From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.
In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian – for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.
Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.
The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:
- individual freedom
- a free market economy
- small government
- low taxes
- strong defense
And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.
Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.
And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.
What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.
John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation.
He writes at PowerLine:
Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.
And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.
A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.
American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.
The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …
Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:
It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.
Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable. …
Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.
A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.
We think the recovery of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl from the Afghan enemy, by exchanging him for five Taliban prisoners of war, has to be looked at the other way round: by which we mean that the main object of the exercise was not the recovery of Sergeant Bergdahl, but the freeing of the five Taliban prisoners.
This is our reconstruction of what happened:
Obama wants to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay aka Gitmo. He said he would close it way back when he was campaigning for his first presidential election. He gave orders for it to be closed soon after his election to the presidency. He failed to get other countries to hold the prisoners. He attempted getting them moved to the US to be tried in civil courts, but failed. Now he is coming towards the last two years of his eight years in office, and is thinking of his “legacy” – what the historians will say of his presidency. It has been a series of failures both domestically and abroad. His far-left “base” is saying that he hasn’t even managed to close Gitmo – a cause dear to its heart.
If only Gitmo could be emptied of its prisoners! But what excuse could the administration find for releasing them? Then someone – possibly even Obama himself – had the bright idea that the prisoners could be exchanged.
Question: How many Americans are being held captive by the Taliban?
Only one? Can we exchange all the prisoners in Gitmo for just one American?
Maybe not all. But we could exchange a bunch of them for him. Let’s exchange the worst of them. The most dangerous. Then perhaps we could just release the rest as being lesser dangers.
Make it so.
If Obama was told that Sergeant Bergdahl was a deserter and not worth exchanging for five high-value Taliban leaders, it would not have troubled him. Far from it. He could all too easily understand a man deserting from the US army.
And then he met Bowe Bergdahl’s parents, and found them to be his sort of people: hippy types – and better still, one of them, the father, a convert to Islam.
To us Bergdahl Senior comes across as a 1960s type rebel who has never grown up. Who rebels against his country as an adolescent rebels against his parents; not because he really admires Muslims and Afghans – whom he probably knows little about – but because he wants to stick his tongue out at his own world, to annoy it, to pretend he is superior to it, to make it take notice of him. Which it is doing now.
For Obama – what a show, what a photo-op. In the Rose Garden. The press, the cameras. I, Obama, with the parents of the soldier I am bringing home … A grand charade on a bright summer’s day. A happy occasion. How splendid we look, I and they.
And what a gorgeous distraction from the real purpose: the freeing of the Taliban leaders, getting to the closing of Gitmo.
No, we cannot prove any of this. But we think it highly plausible.
The entire episode, it seems to us, is an encapsulation of quintessential Obama.
On display, all at once, the elements of his character and his fixed ideas as he has consistently shown them to us: bragging, showing off to a vast audience, lying, hypocrisy, love of Islam, hatred of the US, hatred of the US military, churlish contrariness in giving an enemy the advantage over America, adolescent leftist ideology that is more spite than idea.
The consequences of releasing the five most dangerous Taliban leaders from the cages they belong in (graves would have been better for them) will be bad, but Obama will never take the blame for what must ensue.
The consequence of bargaining with terrorists for the release of a hostage (Sergeant Bergdahl counting as one rightly or wrongly) will be the seizing of Americans to be traded for prisoners and money. But Obama will never admit that he set the fatal precedent.
For that too is part of his essential nature: never to admit or even understand that he was wrong.
David Horowitz was a “red-diaper baby”. In his own words:
I was a leftist as early as I can remember. Raised in a Communist family and surrounded by radicals my entire childhood, I could hardly be anything else”.
A friend of mine named Betty Van Platter was murdered by the Black Panthers in 1974. … I was forced to question my most basic beliefs, and that began my long and difficult journey to sanity.”
We’ve just received a booklet from the David Horowitz Freedom Center, titled Rush Limbaugh’s Conversation with David Horowitz. (The whole of the conversation, which took place six months ago in November, 2013, can be read here.)
The following are extracts from it:
Horowitz: … According to a Pew poll, 49% percent of young Americans have a favorable view of socialism. What is socialism? It is a system that leads to mass misery, mass impoverization, and human slaughter. That’s what it means. Yet almost half of the young think it’s benign …
RUSH: … I look at so-called conservative commentators in Washington who seem to be content to commentate, but they don’t have any interest in beating this back. I don’t want to mention names, but most of them are that way. Same thing with the Republican Party. You come from the left. You’re one of the founders of the New Left. You’ve emerged; you were in the inner circle. You’ve spent much of your career trying to explain who these people are, the destructive, vicious malice that they have.
RUSH: And you don’t think — this is astounding to me — you don’t think that the Republicans or conservatives really yet comprehend the seriousness of the threat.
HOROWITZ: No. Otherwise they wouldn’t be squabbling among themselves so much. There’s another thing going on, and that is that the left controls the language. Our universities, our schools, our mainstream media are gone [into the hands of the left] — so if you pick a real fight with the left, you get tarred and feathered, as you know all too well. Conservatives are brought up in a healthy way; they mind their reputations, they don’t want to be bloodied, they don’t want to be looked at as kooks and extremists, which are the terms of abuse that are used.
RUSH: That’s true.
HOROWITZ: Obama is a compulsive, habitual liar. He makes Bill Clinton look like a Boy Scout. Clinton spun things and he did lie about something very personal and embarrassing to him, but Obama lies about everything, and all the time. And yet it’s taken five years for people to start saying this. Including conservatives. Take so-called single payer health care. Why do we use phrases like “single payer?” It’s communism! If the state controls your access to health care, which is what this is about, they control you.This is a fundamental battle for individual freedom, which is what conservatives are about, or should be. But who’s saying this about Obama’s plan to organize health care along communist lines?
RUSH: Let’s talk about persuasion a second. I’ve got true believers in my audience, and I’ve also got elements of the low-information or the swing-voter segment, and then a few leftists who listen. One thing I have discovered over the course of my career is that whenever I’ve used the word “communism” to describe, say, typical modern-day liberals, people say, “Oh, come on, Rush! They’re not communists!” It ends up being counterproductive, because I have found people don’t want to believe that about somebody like Obama. How do we go about persuading people that it is what it is?
HOROWITZ: That’s a very good question. … I think the language problem is a very serious one. I once tried to launch the word “neo-communist.” We talk about neo-fascists, so how about neo-communists? But that doesn’t work. People look at you as a relic if you use the term. But you have to at least say what their agenda is, and their agenda is controlling, is destroying individual freedom. That’s the way I would do it. By continually reminding people of what their agenda is. It’s anti-individual freedom. You can’t talk about the national debt just as an accounting problem. It’s taking away the freedom of future generations. It means that you have to work for the government instead of yourself. Currently we work something like half our lives for the state. Every other day we’re working for the government instead of for ourselves. What Obama is doing is diminishing the realm of freedom. Conservatives need to keep bringing that up all the time. …
RUSH: You pointed out that Democrats are always in lockstep, in contrast to Republicans, who are all over the place rhetorically and strategically. You said, and I’m quoting here, “The result is that a morally bankrupt, politically tyrannical, economically destructive [Democrat] Party is able to set the course of an entire nation and put it on the road to disaster.” David, people always ask, my callers ask me, “Why don’t the Republicans do ‘x’? Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they do that?” So let me ask you why. Aside from what you’ve said, that there’s a fear of being castigated by the media, mischaracterized. … Republicans simply don’t want to have mean things said about them. They want to be liked by the people who run Washington, D.C. But I don’t even see any pushback from the Republican Party. They’ll go after Ted Cruz and they’ll go after Sarah Palin and they’ll go after Mike Lee, but they won’t go after Obama.
HOROWITZ: Exactly. I have never seen Republicans conduct such bloody warfare as they do against conservatives. They don’t do that to Democrats, ever. And I think it’s great that all the people that you mentioned, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, are people, finally, who don’t care what The Washington Post says, don’t care what The New York Times says, and don’t care what the Republican establishment says. That’s the way it has to be done. I will tell you that the big difference between the left and the right that I saw when I came into the conservative movement 30 years ago was that the right had no ground army. I watched as the Democratic Party was pushed to the left by the activists in the streets — the MoveOn.org people, the Netroots — until it’s now just a left-wing Party. It was Howard Dean, a 60s leftover, who launched the anti-Iraq war campaign that shifted the whole Democratic Party. But on the Republican side, there was nobody pushing from the right. There was no ground war, no force pushing on Republicans from the grassroots. Now we have the Tea Party.
RUSH: You come from the belly of the beast. … You lived this stuff. You were a leader of the left in your youth. Talk about MoveOn.org — these are average Americans. They may make $50,000 a year. The Netroots, they’re a bunch of people in their pajamas, sitting there blogging and posting. What do they think is in it for them? They are not people Obama is prospering.
HOROWITZ: What’s in it for them is the fact that progressivism is a religion, or a crypto-religion. Like religious people, they believe the world is a fallen place. But they also believe that they can be its saviors. Salvation and redemption are … going to come … from the movement they are part of, from the organized left. What they get out of this is the consolation of religion. They get a sense of personal worth; they get a meaning to their lives. That’s what drives them. It’s not money. It’s much more powerful. When Whittaker Chambers left communism, he said, “I’ve left the winning side for the losing side.” Why did he think that? Because communists have ideas they’re willing to die for, and conservatives don’t. Conservatives have to get that idea. They have to understand that their freedom will be lost if we don’t stop the left.
RUSH: About stopping them. … Can the right triumph ever again?
HOROWITZ: I remain an optimist, which brings me to the second problem with conservatives. In addition to their decency and their not wanting to make enemies and not wanting to turn politics into war, they’re fatalists. If you think you’re going to lose, you can’t win. That’s very basic. I believe there’s a lot of hope. The ideas of the left are bankrupt. They don’t work. We’re seeing this now with Obamacare. Ludwig von Mises wrote a book in 1922, titled: Socialism. He explained that you can’t centrally plan a large economy, and he showed why. 1922. That’s almost 100 years ago, yet the Democratic Party rammed through Obamacare, ignoring what the last 100 years has proved. They’re going to organize the health care of 300 million Americans with their computers. It’s lunacy. Yet it’s the policy of the whole Democratic Party. They’ve staked their political future on this. … To sell Obamacare, they claimed — lied — that it’s to cover the uninsured. But it doesn’t even do that. Everything they said about Obamacare is a lie. Why? Because their real agenda is not health care. It’s to create a socialist state. To do that they need comprehensive control over people’s lives. I never thought I’d be saying this, because I didn’t see it even in a remote future, but we’re on the brink of a one-party state if they were to succeed. If you are ready to use the IRS politically, if you have access to every individual’s financial and health care information, and if your spy agency can monitor all communications, you don’t need a secret police to destroy your opponents. Anybody you want to destroy, you’ve got enough information on them and control to stop them. That’s how close we are to a totalitarian state. They want to control your life — for your own good of course — even to the point of whether you can buy Big Gulps. That’s not incidental.
RUSH: No, it’s not. Now when this kind of thing happens … I wonder about the average American, somebody who’s not an activist like you or me. Do they not see this, and if they don’t, how can they be made to see it?
HOROWITZ: I don’t think they see it. Most people are averse to politics and don’t pay that much attention. However, Obamacare is going to make them pay attention because his plan affects so many people. You have to start using moral language against these people. I want to hear our guys saying, “This is a threat to individual freedom. You are attacking the freedom of every American when you run up the debt like this. You are attacking the freedom of every American when you put them all in a government-controlled program like this. Government should not have this information.” … Every time they have a program that hurts individual liberty, we need to stop talking about it as though it was just about money. The money figures are so big, trillions, nobody can even grasp them, unless they’re very involved in the economy and understand it — and then they probably are Republicans. …
RUSH: … Freedom requires personal responsibility. …
HOROWITZ: … We need to use a moral language. Notice when the left attacks, it’s always using moral language. Racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever. These attacks sting. We don’t use language like that. We need to. It’s they who are racist. … Why are we letting them get away with their destruction of inner-city minority communities? Detroit, Chicago: why weren’t the disasters Democrats have visited on these cities huge in the Republican campaign last time? Democrats control these cities, they’ve controlled them for half a century and more. They’re ruining, destroying the lives of young black and Hispanic kids in these cities, and poor whites there as well. They’re 100 percent responsible for that, yet we never mention it. It is beyond me. … They don’t want to be at war, and particularly a moral war, with other Americans. But that is the reality. The left has already made it that. Republicans are treated as though they’re of the Party of Satan. That goes with the religious nature of leftist beliefs. Progressives believe that they are creating the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and that people who oppose them are the Party of the Devil. That’s the way they fight. We have to use that kind of language. Fight fire with fire.
RUSH: You’re nailing it. You came up with something … that I think is worth repeating, and to me it’s brilliant. I would never have seen it had you not pointed it out. You write that the fall of soviet communism had the unforeseen effect of freeing leftists from the burden of defending failed Marxist states, which in turn allowed them to emerge as a major force in American life. That’s so right on. The failure of communism, ironically, led to a rebirth of it in this country. We wipe it out in the Soviet Union, and a shining example of its atrocities goes away, and it becomes a tougher sell to educate people what it is.
HOROWITZ: Exactly, and leftists saw that at the time. That’s the first thing they said about it. … That’s why connecting them to the communists is very important. It’s part of the battle. Republicans, and conservatives as well, have let the foreign policy issue, national security, slip off the political radar. Barack Obama is a supporter of the Islamofascists. He’s supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that wants to … destroy America. Obama and Hillary have supported them. Their Administration is infiltrated by Islamist agents. That’s why Benghazi is so important, and why I’m really encouraged that Republicans haven’t let it totally disappear. …
If conservatives and Republicans do learn at last to “fight fire with fire”, can America’s leftward slide be stopped? Can America be restored to a country that values and protects the freedom of the individual? Rush asks Horowitz if the rule of the left – of the Democratic Party – will “implode”.
HOROWITZ: I think they’re going to go down in flames in the coming election. I’m hoping for that, and I can’t see how that won’t happen.
So David Horowitz, at this point, is optimistic.
We would like to share his optimism. But we have one difference of opinion with him which makes us less sanguine that a Republican victory - even if led by a person such as Ted Cruz who understands the urgency of the need to recover from the leftward slide – is almost certain.
He says, in the same conversation, “we need morality, religion, laws”. Morality and laws, yes, we need them. But religion? He means a religion with a god – to oppose the communist religion which has no god. He observes with wonder the inability of the left to learn from the horrible history of their religion that it only creates widespread misery and sheds lots of blood. Yet he fails to learn from the much longer horrible history of god-worshipping religions that they created widespread misery and shed lots of blood.
We immensely admire the great work David Horowitz has done, and continues to do, teaching Americans the awful truth of the left’s ideology, and actively combating it.
But if the right insists on sticking “God” into its political platform, the left is much less likely to “go down in flames”.
Free peoples are losing the habits of free speech, and thereby will lose their freedom.
So Mark Steyn writes.
In Australia, they’re trying to get rid of Section 18c, which is … [a] thought-crime law. … The Aussie campaign is not going well.”There is a danger that the Coalition resolve to repeal Section 18C will weaken further,” warns The Independent Australian, saying [to the Australian public) there's an "urgent need to submit your views on 18C amendments by April 30th". ...
What's going on? In the western world today, there are far more lobby groups for censorship - under polite euphemisms such as "diversity", "human rights", "hate speech" - than there are for freedom of expression. ...
That's the hard political arithmetic of defending free speech in western chancelleries today: There aren't a lot of takers for it, and the opposition to it is very organized. A government minister with an eye to his press clippings has to believe in it an awful lot for it to be worth taking on.
[In Britain] on Saturday, Paul Weston of Liberty GB, a candidate in next month’s European elections, was speaking on the steps of Winchester Guildhall and quoting Winston Churchill on the matter of Muslims (from The River War, young Winston’s book on the Sudanese campaign).
Winston Churchill did not write favorably of Islam.*
[Paul Weston] was, in short order, arrested by half-a-dozen police officers, shoved in the back of a van and taken away to be charged … with a “Racially Aggravated Crime” – in other words, he’s being charged explicitly for the content of that Churchill passage, and the penalty could be two years in jail.
This is remarkable, and not just because Islam is not a race, as its ever more numerous pasty Anglo-Saxon “reverts” will gladly tell you. For one thing, the police have effectively just criminalized Liberty GB’s political platform. There are words for regimes that use state power to criminalize their opponents and they’re not “mother of parliaments” or “land of hope and glory”.
More to the point, if Mr Weston is found guilty of a “racially aggravated crime” for reading Churchill’s words, then why is the publisher of the book not also guilty and liable to two years in jail? Why is Churchill himself not guilty? …
Civilized societies … lose their liberties incrementally. … Sir Winston’s River War will simply disappear from print, but so discreetly you won’t even notice it’s gone. Personally, while we’re criminalizing Churchill, I’m in favor of banning that “Fight on the beaches” speech, on the grounds that all that “we will never surrender” stuff is … increasingly risible. …
[In America] fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% oppose such government oversight. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.
Or to put it another way: fewer than a third of those polled give a hoot about the First Amendment. …
Two generations of Americans have been raised in an educational milieu that thinks, to pluck a current example at random, that using the phrase “Man up!” ought to be banned. If you’ve been marinated in this world from kindergarten, why would you emerge into the adult world with any attachment to the value of freedom of speech?
As I say, free peoples are losing the habits of free speech, and thereby will lose their freedom.
*Here is the passage from Churchill’s book The River War that may not be read aloud in public in Britain:
“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”
We hate to disagree with Winston Churchill on any point, and we love to quote this passage for most of what he says in it, but of course we cannot agree that “Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science”. Since the Enlightenment put a stop to the power of the Churches, science has been slowly burying Christianity – we’re happy to say.
The civilization of modern Europe is falling, “as fell the civilization of ancient Rome”.
Christianity brought down the night on the Roman Empire. Islam is doing the same to modern Europe. Churchill saw the danger. He did not foresee that it would start happening just a few decades after he led the West to victory over Islam’s twin and ally, Nazism.
Today we have posted essay number 9, Faust (Two), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)
Here is part of it. We hope you won’t neglect the footnotes (not added here). They are laden with information – colored by the authors’ personal judgments and prejudices.
To understand what happened in Europe in the twentieth century, the wars, the barbaric cruelty, the murder of tens of millions in cold blood; to diagnose the sickness that beset every country on the mainland of the continent, Germany most severely; to know why European man is dying a long slow death on his own heath, it is helpful to read the great German writer Thomas Mann.
In his novel Doctor Faustus, first published in 1947, the Faust figure is a German musician named Adrian Leverkühn. On leaving school in the early 20th century, young Adrian enrolls at the University of Halle as a theology student, but soon abandons his studies to devote himself to composing music.
Fearing that he is not gifted enough to fulfill his ambition, he conceives a terrible plan. He deliberately catches syphilis by insisting on having intercourse with a prostitute who has the disease, in the hope and faith that he will catch it and so become insane – because he believes madness is necessary to genius. This is his conscious bargain with evil, the selling of his soul to the Devil, in exchange for power to compose great music. When in due course the disease does reach his brain, he imagines he has a conversation with the Devil by which the contract is confirmed. The Devil will grant him twenty-four years from the day of their dialogue, years of “great time, mad time”, to create the astonishing works he can produce now that his faculty of reason has become deranged. He will know “the heights and the depths” of life, and so be filled with knowledge of the truth – the “truth” of subjective experience.
Thought and reason, the Devil explains, are impediments to the creation of great Art. Leverkühn’s art will be intuitive, “Dionysian”; springing from the instincts, from feeling, from the heart, not from the rational mind. The Devil assures him that all genius is demonic. “There is no ingenium that has nothing to do with hell,” he says. What makes Art great is “enthusiasm unparalysed by thought or reason”. Art is “made genuine by disease”, and “creative, genius-giving disease [is] a thousand times dearer to life than plodding healthiness”. Art, instinctive art – so the Devil instructs the mind he is corrupting – is anti-bourgeois, anti-civilization. It is a religion – a demonic religion. (What used to be religion, the Prince of Darkness says, “is over except for the Devil. The bourgeoisie dispenses with it.” And elsewhere the fictional narrator of the story – a Catholic – observes: ‘Theology, confronted with that spirit of the philosophy of life which is irrationalism, is in danger, by its very nature, of becoming demonology.”)
So art is a disease of the artist, and of civilization. As both it is highly valuable, this dark force many times declares or insinuates, speaking either as himself when he chats with the brain-sick Leverkühn, or through the mouths of certain persons among the composer’s teachers, friends and acquaintances. These persons, more devilish than Adrian Leverkühn himself ever becomes, are weak men, erudite sensitive aesthetes, sickly or deformed, one of them “slightly” consumptive. They consciously “elevate culture as a substitute for religion”. Most of them are admirers of Leverkühn’s works – and also of National Socialism, with which they soon become passionately enamored. What they call “the blood and beauty” of brutal mass murder excites them intensely. A poet among them praises “obedience, violence, blood, and world-plunder”. To listen to them is to understand how Hitler’s Reich was made possible and why it quite easily became a reality. …
Today we have posted essay number 8, Faust (One), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)
Here are some extracts from it:
Post-Enlightenment Romanticism was an escape from the reality of “this world”, and a belief that there could be a better world realized in Art, or in a future brought about by political action. …
The Romantic Movement was seeded in France with the revolutionary idealism of Rousseau, and flowered first in England as resistance to the iron reality of the Industrial Revolution, but found its natural home in Germany. There God died, but the Devil lived on.
The death of God was announced by the German philosopher Nietzsche in 1882, but when had it occurred? God was still alive, tussling with the Devil for the souls of men when the first part of Goethe’s play Faust was published in 1808, so the event must have come about, quietly, sometime in the intervening seventy-four years.
The legend of Faust and his pact with the Devil had arisen in Germany soon after the Reformation began there [in 1517], and about two hundred years before the Enlightenment seriously weakened the power of the Churches. …
The legendary Faust is a man who chooses to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for power, honor, wealth, fame; delight of the senses and satisfaction of the appetites, especially lust; and knowledge (of both the scientific and the intuitive sorts), for the duration of his life on earth, usually twenty-four years from the day of the compact. As his splendid life goes on, he wonders at moments if he could repent and be saved. He is exhorted by well-wishers to turn to God for mercy. But he chooses to renew his fatal pact. When he dies he goes to hell …
There was a real historical Dr Faust, “magician, necromancer, sodomist, astrologer and palm reader”, living in Germany in the early sixteenth century, and it was on his character, skills and escapades that the legend was based.
His birth name was Georgius Sabellicus. In 1505 he was helped by a certain Franz von Sickengen – who interested himself in mysticism and the magic arts – to obtain the post of schoolmaster in the Rhineland-Palatinate town of Kreuznach. Exposed as having forced boys of his classroom to perform “acts of lewdness”, Sabellicus disappeared from the school and the town. Two years later, as “Johannes Faust”, he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Theology by the University of Heidelberg. He came top of his class of fifteen, so either he was a brainy fellow, or he had already sold his soul to the Devil.
The graduate called himself “the Second Magus”, signaling that he was the successor to Simon Magus, the 1st century Gnostic teacher of St Paul’s day, written about scornfully in the New Testament and condemned by the Catholic Church as “the father of all heresies”. (See our post, The father of all heresies, February 21, 2010.)
He stayed in Heidelberg for some years and acquired a dubious reputation as a man of extraordinary powers.
While most commentary on him both in his lifetime and for a few years after his death (which was probably in or about 1540) portrayed him as no more than a braggart, a fraud, and a petty thief, some took him more seriously. An agreement made between himself and the Devil soon became an essential ingredient of his legend. It was related in tones of thrilled horror that he had referred to Satan as his “Schwäger”, his brother-in-law. A demon spirit who takes the form of Helen of Troy occurs in almost all the versions of the story. (She had been Simon Magus’s consort. Though he had found her in a brothel in Tyre, he taught that she had been incarnated in one of her lives as Helen, “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and had descended again from the highest heaven to help him with his mission of redeeming mankind.)
The idea that supernatural powers could be bestowed on a man by the Devil, but had to be paid for with the man’s soul, probably arose from the anathematizing accounts by the Catholic church fathers of the Gnostic cults. Because the Gnostics did not worship the Creator God of the bible but another god whom they “knew” by the gift of intuitive knowledge (the Gnosis); because many of them declared the Creator God to be evil; and because the worship of their god took the form of drugged orgies, perverted sex (anal and oral in order to avoid conception), and the deliberate flouting of biblical commandments, they were considered by Catholics to be devil-worshippers, and their rites Satanic. Their doctrines and practices were deplored in the pulpits of Christendom, embellished with fearful details and scary myths, not only to condemn them and warn the awestruck laity against them, but because the clergy was genuinely full of superstitious terror of the Devil. For centuries Gnostic ritual was considered by Christian theologians to be devil-worship. The Catholic Church succeeded in wiping out Gnosticism in the Middle Ages, using the instrument of the Inquisition. (See our post The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011.)
When the centuries of Church power were brought to an end by the Enlightenment, and Christianity itself took a beating, Faust and the Devil not only survived but flourished.
The Industrial Revolution made it possible as never before for individuals not born to riches and power to acquire them. To those who understood economics it was not an inexplicable phenomenon. But to those who wanted as little to do with the racket and dirt of industry as possible, who were nostalgic for the past, and who continued to believe in the supernatural though the priests had been shouted down by Reason, it was uncanny, magical; and ever-present envy had no trouble diagnosing the cause as demonic. So with the Devil living on in the psyche of Christian Europe long after God had died, Dr. Faust had a new lease of life. …
Contrary to Marxian dogma, no historical development is inevitable. And all actions have unintended consequences. So prophecy is a risky enterprise.
But we have to calculate the probable outcomes of what we do.
Daniel Greenfield has prophesied - plausibly, we think – what will happen when America ceases to be the predominant power in the world.
International organizations will be good for little except sucking up the last drops of wealth and prestige of the United States. It will be a chaotic place with everyone out for themselves. …
There will be three post-ideological powers, no longer global in scope, and one worldwide ideological alliance.
The United States, Russia and China are post-ideological states. Russia and China have abandoned Communism. The United States is even abandoning nationalism; to say nothing of capitalism, democracy or freedom. Its rulers cling to scraps of global leftist ideology that isolate them from their own people.
Russia and China are run by powerful corrupt elites who emerged from the old Communist order to build economic oligarchies enforced by the ruthless use of force. The United States is increasingly run by an oligarchy of ideological bureaucrats, corrupt technocrats and leftist academics that has a distant resemblance to the USSR and the PRC; but its long march through the institutions hasn’t turned fully totalitarian yet. That may be less than a generation away.
Russia, China and the United States are all demographically unstable. Russia and the United States are both on track to become majority-minority countries. China’s demographic disaster will be the outcome of its one child policies, gender abortion and its war on the countryside. The United States will probably weather its demographic problems better than Russia or China, because the former faces a fatal Muslim demographic takeover and the latter a conflict that will tear its society apart, but like Russia and China, the demographic crisis in the United States will be exacerbated by the lack of common bonds to see it through a period of social stress.
Russia and China will fall back into their own history, collapse and isolationism for China, barbarian rule for Russia. The United States has no such history to fall back on and its elites have abandoned any meaningful national identity that doesn’t rely on pop culture and liberal pieties.
There is little to unify Russia or China … The KGB oligarchs of Russia and the Communist princes of China are as globalist as any Eurocrat. They have few national commitments. Their goals are wealth and power for their families and associates.
Unfortunately there is even less to unify the United States after the left embraced multiculturalism at the expense of exceptionalism. The erosion of everything from free speech to the free market has reduced the American Dream from individual opportunity to vulgar exhibitionism. Uncontrolled immigration has imported masses of hostile populations everywhere from Nashville to Minneapolis radically changing quintessentially American cultures and replacing them with balkanized minority coalitions who have little in common except a mutual hostility against the United States.
In contrast to the cultural vulnerabilities of the three powers, Islam, the defining global ideological alliance, lacks a superstate as the center of its empire, though it has many state bases, but enjoys the allegiance of a worldwide population larger than any of the three powers. Demographic projections continue to favor the growth of Islam over China, Russia and the United States.
It would be a mistake however to think that China, Russia and the United States are in a conflict with Islam. While Islam is in a conflict with them, each of the three powers divides Muslims into three groups; those Muslims that are within the “empire”, part of China, Russia’s Eurasian Union or the United States, those that are outside the “empire” but allied to it, e.g. Syria for Russia, Saudi Arabia for the United States and Pakistan for China, and those that are its separatist or terrorist enemies.
Instead of coming to terms with a global struggle with Islam, each power largely concentrates on fighting Muslim separatist or terrorist groups that destabilize its sphere of influence while arming, funding and supporting those Muslim separatist and terrorist groups that destabilize rival powers.
It is therefore simplistic to act as if America, Russia and China have a common interest in fighting Islam. While that may be true, that is not how the leaders of the three powers see it. Putin fights some Islamists while incorporating others into his allied clergy and helping still others go nuclear. The United States bombs the Taliban, but would never consider bombing their paymasters in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
Muslim terrorists operate in all three powers, but are dismissed as unrepresentative aberrations. That is wishful thinking, but empires are shaped to fight their own kind. Islam, like Communism, is something different. It is an ideology and post-ideological powers … are poorly adapted to fighting it. Instead many of their elites secretly admire its dedication. …
Like a hyena trotting after prey, Islam is a cultural carrion eater consuming the skills and knowledge of superior civilizations to sustain its warlordism …
The collapse of the Pax Americana under Obama has freed up Russia and China to begin their campaigns of territorial expansionism. Obama’s failure to deter Russia in Ukraine will encourage China to use force as a solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. These events will wake the world from the dream of the Pax Americana in which American power kept the peace in much of the developed world.
The end of the Pax Americana also means the end of international law. Instead of a post-American world ushering in a stable multilateral order … no single power will predominate, but … any country or militia that can seize a piece of land or a natural resource will go ahead and do so. …
The First World may wake up to discover that it is once again living under Third World rules.
Those most immediately affected by the decline of the United States will be the Asian and European countries that outsourced their defense to the United States after WW2. Japan has a limited time in which to turn around its economy, demographics and military to be able to face down China.
Europe was able to turn inward without having to make the hard choices and its elites were even able to drag the United States into implementing their vision internationally. But that is coming to an end. …
The European Union may implode in the coming years, but whether it does or does not, Western Europe will continue to be defined by the quarrels between the UK, France and Germany. The various other players have never been anything other than places to put factories, launder money or import cheap labor from. …
Europe, unlike the United States, has not been known for its altruism, and its nations face a crippling combination of problems. Europe suffers from Japanese birth rates, Russian demographics, Chinese corruption and American economics (though it would be more accurate to say that America suffers from EU economics.) Despite its size and population, Europe does not have an optimistic future. …
Russia will not stop with Ukraine and NATO will dissolve, officially or unofficially. It may stay around and limit itself to providing humanitarian aid internationally while expelling Poland and any countries that Russia is likely to want to add to its collection. …
The budding Russian empire will find that fighting a new wave of Muslim insurgencies in formerly peaceful republics will consume too much of its time and energy. The soldiers who will march on the scattered pieces of the old red empire will be Muslims and the Eurasian Union will become a Muslim empire with a handful of churches. Like Rome, its fall will come at the hands of its own barbarians.
Iraq and Afghanistan will not prove to be as psychologically devastating to Americans as Vietnam, but they will help discourage further deployments overseas. Severe military budget cuts and a campaign against the warrior culture will leave the military in no shape for anything except peacekeeping missions.
The United States will face escalating domestic unrest, less from militias than from gangs, terrorism and the economic collapse of entire cities. It will no longer be in a position to act abroad.
None of this has to happen, but it will if the same bad decisions continue to be made.
If eight years of Obama are topped by eight years of Hillary, this is where we will end up.
The writer points out that if the civilized world fails to resolve its “economic, demographic and military crises … the civilization in which we have grown up and which we have known all our lives will die and a long interregnum of darkness will follow in its wake”.
Yes, that’s all too probable, and profoundly horrible.
But it may be that an entirely different kind of civilization will emerge. That technologies – already in the womb of time – will set the individual freer than he could ever possibly have been before. That governments will lose power. That social elites without technological skills will lose credibility. That law-making will be done by new procedures, and the nature of law and the manner of its enforcement will change to fit new ideas of how liberty may be protected. That religion – so outworn and squalid a thing, a mere relic of an ignorant past – will wither away, perceived at last to be worse than useless.
There now, we ourselves have ventured beyond speculation and touched on prophecy. And because prophecy cannot be accurate, we are not likely to be right. But by the same token, we may not be entirely wrong.
The Cold War is not over. Russia is winning it the only way it could, by America choosing to lose it.
From this Investor’s Business Daily editorial we get a clear understanding of how drastically and easily Obama and his clique are sabotaging the United States.
As Russia test-fires new, updated ICBMs on the heels of its Ukraine invasion, Obama’s top arms negotiator is busy downsizing and mothballing America’s nuclear arsenal and destroying our deterrent.
Thanks to Undersecretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, a left-wing peacenik and old Soviet apologist, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is inching dangerously closer to first-strike capability.
Gottemoeller, a longtime anti-nuke activist, is the architect of the disastrously one-sided 2010 U.S.-Russia New Start deal that slashes America’s nuclear arsenal from 5,000 deployable warheads to just 1,550.
One-sided is right. Ms Gottemoeller is only anti-nuke when the nukes are in the arsenal of the US. She loves them when they are in the hands of KGB officer Putin.
In a major concession to Moscow, the deal also limits our development of missile defense interceptors.
The administration won’t even certify to Congress that Russia is complying with its end of the deal (the requirement was removed from the last budget deal). That’s because it’s not. And while we’re gutting our nukes, Russia is upgrading its arsenal.
Moscow’s nuclear modernization program includes new warheads and delivery systems, both missiles and bombers. Yet, “We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions,” Gottemoeller recently clucked.
Worse, the administration has agreed not to even test our aging nukes for reliability. Gottemoeller is pushing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a top priority.
Despite her overtures — or perhaps because of them —
Perhaps? Precisely because of them!
Moscow has toughened its posture toward the U.S. and is no longer interested in arms control talks.
No matter, Gottemoeller is fine with disarming America unilaterally, if necessary.
She proposes cutting our strategic warheads to as low as 300. Next, she wants to cut tactical or battlefield nukes, both deployed and non-deployed, even though Russia has a massive 10-to-1 advantage in such weapons. She even wants to ban fuel production.
How can she do that without a treaty? Easy. Obama can make an executive agreement, bypassing the difficult Senate ratification process.
Like her boss, Gottemoeller thinks America is a global “bully” and that its nuclear superiority has created a global arms race. She argues the U.S. must show humility by signing nuclear disarmament treaties and become strategically equal with Russia.
Not even equal. Inferior.
… Most Cold War babies grew up hating the Soviet Union. Not “Rosie” Gottemoeller.
She admired the former communist superpower. Her father told her the Soviets were better at science, so she studied Russian and immersed herself in Soviet propaganda. She’s visited Moscow so many times she now considers it her “second home”.
Second home? If home is where the heart is, Moscow is her first and only home.
Where are you, Joe McCarthy, when we need you?
With her sitting across the negotiating table -
No wonder Moscow is thumbing its nose at arms reduction.
No wonder a Russian general recently threatened to take preemptive military action against U.S. and allied missile defenses in Europe.
No wonder Russian strategic nuclear bombers are flying so close to Alaska and California.
No wonder Putin has no problem marching into Ukraine. He knows nothing will happen.
Even the IBD does not see what is staring it in the face, the fact that its own story makes blindingly obvious. It concludes:
His Soviet-style power play shows just how dangerously naive Obama and his nutty no-nuke advisers are. Gottemoeller’s ambitious plans for further denuclearizing the U.S. will only invite worse military aggression.
He and they are not naive. No one except a baby or a lunatic could be that naive. They are deliberately giving America to the Russians – to Putin, who wants to restore the Soviet Union and its empire. Why can’t the opposition forces see what’s happening and take every step necessary to stop it? Is it because they are naive – or lunatic? Or is it because they cannot bring themselves to believe the evidence so plainly set before their own eyes?
The EU is a much prettier version of tyranny than rough Russia.
One might say it is the feminine version. It dresses nicely. It has its hair styled. It paints its nails. It smiles. It thinks it is alluring. It spends more than it has.
It is easy to understand why half the Ukrainians want to live with it. With her. Rather than with unshaven, violent, shabby, ill-mannered Daddy Russia.
Her corruption is prettily packaged. Her despotism has a gentle touch. It really is more pleasant to live with her than with him.
But it would be better for the Ukrainians if they just took off on their own.
Bruce Bawer offers that very advice. He writes at Front Page:
It’s in Europe, and it’s huge – after Russia and the top five EU members, it has Europe’s largest population, and twice as many inhabitants as all the Scandiavian countries put together – but Ukraine isn’t a nation we often think of in the West, except when, as in recent days, it’s in the midst of a crisis. It has spent most of its history being conquered and brutalized by its more powerful neighbors, and in the last century underwent one savage chapter after another: 1.5 million people died in the civil war that ended with its absorption into the USSR; millions more died in Stalin’s deliberately engineered famine in 1932-33; during World War II, Hitler slaughtered an additional three million in what was intended to be the first stage of a program of exterminating two-thirds of the country’s population and enslaving the rest.
Today, unsurprisingly, Ukraine is a basket case of a country, riddled with corruption and living in the shadows of its historic horrors. It’s also a linguistically and philosophically divided land, torn between a western chunk whose people speak Ukrainian and identify with Europe and an eastern chunk whose people speak Russian and still feel an attachment to their massive neighbor to the east.
Viktor Yahukovych, the corrupt, autocratic president who disappeared last weekend in the face of mounting public unrest, is a Russiophile whose fatal error was his decision to strengthen bonds with Moscow (which coveted Ukraine as a key ally in a new Eurasian Union) and to turn down a free-trade agreement with the EU; most of the rioters who sent him packing are Europe-oriented types, the majority of whom are eager to see Ukraine become a Western-style democracy free of Putin’s influence, but some of whom, it should be noted, are neo-Nazis who look westward to Germany for the least attractive of reasons.
Most of the Ukrainians who favor European ties also want to see their country join the EU – which, in their eyes, as one Swedish newspaper put it the other day, is “above all…a symbol of a society free of corruption”. Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who was sprung from prison on Saturday after Yahukovych took it on the lam – and whose own years in office (ending in 2010) were far from corruption-free – told the Kiev crowds shortly after her release that she’s “sure that Ukraine will be a member of the European Union in the near future and this will change everything”.
Change everything! What is it that makes presumably liberty-loving Eastern European politicians talk about the EU as if it were a magic freedom elixir, a miracle cure for former victims of tyranny?
I suppose part of the explanation is that these politicians travel to the great cities of Western Europe and take in the relative freedom, the relative prosperity, and the relative lack of corruption and thuggery, and assume that all this has something to do with the EU. And part of it, naturally, is the ceaseless stream of pro-EU propaganda poured out by the Western European media and, not least, by the Western European politicians whom the likes of Tymoshenko consort with when they visit the West.
Yet how odd that the superstate’s economic woes haven’t put a dent in the magic for people like Tymoshenko. How odd that even the merest glimpse of the way things work in Brussels – where corruption is, needless to say, very much alive and well, even though it doubtless falls far short of Ukrainian levels – doesn’t give them pause. And how odd that when they witness the arrogance that’s characteristic of virtually all Brussels bigwigs – their habit of responding to any reasonable criticism of the EU not with cogent arguments but with vicious ad hominem attacks – they don’t immediately recognize that they’re observing tyrants in the making, the sort of folks that you’d think they’d had more than enough of over the centuries, thank you very much.
Take European Council president Herman van Rompuy, that colorless, Politburo-style mediocrity, who in a 2011 speech blithely ignored the essentially undemocratic nature of the EU, describing it – outrageously – as “the fatherland, or the motherland of democracy”.
Or take European Commission president José Manuel Durrão Barroso, who started his political career as a Maoist, and who in 2012 argued that the EU’s democracy deficit isn’t a bug but a feature: “Governments are not always right. If governments were always right we would not have the situation that we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong.”
What he says is not untrue (even democratically-elected governments are almost always wrong), but he is making an argument for despotism.
Or take halfwit EU Foreign Affairs honcho Catherine Ashton, whose 2011 Guardian article lecturing Hosni Mubarak on the need for democracy in Egypt was widely (and rightly) ridiculed as the work of someone who, as Brendan O’Neill neatly put it in the Telegraph,
… has never once bothered the ballot box, never once ventured into the rowdy arena of public opinion to win the masses’ backing, and who was elevated to her current position as the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs through backroom wheeling and dealing.
Noting Ashton’s enthusiasm, in her Guardian piece, for what she called “deep democracy”, O’Neill explained that “she doesn’t mean deep as in profound – she means bureaucracy, the grey and unaccountable sphere that she haunts, the removed realm of experts and unelected high representatives” – a phenomenon Ashton contrasted (favorably, of course) with mere “surface democracy”, the undesirable, old-fashioned sort of system in which elected officials actually seek (horrors!) to honor their constituents’ wishes.
Even a cursory look at the careers and pronouncements of these unelected demigods, these self-regarding technocratic hacks, is to recognize them as people who itch to rule an empire and who are, quite simply, outraged at anyone who dares to stand in their way for a moment. Given the transparency of their lust for monolithic power – a power, moreover, utterly liberated from any notion whatsoever of responsibility to an electorate – it’s baffling that so many observers can actually take the EU seriously as a formula for European peace rather than for European autocracy.
What Europe has in Barroso, Ashton, & co., after all, is a pack of men and women who have done their level best to impoverish real political debate, to blunt its impact, and to make it seem obsolescent, counterproductive, and in every way undesirable.
Former Czech president and staunch EU critic Václav Klaus asked in his 2011 book Europe: The Shattering of Illusions:
Do we have real politics in Europe today – the political conflict of opinions – or have real politics been in fact eliminated by reducing the weight and importance of the nation states and by the self-confessed apolitical ways of Brussels?
Which is another way of saying that Brussels isn’t a city of politicians who have different political philosophies and who come together to debate ideas and hammer out compromises; it’s a city of technocrats who share an ideology and who work together as a team to translate that ideology into policy – never mind what the rabble think. (Or, as Klaus put it even more bluntly: “the European Union is no longer the symbol of democracy it pretends to be.”)
Klaus has coined the term “Europeism”. It’s a useful word, because it places the unreflecting, reality-defying enthusiasm for Europe in the category it belongs to, along with other, earlier European-isms. Among much else, Europeism views the free market as uncivilized and anarchic, places collective rights above individual rights, and strives, as Klaus excellently puts it, “for a homogenized, ‘decaffeinated’ world (with no flavour, aroma, and smell)”.
Europeists, he writes,
… do not believe in spontaneous, unregulated and uncontrolled human activity. They trust the chosen ones (not the elected ones), they trust themselves or those who are chosen by themselves. They believe in a vertically structured and hierarchized human society … They want to mastermind, plan, regulate, administer the others, because some (they themselves) do know and others do not. They do not want to rely on spontaneity of human behavior and on the outcomes resulting from this spontaneity because they think that rationalistic human design is always better than an unplanned result of interactions between free citizens, constructed and commanded by nobody. Even though we thought that after the collapse of communism all this was a matter of the past, it is not so. It is around us again. Europeism is a new utopism and, I add, it is an extremely naive and romantic utopism.
Above all, writes Klaus, Europeism “is based on the idea that states, more precisely the nation states, represent the Evil – because they were once the cause of wars among other things – while the supranational, continental and global entities represent the Good, because they – according to eurocrats – eliminate all forms of nationalist bickering once and for all”. This understanding of things, he adds, “is obviously childish, yet it is generally accepted in Europe”. Yes, it’s accepted because millions of today’s Europeans have been brainwashed into thinking that national feeling – patriotism – was the root of all of the worst things that happened to the continent in the twentieth century. No, ideology was the root – ideology in the form of Nazism, fascism, and Communism. And Europeism – which, by the way, has multiculturalism and fanatical environmentalism built into it – is the twenty-first-century heir of those wretched systems of thought.
Which brings us back to the latest developments in Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s speech on Saturday night was followed on Sunday by the news that the EU – notwithstanding its own massive financial difficulties – is now ready to hand over bushels of cash to the newly Europe-friendly government in Kiev. …
Note to Ukrainians: accepting the EU’s money is one thing. Go for it. But why this longing, on the part of Tymoshenko or anyone else in your country, to board the Superstate Express? Set aside, if you wish, the economic downside of the whole project, the looming disaster that is the eurozone, and just ask yourselves this: after spending most of your history taking orders from far-off imperial capitals, most of the twentieth century living under the nightmare of Communism, and most of the greater part of the generation that followed under the gravitational pull of post-Soviet Kremlin despotism, why be so desperate to subordinate yourselves to yet another set of haughty, high-handed foreign rulers? Why slip away from being under one thumb only to voluntarily place yourself under another?
Ukraine, here’s one simple piece of unsolicited advice: vote for sovereignty. Vote for freedom. Take the money and run.
Stay out of the EU.
The Darkness of This World
Our Gnostic Age
On May 5, 1818, there was born, in the Prussian city of Trier, one of those rare persons who change the course of history. He did not live to see his prophecies warp the world. He died in 1883, and the first earth-shattering event of which he was an effective cause came thirty-four years after his death: the Russian Communist revolution of 1917.
Karl Marx was the second child and eldest son of a prosperous lawyer. Two years before his birth, his father, Herschel Marx, had taken a step that must have amazed, even outraged, a good many of his Jewish co-religionists in his (overwhelmingly Catholic) home city, which for generations had had its rabbis from the Marx family: he was baptized by the Lutheran church, becoming Heinrich Marx. Protestant Christianity itself did not attract him irresistibly, but he wanted to play a full part as a citizen of (largely Protestant) Prussia. He was a man of reason who admired the products of reason: machines, engines, modernity in general. In 1824, overcoming his wife’s opposition to the move, he had his seven children (an eighth was yet to come) baptized into the recently established Evangelical Church of Prussia, Lutheran and Calvinist.
In his late teens, Karl fell in love with an aristocrat, Jenny von Westphalen, the friend of his older sister, and at about the same time decided to become a great poet. He wrote love poems to Jenny, and hate poems to the world.
The poems are bombastic, full of religio-romantic imagery. Little meaning can be found in them. But they do reveal the character and mentality of their composer. They are emotional, defiant, rebellious, destructive, swaggering, and express above all a hunger for power. Typical is this monologue from a verse drama titled Oulanem, the eponymous hero speaking: “Ha, I must entwine me on the wheel of flame,/ And in Eternity’s ring I’ll dance my frenzy! If aught besides that frenzy could devour,/ I’d leap therein though I must smash a world/ That towered high between myself and it!/ It would be shattered by my long drawn curse,/ and I would fling my arms around cruel Being,/ Embracing me, ‘twould silent pass away,/ Then silent would I sink into the void./ Wholly to sink, not be … oh, this were Life,/ But swept along high on Eternity’s current /To roar out threnodies for the Creator,/ Scorn on the brow! Can Sun burn it away?/ Bound in compulsion’s sway, curse in defiance!/ Let the envenomed eye flash forth destruction –/ Does it hurl off the ponderous worlds that bind?/ …… And we, we Apes of a cold God, still cherish/…… The viper so voluptuously warm,/ That it as Universal Form rears up/ And from its place on high grins down on us! And in our ear, till loathing’s all consumed,/ The weary wave roars onward, ever onward! ”
The young poet cast off the Christian God he had been lightly brought up to believe in, but he clung on to the concept of Satan and the powers of evil. He wrote, in a lyric titled The Fiddler: “Why do I fiddle? Or the wild waves roar?/ That they might pound the rocky shore, / That eye be blinded, that bosom swell, / That Soul’s cry carry down to Hell./ … I plunge, plunge without fail/ My blood-black sabre into your soul. / That art God neither wants nor wists,/ It leaps to the brain from Hell’s black mists/ … Till heart’s bewitched, till senses reel:/ With Satan I have struck my deal./ He chalks the signs, beats time for me,/ I play the death march fast and free.” “
With lines such as these young Karl expected to be recognized as a towering genius who would be listened to by a dumbstruck Europe. He intended through the power of his words to have an effect on history – a dire and destructive effect, apparently, while waves rolled onwards and pounded rocky shores. But his poems were received less favorably than he had confidently anticipated. The editors of periodicals to whom Karl sent a selection for publication returned them without comment. Indeed it seems that only Jenny von Westphalen was moved by them, especially by those dedicated to her. “Jenny! Do I dare avow/That in love we have exchanged our souls,/That as one they throb and glow,/And through their waves one current rolls?”
His father would have liked Karl to take up some useful and lucrative career, in engineering perhaps, or science; something that would have involved him in the amazing developments of the age. Reason was pouring out inventions for the improvement of everyday life: gaslight on the streets, steam powered trains and ships, factories with machines that mass-produced goods. But such mundane things were of no interest to the young man of passionate poetic vision. He would never even visit a factory. Heinrich Marx and his son Karl stood on opposite sides of the post-Enlightenment divide between Reason, which fertilized civilization, and Romanticism, which poisoned it. …
The whole of this essay may be found on our Pages, added to the earlier essays under the same title. Access it by clicking on The Darkness of This World under the Pages heading at the top of our margin, and scroll down to 7, The Fiddler and His Proof.