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January 05, 2006

Must-Read Pieces From Steyn & Lileks

Steyn's piece is largely a synthesis of things he's written before, but it's convenient to have all his greatest hits combined on one no-filler album.

The overarching theme is the death of the West -- by low birth rates, governments dedicated to "secondary" priorities like time off for expectant mothers (while denigrating truly primary priorities like self-defense and encouraging the childbirth which makes the socialist state sustainable), and of course suicide-pact multiculturalism.

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion. The problem is that secondary-impulse societies mistake their weaknesses for strengths--or, at any rate, virtues--and that's why they're proving so feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam.

That hit #4 on the UK charts in 2002, and it's just as danceable now as it was then.

And who could forget this pop-confection, covered multiple times by Steyn himself in various formats (unplugged, rhythm-and-base, acid house)?

Shortly after September 11, Baroness Kennedy argued on a BBC show that it was too easy to disparage "Islamic fundamentalists." "We as Western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves," she complained. "We don't look at our own fundamentalisms."

Well, said the interviewer, what exactly would those Western liberal fundamentalisms be? "One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I'm not sure that's true."

Hmm. Lady Kennedy was arguing that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people's intolerance, which is intolerable. And, unlikely as it sounds, this has now become the highest, most rarefied form of multiculturalism. So you're nice to gays and the Inuit? Big deal. Anyone can be tolerant of fellows like that, but tolerance of intolerance gives an even more intense frisson of pleasure to the multiculti masochists.

And who could forget The Ballad of Canada's Supreme Al Qaeda Family of Murder?

For example, one day in 2004, a couple of Canadians returned home, to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. They were the son and widow of a fellow called Ahmed Said Khadr, who back on the Pakistani-Afghan frontier was known as "al-Kanadi." Why? Because he was the highest-ranking Canadian in al Qaeda--plenty of other Canucks in al Qaeda, but he was the Numero Uno. In fact, one could argue that the Khadr family is Canada's principal contribution to the war on terror. Granted they're on the wrong side (if you'll forgive my being judgmental) but no one can argue that they aren't in the thick of things. One of Mr. Khadr's sons was captured in Afghanistan after killing a U.S. Special Forces medic. Another was captured and held at Guantanamo. A third blew himself up while killing a Canadian soldier in Kabul. Pa Khadr himself died in an al Qaeda shootout with Pakistani forces in early 2004. And they say we Canadians aren't doing our bit in this war!

In the course of the fatal shootout of al-Kanadi, his youngest son was paralyzed. And, not unreasonably, Junior didn't fancy a prison hospital in Peshawar. So Mrs. Khadr and her boy returned to Toronto so he could enjoy the benefits of Ontario government health care. "I'm Canadian, and I'm not begging for my rights," declared the widow Khadr. "I'm demanding my rights."

Listen to the whole album through. It's dispiriting, infuriating, and grim, but it's got a great beat and you can dance to it. At least until the new European Supreme Mullahs forbid that.

Lileks releases a companion album, sort of his Endless Summer to Steyn's Sgt. Pepper, also worth a spin.

If the Islamists were Christians, [the multiculturists would] be motivated. That threat they understand, because that threat sounds like Mom and Dad, and they would dimly comprehend that the threat to their liberties – their civilization, for that matter – is sorta like grounding and loss of TV privileges.

...

The telling line in Steyn's piece quotes that fine Gaul Jean-Francois Revel: "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself." I’ve read a lot of Revel; a great man and a profound, clear thinker. Lucky for him, he is old, and will not see his fears made manifest. Guilt is a problem, but it’s not the entire enchilada. It’s guilt married to a peculiar belief that Western Civilization is unique only in its sins. The only thing Western Civ really gave the world was slavery, imperialism, war, and capitalism; the fact that we have eliminated or diminished or abbreviated those sins is due not to anything inherent in Western Civ but some overarching, free-floating Enlightenment unmoored from the cultures that produced it. The world began in 1968, and owes nothing to what came before; if we wish to combat the regrettable enthusiasms of some other cultures whose animus appears religious, we should deconsecrate the cathedrals in order to set an example and light the way. Religion is the enemy to the transnational progressives, because religion holds up laws and codes and rules the wise burghers of Belgium cannot amend.

Read 'em, especially the even darker, less funny second side of Steyn's greatist hits, where he makes the case -- hard to refute -- that European culture is essentially dead and they're just waiting to pull the plug.

Thanks to Allah, although, in fairness to my own internet-scouring skills, I've had that Steyn piece open for a day.

Update: Monty thinks our demographic dilemma is tied into a lack of hopefulness, which he thinks is caused by the lack of a frontier.

He doesn't suggest invading and colonizing France, which would have been my preference. Instead, he suggests America (and I suppose Europe) regain some of their cultural confidence by making space exploration a high priority.

I don't buy his precise prescription myself. It was the cultural confidence of the 1960's that propelled us to the Moon, not the race to the Moon that gave us cultural confidence. But there may be something to his diagnosis of the disease.


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posted by Ace at 10:59 AM

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