June 10, 2009

"Obama's identification with the Muslim predicament runs deep"

David P. Goldman (Spengler) is very good in First Things: Obama and Cairo:

...Americans shield themselves from the horror of national death. In the eyes of the third world, the Holocaust is of no special consequence. Every tribe and nation will face its own Holocaust, that is, its own extinction. The world is in the midst of a Great Extinction of peoples, in which between half and nine-tenths of the world's 6,000 languages will be silent forever during the next century. Americans shield their eyes from the horror that pervades life in the Muslim world, the sense of looming extinction that lies upon ordinary life like an unending plague of darkness. As Franz Rosenzweig wrote, "Just as every individual must reckon with his eventual death, the peoples of the world foresee their eventual extinction, be it however distant in time. Indeed, the love of the peoples for their own nationhood is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death. Thus the peoples of the world foresee a time when their land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when their language is entombed in books, and their laws and customers have lost their living power."

At one level, the Palestinian belief that the cozy settlements of their exile are the equivalent of the Nazi death camps is delusional. At a deeper level, it is true, for the Palestinians Arabs are dying of shame and humiliation, that is, of their incapacity to adapt to the modern world. They are not dying quite so fast as their Persian coreligionists, but they are dying nonetheless. They know they are dying. They make a virtue of it in the slogan, "You love life: we love death." They fight like men with nothing to lose, because they have nothing to lose in fact.

It used to be the conservatives who stood athwart history, shouting "Stop!" Now it is the president of the United States. As the son, stepson, and half-sibling of Muslims, Obama's identification with the Muslim predicament runs deep. Contrary to some benign interpretations, I do not believe that Obama has made a well-meaning or naive gesture towards the so-called Muslim world. On the contrary, his opinions were long in formation, and his actions precisely calculated. But he is cleverer by far than his American critics. He understands the various tribes of American politics as cultures to be profiled and manipulated....

"Every tribe and nation will face its own Holocaust..." Very true. And I've advocated measures which will advance this, by spreading democracy and capitalism into parts of the world that are now ignorant of them. You could easily say I'm a monster, a destroyer of cultures, were it not for the fact that it's going to happen no matter what we do. It's just happening. Globalization is dissolving local things all around us. Democracy is advancing at a rate of 1.5 countries per year. Despite horrible exceptions, the world is growing richer, and fewer people are poor. (The economic liberalization in India starting in the 90's is estimated to have lifted 300 million people out of poverty, and into the Indian middle-class. Think about that number: 300 million. Almost the population of the whole US. Stupefying, a prodigy, though people seem to just take it for granted.)

But America is a dying culture as much as any. Our very success is now replacing our traditional culture with another one that looks similar on the outside, but is nowhere near the same inside. I'm old enough to know. I grew up with some old-timers, worked with them, and absorbed America through my pores. And I was also part, though I didn't realize it at the time, of the first great discontinuity in American culture, in the 1960's, when vast numbers of young people simply dropped much of what it was to be American and invented new and bizarre alternatives.

I've been concerned in a diffuse way about such things since the 1970's, but the big eye-opener for me was 9/11. Because I had just assumed that Americans would rally to their country's defense in the same way they did after Pearl Harbor. What a shock it was to me when a large portion of Americans didn't! It was, and still is, like being in one of those science-fiction stories where the alien shape-shifters are replacing ordinary people, and the hero tries to warn the others, and they think he's crazy.

Which leads inevitably—if one is not afraid to follow the inferences—to the question, "What, if anything, does NOT change?" And If you ponder that, you quickly realize that simple conservative rigidity doesn't work. For any organization to stay the same, it is necessary to adapt to a changing world while keeping the essentials un-changed. A very tall order! Impossible!

There is one group on earth that seems to be able to do exactly this. And I joined that very group without even being aware of it. It was only after I decided to join the Church Catholic that I grasped that she really was this flexible but unchanging organism. (I don't have time to go into this fascinating topic right now, but I assure you I can back my assertion up with facts if needed.)

Posted by John Weidner at June 10, 2009 10:12 AM
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