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I left this comment over at the Belmont Club.

Wretchard,

I share Teague’s concerns though I am not sure why he chose this particular post to raise those concerns. Nonetheless, the substance of Teague’s comment is an issue that I would like to see you address in greater detail, because your answer to Teague seems to miss the heart of the issue.

Granted, this generation finds itself having to make moral choices. But I don’ think that those choices are as simple as fighting or surrendering. There are other choices, some of them even worse then surrendering.

Since this blog and its commenters make frequent references to World War II and the moral choices that the generation of that time faced, I think it is worth exploring why the Nazis were accepted by the conservatives of Germany.

After all, the generals and the businessmen of Germany were not natural supporters of the Nazis. In fact, there were a couple of times when the conservative forces in Germany stepped up to the plate and slapped the Nazis down.

What then changed to cause the conservative forces in Germany to partner with the Nazis?

The answer has to do with the threat that the communists posed. During this same period as the rise of the Nazis, the communists were also a growing force on the street. They had their own armed wing in Germany that was in some measures more formidable than the Nazi’s brown shirts. If memory serves me right, there was more than a few armed street clashes between the two groups that the Nazis lost.

Of course the communists in Germany did not restrict themselves to shooting Nazis. In fact, fighting Nazis was not even high on their list of priorities. Like all communist parties of the period, they wanted to remake society and do away with the nation state. Thus their primary targets were the businessmen, the religious, and the aristocratic military officers. For the communists, Nazis were a problem primarily because they competed for the same pool of supporters.

Those with eyes to see at the time understood that the communists represented a very real threat. As the communists had already proved in Russia, and would go on to prove in Spain and countless other countries, their victory meant the massacre of the rich, the religious, and given enough time, the middle class. Faced with the growing power of an ideology that called for their death and the falling apart of the international economic system, many conservatives felt that they had no choice but to take what allies they could get. At least the Fascists did not want to do away with the nation state. And they did not want to kill everyone in the upper classes.

This choice was made all around the western world. Italy had Mussolini, of course, and the French government almost fell to a fascist mob long before Germany was in a position to invade. Churchill had to argue strenuously against his fellow British conservatives who thought that Hitler provided good protection against a communist takeover of Europe. Many prominent conservatives in America admired Hitler or Mussolini.

To use Teague’s language, the fear of communism was causing people to embrace messianic saviors. Why can’t the fear of Islamic terrorism cause the same thing to happen in this day and age? And if it can, should we not fear that outcome as much or more than the actual deaths caused by Islamic terrorism?

I think William Butler Yeats captured the sprit of both the 20’s and 30’s and these present times with his famous poem The Second Coming….

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The line ‘The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity’ very nicely captures the problem that we face today as much as it captures the spirit of the 20’s and 30’s. We know what was born out of the 20’s and 30’s. So I have to wonder what is moving towards Bethlehem to be born today?

Yeats was an admirer of Mussolini. Mussolini’s call to stamp out pity must have appealed to him. He embraced the beast of his time.

I fear that many who are on the forefront of worrying about Islamic terrorism and the rise of Islamic power will make the same choice today as Yeats did back then. As I see it, the rise of fascism to power was caused by the decision of the conservative classes to put the preservation of their lives, property, and power over the preservation of what they professed to be their values. And it seems to me that many anti-Islamic types are already making the same choice. It seems to be taken as a given that of course we will do anything under the sun to preserve our lives from this threat.

But those who make the preservation of their own lives the highest moral imperative wind up making man into God. And that is an ugly beast indeed.

3 Responses to “A comment over at the Belmont Club”

  1. […] _uacct = “UA-1202685-1”; urchinTracker(); Map of the Ethereal Land The Ethereal Voice Front Page – Politics – Money – Knowledge – Art – Food – Fun Masthead About A comment over at the Belmont Club By Ape Man | June 18, 2007 – 1:48 pm Posted in Category: Front Page, Politics I left this comment over at the Belmont Club. Wretchard, I share Teague’s concerns though I am not sure why he chose this particular post to raise those concerns. Nonetheless, the substance of Teague’s comment is an issue that I would like to see you address in greater detail, because your answer to Teague seems to miss Click Here to continue reading. […]

  2. on 18 Jun 2007 at 8:16 pmTeague

    Indeed. Why get all pendantic on this particular post ? Something unseen, perhaps. . . the ghost of Augustine (‘kill them all and let God sort them out’).

    Wretchard has carnal knowledge of Delphi, but the riddle confounds him. “The objective of the War on Terror is plainly to defeat the enemy. But this goal can be expressed in an alternative manner as the shaping of the postwar world. The surprising thing is that both formulations must be equivalent, being by definition exactly the same state. Yet unforeseeable consequences of conflict make it difficult to predict, until the last moment, what the possibilities of peace may be (link).”

    But Wretchard does not question his understanding of the human moral condition to see the answer that I believe he has preordained. If we, ourselves, are not “infected” by hatred/evil, then there remains hope (link). And for Wretchard, rational people must trust –the redemptive act- in a corporate exercise of the will to defy the abyss; in particular, the inflation of poor Wretchard who beended runded over. If I do not misunderstand him, for Wretchard, it follows, then, that the State is not necessarily a Beast. Whether that trust is in non-teleological chance, or an existential leap in the dark: “The only sane way forward is do our best and trust to luck, or for those who prefer, to trust in God.” I think that it is for this reason that when Wretchard is exposed to the hatred consuming his own readers, his own best response can only be angst. What power lies behind the evil necromancers to have spawned them too? The battlefield has been determined by the indecency of the opponent which makes anyone who would confront evil descend into the very pit of Hell. Ah, Gilgamesh again. Or messiah, redux, if you wish.

    Like it or not, Wretchard is an apocalyptic: “The War on Terror has been a process of destroying all the remaining conventional taboos which by luck or decency, survived the totalitarian wars of the 20th century. It has become an exercise in discovering the outer limits of sadism. There is no doubt that America has the might and the will to destroy the Enemy. All that is in doubt is whether it can vanquish the foe without becoming like him (link) .” No, that is not all that is in doubt. By the de rigueur descent into hell, the two civilizations could be made into one ‘new man,’ unlike either that preceded. Circumstance are shaping Wretchard to be receptive to a new faith and he doesn’t see it coming.

  3. […] Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending Mr. Steyn. My recent comment over at the Belmont Club was in part directed at people like him. But you impose a double standard at the cost of your own credibility. […]

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