Saturday, July 21, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 48: Suicidal Decadence and Folly -- how Democracies die

Regular readers will know that, in recent weeks [and months], I have paid parallel blog visits to Dembski's Uncommon Descent, and to the Barbados Free Press [cf. esp. here and here].

As I ponder the visits and the outcomes, especially in the latter case -- I have been, without explanation, put on permanent moderation, i.e. one step short of an outright ban, in a context where a concerted series of one-sided, misleading and in some cases plainly slanderous accusations have been made against me -- and by direct extension, against Evangelicals. [E.g., cf. the notion that Evangelicals blindly support Israel in alleged "genocide" against Palestinian Arabs -- in a context where of course there is no organised mass murder but an actual population increase largely due to immigration form Jordan from 1967 - 1994, when the Palestinian Authority took over control of much of the Territories; cf. here, and especially here, which last discusses what actually happened at Durban on the literal eve of the 9/11 attacks, and which of course did not appear in our local news headlines.] (NB: On the pattern over the past week or so, several commenters had had enough of being repeatedly and even predictably on the short end of the material facts and their implications on the Middle East situation and on the issue of Islamism in the Caribbean, but were repeatedly unwilling to face the credible facts. Cf. here and here for some balancing remarks.)

On reflection on such saddening developments, I have been led back to Barbara Tuchman's thoughts in her classic The March of Folly: i.e. how powerful nations can kill themselves through folly and decadence; often in the teeth of sound counsel to the contrary. For, as the sad tale of Alcibiades and Athens plainly demonstrates, Democracies can die, and they usually do so through suicide by corruption of the power elites and decision-making process. By decadence and folly in short.

Nor is that suicidal combination a mere coincidence -- a point that connects the world of the First Century uncomfortably to our own:
RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

RO 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised . . . .

RO 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful [perverted] lusts . . . . RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them . . .
Sadly, all that has changed in this list as we look at today's West [including here in our Caribbean home region] is the technology of the images -- now, largely electronic, print and film, and the sophistication of and rationale for the lying myths [cf. here, here and here] that distract us from the actual obviousness and reasonableness of seeing God and his handiwork in the cosmos, in life around us, in our minds, and in our consciences. [Cf here.]

Truly, we have no excuse!

Acts 27, the account of Paul's voyage to Rome, is aptly illustrative on how such spiritual folly makes the leap to unwise, through of course duly "democratic," community-level decision-making:
AC 27: 5b. . . we [in our first ship] landed at Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. 7 We made slow headway for many daysWhen the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. 8 We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.

AC 27:9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also." 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.
and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus.
Of course on setting out on this miniature march of duly democratic folly -- the voice of the technocrats and the moneyed classes had duly spoken, and the ill-informed majority heeded it instead of the counsels of prudence, inducing the Centurion to go with the majority -- they were hit by a wicked early winter storm, and ended up in shipwreck on the north coast of Malta, barely escaping with their lives because of the gracious intervention of God.

How telling is that "the majority decided," even as we now set out on deifying Democracy and associated debate and rhetoric-manipulated opinions!

(NB: Many of us -- given the sad failing of our education system on the basic but vital topic of Straight/Critical Thinking -- have yet to learn that, ever since Socrates, men have known that debate is that wicked art that makes the worse appear the better case, and that its practitioners are trained in how to argue with equal facility and persuasiveness for and against any given case. In that, they are aided and abetted by that devilishly en-darkening art, rhetoric: the art of persuasion, as opposed to proof. Worse, yet, too many of us seem to be unaware of what Aristotle warned us about in introducing his study of that two-edged art: our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are very different from those we make when we are pained and hostile. So, we should beware of any and all attempts to use distracting red herrings dragged across the track of facts and logic, to then lead us out to conveniently caricatured straw-men which are then burned to cloud and poison the air. Sadly, this particular hyped up, rage-stirring pattern is now unfortunately a routine tactic used by especially secularist progressivists/secular humanists and their fellow-travellers [e.g., the modernist theology-driven and neo-pagans], in public discussion in our region and across the wider Western culture.)

I have been further stimulated by reading a July 10th 2007 discussion by Herbert Meyer, who was Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council during the 1980's. The popular blog Powerline, notes on his depth of insight, through citing Steven Hayward, that "in 1983, when the Cold War was still regarded almost unamimously as a fixture in global affairs, Meyer predicted that the Soviet Union was in its final stages. He argued that the U.S. therefore should begin planning for a post-Soviet world."

With that sort of track-record, we should give careful attention indeed to his current analysis, which is entitled "The War About the War":

The 9-11 attacks did more than start a war; they started a war about the war. No sooner had the World Trade towers collapsed and the Pentagon burst into flames than two perceptions of the threat began competing for the public's support:

Perception One: We're at War

For the third time in history Islam - or, more precisely, its most radical element - has launched a war whose objective is the destruction of Western civilization. Our survival is at stake, and despite its imperfections we believe that Western civilization is worth defending to the death. Moreover, in the modern world - where a small number of people can so easily kill a large number of people - we cannot just play defense . . . So we must fight with everything we've got against the terrorist groups and against those governments on whose support they rely. If the Cold War was "World War III," this is World War IV. We must win it, at whatever cost.

Perception Two: We're Reaping What We've Sowed

There are quite a few people in the world who just don't like the United States and some of our allies because of how we live and, more precisely, because of the policies we pursue in the Mideast and elsewhere in the world. Alas, a small percentage of these people express their opposition through acts of violence . . . Our objective must be to bring the level of political violence down to an acceptable level. The only way to accomplish this will be to simultaneously adjust our values and our policies while protecting ourselves from these intermittent acts of violence; in doing so we must be careful never to allow the need for security to override our civil liberties . . . .

While experts disagree about how "the war" is going, there isn't much disagreement over how the war about the war is going: those who subscribe to Perception Two are pulling ahead . . . .

In the long run, history always sorts things out.

If it turns out that Perception Two of the threat is valid, then over time we will become accustomed to the level of casualties caused by the terrorists . . . . But if those of us who subscribe to Perception One are correct, then it's only a matter of time before something ghastly happens . . . Whether this will happen in two years, or five, or in 15 years, is impossible to predict. All we can know for certain is that if Western civilization really is under attack from Islam, or from elements within Islam, then they will not give up or be appeased. At some point they're going to go for the knockout punch . . . .

Ironically, there is abundant evidence that Meyer's Perception 1 is -- more or less [e.g. I am not sure that all of Islam is incompatible with modernity . . .] -- the correct one, given the many statements and actions of the Islamists themselves, ranging from jihadism defectors such as Hassan Butt, to former Muslims such as Ayan Hirsi Ali, to the leaders of Al Qaeda, to the obvious agenda of Mr Ahmadinejad to acquire nuclear weapons -- he already has the ballistic missiles and suicide bombers to deliver them. Credibly, we have been in the early phases of World War IV -- "world" is just a different terminology for "Global" -- since 1979.

And, with the ongoing unchecked proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, that ongoing global conflict could easily move to a decisive phase overnight.

So, what will happen if one horrible morning in the possibly not so distant future,
. . . we wake up to learn of say a dozen cities, six in the USA, five in Europe, one in Australia, have gone up in nuclear smoke? And, that Mr Ahmadinejad or his successor is declaring that any attempt to retaliate against any Islamic nation held to be "harbouring" the terrorists will be met with by a series of further attacks, by missile and/or by nuke suicide bombers? Then, several days later, a massive outbreak of anthrax or some other deadly plague begins to sweep the nations?
In short, Machiavelli's point that political disorders are like progressive diseases should always be borne in mind. At first, they are relatively easy to cure but very hard to diagnose. But, when at length for want of early diagnosis and prompt treatment, the course of the disease is obvious to all, it is far too late to cure.

This hard-bitten counsel of course appears in his infamous The Prince, a now 400 year-old standard text on statecraft, and is rooted in his observation on Livy's nearly 2,000 year old discussion of Roman statecraft. Worse, the two major historic surges of Islamism as an attempted global conquest ideology date back 1400 years and nearly 500 years. The current upsurge is thirty years old, and the foundational era Quranic texts, [cf. also here, especially Q 9:5 and 29] Hadiths and traditions and Sharia Law on both Jihad and Dhimmitude [the status of conquered peoples] that drive it have long been accessible in our own languages, much less the original Arabic.

So, we can hardly plead blameless ignorance, if we are still ignorant of the underlying dynamic!

Hassan Butt, in the above linked article, has put his finger on the roots of our folly:

When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network - a series of British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology - I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.

By blaming the Government for our actions, those who pushed this "Blair's bombs" line did our propaganda work for us.

More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology . . . . though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many others to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary worldwide Islamic state that would dispense Islamic justice.

If we were interested in justice, you may ask, how did this continuing violence come to be the means of promoting such a (flawed) Utopian goal? . . . .
the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a model of the world in which you are either a believer or an infidel.

Formal Islamic theology, unlike Christian theology, does not allow for the separation of state and religion: they are considered to be one and the same.

For centuries, the reasoning of Islamic jurists has set down rules of interaction between Dar ul-Islam (the Land of Islam) and Dar ul-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief) to cover almost every matter of trade, peace and war.

But what radicals and extremists do is to take this two steps further. Their first step has been to argue that, since there is no pure Islamic state, the whole world must be Dar ul-Kufr (The Land of Unbelief).

Step two: since Islam must declare war on unbelief, they have declared war upon the whole world.

Along with many of my former peers, I was taught by Pakistani and British radical preachers that this reclassification of the globe as a Land of War (Dar ul-Harb) allows any Muslim to destroy the sanctity of the five rights that every human is granted under Islam: life, wealth, land, mind and belief.

In Dar ul-Harb, anything goes, including the treachery and cowardice of attacking civilians . . . .

The issue couldn't be plainer -- as are both the relevant, easily accessed history and current pattern of events -- but, many of us couldn't be more willfully blind to it.


Because much of the West has lost its roots, in God, and has been self-devoured by a combination of self-deception, decadent self-indulgence and rage/guilt over the real and imagined sins of the imperialist past, and especially a false accusation that it is the Judaeo-Christian tradition that is in the main responsible for that series of sins. [How ignorant we are of Roman, Greek and German history! Of the roots of modern liberty and democracy! And, so much else . . .]

So, now, we must wake up to our peril at the hands of the tidal wave of de-Christianisation from the North, and that of Islamism from the East. Then, we mus rise up and fulfill our challenging calling under God "for such a time as this." And that includes our potential to bring the good news of reconciliation between God and man, thus between man and man, to the wider world.

For, we are descended from many peoples who have long been at mutual war, but largely through the community-healing influences of the gospel, we have learned by and large how to live at peace here in our region. A lesson the world at large now sorely needs.

So also, again, let us reflect:

Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END

PS: For the moment my Moodle investigation is at a pause, pending memory upgrades to this 7 yo backup laptop PC and the resurrection of the main PC.


Collin Brendemuehl said...

I posted a follow-up.

Gordon said...


Some useful thoughts in that follow up -- I note the Townhall blog address, and that the specific post is here.