I’ve quoted this before, but it’s so insightful, I’d like to do so again. Here’s historian David Levering Lewis lamenting the victory of Charles Martel at Tours:
Had [Muslim general] ‘Abd al-Rahman’s men prevailed that October day, the post-Roman Occident would probably have been incorporated into a cosmopolitan, Muslim regnum unobstructed by borders … one devoid of a priestly caste, animated by the dogma of equality of the faithful, and respectful of all religious faiths … [T]he victory of Charles the Hammer must be seen as greatly contributing to the creation of an economically retarded, balkanized, fratricidal Europe that, in defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of religious persecution, cultural particularism, and hereditary aristocracy.
But what if religious persecution, cultural particularism, and hereditary aristocracy really are virtues? Would it not then be best that some people cultivate them? We have dealt with the first and third; what about the second?
Note: The Orthosphere has had two posts today. (Unusual for us, I know.) In the other, JMSmith discusses Aristophanes, John Glubb, and the abuse of intellect contributing to the fall of empires. In this post, I’m continuing with my little series.
Democracy and socialism are repugnant to the Western soul. Although we have been forced to live under a pseudomorphism of egalitarianism, the Western spirit remains, as it has ever been, hierarchical and resistant. Look at how fascinated little girls are by princesses. What is this fascination we Westerners have with the King’s daughter? It goes way back–see the Grimm brothers. Look at how our adults hate for any field they value to become “politicized”, as though we instinctively know that democracy abases everything it touches.
Every functional civilization has regulated the sexual behavior of its females, as a matter of practical necessity. The children and their mother depend on the provisioning of the father, and he is hardly likely to be forthcoming without a fair degree of confidence that the children are his. Neither party is likely to invest in the household without a strong assurance that the family shall not be dissolved by the unilateral caprice of the other. Feminism is never stupider than when it accuses Christendom of creating a sexual “double standard” at the expense of women (Nature herself made the double standard; no woman needs to wonder if the child in her womb is hers.) and making marriage a trap (It’s no use to anyone if it’s not a trap.) Indeed, sexual jealousy is not unknown even among the sainted Muslims and Negros.
And yet, the West certainly does take things quite a bit farther than other civilizations, who are merely practical in their prudery. This is our dogmatic spirit at work. If husbands and wives pledge fidelity till death, then this is exactly what the contract must mean. Not only adultery, but any misuse of the conjugal act must be held illicit, especially those non-procreative deviations that, by their nature, have no consequences. The West alone holds men to the same sexual rules as women, even though practicality doesn’t demand this, and we are anomalous in allowing a man only one wife. The Christian religion forbids even impure thoughts. One might say that this is one area where the Westerner is more attuned to nature than other peoples, in that we think that the act of creation–and the distinction of sex roles associated with it–deserves not only foresight toward its consequences but also reverence for what it is. Here, it is the anti-West demanding we treat a part of nature as raw material for our exploitation.
I begin with that exemplary Westerner, Bishop James Ussher, who through a painstaking analysis of Biblical and other ancient records famously concluded that the world was created on October 23, 4004BC. What a dummy, right? Everybody knows that you’re not supposed to take the Bible literally like that. Surely other civilizations, which weren’t so literalist in their religion, would have provided more hospitable settings for the rise of science.
Oh, quite the contrary! A people who aren’t interested in dating the world with their holy books won’t be interested in dating it with rocks either. A people that is happy to accept its religion mythologically will also take its science mythologically. In neither case will there be a concern for precision or logical consistency. Fundamentalism and science go together; they spring from the same state of mind. Perhaps this is our much-lamented alienation from nature manifesting itself again as a chasm that can only be crossed with claims of a knowledge of objective truth.
My position, stated many times, is that a person doesn’t need to have a reason to love his people. In fact, he cannot have a reason, since love is always directed at particular instances rather than general qualities. You may think your children pretty and clever, but you would still love them if they lost these qualities or another set of children was found to exemplify those qualities to a greater degree. Similarly, we men and women of European descent do not need to prove that our culture is especially refined or creative, that our ancestors were especially virtuous, or that our customs are especially agreeable by some objective standard.
Still, although we are not obliged to think about it, the fact is that other peoples are constantly noting the distinctiveness of the West. We may wish to ignore their observations, because they are not at all meant to be complimentary, but then we would miss the chance to learn about ourselves. I plan to comment each day this week on one of this features.
All of us here agree that speech should be regulated. However, there remain some secondary points that I hope to clarify.
Graduating seniors, my message to you is simple: do not try to make the world a better place.
We got some good answers in the comments. I will try to be brief in my own notes.
Conservative readers were expecting the author to condemn attachments based on biology and to propose his scheme as a way to overcome them. In fact, his scheme requires that people continue to especially value their biological progeny; the goal, stated plainly, is to get parents to love their children less, to shift focus from the children they are raising to a more diffuse concern for people in general. Parents are to be deliberately alienated from the children under their care so that attention shifts from those whom they are in a position to help greatly and who require from them an enormous personal investment toward strangers for whom they can do little for good or ill. The suggestion that his scheme would improve prenatal care is similar: take away a huge incentive from the person who most determines prenatal care; replace it with an insignificant, diffuse incentive on people with essentially no control over the care of the fetus; expect good results. The insanity of socialism in a nutshell.
Other unargued assumptions that should be contested:
- Even if this were a good thing to do, who is this “we” who has the authority to do it?
- Although the argument does not require that intense partiality (love) is bad, it does assume that it is not so valuable that it can’t be sacrificed to the presumed good of racial equality.
- The idea that cultural continuity can persist without biological continuity presumes that culture may not concern itself with biological continuity. In fact, we know many do, and no argument is given why this is illegitimate.
Conservatives are those who have taken on the task of defending common sense against insane ideologues. This can be harder than it sounds, since the ideologue merely needs to invoke some generally accepted but ultimately insane principle and draw out one if its insane conclusions, while the conservative must take things back to first principles; he must articulate and defend the tacit background assumptions of mankind.
It is a commonplace of education research that we learn by doing, by constructing (with guidance) our own knowledge. Therefore, I provide a homework assignment for readers.
- Read the excerpt at Steve Sailer’s blog from Howard Rachlin’s thought experiment / argument that babies should be randomly reassigned to mothers at birth, with the exception that each mother will know that it definitely won’t be her baby she’ll be coming home with. The argument is that this should be done in the interests of equality and eliminating racism. See link for details. (Or you can read the source, which is not much longer.)
- Explain in 150 words or less why this idea is evil, crazy, and stupid. (Okay, I won’t count words, but please strive to maintain normal comment length.)
- Solutions to be posted tomorrow.
I’ve just finished reading The Consolations of Mortality: Making Sense of Death by Andrew Stark. I enjoyed the book, but instead of reviewing it, I prefer to give some thoughts it prompted in me. The author’s goal is to find a way to reconcile people like himself to their own mortality, people like himself being those who do not believe in an afterlife and see life as a good thing rather than a vale of tears best escaped. Life has been good to me, and I do have trouble believing in a life after this one, so the book appealed to me. Still, one might sense a contradiction in the whole project. The search for consolation–arguments to justify a desired emotional state rather than a search for truth irrespective of how it might make one feel–is an invitation to dishonesty, and yet Professor Stark seems to be a very honest man, so that much of the book involves him probing suggested reasons not to fear death and finding that they fail to hold up upon examination.