Naming the Enemy: Babel

It is important to name one’s enemies. Only thus may they be quite completely recognized for what they are, or therefore effectually fought. The reluctance of our chattering classes to name Islam an enemy of the West – as Islam has forthrightly declared herself to be – has forestalled our prosecution of her war against us. If we were able to muster the clarity of thought and vigor of will to name Islam our enemy, our war with her could be soon over (saving lots of Mohammedan lives), and everyone better off.

From my very first encounter with Moldbug’s appropriation of “cathedral” as a way of referring to our homegrown Modernist, Leftist and Materialist enemies of Truth, Virtue and Beauty as manifest in the West, it has irked me. Cathedrals are noble. They may be the very best, most beautiful thing man has ever done. It seems a literal profanation to apply our term for these gorgeous holy temples to one of the most ignoble, evil things man has ever done, a thing indeed demonic in its origins and supervision.

I would like to keep “cathedral” unsullied for good things – like cathedrals.

The term is by now however so widely known and used in our little corner of the web that it is unlikely anything anyone might say will dislodge it. I have for some time nevertheless been casting about for another term as pithy and trenchant, but more apt, that might have a shot.

It would have to be a single word, conveying both the established institutional aspect and control of the commanding cultural heights enjoyed by our demon-haunted adversaries, as well as the devilish nature of their lord. A single word with the many connotations evoked by “Cult of Moloch.”  “Cult of Moloch” was the best I had come up with. It’s accurate enough, for that cult involved regular and massive sacrificial immolations of first born children. But while “Cult of Moloch” is more evocative for those in the know than its ordinary equivalent, “culture of death,” both are too long. There is also the problem that most people don’t know Moloch from Adam.

“Leviathan” is good – short, not unfamiliar, catchy, connoting vast size and tremendous inertia – but it, too, usually requires some explanation, and anyway Hobbes has already put it to another, valuable use.

This evening, a fit candidate at last occurred to me: Babel.

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Eric Gans on Leftist Resentment

Gans Eric

Eric L. Gans

Eric L. Gans has written about the Left’s total submission to its own unacknowledged resentment in his latest Chronicle of Love and Resentment (No. 514) at the Anthropoetics website.  Here are the first three paragraphs of “The Triumph of Resentment”:

Some decades ago when I was still naïve enough to think I could win a competitive grant I proposed a study of resentment, beginning with Achilles’ “rage” and running through Hamlet down to Nietzsche’s “discovery” of le ressentiment. When I received the comments of those who had turned down my application, I was struck by their tone of irritation. In effect, they were saying “we resent your interest in resentment,” which proved both the validity of my project and its impossibility of attracting either funding or readership. This is pretty much how the subject is viewed today.

The reader of the new New Republic or similar publications—and sometimes even conservative ones—is struck on the one hand by the extraordinary level of gender, racial, and miscellaneous resentment in almost every article, and on the other by the exclusive insistence on the resentment of Trump’s alt-right supporters, and that, slightly less virulent, of Republicans in general. The “hate the haters” line is applied without the least admission of the symmetrical and, recalling the origin of the left-right dichotomy in the French Revolution, originary political resentment—on the Left. Refusal to assume its own resentment has always been a defining feature of the Left, the source of its moral strength in denouncing inequities, but also of its arrogance and its crimes, and never before has it attained this degree of power in a functioning democracy.

The nineteenth century maintained considerable social stability despite its frequent political turmoil because the power base of society remained in traditional hands, meaning both that radical governments were of limited duration and that radical movements had a prima facie claim of speaking for the “oppressed.” The twentieth century was quite different. It’s no secret that Stalin and then Mao killed many more people than Hitler, that Pol Pot massacred a larger portion of his population than any of them, yet Mao still appears on Chinese currency, Fidel Castro and his henchman Che remain heroic figures to many (and our president does not fear association with their images), and even Stalin seems to be making a comeback under Putin, who sees the demise of the USSR as “the greatest tragedy” of the previous century. And we had a “socialist” running almost neck and neck for the presidential nomination with the former representative of the New Democrat faction of the Democratic Party.

The rest, which I strongly recommend, is accessible here.  Gans wrote the item before the “Brexit” returns were in, but his discussion, which involves Donald Trump, is relevant to the “Brexit” phenomenon, which is, itself, relevant to San Bernardino and Orlando.

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

A guest post by Mark Citadel:

Your Holiness:

I write to you as an outsider. A sincere Roman Catholic might not write such a letter out of his admirable respect for the Papacy, and a letter written by a non-Christian might mean little to you. And so it falls to me to say what must be said. I want to start by saying that we of the Eastern Orthodox tradition consider ourselves to practice our faith in the character of the earliest Christians, and though it might seem arrogant, we hold that through tired eyes Orthodoxy has witnessed many great tragedies; the Diocletian Persecutions, the fall of Constantinople, the abduction of thousands of Serb boys and Greek girls to serve as Janissaries and courtesans, and of course the scourge of Bolshevism that cloaked the entire East in poverty and despair for almost a century. Though you consider us schismatics, I would hope that you do not think us fools, and your cordial relations with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, as well as your historic meeting with His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus, leaves me with hope that you will consider this carefully.

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Duffers and Fanatics

I do not know what Islam is “all about,” and this is one respect in which I differ from most journalists, politicians, chiefs of police and U. S. military officers. Unlike me, a great many of these deep thinkers are confident that they know what Islam is “all about,” or at least what it is not all about. The basis of their claim is not clear, although it does not appear to involve study of Islamic scripture or immersion in Islamic practice. Continue reading

The West’s Cultural Continuity

My article on “The West’s Cultural Continuity” appears at The Gates of Vienna, here:

http://gatesofvienna.net/2015/12/the-wests-cultural-continuity/#more-38162

The article discusses the work of Henri Pirenne, Sylvain Gouguenheim, and Emmett Scott.

I offer an excerpt:

In addition to passing remarks, Gouguenheim devotes a separate chapter to the classicizing tendencies of the Syriac and Arab Christians, as distinct from their linguistic cousins and brethren in the Islamic faith. As part of Byzantium, of which their main region of Cappadocia was a province, Syriac Christians played a central role in constituting the Eastern theological discourse during the medieval centuries, continuing to do so even after they had fallen under the sway of the Caliphs, thereby assisting in the westward transmission of Attic and Alexandrian lore. Gouguenheim writes: “Insofar as one speaks of ‘Arabic-Muslim culture’ in the Seventh through the Tenth Centuries, one commits an anachronism… because the culture was at that time barely Muslim and was Arab only by displaced appellation.” Truly, “Syriac is closer to Hebrew than to Arabic,” and the elites of the Nestorian and Monophysite dispensations could generally boast bilingualism in their own tongue and the Koine of the Empire. The jolly idea of Muslim competence in classical learning, as Gouguenheim argues, rests on a misunderstanding: what Islam knew of Greco-Roman wisdom, which it possessed at no time extensively, it knew largely thanks to Syriac scholars. “The Syriac [Christians] were in effect the essential intermediaries of the transmission into Arabic of the philosophical texts of the ancient Greeks,” who generously gave far more than the reluctant takers took. Obtuse westerners betray their lack of discrimination and their poverty of real knowledge in failing to differentiate between Syriac culture and the Arabic-Muslim culture that, by means of the Jihad, conquered and cruelly stamped out Nestorian (and Coptic and Byzantine) society.

Unlike their Muslim beneficiaries, however, the Syriac Christians could assimilate the full range of Greek logic and speculation. The Johannine Logos stemmed from the Greek Logos and the Christianity of the Patres — whether Greek, Latin, or Syriac — therefore comported itself as a rational theology. Already in Late Antiquity, Cappadocians and Syrians stood out as the chief developers of Neo-Platonism; emperors both Pagan and Christian sought counsel from the professors of Antioch’s renowned Daphnaeum. In a chapter on “Islam and Greek Knowledge,” Gouguenheim notes that for Muslims, on the other hand, the Logos constituted an inassimilable scandal, subversive of the absolute submission to Allah’s commands, as articulated in the Koran, that the name Islam denotes. Islam kept of Greek thought “in general [only] that which could not come in contradiction with Koranic teaching.” Furthermore, “Greece — and so too Rome — represented a world radically foreign to Islam, for reasons religious, but also political”; and, unlike the Latinate and Frankish peoples, “Muslims did not interest themselves in the languages of those whom they had conquered” because “Arabic was the sacred language par excellence, and that of revelation.”

The West’s Cultural Continuity: Sylvain Gouguenheim’s Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel: Les racines grecques de l’Europe Chrétienne

Long before the late Eduard Said invented “Orientalism” to exalt Arab culture and Islamic society at the expense of the West, bien-pensants like Voltaire inclined to express their rebellion against the dwindling vestiges of Christendom by representing Europeans as bigots or clowns and raising up exotic foreigners – Voltaire himself wrote about Turks and Persians of the Muslim fold – to be the fonts of wisdom and models of refined life in their tracts and stories. The sultan and dervish look with amused tolerance on the gaucheries of the European rubes. The rubes swing their elbows and knock over the pottery. It was the Eighteenth-Century philosophes and illuminati who coined the pejorative term “Dark Ages” to refer to the centuries immediately following the collapse of the Roman imperial administration in the West under pressure of the Gothic tribal self-assertion in the Fifth Century. Liberal discourse often casually extends the same term to apply it to all of medieval European civilization up to the Renaissance. Specialist historians have, however, long since demonstrated that no such absolute discontinuity as the term “Dark Ages” insinuates ever existed, which means that the Enlightenment version of history is at least partly wrong. Yet the usual story retains its currency, as an item in a kind of liberal folklore.

Part of that story is the motif of the Islamic middleman role in the transmission of classical knowledge to Christendom. According to this motif, the West in the Eleventh Century possessed no first-hand knowledge of the Greek and precious little of the Roman classics. Fortunately (so the story goes) the Muslims had translated Plato and Aristotle into Arabic, knew all about them, and bestowed the gift of their lore on the benighted monks of Italy and France. The benefactors under this notion behave suavely and generously, while the beneficiaries are – to paraphrase a line from a David Lean film – ignorant, barbarous, and cruel.

In the spasm of western Islamophilia that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001, the myth of medieval Muslim learnedness and medieval European illiteracy gained strong new power for the Left whose acolytes have disseminated it with vigor from their ensconcement in the colleges and universities. Facts might have dispelled the myth had anyone cared to notice them. For one thing, Europeans never lost contact with the Byzantine Greeks, who blithely went on being scholarly classicists until Mehmet II bloodily vanquished Constantinople in 1453, slaughtering the literate elites and forcing the peasantry to submit to Allah. The Eighth-Century English church-chronicler Bede reports in his Ecclesiastical History that one of the first bishops of Canterbury, Theodore, was an educated Greek. The Twelfth-Century Icelandic mythographer Snorri Sturlusson suggests in his Edda that the Norse gods were actually Trojan heroes escaping, like Aeneas, from Agamemnon’s destruction of their city – an interpretation that implies his knowledge of the theory called Euhemerism. Eighth-Century England and twelfth-Century Iceland were remote places, but, in Bede and Snorri, one can attest links to the classical tradition.

Facts like these could easily be multiplied – and a man who multiplies them with muscularity and clear-sightedness is the French historian Sylvain Gouguenheim, who documents them in his remarkable book Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel: Les raciness grecques de l’Europe Chrétienne (Seuil, 2008). [Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel: the Greek Roots of Christian Europe.] The book is not as yet translated, but it deserves to be known to Anglophone audiences because it brings important truths to many a contemporary conversation.

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Liberalism and Islam

I have been thinking about the coziness between Liberalism and Islam, which became evident about twenty seconds after the jihad attack on the World Trade Center, and now drives policy in the USA, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Scandinavia.  A pair of complementary questions put themselves that I propose for a general discussion.

Does Liberalism embrace Islam, knowing that Islam is a religion and despite its active hostile attitude towards religion, as conceived by it categorically, solely because Liberalism has more animus against Christianity than it does towards Islam and therefore sees Islam as an ally in its campaign against Christianity?

Or…

Does Liberalism ally itself with Islam because it senses that Islam is not a religion, but is rather a secular ideology, utterly hostile to anything transcendent,  just like itself, and is therefore its perfect ally in the campaign against Christianity?

Muslims in the Obama coalition: an anecdote

Half of the families in my apartment building are Muslims.  I don’t interact with them much, but occasionally we run into each other.  I remember the night in 2012 when President Obama accepted his nomination as the Democratic candidate for president.  Ordinarily, I try to stay clear of all that political partisan stuff, but I was out for a walk, and one of the Muslim men decided to play Obama’s acceptance speech on his car radio loud enough for the rest of us to hear.  Obama was going on about a sinister cabal of rich men who are scheming to decide “whether you can have birth control” and “who you can marry”, etc, with Obama assuring us that he’s going to fight these miscreants.  And there’s this Muslim guy with his long beard and funny non-Western clothes grinning and nodding along.  Our eyes met, and he smiled, and went on listening.

Here’s the funny thing.  I haven’t talked to them, but the other American family in the apartment building has, and they’ve learned some things about our Muslim neighbors.  These guys are from Saudi Arabia.  The guy’s wife goes around completely covered except for her eyes, and she’s actually not supposed to be out at all if men might be present.  And there they are, seemingly as happy as can be with the Democrats’ feminist jihad, as if there’s no tension there.  I know this would make a better story if I would have gone up and asked him if it didn’t make him a little bit uncomfortable that the President was advocating contraception and sodomy, but I don’t know him, and I didn’t want to start an argument.  I suppose it’s possible that he was laughing to himself about what a bunch of degenerates Americans are, but I can’t help suspecting that he was just nodding with approval at the thought that his candidate was going to stick it to those white Christians.  Consistently applied principles are for suckers.  What one thinks of Muslims in America depends a lot on how one reads those grins.

Let me tell you how I think about Muslims in the West.  They’re liberals, married for life to the Left, just like Jews and American blacks.  Individuals among these groups might make common cause with us, and such are welcome, but their identities are too tied with the sense of opposition to Christian Europe for us to expect more than that.  Terrorism is a nuisance, much less dangerous to our civilization than blasphemy.  In the end, Muslims will only matter as communist voters.

ISIS versus Charlie Hebdo

Many reactionaries and right liberals have remarked that the grand strategy of left liberalism with respect to Islam is to use it (along with mass immigration from other dysfunctional cultures) to sap the culture and morale of the West, and then turn and deprave the immigrants and Moslems with porn, consumerism, nihilism, atheism, scientism, libertinism, and so forth – i.e., to turn them into cynical liberals like themselves.

The right has also pointed out that once Sharia is imposed upon the West, liberals will be the first to feel its lash. As with the liberal campaign for abortion rights that cuts deepest into the biological reproduction of liberals themselves, the strategy is suicidal.

With the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Islam has made it crystal clear that the right is correct in this assessment. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is a frontal assault on the Cathedral of Moloch. It is a massacre of high-ranking prelates of that religion. Unlike 9/11, it cannot be quite characterized as an attack against capitalism or global finance. Nor can it be characterized as contra the military power of the West, or against Christianity, or colonialism, or imperialism, or any of the other bugbears of the left. No. It is an attack against the chattering classes themselves, specifically and only them – in Hollywood, the academy, and journalism.

And they cannot but know this, deep down.

It has to be a sobering moment for our rulers: they are naked, as they well know, and indeed prefer; and now they must see that the knives are out against their tender, unprotected flesh.

This will not, of course, prevent them from arguing publicly that the attack may be blamed on the nativist, reactionary right. Many of them, no doubt, will persist in their delusions at all costs. But quite a few, at the margins, must now be wondering whether they might not have got things dreadfully backward – whether they themselves are not after all the useful idiots.

Strange Theological Bedfellows

The Islamic and the liberal views of Jesus and of the New Testament are formally the same.

According to liberalism, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught liberal doctrines, and who remained dead after he died on the Cross.

According to Islam, Jesus was just a man, not God, who never claimed to atone for men’s sins or determine their eternal destiny, who taught Islamic doctrines, and who remained dead after he died of natural causes.

[Correction: The majority Islamic view of Jesus’s end of days on Earth is that he was transported to Heaven.  But the Islamic view is still very close to the liberal view.]

According to liberalism, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to scholarship to set the record straight.

According to Islam, the New Testament contains many errors that have developed over the centuries, due partly to malice and partly to entropy, and we must look to Islam to set the record straight. Moslem anti-Christian apologists according quote liberally from liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman in attacking the New Testament.

Reason number 5,347 why liberalism is assaulting our culture.