Blogging will resume on Thursday
Once again, as Jews throughout the word repeat every year at this time:
For, not only one stood against us, and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us.
Yaacov Lozowick, a self described "former Lefty and current centrist" wonders why this is so hard to understand:
Sulzman, a recent reader who attributes positions to me which I don't hold, comments:What exactly don't you think Obama doesn't get about Israelis? I think he gets Israelis exactly right, which is that they've become complacent about the peace process, and perhaps understandably so, given developments over the last 10 years. But for the U.S. that's a big problem. I thought this article by Tom Friedman today pretty much got it right.
The Friedman column is here, and indeed makes a similar point: that Israelis no longer care about making peace.
In a truly weird development, Fake Ibrahim supplies the answer, though of course his intentions were rather the opposite:One year after the Israeli invasion of Gaza, people you were acquainted with continue to die at the border. In the past two weeks a foreign worker and three soldiers were killed: compare that to less than 30 Israeli deaths in the whole Qassam years. It looks like Cast Lead was a failure. How many Peretz's are you prepared to sacrifice before you admit that force alone won't bring you security?
Yaacov's conclusion is sobering and to the point:
Friedman's column - like most of the discourse about all the things the Israelis "must understand", is arrogant, uninformed, unintelligent, and coming from someone with his pay-grade, offensive. Israeli cab drivers and tomato merchants are better informed about the details of this area: and they have to be, since it's their lives, or the lives of their children, which will be lost if the wrong decisions are made - or more accurate, whenever the wrong decisions are made.
Newsflash for the ignoramusi, from the White House down: we understand our situation, and don't much like it. Sadly, all possible alternatives at this stage are worse. Those of you with true power, if there are any of you, might try to help by convincing the Palestinians to make a deal. But if you don't have that power - and you probably don't - then at least stop preachifying. It makes you look unserious.
As a former Lefty and current centrist, it pains me that you've got to go all the way to The Weekly Standard to find thoughtful descriptions of how destructive the Obama policies are, and how dangerous for the people who live here, but there you have it. Here. Then again, perhaps you don't need to go to the Weekly Standard. Simply read the mainstream, PA- ("Moderate")-controlled press. Here, translated into English.
Tonight, Jews throughout the world will do what they have done for thousands of years; they will tell the story of their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Four years ago Passover fell on the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising and I noticed a coincidence that has stayed with me ever since. What follows is the post that I wrote April 30, 2005, on the outliers of Israel, the 20%: On Action and Passivity, (with some new comments added at the end):
The Passover Holiday, celebrated by Jews around the world, has just ended. This Holiday represents a central myth of the Jewish people, that "we were slaves in Egypt and God brought us out" to freedom. Furthermore, we are instructed:
In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt. As it says: "You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of this that God took me out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)
It is a powerful myth of a persecuted people being freed by the intercession of their God. In my research into the meaning of Passover, how it might still be relevant today, and what gives it the emotional resonance it still has, I came across a comment I had never seen before. This comes from Rabbi Stephen Baars, writing on Assimilation Then and Now:
The Talmud records that in actuality, only 20 percent of the Jewish people left Egypt. The other 80 percent did not identify strongly enough with the Jewish people's role and goal. They were too assimilated and immersed in Egyptian society. So they stayed behind.
Passover this year, fell on the 62nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a doomed rebellion carried out by the 60,000 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto who remained of the original 300,000. For a painful, very human description of the day to day evolution of the uprising, take a look at "The Ghetto Fights,"by Marek Edelman, published in a pamphlet called "The Warsaw Ghetto: The 45th Anniversary of the Uprising". (Hat tip to Horsefeathers).
I was struck by the same 20% occurring in the Exodus story and in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Rabbi Baars suggests that those who stayed behind were assimilated and thus unable to imagine a life of freedom; further, in this case freedom meant the unknown. He added:
The Haggadah is focusing us on the fact that our ancestors were among the group that had the courage and foresight to leave.
It is always difficult to make changes. We may feel that freedom is too elusive, that we don't have the drive, stamina and determination to make bold decisions. The Haggadah reminds us that we are part of the group that left. It is in our blood. We have the ability to make dramatic changes. If we so desire.
I do not think this explanation does justice to those forces which tend to always support the status quo. I wrote in an early post that all living creatures tend toward conservatism (ie, they resist change). This is the nature of Homeostasis and Conservatism. Why would 80% of the Hebrews remain in Egypt? Even after being warned that more terrible plagues were on the way, they remained. How could it be that three and a half millennia later, 80% of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were shipped out to concentration camps, even in the face of rumors and stories of horrors (most of which people couldn't allow themselves to believe) before the remaining 20% fought back?
It is all too human to refuse to see the danger right in front of us. Few of us can look into the face of evil and not be terrified. Perhaps we should not wonder so much about the intellectual gymnastics of those who invent paranoid fantasies to blame us for our problems (take a look at Dr. Sanity's post and this Daily Standard article by Paul Mirengoff of Powerline ), better we should marvel that a majority of Americans were able, after the horrors of 9/11 and with the promise of worse still to come, to stand up and face the evil. More than 50% of us voted to re-elect the President who would have us continue the struggle rather than try to pull the covers over our heads and hope the monsters would go away and leave us alone.
[Added in 2009] I suspect the 80/20 rule applies to a great many human endeavors. It is always difficult to know the moment when paradigms shift. There are always people claiming that current circumstances cannot continue (and, in truth, the present never stays the same for long.) We don't always have a 9/11 or a collapsing Stock market to tell us that fundamental changes in our relationship to our environment have occurred. It is likely that the 20% willing to leap into the unknown will fail more often than they succeed, yet our future depends on those 20%.
[Added for 2010] Perhaps because the modern state of Israel was established within the living memory of many who remain with us, and has had to fight for its existence many times within the last 60 years, and the fact that the Jews of Israel have no place left to go for refuge, the 20% has grown considerably. In Israel, the necessity to fight for their freedom is an everyday affair.
In America our freedoms are threatened by the soft totalitarianism of a State growing out of control. The 20% who might once have been outliers, worrying about the sustainability of the quasi-socialist welfare state, have been joined by some significant percentage of previously uninvolved fellow citizens, much to the consternation of the ruling class in Washington DC who shudder in fear of the citizens they have deigned to represent. We shall see if Americans choose the easy path of dependency, a benign slavery, to the rigors and stresses of freedom; that will become clearer this November.
For now, I wish a deeply meaningful Holy Week to my Christian friends and readers and A Happy Passover to all my Jewish friends and readers.
Since the latter days of the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, the over-riding strategic approach to the Iraq War has been to stabilize Iraq. As noted by a number of strategists, including Tom Barnett, stabilizing Iraq has been thought to include, of necessity, a regionalization of the problem. If Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran, do not buy into the need to stabilize Iraq, they could cause a great deal of pain to America and cause the Iraq experiment in nation building, bringing a functioning Arab democracy to the Middle East, to fail in unpredictable and disastrous ways.
Yesterday, David P. Goldman, aka Spengler, discussed the strategy and its implications:
Ralph Peters' oop-ed in today's New York Post shows that our putative allies in Afghanistan as well as Iraq are in bed with Iran. He argues that it's a blunder. It will be a blunder, but it's actually Obama's policy, and it was spelled out by now Defense Secretary Gates and Zbignew Brzezinski back in 2004. It's as bad as Peters says it is, and then some.
"It's wretched enough that our 'friend' Ahmed Chalabi has become Iran's point man in Iraq. Now 'our man in Kabu,' President Hamid Karzai, is quietly shifting his loyalty to Tehran," Peters writes.
Peters continues:Beyond Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad's recent chummy visit to Karzai -- reported by the media but played down by Washington -- Iran's been training Taliban forces to kill our troops more efficiently.
Karzai hasn't complained. Nor has he objected to Tehran's expansion of its support for its clients in western Afghanistan. He wants that support for himself.
Where I disagree with Peters is in the matter of the administration's intent. In a March 16 "Spengler" column for Asia Times Online, I quoted State Department officials' on-record invitation to Iran to play a major role in Afghanistan. Getting Iran involved IS the administration's "exit strategy." Obama wants an ALLIANCE with Iran. And that's why he picked a fight with Netanyahu over the non-issue of apartment construction in a part of North Jerusalem that every draft piece plan agrees will remain Israeli. If Israel hits Iran's nuclear capacity, the deal is off.
During the fading days of the Bush administration, an alliance of convenience with Iran was implicit; now, it is possible to make a very plausible case that the Obama administration's alliance with Iran has been made conscious and explicit, though never for publication.
George Friedman, at Stratfor, offers a more nuanced explanation for a divergence of American and Israeli interests that supports the idea of an understanding between America and Iran:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on March 23. The meeting follows the explosion in U.S.-Israeli relations after Israel announced it was licensing construction of homes in East Jerusalem while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel. The United States wants Israel to stop all construction of new Jewish settlements. The Israelis argue that East Jerusalem is not part of the occupied territories, and hence, the U.S. demand doesn’t apply there. The Americans are not parsing their demand so finely and regard the announcement — timed as it was — as a direct affront and challenge. Israel’s response is that it is a sovereign state and so must be permitted to do as it wishes. The implicit American response is that the United States is also a sovereign state and will respond as it wishes.
The polemics in this case are not the point. The issue is more fundamental: namely, the degree to which U.S. and Israeli relations converge and diverge. This is not a matter of friendship but, as in all things geopolitical, of national interest. It is difficult to discuss U.S. and Israeli interests objectively, as the relationship is clouded with endless rhetoric and simplistic formulations. It is thus difficult to know where to start, but two points of entry into this controversy come to mind.
The first is the idea that anti-Americanism in the Middle East has its roots in U.S. support for Israel, a point made by those in the United States and abroad who want the United States to distance itself from Israel. The second is that the United States has a special strategic relationship with Israel and a mutual dependency. Both statements have elements of truth, but neither is simply true — and both require much more substantial analysis. In analyzing them, we begin the process of trying to disentangle national interests from rhetoric.
There is very little Israel can do to help the United States in the center and eastern balances. On the other hand, if the western balance of power were to collapse — due to anything from a collapse of the Egyptian regime to a new Israeli war with Hezbollah — the United States might find itself drawn into that conflict, while a new intifada in the Palestinian territories would not help matters either. It is unknown what effect this would have in the other balances of power, but the United States is operating at the limits of its power to try to manage these situations. Israel cannot help there, but it could hurt, for example by initiating an attack on Iran outside the framework of American planning. Therefore, the United States wants one thing from Israel now: for Israel to do nothing that could possibly destabilize the western balance of power or make America’s task more difficult in the other regions.
Victor Shikhman summarizes George Friedman's work in this area:
Can we call it the Obama Intifada? That the Palestinians, with Iranian guidance, are now planning a new Intifada to exploit the US-Israeli rift is proof that American pressure on Israel has destabilized the region, and not brought peace negotiations, much less peace, any closer.
(Shikhman also as an interesting exchange with Friedman that should be read in full.)
Finally Walter Russell Mead offers a tempered explanation of the situation in the Middle East and notes that the best we can expect pr hope for is to manage the conflict:
But the bad news and the brutal truth about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that until the Palestinians give up the dream of returning to pre-1967 Israel, peace will not finally come. Neither Israel nor anybody else can force them to give up this dream. The dream is real, the dream is woven into memory, culture, politics and faith.
With luck and skill, we can perhaps manage this conflict; we may even be able to hasten the day when it ends. Anything is possible in this world, but a quick, negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is almost certainly not in the cards.
The connection between American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians in concert with our policy toward Iran and the Iraq experiment is complicated and fraught with the potential for catastrophic miscalculation.
Time pressures will not permit me to elaborate today but I hope to address the Surreal nature of the current Realpolitik tomorrow.
Courtesy of Ruth Marcus, a supporter of the bill:
The conventions of political pontification do not allow for admissions of uncertainty or ambivalence. Thus, Sunday night's House debate on health care featured bombastic declarations from both sides about the impending disaster (Republicans) or nirvana (Democrats) being ushered in.
In fact, the occasion called for more humility than hyperbole, however unlikely that may have been given the setting. If I were a member of Congress, my floor speech before casting a yes vote would have boiled down to:
Gee, I hope this works.
One of the astonishing aspects of the health-care debate is how little is actually known about the implications of a change this far-reaching. Everyone has a theory, and a model to match, but even some of the most fundamental questions remain the subject of debate.
Ruth Marcus is correct, as far as she goes, and the bulk of her article deals with a myriad of questions about the potential known consequences of various provisions of the bill. There are likely to be even more unknown unanticipated consequences. A giant bill filled with unknowns, with layers and layers of bureaucratization foisted upon one sixth of the economy, is going to have wildly unpredictable results. However, there is one certainty: Costs will not come down with this bill. In any business, when the price to the consumer is reduced, the use of the goods or services increases. Since the bill does not address the actual cost of services, merely the price that is apparent to the consumer (ie, reducing out of pocket expenses to close to zero for those on the new forms of coverage) utilization will go up. This is not rocket science. Since price controls are implicit in the bill (with the expansion of Medicaid and the reduction of financing for Medicare), scarcity will follow. Again, this is not rocket science, but for some reason, when it comes to healthcare, normally intelligent and perceptive people fail to appreciate basic economics. All of this is irrelevant now. The bill has passed.
However, for a person to say that they "hope this works" when so much is at stake, suggests that person is a fool. The system was not broken. It had problems that could have been addressed in an incremental fashion, such that any small modifications of an extremely complex system could have been evaluated and addressed before they created insurmountable problems. The attempt to redesign the entire system is an expression of the greatest hubris.
In ancient Greek tragedies, Hubris usually preceded Nemesis.
I have a number of close friends who are lawyers. Almost all of them are unhappy with their profession and, although they typically earn more money than I do, most have from time to time expressed some envy of my degree and status. Obviously this is not a statistically relevant sample and all conclusions are highly speculative yet there are a number of significant items that suggest that resentment and envy fuel some of the unconscious animus between Doctors and Lawyers. Further, there is reason to believe that the training and cognitive styles that distinguish Lawyers as opposed to Doctors is a contributor to the bureaucratization of our society, now accelerated by the efforts of the Legislative "reformers". Consider:
A Supervisor once commented to me early in my career, in a conversation detailing why he no longer relied on insurance coverage when setting fees with his patients, that his professional goal was to be "fat, dumb, and happy." His sardonic comment was meant to imply that as a Psychoanalyst, all he wanted was to be left alone to work with his patients. Once insurance coverage and government regulations became part of the treatment, he was no longer in a position to determine the conduct of his practice. Further, third party payment could, and often did, introduce difficult, unanalyzable, confounding paradigms into the treatment. Third parties can be analyzed within Psychoanalysis as long as they are primarily resident in the patient's unconscious; once the third party actually entered into the therapeutic dyad, they became real, rather than fantasied, and their unconscious meaning can never be adequately analyzed. (I will not offer a detailed explanation of this point but can assure you that reality can sometimes be so compelling and/or defensively adaptive as to defy analysis. This is related to Freud's discussion of "secondary gain.")
Doctors enter Medical School out of a scientific academic background. They are primarily interested in reducing complexity to order in as efficacious a manner as possible. Only by distilling the relevant signs and symptoms can a patient be diagnosed and treated. Unnecessary complexity is the enemy of Medicine. (Necessary complexity is the basis for Medicine turning into an Information Science/Technology in the years to come, however.) As Medical Professors are fond of saying, "Never look for a zebra in a herd of horses." In other words, the most obvious diagnosis should always be your starting point. Two other points pertaining to Doctors are salient. First, we learn early on to "first, do no harm." If a treatment is likely to be worse than the disorder or the patient is doing "well enough", making changes in your approach is more likely to lead to problems than improvements, in the absence of a proven new approach. Second, from an early stage of our careers we are put in the position of making life and death decisions. For some Doctors this can lead to the kinds of arrogance that tend to provoke countervailing efforts to attack and devalue the God-like being, yet it also means that Doctors tend to be late to concede our inevitable defeats. After all, ultimately, we always fail; every patient eventually dies, yet we "rage against the dieing of the light" for as long as we can. This is one reason so much of our Medical expenses occur in the last 6 months of life
In contrast, Lawyers typically come out of the soft social sciences. The are trained to believe that every injustice can be solved by adding to our body of rules and regulations (laws) and the basis of a "more perfect unioin" is the laws they promulgate. Combined with an unconscious, and sometimes conscious, resentment of Doctors' higher status, the use of Lilliputian ropes to bind Medicine, in the service of a fantasy that they will finally "fix" a system that is a chaotic mess (despite that most of us are pleased with the care we receive from our Doctors) must have been irresistible.
Frequent commenter Good Ole Charlie is in China and passes along this bit of news in an e-mail:
You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams...your site is one way blocked by the Great Firewall of China. This situation was not true last year.
I can read you, but I can't write you directly through your site.
But read you I shall for the next four-five weeks.
Good Ole Charlie
I feel honored that the Chinese government finds my little blog a danger to its dependents. I suspect that means my readers and commenters are subversives, too. If you're reading this Charlie, thanks for the good news!
While the Democrats celebrate the passage of their bill designed to increase government control over the American people, some solace can be taken in the fact that their plans are unsustainable, and as the old adage has it, anything that cannot continue indefinitely, won't. [Early warning signs are already being spotted.] We should also not lose sight of the fact that amazing things are happening in Medicine, and such advances should continue to occur (though more slowly in America because of the increased costs of innovation) as biology increasingly becomes an information science.
Israeli Doctors are in the forefront of Medical innovation:
For the first time in Israel, a man with one type of blood has donated his kidney to another person – his daughter – despite her incompatible blood type.
The successful operation, performed recently at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, was made possible by an unusual process in which the recipient’s immune system was neutralized to prevent it from fighting the donor organ.
The 19-year-old girl, Ortal Mahlev, has suffered for years from renal insufficiency. The only way to save Ortal, who has type B blood, was to receive a kidney from someone with type B or Type O (the universal donor). Her father, who lives in Ramat Hasharon, has type A blood.
Because her condition had seriously deteriorated, the Rabin team decided to process her blood so that her immune system would not try to destroy her father’s kidney.
Prof. Eitan Mor and Dr. Alexander Yusis of the transplant department, along with Dr. Ya’acov Orlin of the blood bank, ordered a process of plasmapheresis to separate her antibodies from the rest of her blood and return the blood to her body to reduce the risk of rejection. Ortal also received drugs and blood products to help in this process.
As her father’s kidney is functioning normally in her body, Ortal was discharged on Sunday. Mor said that the technique, used in some leading centers abroad, is regarded as a breakthrough in organ transplantation, because it expands the supply of suitable organ donations and can succeed even for the long term with suitable monitoring of antibodies levels.
What the article doesn't report, but is implicit, is that our understanding of the immune system, and the process of rejection, is accelerating in remarkable ways.
Not too many years ago Mrs. SW, an Occupational Therapist, treated an unfortunate young woman who had received a bone marrow transplant for Cancer. The transplant triggered a horrible syndrome, Graft versus Host disorder, which eventually killed the child after many years of struggle for her and her family. We now know why such outcomes occur and can prevent such tragedies. Further, we are entering a period where increasingly immune incompatibilities will be either treated to avoid poor outcomes or simply obviated by using our own Adult Stem Cells to grow, on order, whatever organs we need to repair or replace.
Of course, such treatments will be extremely expensive at first, as all new technologies tend to be. In the name of equality and cost control, government run health systems will refuse to pay for such innovative and expensive treatments. The wealthy will fly to the Cayman Islands, or perhaps Bangalore, where such treatment is less regulated and market priced. Eventually the price will decline to allow the Upper Middle Class to afford the treatments (but not in America; it is unlikely our ossified FDA will allow such treatments without first increasing the cost an order of magnitude or two.) The Middle Class, who today have access to cutting edge Medical Technology and treatments, will suffer unnecessarily and the poor will remain the poor, with even less access to quality medical care. (Doctors will go "on strike" against Medicaid, as is already happening, well before the rationing shows up elsewhere in the system.)
Nonetheless, for those who save their money and are willing and able to travel for care outside of the country, amazing things are in store.
On the other hand, it is possible people will demand a repeal before the most harmful aspects of the current bill become law. We will now find out what is in the bill, as Ms. Pelosi had promised, and I suspect the support for repeal will grow toward November.
In a comment to Surrendering to Army Ants, David Foster, the proprietor of Photon Courier linked to his post from last month, Sleeping with the Enemy. (His link was to an introduction to the post on his blog; I have linked to the full post at Chicago Boyz.) In his post, David discusses a forgotten novel:
Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for dictatorships and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these goons? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.
The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:
David's essay is rich and deep, well worth your time. Koestler joined the Communist party in 1931, in his mid-20s, but became disillusioned with the evils of Communism by the end of the 1930s. In 1940 he published his devastating anti-totalitarian novel, Darkness at Noon.
As noted, The Age of Longing (which I have not read) was published 10 years later and did not achieve the acclaim of his earlier book. However, the excerpts David Foster quotes illustrate Koestler's facility with language and ideas and the artist's ability to penetrate to the soul. The story is complicated. The heroine, Hydie, rejects a man who is appropriate in favor of a committed Communist, Fedya. The characters are all awaiting the inevitable invasion of western Europe by the Russian army and Fedya is part of the Soviet vanguard:
At a diplomatic affair, Hydie meets Fedya, a committed Communist who works for the Soviet Embassy. She is powerfully attracted to him: things get physical very quickly and, from Hydie’s point of view, very satisfactorily. (Fedya is one of Koestler’s best-developed characters. His boyhood in Baku is vividly sketched, and Koestler–himself a former Communist–does a good job in showing how a political faith can become core to an individual’s whole personality.)
The affair blows up when Fedya humiliates Hydie sexually in a way that could only have occurred to a Dialectical Materialist–and, indeed, humiliation was not Fedya’s intent, he was “only” attempting the demonstrate to her the truth of Pavlovian conditioning as an explanation for human behavior. Hurt and furious, she pours out her heart to Julien…who now feels free to tell her the truth about Fedya, a truth he felt unable to divulge while Fedya was Hydie’s lover.
Fedya’s real job, underneath his diplomatic cover, is to collect lists of names–the names of the key people to be killed or imprisoned immediately after the Soviet invasion. Hydie is, of course, horrified, and is particularly appalled that so many people already knew about Fedya’s activities–and did nothing to stop them–while she was blissfully unaware.
Hydie is the epitome of the Western "useful idiot" but it is not her soft ideology that Koestler and David Foster emphasize but rather her reflection of the dissolution and dissipation of the Western idea. David quotes Koestler, and adds his summation:
“Listen, please,” he said. “We have talked about these matters often before. You don’t like that we make scientific studies of human nature like Professor Pavlov. You don’t like revolutionary vigilance and lists on the social reliability of people, and discipline and re-education camps. You think I am brutal and ridiculous and uncultured. Then why did you like making love with me? I will tell you why and you will understand…”
“I am not a tall and handsome man…There are no tall and handsome men who come from the Black Town in Baku, because there were few vitamins in the food around the oilfields. So it was not for this that you liked to make love with me…It was because I believe in the future and am not afraid of it, and because to know what he lives for makes a man strong…Of course many ugly things are happening in my country. Do you think I do not know about them?…And what difference will it make in a hundred years that there is a little ugliness now? It always existed. In a hundred years there will be no ugliness–only a classless world state of free people. There will be no more wars and no more children born in Black Towns with big bellies and flies crawling in their eyes. And also no more children of the bourgeoisie with crippled characters because they grew up in a decadent society…I am not handsome, but you have felt attracted to me because you know that we will win and that we are only at the beginning–and that you will lose because you are at the end…That is why I was not afraid of your little revolver, because you can’t have the courage to shoot me. To kill, one must believe in something.”
Nevertheless, Hydie pulls the trigger…
One one level, this book is sort of a romance novel, with the theme “chicks like self-confident guys.” This is no doubt true, but emphasizing this point wasn’t Koestler’s main reason for writing Age of Longing. Koestler’s deeper theme is that the decline in religious belief in the West (and Koestler himself was certainly no traditional religious believer) has created a hunger for faith which will likely be filled by those who carry their convictions with great certainty.
I could simply quote the entire essay but suggest you go to his post and read the whole thing. It has become trite to note the feminization of the West and the price we are paying for our insistence, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that all people are not just created with equal value (which is actually a fairly vapid idea once any reference to God is removed from societal discourse) but that the absence of equal outcomes must denote societal disrepair. These reflections of our commitment to Political Correctness are a measure of the soft collectivism that even the Republicans have adopted. It is possible that the overt collectivist policies that the current Democratic leadership is pressing will evoke enough of a reaction to stop our progress toward a 21st century quasi-Socialism, but what I find most interesting is that the "ground up" zeitgeist is increasingly at odds with the overt diminution of the rights and responsibilities of the individual.
Societies, as in Europe and parts of Asia, who transition from the potential of empowered individuals to a cheap narcissism risk demographic collapse. If there is nothing more important than the self, sacrifices for another (ie, offspring) are unthinkable and undone. They are then left with no ability or inclination to defend against the predations of more confident Collectives, an apt description of Islam in its current incarnation. A warrior wiling to die for his beliefs is always more appealing to a young woman, who owns the future after all, than an effete, dedicated narcissist.
Pre-industrial Collectivism was the norm. Tribes and ethnically homogeneous groupings were the rule. Individuals were subordinate to the group ethos. Gradually, as the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution matured, ie as increasing numbers of people became increasingly empowered, Collectivist solutions diminished. In reaction to the excesses of Capitalism, Karl Marx introduced a new structure that leveraged the foundations of tribalism (deprivation and envy.) Communism showed itself to be a monumental and monstrous failure in the most human terms; more people were murdered by Communism in the 20th century than in all the religious (ie, tribal) wars before it. If we add in the other 20th century Collectivist ideology, Nazism, a tribal ideology based on race, he deaths attributed to our primitive tribalism in modern guise, numbered in the hundreds of millions. the left was thoroughly discredited by its failures but the collectivist urge, based as it is on the twin human banes of deprivation and envy, can never disappear. No matter how wealthy a society becomes, there will always be some who have less than others, and always some who have less than they desire. Yet, in the 21st century, there is a growing tension between the individual and the collective that is moving powerfully against the collective.
Our technology, in its accelerating acceleration, is making each of us potentially more powerful than individuals have ever been before. There will soon come a time when small communities, perhaps even individuals, will be able to live with all the accouterments of modern high tech existence, with minimal interaction with governing bodies and those who act in the name of the Collective.
It should not be a surprise that just at a pivotal moment when the rights, abilities, and responsibilities of the individual are set to make a quantum leap to a new level, we have a reaction form those who are most insecure about the future. The Left continues to think of itself as the vanguard (no longer of the proletariat perhaps, but of the future course of society.) They pride themselves on being progressives, keepers of the future, yet the most progressive ideas today all involve empowering the individual.
If we surrender to the siren call of pseudo-security, protected by a benevolent government from the vicissitudes of life, we will continue to descend into the morass of Civilizational Insecurity and will find ourselves less and less able to defend our liberties against those who would encroach upon them. Many of our institutions have already surrendered (as for example, our failing and fading Mainstream Media who will almost dare never utter a word that might offend our enemies.) It is likely that the next two election cycles will determine whether or not We, the People, are ready to follow.