Monday, April 06, 2009

Barbarians at the gate? Check. Decline of moral certainty? Check.

In Decline and Fall, Gibbon noted that the Roman empire collapsed from the pressure of the barbarians coming down from Germany, combined with a failure of nerve in the Roman society itself. Could such a thing happen to Europe and America? Not to worry! The West couldn't be beaten, because only a westernized society could acquire and deploy the weapons of modern war. A barbarian challenger must first become civilized--and thereby cease to be a barbarian!

“Gibbon … argued that both Europe and the new world of America … enjoyed an unassailable technological edge unknown to Rome.... 'Cannon and fortification’, Gibbon contended, ‘now form an impregnable barrier against the Tartar horse.’ Here, clearly, is where Gibbon’s analysis breaks down.... We have no impermeable barrier against the contemporary Islamist equivalent of the Tartar horse—the suicide bomber. By a process little analysed or understood, the Islamist warriors of our day have managed to circumvent the ‘civilizing’ practices to which Gibbon alluded. Instead, they employ technology against us, most notably the internet, being adept with our tools but not having imbibed the values of the society that produced them."
So write David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith in a splendid essay in International Affairs, shortly after the bombings in the London Underground. As to what went wrong, they point to the Good People’s willing acceptance of Islamic radicals in London and elsewhere in Britain. This is less of a problem in the US, if only because Muslims make up a much smaller percentage of our population. But what Jones and Smith say of ‘Islamism’ in Europe applies equally to American acceptance and even celebration of the hip-hop values of our black underclass:
“Enlightenment philosophes … preached tolerance … out of the belief that reason would ultimately prevail over outmoded custom and the fanaticism of religious enthusiasm. That is not the view, however, that informs the contemporary promotion of multicultural difference, which actively facilitates intolerant enthusiasm of an Islamist hue.”
Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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