The Scatterbrained Syncretist








Saturday February 15, 2003

Alan wrote:

Are the protesters blindly leading us into a future of unimaginable horrors?

I replied:

Are you sure they are blind? Many seem to believe that the destruction of our earth-raping, sexist, superficial, materialistic, racist, oppressive civilization would be a step forward...

I am amazed every day at the ability of highly educated people to express strongly held opinions without any basis in fact or principle...or thought for the consequences. It isn't that I disagree with the logic of their's that the only logic that matters to them is the logic of partisanship...there is no room for reason and no interest in empiricism. Arguments are dismissed rather than refuted.

When the survival of our civilization is hostage to the politics of personal vilification...we are in big trouble. I think that the existence of liberal democracy in this world is worth fighting for. Many are hostile to that view.


When people talk about the fall of Rome and blame it on decadence, they talk about orgies and stuff....but it is really the belief that civilization was not worth defending that done 'em in.

Our own nihilism and narcissism are more dangerous than the bad guys are.

As events evolve, the pressures within our society will grow until we either surrender or get serious. I can't predict which way we'll go when we reach the crisis.

I do worry about it.

Ultimately, this is a contest of will. The information/education/propaganda dimension is the main theater of operations. We have not been doing well there.

In fact, our side in this war represents a wealthy, powerful minority of the world's population. Our interests are (in this sense) antidemocratic. It is natural that the majority of the people worldwide see us as imposing our values on them.

Our own education and media systems have indoctrinated several generations of Americans with guilt and confusion. So, it is hard to blame kids for not knowing how to think.

But, the greatest responsibility and the greatest failure belong to us. We have failed to present plausible arguments that demonstrate the worthiness of our goals. We have not convinced people that this war centers around the question of our own survival. We have not explained that it is not about avenging ourselves on bin Laden for the WTC attacks. We have not explained that the utter destruction of al Qaeda will not complete our task.

We cannot fight an enemy who we can't name. Our own "tolerance" prevents us from formulating objectives. If we can't name our enemy, we can't explain why Iraq has to go down. So people are free to think it is about oil, or about Bush's issues with his father...or whatever. If we are shocked into abandoning our self-indulgent attitudes we will rise, fight and win...later, we'll atone for the genocide. But if we cling to our "values" we will die and our descendants will wear burkhas.

So...everybody is preaching to the choir or trying to score debating points. We need to be leading people to better understanding. Alas, there is little interest in that thankless task.

Because of my weblog, I have many interactions with people who want to discuss these issues. Almost always, they insist on ritual statements like "the inspections are we should continue that instead of letting oleaginous Cowboy W bomb the hell out of the innocent Iraqis". Any effort to look at the purpose of the inspections or the effectiveness of past anti-proliferation efforts spirals into cant and denial...and Democratic Party €uropean progressive talking points.

It will take a bigger shock than September 11 to break out of that viewpoint. Like I said, when that happens, it could go either way.

Sorry to ramble like this....but I am very tired now.