Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Seminar Callers"

Every so often, a person may wonder in perfectly good faith, "Why do talk radio hosts have to be so angry? Why do they get so mad at callers, or people who present an opposing viewpoint? What's with that?" I suspect the answer is not that they hate debate, or hearing another side, but rather that they are all too aware of the tactics of their opponents and doubt the good faith of their callers. Because sometimes a caller with an opposing viewpoint is not just a caller with an opposing viewpoint. Sometimes they are a caller with discussion points they are supposed to push on enemy territory, with no intent of discussion or debate, but rather presentation and make the radio host look bad. Exhibit A (and read the webaddress itself):
The fate of health reform has been a focus of debate in living rooms and offices, on TV and online -- and on talk radio. And since millions of folks turn to talk radio as a trusted source of news and opinions, we need to make sure OFA supporters are calling in with a pro-reform message.... DISCUSSION POINTS These points are only to provide extra information and suggestions. Your personal story will make the most compelling message. * For most Americans, their health care plan covers too little and costs too much. Far too many people delay or even skip the care they need because they simply can’t afford it. * The plan the President laid out includes the largest health care tax cut for middle class families in history and makes coverage more affordable for tens of millions of families and small business owners and expands coverage to over 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured. * This plan will give millions of Americans new choices in health insurance by making coverage more affordable, ending the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, putting power in the hands of consumers instead of insurance companies and providing one of the largest tax cuts in history while also reducing our national deficit. * Reform couldn’t be more urgent – just this month consumers in California were told their premiums could go up as much as 39 percent. * Too many in Washington are now saying that we should delay or give up on reform entirely, but Americans understand the stakes for our economy and our lives, and we want action.
Behold, the true astroturf!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ayn Rand's Nietzchean Pathology

Warning: extremely disturbing imagery in the link below. Reader be warned.

Ayn Rand had some brilliant insights--the necessity of the relentless pursuit of truth, the refusal to compromise with a lie in one's philosophical system, the value of profit as a reward for the productive individual, and so forth. But she also fell flat on her face in some respects. She never understood the family, or the community--indeed, anything which violated her absolute individualism was supposedly evil and in the service of the oppression of genius.

One can easily see the gaps between her theories and reality in her fiction when she has to write something approaching believable human interactions between sympathetic characters. Family is glossed over to a large extent. Issues of real interdependence become reduced to social contract style interactions insofar as she can make it make sense--but she never can quite figure out the family. Anyway--there's some reasons for that. Among them, her infatuation with the Nietzchean ubermensch, over and above all other mere mortals, liberated from all rules, killer of God and so killer of man, wild and free. As can be seen for her fondness for a serial killer:
In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled The Little Street, the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan. According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, she deliberately modeled Renahan - intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man - after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, "is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness -- [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should." (Journals, pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

"A wonderful, free, light consciousness" born of the utter absence of any understanding of "the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people." Obviously, Ayn Rand was most favorably impressed with Mr. Hickman. He was, at least at that stage of Rand's life, her kind of man. So the question is, who exactly was he? William Edward Hickman was one of the most famous men in America in 1928. But he came by his fame in a way that perhaps should have given pause to Ayn Rand before she decided that he was a "real man" worthy of enshrinement in her pantheon of fictional heroes. You see, Hickman was a forger, an armed robber, a child kidnapper, and a multiple murderer.

Other than that, he was probably a swell guy...

No doubt defenders of Ayn Rand, and there are still a few left, would reply that the journal entry in question was written when she was only in her early twenties and still under the spell of Nietzsche, that as her thinking developed she discarded such Nietzschean elements and evolved a more rational outlook...

But before we assume that her admiration of Mr. Hickman was merely a quirk of her salad days, let's consider a few other quotes from Ayn Rand cited in Scott Ryan's book. In her early notes for The Fountainhead: "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself. Fine!" (Journals, p. 78.) Of The Fountainhead's hero, Howard Roark: He "has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world."(Journals, p. 93.)

In the original version of her first novel We the Living: "What are your masses [of humanity] but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?" (This declaration is made by the heroine Kira, Rand's stand-in; it is quoted in The Ideas of Ayn Rand by Ronald Merrill, pp. 38 - 39; the passage was altered when the book was reissued years after its original publication.)

On the value of human life: Man "is man only so long as he functions in accordance with the nature of a rational being. When he chooses to function otherwise, he is no longer man. There is no proper name for the thing which he then becomes ... When a man chooses to act in a sub-human manner, it is no longer proper for him to survive nor to be happy." (Journals, pp. 253-254, 288.)

As proof that her Nietzschean thinking persisted long after her admirers think she abandoned it, this journal entry from 1945, two years subsequent to the publication of The Fountainhead: "Perhaps we really are in the process of evolving from apes to Supermen -- and the rational faculty is the dominant characteristic of the better species, the Superman." (Journals, p. 285.) So perhaps her thinking did not change quite so much, after all...
Read the whole thing--if you have the stomach for it: Hickman did some vile things--and consider the peculiarities of mind which lead someone to think this way. Consider also the significant similarities between the worldview expressed her and that of the Communism from which she'd escaped.

She seeks to use the methods of the Communists against them. She merely believes in the proleteriat of the brilliant oppressed by the bourgeois of the mediocre and incompetent. Apart from that inversion, the whole scheme is the same: the awakening of the consciousness of the oppressed, including class traitors such as Eddie Willers and other sub beings who serve the wonderful higher beings even to the point of self destruction after the glorious revolution comes into being, sweeping away the structures of oppression by the oppressive powers of incompetence and mooching. Ayn Rand is Karl Marx.

Secularism and Religiousity on the Rise

A remarkable introduction to what I'm sure will prove an excellent book:

Because doubt and belief are each on the rise, our political and public discourse on matters of faith and morality has become deadlocked and deeply divided. The culture wars are taking a toll. Emotions and rhetoric are intense, even hysterical. Those who believe in God and Christianity are out to "impose their beliefs on the rest of us" and "turn back the clock" to a less enlightened time. Those who don't believe are "enemies of truth" and "purveyors of relativism and permissiveness." We don't reason with the other side; we only denounce.

We have an impasse between the strengthening forces of doubt and belief, and this won't be solved simply by calling for more civility and dialogue. Arguments depend on having commonly held reference points that both sides can hold each other to. When fundamental understandings of reality conflict, it is hard to find anything to which to appeal. The title of Alasdair MacIntyre's book, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? says it all. Our problems are not going away soon.

How can we find a way forward?

First, each side should accept that both religious belief and skepticism are on the rise. Atheist author Sam Harris and Religious Right leader Pat Robertson should each admit the fact that his particular tribe is strong and increasing in influence. This would eliminate the self-talk that is rampant in each camp, namely that it will soon be extinct, overrun by the opposition. Nothing like that is imminently possible. If we stopped saying such things to ourselves it might make everyone more civil and generous toward opposing views.

Such an admission is not only reassuring, but also humbling. There are still many of a secular turn of mind who confidently say orthodox faith is vainly trying to "resist the tide of history," though there is no historical evidence that religion is dying out at all. Religious believers should also be much less dismissive of secular skepticism. Christians should reflect on the fact that such large sectors of our formerly largely Christian societies have turned their backs on faith. Surely that should lead to self-examination. The time for making elegant dismissive gestures toward the other side is past. Something more is now required. But what?

Read the whole thing.

Critique of Modern Music

This is the first decent philosophical critique of modern music I've come across.
I am talking about the musical experience. It is surely right to speak of a new kind of listening, maybe a kind of listening that is not listening at all, when there is no melody to speak of, when the rhythm is machine made, and when the only invitation to dance is an invitation to dance with oneself. And it is easier to imagine a kind of pop that is not like that: pop that is with the listener and not at him. There is no need to go back to Elvis or the Beatles to find examples.

Faced with youth culture we are encouraged to be nonjudgmental. But to be nonjudgmental is already to make a kind of judgment: it is to suggest that it really doesn’t matter what you listen to or dance to, and that there is no moral distinction between the various listening habits that have emerged in our time. That is a morally charged position, and one that flies in the face of common sense. To suggest that people who live with a metric pulse as a constant background to their thoughts and movements are living in the same way, with the same kind of attention and the same pattern of challenges and rewards, as others who know music only from sitting down to listen to it, clearing their minds, meanwhile, of all other thoughts—such a suggestion is surely implausible...

Likewise, to suggest that those who dance in the solipsistic way encouraged by metal or indie music share a form of life with those who dance, when they dance, in disciplined formation, is to say something equally implausible. The difference is not merely in the kind of movements made; it is a difference in social valency, and in the relative value placed on being with your neighbor rather than over and against him. The externalized beat of pop is shoved at us. You cannot easily move with it, but you can submit to it. When music organized by this kind of external movement is played at a dance it automatically atomizes the people on the dance floor. They may dance at each other, but only painfully with each other. And the dance is not something that you do, but something that happens to you—a pulse on which you are suspended.

When you are in the grip of an external and mechanized rhythm your freedom is overridden, and it is hard then to move in a way that suggests a personal relation to a partner. The I-Thou relation on which human society is built has no place on the disco dance floor. Plato was surely right, therefore, to think that when we move in time to music we are educating our characters. For we are learning an aspect of our embodiment as free beings.

And he was right to imply that embodiment can have virtuous and vicious forms. To take just one example, there is a deep distinction, in the matter of sexual presentation, between modesty and lewd- ness. Modesty addresses the other as someone whom you are with. Lewdness is pointed at the other, but is certainly not with him or her, since it is an attempt to impede the other’s freedom to withdraw. And it is very clear that these traits of character are displayed in music and dancing. Plato’s thought was that if you display lewdness in the dances that you most enjoy, then you are that much nearer to acquiring the habit.

There is plenty of tuneful popular music, and plenty of popular music with which one can sing along and to which one can dance in sociable ways. All this is obvious. Yet there is growing, within pop, another kind of practice altogether, one in which the movement is no longer contained in the musical line but exported to a place outside it, to a center of pulsation that demands not that you listen but that you submit. If you do submit, the moral qualities of the music vanish behind the excitement; if you listen, however, and listen critically as I have been suggesting, you will discern those moral qualities, which are as vivid as the nobility in Elgar’s Second Symphony or the horror in Schoenberg’s Erwartung...

The whole thing is well worth a read.

A Businessman's Vocation: "To Know, Love, and Serve the Lord"

Frank Hanna was an unexpected treat to hear speak on the vocation to business and the responsibilities of a businessperson in their profession. He did an excellent job, leading me to believe his book is probably just as good.For full audio, go here.

"Stop all payments!"

The image of banks locking their doors to keep customers from making withdrawals during a bank run is what immediately came to mind when we heard that Citigroup was telling customers it has the right to prevent any withdrawals from checking accounts for seven days...
Another interesting sign of the times.

Modernism and the Zeitgeist

Dr. Mirus has put out a great piece:

Sometimes good things come in strange packages. I was looking through Derek Hastings’ new book Catholicism & the Roots of Nazism (Oxford University Press, 2010) to figure out what his arresting title could possibly mean. Hastings demonstrates beyond doubt that before the failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923, significant segments of Catholic clergy and faithful in Munich were among the most important supporters of National Socialism, very much in tune with its increasing emphasis on Aryan racial supremacy and its contempt for Jews.

It turns out, however, that this Catholic support was prevalent in Munich precisely because Munich’s Catholicism was significantly different from the Catholicism of most other areas of Germany. Many Munich Catholics intensely disliked the ultramontane perspective of most other German Catholics, who increasingly saw the Holy See as their one hope against an increasingly anti-Catholic German state. The more irenic Catholic leaders in Munich often dismissed this tendency to look toward Rome as “political Catholicism”. Instead, they attempted to articulate what they euphemistically called “religious Catholicism”, which would concentrate on non-controversial spiritual affairs, would seek to define a more broadly acceptable national presence, and would champion the rights of the lower classes... ...the most important factor in Munich was that Catholics there were infected with a strong strain of Modernism. As famously articulated early on by Fr. Ignaz von Döllinger, this Modernism held Neo-Scholastic orthodox philosophy and theology in contempt, it regarded Roman culture as “feminine” and inferior, and it prized the superior spirit and power of the German people. In other words, like Modernism everywhere and in every form, this strain latched on to the prevailing spirit of the times. Such ideas, and the vehemence with which they were expressed, led Döllinger to be excommunicated, but his followers and successors quickly learned the value of staying within the Church if they hoped to have the influence they thought they deserved.
Read the whole thing--remarkable the staying power of this one ideology.

The Catholics are Coming!

Way coolness:
Thought experiment courtesy of the 2010 Vatican Yearbook. : 19 million additional Catholics entered the Church between 2007 and 2008: Most are baptized infants. But perhaps a million could be older children or adult converts. If brought together they would produce a Catholic Mexico City, the second largest city on earth. That means 52,055 additional Catholics or a new Durango, Colorado every day. That means 2,169 additional Catholics every hour. 36 additional Catholics every second. In the 22 seconds that it took me to read the lines above out loud, an additional 795 Catholics joined us on this earth in 2007. 19 million immortals 19 million people created by God 19 million people redeemed by Jesus Christ 19 million members of the Body of Christ 19 million people who need to encounter Christ personally and respond to his call to follow him 19 million people anointed by Christ himself for a vocation, to play a unique part in his redemption of the world 19 million people given charisms for the sake of others (and most people are given more than one!) 19 million people who need to be loved, prayed for, fed, housed, clothed, educated, evangelized, catechized, to receive the sacraments, have a place to attend Mass regularly, receive help in discerning and answering God's call, and to be encouraged along the journey. At the current 0.03508% ratio of priests (3.5/100ths of 1%) in the Catholic Church those 19 million would include 6,650 priestly vocations. Can we take this in? What is God doing? What are we called to do? What implications do you see? It's worth thinking about. Cause we are going to find that another 16 - 20 million entered in 2008. Not to mention 2009. A conservative estimate would put our numbers at 1.2 billion as I write this in early 2010.
Grace pours out upon the earth in abundance. God is good.

Greydanus on Potter

This is the first decent criticism I've seen of the Harry Potter series from the Christian side of things. Michael O'Brien, for all his undoubted genius as a writer, has yet to level a criticism which I find impressive--the fictional magic of the books does not bear any replicable resemblance to real world magic. The supposed condemnations from the Pope were no such thing, but rather a form letter in response to a woman sending him a book. Father Amorth's comments make sense as the caution of an exorcist, but do not seem to reflect a true level of danger since the books are so completely different from wiccan/occultic agitprop, or even the modern neo-pagan teen fiction made so popular by Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, and many others. In fact, none of the above have really begun to address the reality of the deeply pagan or occultic fiction which is growing up today (and was growing before Harry Potter hit the scene), being distracted by the Potter series. Anyway--Greydanus:
Here are the seven hedges in Tolkien and Lewis. 1. Tolkien and Lewis confine the pursuit of magic as a safe and lawful occupation to wholly imaginary realms, with place-names like Middle-earth and Narnia — worlds that cannot be located either in time or in space with reference to our own world, and which stand outside Judeo-Christian salvation history and divine revelation. By contrast, Harry Potter lives in a fictionalized version of our own world that is recognizable in time and space, in a country called England (which is at least nominally a Christian nation), in a timeframe of our own era. 2. Reinforcing the above point, in Tolkien’s and Lewis’s fictional worlds where magic is practiced, the existence of magic is an openly known reality of which the inhabitants of those worlds are as aware as we are of rocket science — even if most of them might have as little chance of actually encountering magic as most of us would of riding in the space shuttle. By contrast, Harry Potter lives in a world in which magic is a secret, hidden reality acknowledged openly only among a magical elite, a world in which (as in our world) most people apparently believe there is no such thing as magic. 3. Tolkien and Lewis confine the pursuit of magic as a safe and lawful occupation to characters who are numbered among the supporting cast, not the protagonists with whom the reader is primarily to identify. By contrast, Harry Potter, a student of wizardry, is the title character and hero of his novels. 4. Reinforcing the above point, Tolkien and Lewis include cautionary threads in which exposure to magical forces proves to be a corrupting influence on their protagonists: Frodo is almost consumed by the great Ring; Lucy and Digory succumb to temptation and use magic in ways they shouldn’t. By contrast, the practice of magic is Harry Potter’s salvation from his horrible relatives and from virtually every adversity he must overcome. 5. Tolkien and Lewis confine the pursuit of magic as a safe and lawful occupation to characters who are not in fact human beings (for although Gandalf and Coriakin are human in appearance, we are in fact told that they are, respectively, a semi-incarnate angelic being and an earthbound star.) In Harry Potter’s world, by contrast, while some human beings (called “Muggles”) lack the capacity for magic, others (including Harry’s true parents and of course Harry himself) do not. 6. Reinforcing the above point, Tolkien and Lewis emphasize the pursuit of magic as the safe and lawful occupation of characters who, in appearance, stature, behavior, and role, embody a certain wizard archetype — white-haired old men with beards and robes and staffs, mysterious, remote, unapproachable, who serve to guide and mentor the heroes. Harry Potter, by contrast, is a wizard-in-training who is in many crucial respects the peer of many of his avid young readers, a boy with the same problems and interests that they have. 7. Finally, Tolkien and Lewis devote no narrative space to the process by which their magical specialists acquire their magical prowess. Although study may be assumed as part of the back story, the wizard appears as a finished product with powers in place, and the reader is not in the least encouraged to think about or dwell on the process of acquiring prowess in magic. In the Harry Potter books, by contrast, Harry’s acquisition of mastery over magical forces at the Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft is a central organizing principle in the story-arc of the series as a whole.
Interesting comments, and certainly worth taking into account when attempting to judge whether the books are appropriate for your kids. Read the whole thing. I would still say they serve a very valuable purpose in conveying truths about death not being the worst thing, love conquering all, the absolute necessity of good men and women standing up to fight evil, etc. But I acknowledge the concerns Greydanus has.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Enemy Within: Islamic Jihadists Controlling U.S. Anti-Terrorism

An astounding interview. For more, see the Holy Land Foundation Trial files, the Muslim Brotherhood's long term strategy memo, and "'To Our Great Detriment': Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad." Links in the original:
...PJTV’s Bill Whittle has posted a very disturbing look at how U.S. counter-terrorism efforts are being controlled by the Islamic jihadists. Sources within the intelligence community have stepped forward to present some of the details about the liberal progressive politically-correct mindset that is driving an operational model that directly endangers America. You can watch the interview here but I find the information contained in it so unsettling and important that I took the time to transcribe the interview. Key points have been highlighted.

BILL WHITTLE: Hi, I’m Bill Whittle from PJTV and I’m standing in front of what is very likely the most photographed structure on the face of the earth. Inside the White House sits the President of the United States of America; the most powerful man in the world. The President bears enormous responsibilities, and primary among them is to defend the citizens of the United States of America. We’re here in Washington today to speak to a Department of Defense analyst and counter-terrorism official who, requesting anonymity, has made some very remarkable charges. Charges that both the political and the military structure of the highest levels of our government are infiltrated by the very agents of the enemy against which we find ourselves fighting today.

BILL WHITTLE: Well, you were given an assignment from the Joint Chiefs, essentially from the upper levels of the Pentagon, to understand what the Islamic jihadi enemy’s ideology and operational methods might be. Is that a fair statement?

DoD Analyst: Yes.

BILL WHITTLE: Ok. What did you discover?

DOD ANALYST: Well, I was expecting to find that, well, there was some basis to the jihadi arguments that their jihadist warfare, that there were competing arguments and that we could leverage these competing arguments but because they were claiming Islamic laws as basis for their actions we had to start there. And over a long period of time I ended up collecting a large body of Islamic law, an enormous amount of it available in English, and realized that if Islamic law is the criteria by which you measure legitimacy or illegitimacy you can’t show that the moderates have a doctrinal basis for the position they hold, and you can’t show that on the statement of the law the radicals are wrong. I was expecting to find competing views that had some merit. I was expecting to find that the moderate view would be the dominant view, and we’d have to figure out how to make these arguments so that people in the Middle East would know what it was, and could not find it. Now, I could find that you’re not allowed to fight a jihad you can’t win, and that’s a limiting factor, but when you get to actually what published Islamic law says, it supports the radicals and what they say. And you come to find, after you kind of get a sense for the language of jihad, and the language of how Islamic law works, that it’s pervasive, even in the U.S. Muslim community.

BILL WHITTLE: So you got out, you do this research that you were tasked to do by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense; you come back and you say to them, “It’s the radicals that appear to have the doctrinal basis, not the moderates.”

DOD ANALYST: That’s correct.

BILL WHITTLE: Ok. Well, presumably, this would be an interesting piece of information for our Defense department to have. What were the consequences of you coming back with this information?

DOD ANALYST: Shock. Because what my experience brought me to was the complete unresponsiveness to facts that as a practical matter they experience every day. I think that gives way, on a different level, to one that basically has had me believing or holding that if you have no profession…if you have no factual basis to hold a position, you have no professional basis to support it. If you’re professionals, then you have a duty to be competent; that includes the duty to know. And if you are national security analysts who are professionals, you’re in violation of your oath to be competent, you’re in violation of your oath to protect and defend. It just seems they picked up our whole national security apparatus and moved it from a factual legal basis to one that supports the narratives. But it just struck me that when you hit a certain level, and I don’t want to sound too cynical, but at the same time it seemed where the point at which your future promotion was dependent upon toeing a party line as…let me rephrase that; toeing a narrative as opposed to orienting on facts, or I witnessed a complete shutdown. A friend of mine used to call my brief, “the redco brief” or the “guilty knowledge brief”, meaning you see this brief that clearly lays out facts that must be accounted for, and at a certain point they just stopped coming.

BILL WHITTLE: So when officials started telling you, “Hey, we’re not interested in this; we just really don’t care to hear this,” I mean, how pervasive was this attitude? Was it large numbers of people or one or two key individuals? I mean, just exactly what are we looking at?

DOD ANALYST: I can’t give you names and numbers; I have to say, in fairness, there are scores of senior people who got it and were supportive, but it seems that the organizational emphasis, the institutional emphasis, was in the other direction. And so you would get it in terms of people who would come up and tell you, “We really support you but we can only go so far.” You know, I supported some missions where the people who I supported made it very clear to me that using the information I used really brought success in a stunning way. And for a while there I thought that just the sheer force of those successful things would cause some people to do a double look. It didn’t happen.

BILL WHITTLE: Well, immediately after we concluded that interview here in the Mayflower Hotel, a second whistleblower came forward. We received a phone call from another gentleman who’s also extremely concerned about the infiltration of radical Islam into law enforcement and defense. Let’s go upstairs now and listen to parts of our interview with a former special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

BILL WHITTLE: Ok, can you start by giving me a quick thumbnail of your professional experience?

FORMER FBI AGENT: I spent nearly 15 years working in the government with a primary expertise on the Islamic movement in the United States, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic doctrine.

BILL WHITTLE: And which department did you work for?


BILL WHITTLE: So you were a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation?


BILL WHITTLE: Ok. You assert that we’re getting many of our cues on how to react to this terrorist threat from the Muslim Brotherhood, that essentially we’re letting our enemy tell us how to fight them. Now, I think this is a critical point that we really need to make clear: is this speculation on your part? Or is this credible, factual information that you’ve been able to obtain as a former special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

FORMER FBI AGENT: It’s all factual information and it’s open to the public to digest if they so desire. These documents from the Holy Land Foundation trial are available online. All you need to do is Google “Holy Land Foundation”. The documents also show that every major Muslim organization in the United States is a Muslim Brotherhood front, specifically the most prominent organizations. The two most prominent organizations in the United States, or three most prominent, are the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and ISNA (Islamic Society of North America). CAIR is a Hamas entity; it is Hamas; and ISA is a huge financial entity for Hamas in the United States. And CAIR and ISNA are the two groups that the U.S. government, including the FBI, DoD, state department, DHS, look to and utilize to do their outreach with the Muslim community in America.

BILL WHITTLE: Can you tell us how these radical Islamic organizations interface directly with the federal government, in terms of the Defense Department, in terms of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement? How exactly do these radical Muslim groups use their connections to suppress the defenses of the United States against these type of activities?

FORMER FBI AGENT: That’s a great question. At the national level, or the FBI and DHS, they actually are invited in by general council’s office of the FBI and DHS to sit in on brainstorming about investigative techniques that FBI agents are using in the field….

BILL WHITTLE: I have to stop you because, frankly, that sounds so absurd that I have to really make sure I’m understanding you correctly. Are you saying that the radicalized Muslim groups are invited in to learn our investigative techniques? That they are invited in to get their feedback on how we’re going to fight against them? Is that…is that what I understood you to say?

FORMER FBI AGENT: Yes. So for instance, in the FBI, the general council of the FBI, Valerie Caproni, invited these Muslim organizations, as well as the ACLU and other groups, in to make sure the investigative techniques and the attorney general guidelines and the way the FBI was going to implement the attorney general guidelines was ok and not offensive to these organizations. As an investigator, and certainly speaking for many others that I know, that is…ummm…that’s nothing short of outrageous. If you can imagine any group, whether it’s the Costa Nostra or the mafia or any kind of organized crime syndicate, certainly the Muslim Brotherhood could loosely fall under that category, certainly it’s much, much more significant than the mafia was, but to invite them in to make sure that our investigative techniques aren’t offensive to John Gotti; I mean, it’s absurd on the face of it but that’s exactly what we’re doing.

BILL WHITTLE: Sure. Because you’re revealing in great detail exactly what your investigative and interrogation techniques are, right? I mean, in a meeting like that you’re giving away the farm, essentially, in terms of how you’re going to be operating in order to make sure that their feelings don’t get hurt. And then you’re essentially giving the enemy all of the details about how you plan to operate against them, right?

FORMER FBI AGENT: Certainly a significant strategic look a how we’re doing things,yes; as well as some specific techniques.

BILL WHITTLE: Well, you’d mentioned earlier that there’s no training; that people ranging from upper-level administrators in the FBI down to some local sheriff’s deputy in some county out in the middle of Arizona, some place local, local law enforcement; you mentioned that there’s no training for these people whatsoever in terms of the real nature of the threat. Why is that?

FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, again, I think there are a lot of pieces to that but number one is when the people advising the assistant directors, the special agents in charge in the FBI, the assistant secretaries, and the Department of Homeland Security, etc., when those are Muslim Brothers you’re not going to get training that discusses Islamic doctrine and who the Muslim Brotherhood is, their history and their influence, and their penetration operations here in the United States. And, to boot, the people who ARE training the FBI are groups like CAIR, which is a Hamas entity and an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing throughout the history of the United States.

BILL WHITTLE: Now I have to stop you again because this is virtually impossible for me to process. You’re saying that the training that our counter-terrorism forces get is determined by radical Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood?

FORMER FBI AGENT: No, I’m not saying it’s determined. It’s given by them. They have been in our FBI field offices, they’ve been in our FBI headquarters teaching and training our agents and our employees.

BILL WHITTLE: Is this not too dissimilar to saying that the people who were determining the landing zones for the D-Day invasion of Germany were Nazi S.S. officials giving out information on gunner placements, and where the best places to come ashore are; is it too far-fetched to say that?

FORMER FBI AGENT: It’s not about analogy.

BILL WHITTLE: And then when the plans are finalized and all of the operational details are locked and sealed up in a little envelope, and then it’s handed over to the Gestapo and hopefully they won’t do anything mean with the information.


BILL WHITTLE: I think that as an average American citizen listening to this information, my first response would be, “How on God’s green earth did this happen? How did this get this far?”

FORMER FBI AGENT: This has happened because the Muslim Brotherhood has a long-term strategy; they are well-organized with hundreds of front groups that support their public relations, their research arms, they’ve insinuated themselves into our largest universities, they have Muslim student’s associations, which is the first Muslim Brotherhood group that formed in the United States in 1963. MSA is on every major college campus in the United States, recruiting people to the Brotherhood in our own campuses.

BILL WHITTLE: So even something as innocuous as a Muslim student association at any American university campus, you can categorically connect those campus groups to the most virulent, radical, anti-American organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood?

FORMER FBI AGENT: I can say that that’s 100% legally and factually true. The evidence entered into the Holy Land Foundation trial demonstrated the Muslim Students Association was the first Muslim Brotherhood entity in the United States formed in 1963 for the sole purpose of being and establishing the Muslim Brotherhood here, and it continues today to be a Muslim Brotherhood entity that has expanded and recruits students on campuses in the United States.
...Until and unless the United States proves capable of appointing and electing officials to the top ranks of our national security leadership who both understand and reject the influence of Islamic jihad groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, our country will be incapable of effective defense against either kinetic or stealth jihad attack. We can do better than this…..much better.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jesus Barbecuing on the Beach

An interesting discussion of a book series I may have to find:

What Catholic readers will notice about Lit is that it is our fallenness -- sin, in a word -- that first puts Karr on the road to conversion. Desperately, for the sake of her young son, she yearns to be free of her addiction to alcohol, which she has inherited from both her parents. A Franciscan nun with whom she is friendly tells her to pray. One improbable prayer leads to another; soon, like Hazel Moates, the God-haunted hero of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, she embraces the God she is determined to spurn. Bare-assed human need, as she might put it, beyond the cold comfort of secular humanism, which the professional atheists recommend with such easy, heartless aplomb, forces her to cry out, like Christ's companion on the cross, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42)...

Later, when I met her for dinner with a young Dominican priest attached to St. Vincent's, she recounted how astonished she was to find herself converting. When she took up the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola, she discovered an understanding of sin that only deepened her solicitude for her family's communal distress. Readers of Lit will see the hard-earned fruits of these exercises in an unforgettable scene between the author and her dying mother. And yet when Karr tackles such painful matters, it is never with dreary religiosity. She certainly jolts my cradle-Catholic smugness when she asks, after describing the many benefits of conversion, "Isn't it great being Catholic?"

For the storyteller in Karr, who battens on the concrete, it is the reality of Catholicism that is most attractive. "One of the things I love about Jesus," she tells me, "was His carnality. For example, there is the time, after the resurrection, when He is on the beach and He encounters His disciples. What is He doing? He is making a barbecue! As a writer, there is something about this carnality that I love. . . . I think a big part of the grace I have been given as a Catholic within the Church is a love of the world, which I didn't have before I converted. One of the great gifts of the Church is that we have a body on the Cross -- it's not an idea of a body or a shape of a body but an actual body, a body like our own.

"No one can look at the Crucifixion and not recognize that. I love that line from Simone Weil: "Spiritual living is accepting reality at any cost." I remember reading that when I was first getting sober, when I really had no desire to become a Christian . . . and I remember being horrified by the idea that anyone should even dream of accepting reality at any cost. I remember thinking: what an awful, awful thing. And now I take so much consolation in knowing that I don't have to manufacture reality any more. You know, I was never much good at it. So much of my drinking and depression stemmed from that. There was never any really good news attached to it. And I had this confirmed when I read the Spiritual Exercises, which stress that sin is not merely a breaking of this or that rule but a turning away from God, a turning away from reality, a turning away from the truth."

Chesterton Glory

"Gloria In Profundis" By G. K. Chesterton There has fallen on earth for a token A god too great for the sky. He has burst out of all things and broken The bounds of eternity: Into time and the terminal land He has strayed like a thief or a lover, For the wine of the world brims over, Its splendour is split on the sand. Who is proud when the heavens are humble, Who mounts if the mountains fall, If the fixed stars topple and tumble And a deluge of love drowns all -- Who rears up his head for a crown, Who holds up his will for a warrant, Who strives with the starry torrent, When all that is good goes down? For in dread of such falling and failing The fallen angels fellInverted in insolence, scaling The hanging mountain of hell: But unmeasured of plummet and rod Too deep for their sight to scan, Outrushing the fall of man Is the height of the fall of God. Glory to God in the Lowest The spout of the stars in spate -- Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest And the lightning fears to be late: As men dive for sunken gem Pursuing, we hunt and hound it, The fallen star has found it In the cavern of Bethlehem.

Shea on the Immaculate Conception

Mark Shea doing what he does best:
Mary too is addressed by a title when Gabriel appears to her: Kaire, Kecharitomene. It's a title that is too full of meaning to render accurately in English; "Hail, Full-of-Grace" is part of it. Hail, Favored One" is another part of it. "Hail, Full-of-Divine-Life" touches on it as well. The western tradition, especially in the Rosary, has settled on "gratia plena," or Full-of-Grace, as the preferred rendering. And in this title, the Catholic tradition has always seen the biblical reflection of the Church's ancient apostolic faith in the sinlessness of Mary. Note that I say "reflection" and not "basis." That's because the Church is not "based on the Bible" but rather based on the Word made flesh. The Bible does not come first, like a foundation, and then the Church gets built on top of it, "deriving" various doctrines from tenuous and ambiguous sentence fragments here and there (as though some medieval pope said to his secretary one day, "Oh look! Here's a passage where Gabriel calls Mary "full of grace"! How about we say, on the basis of this passing reference, that . . . oh, I don't know . . . How about, 'Mary is immaculately conceived and preserved from all sin, both original and actual?' Think people will buy that whopper? It's just wild enough that they may go for it!"). Rather, the belief is already implicit in the Faith of the apostles, and the biblical passage is the reflection of the apostolic teaching that goes out to all the churches. That's why, from east to west, across a dozen different cultures, tongues, and rites of the ancient Church, the overwhelming consensus of the Fathers is that Mary is "most pure," "formed without any stain," "all-Holy," "undefiled," "spotless," "immaculate of the immaculate," "inviolate and free from every stain of sin," and created in a condition more sublime and glorious than all other natures.

Zmirak and Spirit of VII Creep

John Zmirak is almost always awesome. This piece is no exception:

Here's what we Trads have realized, that the merely orthodox haven’t: Inessential things have power, which is why we bother with them in the first place. In every revolution, the first thing you change is the flag. Once that has been replaced, in the public mind all bets are off -- which is why the Commies and Nazis filled every available space with their Satanic banners. Imagine, for a moment, that a newly elected president replaced the Stars and Stripes with the Confederate battle flag. Or that he replaced our 50 stars with the flag of Mexico. Let's say he got away with doing this, and wasn't carried off by the Secret Service to an "undisclosed location." What would that signify for his administration? If people accepted the change, what else would they be likely to accept?

...The perception that the Church was in a constant state of doctrinal flux was confirmed by the reality that her most central, sacred mystery was being monkeyed with -- almost every year. I remember being in grammar school when they told us, "The pope wants us to receive Communion in the hand now." (He didn't; it was an abuse that was forced on the Vatican through relentless disobedience until it became a local norm, but never mind.) Then, a few years later, "The pope wants us to stand for Communion." A few more grades, and we heard, "The pope wants us to go to Confession face to face." What had seemed a solid bulwark of formality and seriousness was suddenly shifting with every year's hemlines -- which is precisely what the heretics conspiring to change the Church's teaching had in mind. That is why they pushed for these futile, pastorally destructive changes of "inessentials" -- as a way of beating down resistance to changing essentials. And, in a worldly sense, they almost succeeded...

At this point in my discussion of the gravest theological issues that threatened the faith of Catholics in this country, I wish to call your attention to a stupid YouTube video, which gave this essay its willfully illiterate title: "All Your Base Are Belong to Us." For those of you too young to have experienced the incessant assault upon the sacred that was the liturgical "reform," or grateful converts who don't understand all the fuss, I beg of you: Please watch this video. In fact, stop reading and watch the video first, then come back to finish this essay. I can wait...

That is how it felt to be young and Catholic in the 1970s. Every sacred thing had to be changed, every old thing replaced with a new one, every complicated beauty plastered over by the cheap and the easy. The message was almost subliminal, but by that means all the more powerful: All Your Church Are Belong to Us. And by changing back the flag, by taking back our Mass, we are saying: Go back to Hell. Our Church belongs to Christ.

"Vatican" Not Synonymous with "the Pope"

Well, this upends a lot of the usual stereotypes:

The Vatican's failed attempt to dominate the newspaper of the CEI is therefore one chapter in a struggle between much more than two newspapers: between two visions of Church governance, on a worldwide scale. In addition to the Italian Church, in fact, the Vatican secretariat of state has put itself at odds with other national Churches, including some of the most vigorous. The actors and the script are almost always the same: Cardinal Bertone, "L'Osservatore Romano," a very lively national episcopate, battles in defense of the life and the family. On a war footing with Rome today, among others, are the two most numerous episcopates in the world, that of the United States and that of Brazil. In the United States, the combative wing of the bishops, headed by Chicago archbishop Cardinal Francis George, was first stirred up by an editorial in "L'Osservatore Romano" that, in evaluating the first hundred days of Barack Obama's presidency, not only gave him a positive assessment, but acknowledged the new president for a "rebalancing in favor of motherhood," which according to the American bishops was far from the truth, because the exact opposite had happened. A second element of conflict was the decision of the University of Notre Dame, the most renowned Catholic university in the United States, to give Obama an honorary degree. About eighty of the bishops rebelled against the honor being given to a political leader whose positions on bioethics are contrary to Church teaching. And before and after the degree from Notre Dame, they manifested their disappointment at seeing their criticisms almost completely ignored by "L'Osservatore Romano." Other disagreements broke out between the United States and Rome over withholding communion from Catholic politicians who support abortion. Many of the American bishops refuse to compromise on this, and see the silence of the secretariat of state and of the Vatican newspaper as a discrediting of them, as well as a moral surrender. The desire to have peaceful institutional relations with the established powers, of whatever shade they may be, is typical of Bertone. In this, he is applying a classic canon of Vatican diplomacy, which is traditionally "realist," even at the cost of clashing with the national episcopates that are often critical of their respective governments.
In other words, the Cardinal Secretary of State is acting to quieten those bishops in the American episcopate who support the papal/Roman teachings. Does this make sense to anybody within the American scene?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Next Steps in the Financial Crisis

Europe faces a stark future:

The European single currency is facing an 'inevitable break-up' a leading French bank claimed yesterday.

Strategists at Paris-based Société Générale said that any bailout of the stricken Greek economy would only provide 'sticking plasters' to cover the deep- seated flaws in the eurozone bloc.

The stark warning came as the euro slipped further on the currency markets and dire growth figures raised the prospect of a 'double-dip' recession in the embattled zone. Claims that the euro could be headed for total collapse are particularly striking when they come from one of the oldest and largest banks in France - a core founder-member...

The eurozone faces the danger of a 'doubledip' recession after Germany's economy retreated into stagnation.

Figures published yesterday revealed that the countries who have joined the euro collectively grew a mere 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year - equal to Britain's own faltering performance.

Germany was the biggest drag, recording zero growth in the final three months of 2009 after emerging from recession earlier in the year.

Axel Weber, President of Germany's Bundesbank, warned this week there is a chance his nation's economy will contract in the first quarter of 2010, in part because of the severe winter, in a major blow to recovery hopes.

It was only a matter of time. More:
In just a few words, my oft-cited friend the "Lord of the Dark Matter" captured the situation: "Mechanically, it is absolutely no different than what happened to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers." Except, of course, that we're talking about sovereign/quasi-sovereign entities, not corporations like those two failed brokerages -- a situation that he characterized as a "silent sovereign run." The problem is so pernicious because none of the individual European countries in trouble has a printing press for the euro. They can't use the Federal Reserve's money-printing approach to solving problems... As an aside, I think Greece itself is probably less of a problem than California and some other U.S. states might be -- though for the moment, the fact that we as a country have a printing press and no rules governing its use is carrying the day. Perversely, when you've got a printing press running full throttle (as do the U.S., the United Kingdom and Japan), you can be as irresponsible as you want to be and your credit will be fine. But try to enforce a little bit of discipline, as the European Central Bank is attempting to do, and things go kablooey. As such, the PIIGS' predicament continues to push people toward the dollar.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Steyn on the West: "Lights Out on Liberty"

An epic speech:

On August 3, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey stood at the window of his office in the summer dusk and observed, "The lamps are going out all over Europe." Today, the lights are going out on liberty all over the Western world, but in a more subtle and profound way.

Much of the West is far too comfortable with state regulation of speech and expression, which puts freedom itself at risk. Let me cite some examples: The response of the European Union Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security to the crisis over the Danish cartoons that sparked Muslim violence was to propose that newspapers exercise "prudence" on certain controversial subjects involving religions beginning with the letter "I." At the end of her life, the Italian writer Oriana Fallaci—after writing of the contradiction between Islam and the Western tradition of liberty—was being sued in France, Italy, Switzerland, and most other European jurisdictions by groups who believed her opinions were not merely offensive, but criminal. In France, author Michel Houellebecq was sued by Muslim and other "anti-racist groups" who believed the opinions of a fictional character in one of his novels were likewise criminal.

In Canada, the official complaint about my own so-called "flagrant Islamophobia"—filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress—attributes to me the following "assertions":

America will be an Islamic Republic by 2040. There will be a break for Muslim prayers during the Super Bowl. There will be a religious police enforcing Islamic norms. The USS Ronald Reagan will be renamed after Osama bin Laden. Females will not be allowed to be cheerleaders. Popular American radio and TV hosts will be replaced by Imams.

In fact, I didn’t "assert" any of these things. They are plot twists I cited in my review of Robert Ferrigno’s novel, Prayers for the Assassin. It’s customary in reviewing novels to cite aspects of the plot. For example, a review of Moby Dick will usually mention the whale. These days, apparently, the Canadian Islamic Congress and the government’s human rights investigators (who have taken up the case) believe that describing the plot of a novel should be illegal.

You may recall that Margaret Atwood, some years back, wrote a novel about her own dystopian theocratic fantasy, in which America was a Christian tyranny named the Republic of Gilead. What’s to stop a Christian group from dragging a doting reviewer of Margaret Atwood’s book in front of a Canadian human rights court? As it happens, Christian groups tend not to do that, which is just as well, because otherwise there wouldn’t be a lot to write about.

These are small parts of a very big picture...

The Death of Reason

Chesterton on the passing of the age of reason in the modern world:

The eclipse of Christian theology during the rationalist advance of the eighteenth century is one of the most interesting of historical episodes. In order to see it clearly, we must first realize that it was an episode and that it is now historical. It may be stating it too strongly to say that it is now dead; it is perhaps enough to say that it is now distant and yet distinct; that it is divided from our own time as much as any period of the past. Neither reason nor faith will ever die; for men would die if deprived of either. The wildest mystic uses his reason at some stage; if it be only by reasoning against reason. The most incisive sceptic has dogmas of his own; though when he is a very incisive sceptic, he has often forgotten what they are. Faith and reason are in this sense co-eternal; but as the words are popularly used, as loose labels for particular periods, the one is now almost as remote as the other. What was called the Age of Reason has vanished as completely as what are called the Ages of Faith.

It is essential to see this fact first, because if we do not see its limitations we do not see its outline. It has nothing to do with which period we prefer, or even which we think right. A rationalist is quite entitled to look back to the eighteenth century as a golden age of good sense, as the medievalist looks back to the thirteenth century as a golden age of good faith. But he must look back, and look back across an abyss. We may like or dislike the atmosphere of the modern world, with its intense interest in anything that is called psychological, and in much that is called psychical. We may think that speculation has gone more deep or that it has grown more morbid. We may like or dislike the religions of faith-healing or spirit-rapping; or a hundred other manifestations of the same mood, in fields quite remote from the supernatural or even the spiritual. We may like or dislike, for instance, that vast modern belief in "the power of suggestion" expressed in advertising or publicity and educational methods of all sorts. We may like or dislike the appeal to the non-rational element; the perpetual talk about the Sub-conscious Mind or the Race Memory or the Herd Instinct. We may deplore or we may admire all these developments. But we must fix it in our minds as a historical fact that to any one of the great 'Infidels' or

Freethinkers of the eighteenth century, this whole modern world of ours would seem a mere madhouse. He might almost be driven, in pursuit of the reasonable, to take refuge in a monastery...

Read the whole thing. The age of the worship of reason is gone, except in the hard sciences where one cannot do without it. The age of relativism is in full swing, but shall probably be ushered out the door as a drunkard is shown the porch by an irritated hostess...or by an accommodating intruder who sees his opportunity.

Fr. Schall on the War on Terror

As any good Catholic thinker should do, he calls for the definition of terms before the argument begins:
The war in which we are currently engaged confuses us, in part because many will not admit it is a war. We do not know what to call it. Nor do we know what to call the self-declared enemy who has been attacking us in one form or another for some twenty-five years, ever more visibly and dangerously since 9/11, 2001, with subsequent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Spain, London, Bombay, Bali, Paris, Lebanon, and Israel. There are those who insist that it is not a "war" at all but perhaps, at best, a police issue -- no big problem. Others contend that it is a result of American or Western expansionism so that its cure is simply for us to return to our frontiers and be content with what we have. If we do this withdrawal, every threat will immediately cease at this point. In another view it is due to poverty and oppression, even though most of the perpetrators of the war are quite rich. Yet another interpretation is that this turmoil stems from a very small minority with no relation to national or religious origins, a kind of floating international brigade of bandits, like the Mafia, out for their own profit and glory. The variants on these themes are almost infinite. What names should we use that will accurately define and designate the cause? Calling things by their right names is the first requirement of reality; refusing to do so, the first cause of confusion, if not defeat...

Schall on Solzhenitsyn

Fr. Schall speaks:
The virtue that I most associate with Solzhenitsyn is "courage"—not military courage but intellectual courage, the courage to tell the truth when the regime, any regime, is built on a lie. The soldier is courageous in war. The prophet is courageous in peace, or at least the relative peace of the totalitarian state in which war is mostly directed not against enemies, but only against its own citizens. We think an internal war like this cannot happen in democratic societies. We are not cautious. Solzhenitsyn gave the commencement address at Harvard in 1978 to assure us that such a war can and is happening in our very souls... " was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not thorough states, not between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts." This, of course, is the teaching of Scripture. I remember that when I first came across that passage I took it to class and read it aloud. I could no help it. The passage continues: "This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there un-uprooted small corner of evil." Aristotle would have no trouble with this. The doctrine of original sin is here, as is the presence of hope in the hearts of men if they would but just greet it... A poignant passage in the Gulag Archipelago recalls the moment when Solzhenitsyn realizes that he is free of the tyrants and the ideology precisely because everything is taken away from him. When nothing else can be done, the powers of the state no longer can reach him through fear or pain. Hobbes, as the spokesman of modernity, had said that men's ideas could be controlled through fear of violent death. In prison, Solzhenitsyn learned, with Socrates, that something worse than death is found even in this world. Given a choice between death and doing evil, Socrates said, we do not know that death is evil. Solzhenitsyn realized this truth also... Solzhenitsyn began a 1974 address entitled "Repentance and Self-limitation in the Life of Nations," a theme we find in John Paul II's Memory and Identity, with these memorable words: "The Blessed Augustine once wrote: 'What is the state without justice but a band of robbers?' Even now, fifteen centuries later, many people will, I think, readily recognize the force and accuracy of this judgment...
Read the whole thing. Then go and read Solzhenitsyn, or Joseph Pearce on Solzhenitsyn.

Technophilia and Modernity

Along a predictable and predicted path:
Western civilization has always had an almost unlimited openness to technological change -- more so than any other culture in the world -- and only rarely has there been significant resistance to such changes. Today what is broadly called environmentalism does question technology, but there is an odd contradiction here... -- people who are opposed to human "meddling" with nature, who want only natural foods and who decry pollution, are rarely concerned about contraception and cloning. Things having to do human reproduction are still new, exciting, and liberating, whereas pesticides, dams, and gasoline engines are old hat. These changes have been sold under the slogan of freedom, as each new development promises to liberate people from inconvenient limits on their behavior. Thus radical interference with the human reproductive cycle is welcomed, because the idea of sexual "liberation" has become almost sacred. But unnoticed amidst all these changes is an idea invented in the twentieth century and promoted under a variety of names -- social engineering, which is the claim that most people do not really know what is best for themselves and for society. However, instead of calling for naked force, social engineers call for "education," meaning propaganda, and for manipulating people through social agencies. These radical changes have themselves made people less free, because they have destroyed signposts of thousands of years' duration and plunged us into a confusion in which it is difficult to make rational judgments -- what is a family and does it matter, is gender real, what indeed is a human being? We have a profile of the kind of person the social engineers consider the ideal citizen -- someone who questions the wisdom of bringing children into the world and approves of having at most one or two, who wholeheartedly approves of homosexuality, who considers gender merely a "social construct," who welcomes laboratory experiments with human life, and who urges people not to delay unduly their exit from this life. Social engineering hopes to create a perfect society, which in turn requires that people not be allowed to exercise their freedom by standing in the way. Abortion is a "choice," but the right to choose cannot be extended to people who reproduce "irresponsibly," and the creation of human beings through technology might produce a higher type of person. People who cling to outmoded moral beliefs cannot be allowed to indoctrinate even their own children, much less have a voice in public policy. The chronically ill and those deemed biologically deficient cannot be allowed to use a disproportionate share of medical resources, so that their deaths must in some cases be facilitated by the state. Decades ago Aldous Huxley wrote a novel whose title entered our language --Brave New World. Much of this sounds like science fiction, and its full realization may be some distance in the future, but there is no doubt that society is headed in that direction. The only thing that can prevent it is a vigilant citizenry who, unfortunately, often seems confused and timid and fails to see how offers of present "freedom" have become the basis for future enslavement.

The Marxist Face of Saul Alinsky

Wow. Really?
Like Machiavelli, whom he has studied and admires, Alinsky teaches how power may be used. Unlike Machiavelli, his pupil is not the prince but the people... In his view, the end of achieving power justifies a wide range of means. "To get anywhere," Alinsky teaches, "you've got to know how to communicate. With city hall, the language is votes, just as with a corporation it's stock power. This means that they never hear with their ears but only through their rears." He knows how to kick. To force slumlords, corporations or city officials to clean up buildings, provide jobs or stop cheating consumers, he resorts to picketing, boycotts, rent strikes and some imaginative dramatic stunts. He had garbage dumped on an alderman's driveway to make the point that collections were inadequate in the slums; ghetto rats were ceremoniously deposited on the steps of city hall. If the occasion requires, Alinsky's forces will not refrain from spreading rumors about an antagonist or indulging in something that comes very close to blackmail. "Our organizers," he says, "look for the wrong reasons to get the right things done." He has only contempt for liberals who appeal to the altruism of their opponents: "A liberal is the kind of guy who walks out of a room when the argument turns into a fight... Alinsky deliberately cultivates his split personality; he believes that a well-developed case of schizophrenia is essential to successful radicalism. The radical knows in his heart that life is tragic, men are complex, and every course of action involves a choice of evils. Nevertheless, he must act as if he were utterly convinced of the righteousness of his cause. Only by so doing can he rally his supporters and intimidate the opposition... When he is not performing, however, Alinsky hardly fits the radical stereotype...Alinsky deliberately cultivates his split personality; he believes that a well-developed case of schizophrenia is essential to successful radicalism. The radical knows in his heart that life is tragic, men are complex, and every course of action involves a choice of evils. Nevertheless, he must act as if he were utterly convinced of the righteousness of his cause. Only by so doing can he rally his supporters and intimidate the opposition... After graduation, he received his first lesson in the realities of power when, as a graduate fellow in criminology, he studied Al Capone's gang. He learned that in the Chicago of the 1930s, crime was the Establishment. "When one of those guys got knocked off, there wasn't any court. Most of the judges were at the funeral, and some were pallbearers." ...Alinsky wonders how white liberals can believe in the dignity of all races when they are so willing to surrender their own by submitting to outrageous attacks from blacks. "During the trial of Black Pan ther Leader Huey Newton, many liberals wore buttons reading 'Honkies for Huey!' " he notes. "Can you imagine, if a white civil-rights leader were on trial, that blacks would go about with buttons reading 'Niggers for so-and-so'?" ...Alinsky is equally impatient with white student radicals because of their innocence about power. "You never take an action," he says, "without first figuring out the reaction. Periodic mass euphoria around a charismatic leader is not an organization." He feels that Utopian militants are just as much dropouts from society as hippies, because both "dogmatically refuse to begin with the world as it is." He has little faith in the staying power of some of the more belligerent radicals; often they are the first to give up when the going gets rough. "He who lives by the sword shall perish by the champagne cocktail." ...After life? "They'll send me to hell, and I'll organize it."

Left and Right

There is no substantial difference between the left and the right anymore, only causes. They have decided that whatever it takes for the cause to succeed shall be done. For example:
Conservatives have long criticized the lingering effects of the 1960s, and not without reason...Among the era’s gifts to posterity is the continued popularity of the in-your-face tactics that Saul Alinsky promoted in his cult classic Rules for Radicals, which begins with an “acknowledgment” giving props to “the very first radical… Lucifer.”

When purported revelations emerged during the 2008 campaign which were held to show that Barack Obama was in some way influenced by the Chicago organizer (and which were somewhat verified, oddly, by Alinsky’s son), opponents of The One fell over themselves to denounce Rules for Radicals.

But a curious thing happened along the way of exposing the alleged Alinsky-like tactics of the modern Left: Some conservatives became Alinskyites themselves.

Read the whole thing, even if only to see the comparison between Chesterton and Alinsky. Mark Shea has been hammering away at the same point re: the left and the right for some time now. What's to be done? Actually get out the Catholic social teaching and use it, starting with Vatican II:
27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus. In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception. and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40). Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.
That'll do to be getting on with.

"The Lights Are Going Out All Over Europe"

Dalrymple describes it:

Yet for all this success, there is a pervasive sense of doom. Prosperous and long-lived as never before, Europeans look into the future with fear, as if they have a secret sickness that has not yet made itself manifest by obvious symptoms but is nevertheless eating away in their vital parts. They are aware that, in Chinese parlance, the mandate of heaven has been withdrawn from them, and that in losing that, they have lost everything. All that is left is to preserve their remaining privileges as best they can; après nous, as a mistress of Louis XV is said to have remarked, le deluge.

The secularization of Europe is hardly a secret. Religion’s long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no longer, and hardly even a murmur. In France, the oldest daughter of the Church, fewer than 5 percent of the population attend Mass regularly. The English national church has long been an object of derision, and the current Archbishop of Canterbury succeeds in uniting the substance and appearance of foolishness and unworldliness not with sanctity, but with sanctimony. In Wales, where nonconformist Christianity was the dominant cultural influence, most of the chapels have been converted into residences by interior decorators. Vast outpourings of pietistic writings molder on the shelves of secondhand booksellers, which themselves are closing down daily. In the Netherlands, some elements of the religious pillarization of the state remain: state-funded television channels are still allotted to Protestants and Catholics respectively. But while the shell exists, the substance is gone...

God is dead in Europe, and I do not see much chance of revival except in the wake of catastrophe...

He describes what post-God culture looks like:
For the person with no transcendent religious belief, this life is all he has. He must therefore preserve and prolong it at all costs and live it to the full...For most people, living to the full means consuming as much as possible, having as many experiences as possible, and not only many experiences, the most extreme experiences possible.

But the problem with consumption is that it soon ceases to satisfy. How else can one explain the crowds that assemble in every city center every weekend to buy what they cannot possibly need and perhaps do not want? Will another pair of shoes supply a transcendent purpose?

The same might be said of the experiences that people feel they must seek if they are to live life to the full. Sports become more extreme in their competitive urgency, holidays more exotic, films more violent, broadcasting more vulgar, the expression of emotion more crude and obvious. Compare advertisements showing people enjoying themselves 60 years ago and now. Mouths are open and screams, either of joy or pain, emerge. Quiet satisfaction is not satisfaction at all; what is not expressed grossly is not deemed to have been expressed.

...overall, most Europeans do not believe in any large political project, whether it be that of a social class, the nation, or of Europe as a whole. Most Europeans have no concept any longer of la glorie, that easily derided notion that can nevertheless impel people to the highest endeavor, to transcend themselves and their most immediate interests. Most Europeans now mock the very idea of a European civilization and therefore cannot feel much inclination to contribute to it.

This miserablism leads to a mixture of indifference toward the past and hatred of it. This is visible in the urban planning of Europe since the war. The monster Le Corbusier, whose main talent was self-promotion, wanted to raze the whole of Paris and turn it into a French reinforced-concrete Novosibirsk. This mania for destruction was by no means confined to France. Dutch Prime Minister Joop den Uyl wanted to pull down much of 17th-century Amsterdam, some of the most elegant domestic architecture in the history of the world, to build a highway and “socially just” housing projects.

Of course, too strong a sense of having inherited what is worth preserving can induce a paranoid defensiveness and incline you to see enemies everywhere; but too weak a sense inclines you to see enemies nowhere. And because of their history, or rather their obsession with the worst aspects of that history, Europeans do not feel able to admit that they wish to preserve their own way of life.

I think this holds true for the American Congregations of Women Religious currently fighting the Apostolic Visitation tooth and claw. I think this holds for a large swathe of post-Vatican efforts to change the Church and the churches. I think this loss of faith/secularization has much farther reach and broader implications than many have even begun to acknowledge. For more on the state of Europe, see this speech by Mark Steyn, later adapted into this book, as well as Benedict's book.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...