front as are friendly casualties. If we bomb an enemy city, the pictures of enemy civilian dead brought into every living room in the country on the evening news can easily turn what may have been a military success (assuming we also hit the military target) into a serious defeat.
One element of the war we are currently in is the importance of media. In fact, one might actually describe the conflict as a Media War. The enemy doesn’t bomb, shoot, behead, and kill people in order to impose their will on the populace. No, they do these things in order to create a media story that will sap the will to fight of the civilian population back home.
What nations have tried to do with strategic bombing, with siege warfare, and with other traditional force of arms, the Islamists are doing with the media.
Conservatives have long complained about the bias in the media that seems slanted entirely against the United States and its allies. But beyond cursing at irresponsible reporters and editors, there is precious little that conservatives can do. Over the long haul, conservatives can redouble efforts to establish alternative media (such as the Web and talk radio) or infiltrate mainstream media organizations (as Bill Kristol, Fox News, and others are trying to do), or such similar efforts. But those are long-term solutions, not something we can leverage right here, right now.
One thing we can do is surrender. I don’t mean the nation should surrender; I mean the conservatives can surrender to the liberals, in order to win the War against Islamists.
As I see it, the anti-war movement by itself is powerless and meaningless. It is only because the media uses them as a tool to try and bring down the Bush presidency that those guys have any relevance. Once the media stops paying attention to the Cindy Sheehans and ANSWER’s and Code Pinks of the world, they will cease to be relevant. Plus, once the media stops portraying Al-Qaeda and its ilk as freedom fighters against the evil imperialist United States, and our own troops as either (a) bloodthirsty psychopaths, or (b) poor widdle victims of evil Bushitlercheney warmongerocracy, we will have won a major victory in 4th generation warfare against Islamists.
So the question is, what needs to happen to win the media over to our (that is, American) side of the war?
The answer seems pretty simple: give them what they want. I believe that liberals (and by extension, the media) don’t really care about war per se. They care, instead, about imposing their values on the rest of America. They want same sex marriage, consequence-free recreational sex, and political correctness. They want any mention of God to be taboo. They want to enforce an environmentalist regime at any cost to jobs, to businesses, or to society in the name of some Gaia-saving virtue. They want unions to be sacrosanct, to pay off their supporters in the various worker collectives who go to bat for Democrats year in and year out. They want judges who will create policies that the legislature can’t, since the judges are highly educated law school graduates not answerable to the unwashed masses. They want to control people in every aspect, to make them more virtuous, or “safer”, or more comfortable — and if that means taxing the rich, massive wealth transfers, then so be it.
If we conservatives give the media what they want — a liberal, tax-and-spend, all-powerful nanny state government — then I believe that we will get the media’s support in our war against Islamists.
After all, once the Republicans and the American conservatives are defeated, the liberals will have to realize that these Islamists aren’t exactly fans of socialist multi-culti do-as-thou-wilt philosophy of the Left.
If that is the Faustian bargain to be struck, what then?
At what cost victory?
A Hillary or better yet, an Obama presidency pretty much guarantees that we will enter an era of Big Government and socio-economic liberalism the likes of which we haven’t seen to date. But at the same time, it could mean that the media will be on our side in the war against Islamists. (Especially after President Obama withdraws all the troops from Iraq, watches that country fall into bloodshed and civil war, and then have an untraceable Iranian dirty bomb carried by a jihadi who crossed the border illegally in Arizona blow up in Times Square.)
It’s an impossible choice for most conservatives. What cost victory? What sacrifice for victory?
And is that victory a victory at all?
Over at Redstate (to which this is cross-posted) Absentee’s excellent post on why the anti-illegal immigration movement needs to expel the racists and bigots from within its ranks and engendered a healthy debate and discussion.
One of the things I found most interesting is the oft-expressed view that we, as a nation, must focus on assimilating immigrants. English as a national language is a common theme, and many opine that legal employment, citizenship, and various benefits be contingent on a showing that the immigrant want to learn, absorb, and assimilate American culture.
I’ve been engaged in past debates on the issue, but I’ve realized there’s an aspect to this that hasn’t been much discussed.
I believe that if we put into place a set of requirements for assimilation — which, by the way, we absolutely should, including English language as a required skill — then it is quite likely that within a short period of time, the immigrant will be more American than the citizen.
There is little doubt that the state of civics education in American is abysmal. According to one study, less than half of college seniors know that the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” comes from the Declaration of Independence. Only 42.7% of college seniors know that NATO was founded to resist Soviet aggression. These are college seniors, at some of our top institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. They’re not high school dropouts, or drug addicted homeless people.
If you went out into the streets of any major city, randomly stopped passersby and asked them to name:
1. Their two senators
2. The four main characters in Sex and the City
I have no doubt that you would find the result shocking.
The number of American citizens who believe that a tax refund is the government giving them money is simply unbelievable. Those who believe that they have a constitutional right to education is frightening.
American citizens, born and bred, speak and write English as if it were not their first language. If a literacy test were to become a requirement for employment, I wonder how many citizens would be able to pass it.
None of these observations are meant to suggest that we do not need enforcement of our borders. Nor are they meant to suggest that we need not focus on efforts to assimilate those who come to the United States looking for opportunity.
They are, however, meant to suggest that we not have a double standard as it comes to the citizen vs. the immigrant.
Knowledge of basic American history, American system of laws, our federal form of government, our rights and duties under the Constitution, basic economics of the free market capitalist system we toil in, are these things unimportant to the citizen?
I know that amongst conservative circles, I am preaching to the choir. I know that conservatives for the most part fully support the idea of increased civics education for our youth, and bemoan the state of ignorance run rampant in our citizenry that cares more about American Idol than the American Presidential Elections.
But such is not necessarily the case in the body politic. Whether it’s through laziness, through indoctrination, through being too busy, or what, fact is that the American citizen is busy debasing his own heritage and culture. To demand that the newcomer then learn all those things that he himself doesn’t know is the height of hypocrisy, and could not withstand scrutiny along the lines of darker motives.
I believe now that any effort towards assimilating immigrants to American society and culture must be tightly coupled with efforts towards greater civic education throughout the population. That government schools should absolutely require civics goes without saying. That American people themselves undertake a renewed interest in their own nation’s history, institutions, and culture is imperative. For who is the immigrant to assimilate to if not the citizen? And who better to teach an immigrant the values of our country, if not his citizen neighbors and coworkers and peers?
Today, those values are all about People magazine, Entertainment Tonight, and the NFL. Let’s not kid ourselves here.
And as long as that remains the case, any effort at forcing immigrants to learn the history and culture of their newly adopted country is doomed to failure. Or worse, the citizen will find that their nation will be redefined by immigrants, who after all, know more about it than they do. Then whose country is it really?
I don’t know that greater civic education and engagement by citizens is a prior condition to assimilation requirements — I am a fan of greater requirements for immigrants myself. And I’m an immigrant, with immigrant parents and family members. But it is a condition.
Let’s get to work, conservatives.
So it seems that Bill Gates gave a speech at the World Economic Forum, and also an interview with the Wall Street Journal talking about something he calls “creative capitalism”. The video is here:
Perhaps this is proof that great wealth leads to great ignorance?
We don’t need a “new type of capitalism” to help the poor. We need simply to implement capitalism in those countries. Three simple steps to success:
1. Allow private property.
2. Establish the rule of law.
3. Eliminate corruption.
Voila! Capitalism saves the poor.
Virtually every single country with a deep poverty problem is lacking one or more or all of the above three. Where private property rights do not exist — particularly to land — as in parts of Africa and South America, there is no incentive to work. Where the rule of law doesn’t exist, contracts mean nothing, property is defensible only by force, and you get not capitalism, but gangsterism. Where corruption — whether by money, or by tribalism, or by connection-ism — runs rampant, it isn’t what you can do, but who you know that matters. And that retards capitalism.
So rather than spending millions of your dollars on trying to figure out some “technological” solution to the problem of poverty, use the money to fund a Microsoft Mercenary Military to take out the world’s dictators, establish private property and the rule of law, and see how that works out for ya.
If you read nothing else this year, read this.
Best piece of writing on the web so far this year. Nay, this decade.
No “turning the other cheek,” please. That is for individuals, not nations. Governments do not, or should not, allow criminals to get away with murder, even though the New Testament might imply that individuals should do that very thing.At the same time it is sometimes the duty of a president to do things that might be regarded as in a moral gray area. I fully expect and require the president to lie when it is necessary. Not to me the voter, necessarily, and certainly not because the president has done something naughty and wants to get away with it. But I do think that it is sometimes necessary for a president to lie to protect the lives of soldiers or agents who might be in mortal danger. It is naive to believe otherwise.
For what it’s worth, I agree with Ross on nearly everything he wrote. But it raises the question: Can a nation actually be moral?
So since my post on whether gentlemen can exist without ladies, I’ve spoken to a number of colleagues and friends on the related issues. Some fascinating things emerged.
First, it is apparently not necessarily a compliment for contemporary women to be called “a lady”. One colleague immediately asked, “Well, what do you mean by ‘lady’?” And another said, “Well, I guess that’s good, but… I wouldn’t want to be considered a prude.”
Second, there is little doubt about the meaning of the word “gentleman”. There is correspondingly little understanding about the meaning of the word “lady”. As the above example showed, people instinctively knew what was meant by “gentleman” and never asked, “What do you mean by that?” But almost every single person I spoke with asked what I meant by “lady”.
Third, there are fewer “ladies” among women than there are “gentlemen” among men, at least as instinctively understood. For example, just about everyone I spoke with would confidently say that many if not most of their male friends were “gentlemen” however that term was instinctively understood. At the same time, almost every single one either couldn’t name a single woman friend he/she would consider a “lady”, or only one or two women friends who might be called a “lady”.
I spoke with parents of little girls the original question: Would you want to raise your daughter to be a lady?
The answer was almost always a qualified No. When you dig into it, as I did with close friends who wouldn’t be insulted, what I found was that in their minds, being a “lady” is tied up with being passive, submissive, and weak. A Victorian ideal perhaps of a “lady” as the kind of woman who has fainting spells. There was a subtext that a “lady” does not work, except at some high-society charity type of places, and all of the parents of little girls wanted their daughters to be All That She Can Be.
Here’s another interesting tidbit. The opposite of “gentleman” is “cad” or “scumbag” or “lowlife” according to the people I spoke to. The opposite of “lady” is “slut” in every single case. Why the word “gentleman” would be tied almost exclusively to the idea of manners, while the word “lady” would be tied exclusively to sexual chastity is something I find enormously interesting.
I have been blessed with two little boys. They are the greatest joy of my life, and also the greatest responsibility I feel day in and day out. Tonight, the wife and I had a very interesting discussion that stuck in my head.
She was talking about a coworker of hers who is a little older and in her words, “a true gentleman”. He instinctively opens doors for women, offers to carry their luggage, and is courteous in a sincere and open way. She tells him constantly, “Your parents did an amazing job of raising you.”
So I ask her, “Would you want to raise our sons as gentlemen?”
She says yes. Of course.
I then ask, “Do you think the mother’s of baby girls will raise them to be ladies?”
She wanted to say, “Yes, of course!” and I could see the words die on her lips. She literally couldn’t answer for a few minutes. We went through all of our friends and acquaintances and their wives. These are women we both like a great deal — smart, funny, friendly, great women in every way. But not one could be called a “lady”, whatever that term means.
In fact, to call a woman a “lady” in that context seemed to be… almost insulting in some strange way. Must be the culture we live in today.
And neither of us can think of a single set of parents of little girls who would raise them to be “ladies”.
So… suppose we did raise our boys to be gentlemen. Could they be gentlemen if there are no ladies?
Just found this essay thanks to Instapundit. I gather it’s been around for quite a while, but nonetheless, this is something that every American man and woman should read.
If you disagree with the premise, then at a minimum, you need to justify to yourself why you disagree.
Following up on my post yesterday about the Modern Do-Gooder problem, I realized something else that needs exposition.
The “meaningful” vs. “money” is a false dichotomy. That may have been what Rand Simberg was really pointing out. Fact is, capitalism is meaningful. It is meaningful in a way that the so-called nonprofit work is not: for solving social problems.
One metric most often used to denote the standard of living is the GDP per capita. According to this resource, the GDP per capita in the United States was $16,689 in 1973 and $27,331 in 1998. That represents a robust 64% growth in 25 years time.
The Great Society programs and similar social-welfare initiatives were launched in the 60′s. Does anyone really believe that those programs led to a 64% growth in the standard of living of Americans in 25 years? The failures of those well-intentioned socialist programs are at this point fairly well documented. It got so bad that a Democrat was elected President in 1992, promising to “end welfare as we know it”. This detailed article is but one example of how well-meaning social policy is actually detrimental to social well-being.
No, the 64% improvement in standard of living is the result of capitalism. Here are the facts:
- Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
- Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
- Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
No social program, no charity, no nonprofit group or civic organization led to this state of poverty.
Rather, the people working for TV companies, for automakers, consumer electronic companies, and all of the money-grubbing corporate interests that the Left and their dupes love to deride created this social condition. Capitalism brought this relative nirvana to the United States. If the poor are living as above, then how well off are the rest of us living?
I’ll tell you. We’re living so well that the expectation among the college graduates in our country is that they will have a “meaningful” life, because making a living is not even a question.
Hence, we have silliness like this post on the official Fortune blog (who, frankly, ought to know better):
Many asked, though, how they could keep their Yers engaged — and frankly, coming to work — in the face of huge salaries from big corporations trying to poach them. The plans they work on have a huge impact on people’s lives, another attendee said, but is that enough for Yers? I’m inclined to say that, yes, along with lots of exposure to higher-ups’ passion, Yers will choose high-impact jobs like these over high-paying, but perhaps less rewarding, ones. (Leaving aside, of course, debt. The average college grad with loans has more than $19,000 to pay back, so s/he may have to choose salary in the short term.)
This is a truly pernicious misunderstanding that we, as a society, would do well to correct — myself included.
Fact is, the plans that these nonprofits, government boards, and such do-gooder organizations work on have miniscule impact on people’s lives — unless the said plans impinge on the market, in which case they almost always have a negative impact on people’s lives. The Gen-X and Gen-Y crowd that was raised on the bullshit that the nation’s Boomer leadership taught them in our Leftist academia and Leftist media and Leftist cultural organizations thinks that you have to choose between meaning and money.
Truth is, those activities that generate the most personal income tends to be the most meaningful, and most beneficial to society. Setting aside the ridiculous entertainment-related incomes (which is in and of itself an indication of just how wealthy even the poorest of us are) of Hollywood’s spoiled brats and superstar athletes, fact is that doctors and bankers and lawyers make the money because they generate social benefit in the form of products and services that a large number of people want. Teachers and social workers make comparatively less because their activities do not benefit anywhere near the number of people that the capitalists benefit, no matter how honorable their profession.
The Chinese, the Indian, the rising Third World nations are filled with young people who instinctively understand this because they have grown up in repressive, Communist, or dictatorial economies as truly poor people. They engage in the business of making money because they know instinctively that providing wanted products and services to as many people as possible is the surest path to wealth creation for themselves, and uplift for their society.
I can only hope that our young people understand this as well.
Capitalism is ultimately meaningful.
I read with great interest Rand Simberg’s takedown of an unbelievably stupid “article” in WaPo about how “young altruists find fulfillment lacking” in the non-profit sector. The author of said article makes a series of statements and interviews a series of well-meaning morons. One such moron is Beth Hanley, a 29-year old “think tank temp who dreams of aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries” who says:
“I knew this would be difficult,” said Hanley, an Illinois native who lives in Adams Morgan. “A lot of people say, ‘At some point, you’re going to have to decide to explore other options,’ and I guess I would start applying for jobs in other fields I don’t care so much about. But I haven’t gotten at all to that point.”
Hey Beth? Save your resume and don’t bother.
If you were working for me in any one of my companies, and I found out that your primary interest in life was “aiding the impoverished and reducing gender discrimination in developing countries” I swear that I would give you the opportunity to go pursue your dream. By firing you immediately.
And Rand takes down the idiotic article in fine fashion:
These people do in fact need to grow up, and understand that there are other ways to help people than forming non-profits and NGOs, or working for a government bureaucracy. People are helped most by technological advances that make essential items–food, transportation, communication, shelter–more affordable and accessible to them, not by those who provide them with handouts and sympathy, and keep them in a state of perpetual dependency.
And I agree with all of that. And the comments to that above post are fascinating for a variety of reasons.
I do think, however, there’s something else going on that people aren’t really addressing in the comments or in the article or in the post — except obliquely. (more…)
Perhaps because I’ve been reading A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, which isn’t so much history as it is a well-researched and well-argued polemic, this post on Powerline struck a nerve. John Hinderaker correctly describes the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian talks as an exercise in fantasy and delusion.
He rightly expresses puzzled disgust at this from Condi Rice:
Not to worry, though: this time, the U.S. stands squarely behind Israel:
At the same event US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice vowed to defend Israel as it pushes ahead with the peace process, saying that it was time for all sides to make the difficult decisions necessary for a lasting peace.”All Israelis should be confident that America is fully behind you, that we are fully committed to your security and that you can thus be bold in your pursuit of peace,” she said.
Let’s see: just how committed is the U.S. to Israel’s security? Are we prepared to deal with Iran’s mullahs? Or, more to the point, how exactly are we going to protect Israel’s pizza parlors and taverns from mass murder, or its soldiers from cross-border raids? Does anyone believe that we have any intention of doing anything concrete–even assuming that we have the ability to do anything concrete–to stop terrorist attacks against Israel?
In The History of English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Andrew Roberts says, “Prestige is a tangible benefit in the calculus of international relations, its loss a concomitant danger.”
So what is it that gives a nation or a people prestige?
The Left seems to believe that it is our moral standing that gives us prestige. They argue that our dedication to human and civil rights, our belief in democracy, and our professed adherence to freedom and respect for all people & cultures give us prestige. Incidents such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc. erode that prestige and makes people hate us — or so they argue.
History, however, makes a different case. Prestige in international affairs is earned from strength and resolution — from being an absolute nasty bastard when challenged. Prestige arises from defending your allies and punishing your enemies. Roberts argues that the English-speaking people lost an immense amount of prestige when Vietnam was allowed to fall, despite being a protectorate and ally of the United States; and that when the U.S. destroyed the Taliban and squashed Iraq in short order after 9/11, we gained prestige by serving notice to the terrorists and their supporters that we will be nasty bastards.
So it is that Rice’s statement, and Hinderaker’s critique, are so interesting.
Because Hinderaker is right — what exactly does it mean for the U.S. to be fully committed to Israel’s security?
The only thing that comes to mind is if we were to send in the 3rd Army into the West Bank and Gaza to wipe out every single remnant of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, and any other hive of terror. And then to invade and take out Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and any other exporter/supporter of terror and Islamist ideology. In short, to be so nasty, so ugly, and so resolute in both nastiness and ugliness that those who would contemplate attacking Israel would have to think twice, and then think again.
But with domestic problems in the home front over an eminently justifiable action in Iraq, it is simply not credible that we would follow through with anything approaching real action.
And the enemy knows it.
To me, that’s a definite loss of prestige. We have now put having peace in the Middle East forth as a matter of national prestige. It’s like we want to be the global daddy, stepping into a situation where two kids are fighting and saying sternly, “Now, you boys cut it out, or I’m going to have to start spanking someone!”
When you issue an empty threat that the listener knows to be an empty threat, it makes everything else you say and do suspect.
Our problem as a nation, as a society, and indeed as a culture is that through our unwillingness to back up our words with action, and through our soft-hearted naivete about the real world, we have eroded our prestige to a point where folks feel genuinely encouraged to defy us over and over again.
Witness the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il. This is a crappy little country whose people are starving, presided over by an incompetent daddy’s little boy, whose military could be wiped out by American forced inside of a week. And yet, they feel no danger in defying us on nuclear weapons.
Why would anyone worry about the U.S.? Even if her soldiers are the best in the world, and courageous and brave and nasty in a fight, every bad man on the planet must surely know by now that we haven’t the stomach to do what is necessary to enforce order, peace, and guarantee security. They see how we are rotten from the inside out, with every tiny mistake becoming a call to action for the pacifist Left, and a media that is so incredibly biased that it may as well be working for our enemies.
The Middle East “peace process” should be as clear an evidence as any that the U.S. simply lacks any real international prestige. We have failed to do what we say far too often for anyone to believe we mean it this time.
Can we solve the problem? I believe we can.
Now that we have largely succeeded in Iraq, Iran has to be the next target of our wrath. We have stated clearly that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. If they are allowed to defy us in this, then all of our credibility is completely shot to hell. If we stop them — even at the cost of thousands of lives — then our word means something again.
And after Iran… Venezuela…
Perhaps then, and only then, would it mean something for the U.S. to be fully committed to someone’s security.
At a recent birthday party at a friend’s house, I ran into an entirely charming young lady who had just moved back to the U.S. after living as an expat in the UK for the past several years. She had married a Brit, lived in London, and had had a wonderful time.
I asked her about the Islamist situation in London, and she confirmed that things were getting quite frightening over there. Whether that had anything to do with her and her husband uprooting their lives and moving to the U.S. is unknown. But high taxes and the near-impossibility of owning a house in the UK did appear to have been the primary motivation.
In any event, she’s moving to Texas. (Yeah, London –> Dallas ought to be a culture shock….) So I commented that at least she and her husband could look forward to finally being allowed to own guns. To which she replied tersely, “I don’t believe in guns.”
She didn’t say, “I don’t like guns” or “I’m scared of guns” or “I hate guns”. No, she said, “I don’t believe in guns.”
What exactly does this mean?
Are you aware of this story?
Many universities try to indoctrinate students, but the all-time champion in this category is surely the University of Delaware. With no guile at all the university has laid out a brutally specific program for “treatment” of incorrect attitudes of the 7,000 students in its residence halls. The program is close enough to North Korean brainwashing that students and professors have been making “made in North Korea” jokes about the plan. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for the program to be dismantled. Residential assistants charged with imposing the “treatments” have undergone intensive training from the university. The training makes clear that white people are to be considered racists – at least those who have not yet undergone training and confessed their racism. The RAs have been taught that a “racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality.”
We have a real crisis in our society today, and I believe it begins in the college campuses around the country. If a private college wants to engage in brainwashing, that might be borderline acceptable under the idea of freedom. But a public university, funded with taxpayer dollars?
Every legislator in Delaware, every candidate for every public office, should be asked their position on this program at the Univ. of Delaware.
By the way, for those who think this is a partisan issue… let me point out that indoctrination mechanisms are independent of the subject matter. Today, it might be used for something you agree with; tomorrow, it might not be. This is why we as a society so strongly believe in freedom of speech — because if it’s acceptable to silence one point of view, it becomes more acceptable to silence another point of view.
Shortsighted libs who think this is a great program should consider what they would think if the program were to start telling students that homosexuality is a psychological illness. This sword cuts both ways, and as a society, we have to do something about our college campuses.
The invaluable Mark Steyn has another gem in The Corner this week where he discussed Old Europe. And he doesn’t mean in the Rumsfeldian sense of “those nations that used to defend Western Civilization”, but quite literally, as in old Europe:
There are currently more elderly people than children living in the EU, as Europe’s young population has decreased by 21 percent – or 23 million — in 25 years, 10 percent of which in the last ten years alone…
Italy has the least young people (14.2%) and one out of every five Italians is more than 65 years old… However, the decrease in numbers has been greatest in Spain, where the young population has diminished by 44% in the 1990 to 2005 period…
The decrease has been most significant in new member state Bulgaria, which has lost almost 8% of its population (7.94%) in the last ten years…
On top of that, the number of births across the EU has been decreasing and in some member states, the birth rate is almost two times lower than in the US (2.09 children per family in 2006)…
That quote is from Businessweek, and quoted by Steyn. But Steyn missed a part of the Businessweek story, which I think is almost as relevant:
The report [from The Institute for Family Policies, a European family policies NGO ] which focuses on the Evolution of the Family in Europe in 2007 also points at the decreasing number of successful marriages.
From 1980 to 2005 the number of marriages in Europe decreased by 22.3 percent, while divorces increased by 55 percent in the same period.
Spain presents the most radical case-study, as the number of divorces there has increased by 183 percent in the last 25 years.
Currently, a couple divorces every 30 seconds in Europe and over 13.5 million marriages affecting more than 21 million children ended between 1990 and 2005 in the enlarged EU, according to the document.
Okay… let’s try to put this together.
The article based on this IFP report says 16.2% of EU residents are 14 or under. If the population of the EU is 493 million, that means about 80 million Europeans are 14 or under.
21 million children were affected by the 13.5 million marriages that ended between 1990 and 2005.
So 1 out of 4 EU kids are from broken homes. Wow.
What is the psychological impact of kids from divorced families? There are many places where you can look up basic information (this doesn’t seem like a bad place for one, and this one too) but the research is pretty uniform in their conclusions: divorce is not good for the kids.
The negative impact of a divorce is not canceled out by new conditions or changes that may be positive. Put simply, divorce is bad for children. Children don’t need perfect parents, they need “good enough” parents.
Some of the long-term effects that researchers point out in children of divorce are:
- Anger towards others
- Destructive behavior
- Self-blame or guilt
- Feelings of loneliness
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Self-destructive or self-harming behavior
- Isolation and withdrawal
Now… what is one very common answer to these types of psychological stresses? If a person has been abusing alcohol, wracked with anxiety and guilt, where does he or she turn for comfort and meaning?
Philosophies of Marx and Engel? BZZT, wrong. Beauty of Folk Art? Nope. Save the Whales and Stop Global Warming? Nope.
People in desperate straits turn to religion.
I can attest to the power of religion when things appear darkest. But even apart from my own experiences, go ask any religious person you know. You will find that God spoke to them, or intervened in some way, at points in their lives when things seemed the darkest. When the world around them seems to be spinning out of control, when they feel completely alone and isolated, when they’re filled with self-loathing and guilt, that is when the message of religions — that there is a Better Way — is the most powerful.
So… what’s the fastest growing religion in the EU? Hint, it starts with “I” and ends with “slam”.
Most of the sources talking about the rapid growth of Islam in EU talks about immigration from Islamic countries in North Africa and South Asia. Surely that is a major source of growth for Islam. But that raises a question to which few answers exist: How many native Europeans convert to Islam?
This article suggests that “several thousand men and women” convert to Islam every year.
The young woman profiled in the article, a Ms. Mallot, says she converted to Islam on her own because the Catholicism of her youth did not have answers for her.
In fact, she explains, she liked the way “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.”
European Christianity is moribund and on a death spiral. Anglicanism is not a religion as much as it is a certain lifestyle, somewhat like the hip pseudo-Buddhism “practiced” by the Hollywood elites. In contrast, Islam is explcit, more rigorous, and simpler — provides a framework, rules and behaviors. Christianity, at least the variety practiced in Europe, did not provide the same reference points.
The story does not go into Ms. Mallot’s family situation, so it’s impossible to say whether she is a child of divorce or not.
But is it really that far-fetched to believe that someone suffering from anxiety, feelings of loneliness, guilt complex, and self-destructive behavior; someone searching for answers, for guidelines and rules, for some way to make meaning and sense out of life; someone looking for reference points for living would look to Islam instead of the dying multi-culti platitude-spouting lifestyle-cum-religion of contemporary European Christianity?
Especially if the moribund Christianity was the “faith” of their divorced parents?
I don’t think that’s far-fetched at all. In fact, I’m willing to bet that it’s quite likely. It is what I would have done.
I believe that buried in the article about demographic trends in Europe is yet another nugget — that 1 out of 4 EU children are living in broken homes, surrounded by discredited ideologies of the humanist Left, and the tired platitudes of contemporary Christianity, and seeing the vital, rigorous, confident and victorious ideology of Islam.
The historian Bernard Lewis supposedly predicted that Europe will be majority Muslim by the end of the 21st century. Don’t be shocked if it happens far sooner as the 25% of the young European children of divorce start to find Islam a compelling answer for their questions.
American “Liberals” are among the most illiberal people in the history of mankind. Just visit any of the popular leftist sites (DailyKos, DU, etc.) and you’ll quickly run into a monolithic orthodoxy that makes The Vatican look like a freewheeling debate society.
And yet, from time to time, I read stories like this one that clearly evidences liberal acquiescence (HT: InstaPundit). Basically, Vancouver, a city that has passed a citywide ban on smoking like so many bastions of the New Puritans, made an exception to the smoking ban for hookah parlors.
Liberals hate smoking, and love to ban it wherever possible. So what made them keel over and play dead when confronted by the power of the hookah? Did they just mis-hear “hookah” parlor as something other than waterpipes and thought they were okaying the trade for “working girls”? No — they approved hookah parlors for “cultural” reasons:
In giving the bylaw unanimous approval-in-principle, Vancouver city council members bowed to arguments that hookah lounges provide an important cultural space for the city’s Muslims and granted them a temporary exemption…
[Emad Yacoub] said hookah lounges are essential for immigrants from hookah-smoking cultures, because it helps them deal with the depression common for newcomers and gives them places like they have at home.
Wow. So apparently, there is such a thing as a “cultural exception” to rules and the law in the liberal handbook. Whatever the law/issue, as long as you cite “important cultural space” and “depression common for newcomers”, you’re cleared of any requirement.
Can you say creeping dhimmitude, boys and girls?
Okay, well, check it out. Culturally speaking, soft-core prostitution is an accepted practice among Koreans, especially businessmen. (You may have heard of such references as “room salons”, where young attractive “hostesses” will come sit with you, drink with you, etc. and… if sex should happen between two consenting adults, why that’s none of management’s business now is it?) Under this “cultural exception”, I think we should immediately start agitating for a waiver from the vice laws of NYC. The room salons provide an important cultural space where newcomers to America can deal with the depression of not having gotten laid for weeks at a stretch.
Why do liberals acquiesce? There are two theories.
One theory posits some sort of hierarchy of values for liberals — one which is unclear and has never been articulated clearly. But higher values would trump lower values, and cause acquiescence. So for example, “equality under the law” is supposed to be a value that liberals care about, but not when confronted by higher values of “racial injustice”. That warrants agitating for racial discrimination against whites and Asians for college admission, etc.
The other theory is that liberals actually are modern day versions of the 19th century Victorians: eager to celebrate themselves, believing themselves to be culturally and racially superior, and patronizing to all those “beneath” them. So acquiescence makes sense in order to trump one’s own moral superiority combined with a patronizing infantilization of those being patronized. The same people who pooh-pooh conservatives for being uptight about sex would throw a tantrum if their precious little girl went out and did a bit of the orgy with the local football team. The same folks who celebrate TV shows like Sex and the City for its “empowered women” somehow expect their own girlfriends and wives and sisters to act like Queen Victoria. The same people who demand that we carpool and stop using toilet paper are flying around in private jets. Why the hypocrisy?
It’s because there is a clear Victorian mentality at work. They are the “betters” who have education, the nice jobs, and tons of money. They know better, and expect better from their own people. But those others? Well… one can’t expect such… people to know better, could one?
I think the truth is a bit of both. Liberals are modern day Victorians who also have an inchoate values hierarchy where anything smacking of whiteness, Christianity, and Western Civ is automatically lower on the list. So it is that the same people who go ballistic over a ban on partial-birth abortion and go screaming “Get your hands off my body!” somehow look upon the practice of female circumcision as a quaint cultural practice for those people that deserves “important cultural space” to prevent depression.
White male protestants could learn how to use this to their advantage. Rather than having a Men Only Smoking Club, which would obviously be a big No-No, simply declare that it’s a Closeted Gay And Bisexual Men’s Smoking Lounge — an important cultural space to deal with the depression and anxiety that results from having to hide one’s true sexual identity from evil society. As long as no one asks you to prove that you’re gay… I think you’re in the clear. When asked to explain the presence of scantily clad bellydancers, explain that they are all from some exotic foreign locale and are “cultural artists” working on their art, and besides, all of the members are bisexual.
Powerline has a powerful condemnation of Columbia University and its president, Dr. Bollinger, for their fecklessness in inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus. I agree with everything those wise gents have written, but want to expand on something from Bollinger’s statement itself:
I would like to add a few comments on the principles that underlie this event. Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas—to understand the world as it is and as it might be….
That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today sharpens the point of what we do here. To commit oneself to a life—and a civil society—prepared to examine critically all ideas arises from a deep faith in the myriad benefits of a long-term process of meeting bad beliefs with better beliefs and hateful words with wiser words. That faith in freedom has always been and remains today our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world. This is America at its best.
How many years of education do you need in order to develop such delusions and illusions? Faith in freedom has always been and remains our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes?
Tell me Dr. Bollinger, how many oppressed people has “faith in freedom” liberated in places like France, South Korea, Afghanistan, Taiwan, and Iraq? Where do you rank “faith in freedom” in the list of America’s “potent weapons” as compared to say… the US Marine Corps?
The delusions and illusions of the intelligentsia are both staggering and dismaying. If Bollinger and his ilk at Columbia are the best that America has to offer, we may as well surrender now.
He is an embarrassment to intellectuals, and Columbia is an embarrassment to so-called “centers of learning” everywhere. I pray only that Yale doesn’t outdo Columbia in the foolishness department.
Recently, my wife and I had a very interesting discussion that I thought reflected some interesting observations about our society. It’s an issue that is far more pertinent to women, of course, although some men are starting to wonder out loud about it as well. I hesitate even to speculate about it, but there is something interesting here.
The question is… how do you avoid regret when balancing family and career?
Let me set the background.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a sports-sense, you know that the story for the past week has been the so-called “Patriot Games” or “Patriot-Gate” or “Beli-cheat” or whatever cute phrase people came up with to describe the videotaping scandal surrounding the future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. As a Jets fan, I could care less about the Patriots, although I respect them, and I suspect that some sort of unfair advantage was gained by the boys in blue due to the videotaping.
So many trees gave their lives, and many pixels have given theirs to look at the sports-angle on this story. I do, however, want to touch on something that struck me about this affaire de video because of an accident of daily life.
Driving back from the grocery store on Sunday, with the sports talk radio going on and on about Belichick, I stopped at a stoplight behind a car that bore two bumper stickers: “Support the troops — Impeach Bush!” and “One Nation, Under Surveillance“. Frankly, they’re typical inane liberal fare, that says much about the warped worldview of the vehicle’s owner. But that second bumper sticker had me wondering….
How much of the kerfuffle over Belichick’s videotaping is because of some latent meme in our culture about surveillance?
One of the typical complaints of unserious liberals is that Bushitleralliburton has used the War on Terror as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and impose a fascist state at home. Of course, the complaint itself proves that it is ridonkulous as those making such complaints would be headed for a gulag in a fascist state, but those niceties of logic are lost on feebleminded liberals. Nonetheless, this concern about unlawful, unconstitutional surveillance seems preeminent in the minds of some large chunk of the population.
Is the Affaire de Belichick a much bigger deal than it should be because a good number of people — especially those in the proven-left-leaning media — are operating under some subconscious fear of surveillance? That coaches attempt to steal signs all the time is not disputed, nor is it against the rules — it’s part of the game. The issue apparently is the use of surveillance technology, like the videotape (which hails from the ’80s of course…) or the camera. Are people transferring their worries about super spy satellites and some NSA phone intercept program filtering their phone calls to Grandma to the Belichick incident?
As a conservative with a strong libertarian streak, I’m extremely friendly to the notion that government power should be curtailed, and that government surveillance is to be minimized as much as possible. Nonetheless, living in a culture where practically everything is monitored by someone somewhere — for example, your viewing this article is being registered in some server somewhere to translate it into traffic stats — this obsession with being watched is a strange one. After all, do we not all carry around little plastic key tags allowing various grocers and drug store operators to know our precise purchasing habits? Do we not passively accept the idea that every financial transaction be recorded and monitored whenever we use a credit card? Do credit card companies not sell us their monitoring ability as a benefit to us cardholders?
For that matter, do we not have a voyeuristic streak in our culture, where monitoring the daily activities of so-called “celebrities” is a major industry in our entertainment sector?
I’m probably way off base, but still… made me wonder.
Glenn Reynolds, the Blogfather of the center-right blogosphere (aka, Instapundit) has a fascinating excerpt in his typical style about how our current War effort has been lawyered to death. The post is actually an endorsement of a book, called The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, and Glenn calls it quite good.
Let me excerpt the same excerpt:
In my two years in the government, I witnessed top officials and bureaucrats in the White House and throughout the administration openly worrying that investigators acting with the benefit of hindsight in a different political environment would impose criminal penalties on heat-of-battle judgment calls. These men and women did not believe they were breaking the law, and indeed they took extraordinary steps to ensure that they didn’t. But they worried nonetheless because they would be judged in an atmosphere different from when they acted, because the criminal investigative process is mysterious and scary, because lawyers’ fees can cause devastating financial losses, and because an investigation can produce reputation-ruining dishonor and possibly end one’s career, even if you emerge “innocent.”
Why, then, do they even come close to the legal line? Why risk reputation, fortune, and perhaps liberty? Why not play it safe? Many counterterrorism officials did play it safe before 9/11, when the criminalization of war and intelligence contributed to the paralyzing risk aversion that pervaded the White House and the intelligence community. The 9/11 attacks, however, made playing it safe no longer feasible. . . .
[As an aside, isn't it interesting that the 90's mentality happened under the President(s) with law degrees (because, let's face it, Bill and Hillary comprised the Office of the President) while the new "don't play it safe" directive came under a President with an MBA?]
In either case, Glenn Reynolds notes that “Law and lawyers are swell in their place. The extent of that place, however, is not unlimited.”
Okay, he’s certainly correct. But the $64M Question is, “How?”
There’s a fascinating debate going on over at Michelle Malkin’s blog about Gwen Stefani’s decision to cover up during her recent performance there:
The 37-year-old pop star wowed fans in Muslim-majority Malaysia on Tuesday, performing in costumes that showed almost no skin after Islamic critics claimed that her revealing clothes could corrupt the country’s youth. She burst onto the stage wearing a black leotard under a white short-sleeved shirt and black-and-white striped hot pants suit, with black gloves up to her elbows.
“I am very inspired tonight,” Stefani told some 7,000 cheering fans at an indoor stadium.
She changed costumes for every song, remaining fully covered as she belted out tunes such as “The Sweet Escape,” “Rich Girl,” “Wind it Up” and “Hollaback Girl.” Stefani had promised to dress modestly after the 10,000-member National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students charged that her skimpy outfits and cheeky performances clashed with Islamic values. The opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party also accused her of promoting promiscuity and corrupting the country’s youth. In an interview with Galaxie, a local entertainment magazine, Stefani said she had made many changes for Malaysia, calling it a “major sacrifice.”
The story itself is… meh, whatever you make of it. But in the comments, there’s a clear dividing line forming — and given Malkin’s audience, I doubt it’s a Liberal vs. Conservative debate. And it’s a fair debate.
On the one hand, you have people condemning Stefani for caving into Islamic demands to cover up. They call Gwen a dhimmi for doing what the Islamists want. Their reasoning goes something like, “Gwen would never have agreed to demands by conservative Christians in the U.S. to be have more modestly, so for her to cave into Islamists is to subject herself voluntarily to shari’a law.”
On the other hand, you have people… not precisely defending Stefani… but making the point that she was over in Malaysia, not in the U.S., and was simply following that country’s laws and customs. If Stefani were performing in Japan, maybe she’d bow to the audience before and after the show; no different, this, than simple practical politeness. As one commenter by the name of gregorystephens put it:
It’s not that big of a deal. When you go to someone else’s home, you respect their customs. If you show respect in this world, you tend to get respect in return. I have no problem with the way Gwen Stefani dresses. As a matter of fact, I think she’s gorgeous and one of the classier women in the music business. But, she was in another country with different customs. We can say that “if you don’t like it, don’t go”. That works here in America, but not in other places.
So… it raises the interesting question of whether one can be a dhimmi if in an Islamic country, or if one is simply respecting the customs of a foreign culture.
The way I see it, the issue isn’t covering up once you’re in an Islamic country — it is whether you choose to go there in the first place. I mean, whether you think it right or wrong, if you go to another country, you are subjecting yourself to the laws and customs of that country. If you choose to flout those laws, then you are in the wrong — legally speaking at least.
The accusation of dhimmitude is… off the mark. After all, she is a dhimmi when she goes to Malaysia since she is no Muslim, and Malaysia has shari’a law on its books. Therefore, she is subject to shari’a law whether she likes it or not.
What her critics appear to want is resistance on the part of Ms. Stefani — the same resistance that she would offer, no doubt, if a Southern Baptist group criticized her for immodesty here in the States. She would presumably give them the finger and do what she wants. They’re disturbed then that she doesn’t give the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students the same finger. Why the deference to Islamic demands, while defying Christian demands?
That’s off-base because the issue is one of laws and customs. If the United States adopted an explicitly religious legal system, then she breaks those laws at her own peril. After all, if she molested a young boy on stage as part of her act, no matter what her claims of “artistic expression”, she would be headed to jail. That’s against our laws and customs.
So the issue really is… is it dhimmitude for Stefani to choose to go to Malaysia in the first place once confronted with demands that are against her customs and values?
My answer is a qualified yes. To compromise one’s own principles is in fact submission. If Stefani’s artistic expression is intricately tied to exposing her bellybutton for some philosophical or principled reason, then for her to cover up is in fact submission. This is different, I think, than obeying the laws and customs of another country — this is acknowledging the superiority or dominance of another’s philosophy or principle over one’s own. For a feminist deeply committed to the cause of gender equality, for example, to submit to shari’a restrictions would be dhimmitude. His or her choice then is simply not to go to nations where gender inequality is enshrined in the laws and customs.
Thankfully, we need not agonize over whether Stefani submitted or not by going to Malaysia, for the simple fact that she has no principles that are being attacked here. She has no principled stance on fashion, no principled stance on feminism, no principled stance on gender equality — she’s a frikkin pop star at the end of the day, who is interested only in money and fame. I suspect she’d go entertain Arab sheikhs with multiple wives for enough money and exposure. I suspect that she believes in nothing — as is typical with the West.
For a lack of principle to submit to a held principle (no matter how odious) cannot seriously be called dhimmitude.
And that is in fact the weakness of the West today — it believes in nothing. And it is attempting to combat a fanatical belief system that encompasses religion, politics, and culture. With what? Empty rhetoric about multiculturalism and respecting diversity? Those aren’t beliefs — they are statements of non-belief. For an atheist to mouth prayers is no submission — it’s all just mystical mumbo-jumbo anyway, right?
Consider it an absolution of sorts: Gwen Stefani, you are no dhimmi, because you believe nothing in the first place.