January 30, 2009

Unwarranted Self-Abasement

Behind this lunacy lies the notion that we have it coming, that we are guilty, that our motives are impure, that we are the arch-demons behind all global misery.

This idea that criticizing your own culture and values is a sign of intellectual sophistication has many roots. The Enlightenment abandonment of faith and the rise of rationalism as the only road to truth unleashed a corrosive criticism that destroys everything but builds nothing. Communist dogma, of course, exploited this cultural tic in order to gain traction in the West and undermine the liberal democracy and free-market capitalism that stood in the way of the communist utopia. Though the Sixties popularized more widely these bad intellectual habits, they have been going on for over a century, and influenced the policies of appeasement in the Thirties that emboldened Hitler. Churchill noted the connection in a speech from 1933: “Our difficulties come from the mood of unwarrantable self-abasement into which we have been cast by a powerful section of our own intellectuals. They come from the acceptance of defeatist doctrines by a large proportion of our politicians. But what have they to offer by a vague internationalism, a squalid materialism, and the promise of impossible utopias?”

How much worse is our condition today, when this “self-abasement” has now hardened into banal clich├ęs repeated in popular culture, school curricula, and the received wisdom of badly educated pundits. And we see its effects in the promises of the new Democratic regime that is eager, under the cover of “vigorous diplomacy,” to subject American interests to the strictures of a “vague internationalism,” which in reality is merely the camouflage other nations use to pursue their interests at the expense of our own. Yet this approach, whose failure is institutionalized in the U.N., will not deliver the promised boons. On the contrary, to the jihadists fired with faith in the righteousness of their own cause and beliefs, this eagerness to shoulder the blame for their dysfunctions, this desire to exchange flabby words for vigorous deeds will simply convince them that for all our wealth and power, we don’t really believe in our professed values and so are ripe for destruction.


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