Thursday, July 27, 2006

Culture is the Key

Hugh Fitzgerald has a lengthy but worthwhile article on the administration’s inability to understand Islam and what that means. Tony Blankley contrasts the tough anti-communism of the 50s with the pathetic attempt to deal with today’s Islamic threat. Two years ago I wrote a lengthy article lamenting that very fact. It also made many of the same criticism of conservatives that Fitzgerald makes—and to his credit has been making all along.

The bottom line is that people pay short shrift to culture and the role of philosophy (in this case religion) in maintaining that culture. If the old communist notion of the infinite immutability of human nature was a utopian dream destined to be history’s greatest nightmare, the current watered-down version, that character and culture can be jettisoned upon request, blinds us to the extent that fundamental ideas have a grip on the soul of an individual or society’s culture, with dire consequences for our dealing effectively with today’s reality. A philosophy, or worldview, is such an integrating force for understanding and behaving—for connecting the vast events of the day and narrowing down the possible course of action—that to change it would be tantamount to becoming another person.

As we understand a person’s actions by understanding his/her character, we understand a culture’s unfolding by learning about its dominant philosophy or religion.

12 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Does Tony Blankley (accent ague on the "blank") equate islam with communism?

As I remember it, in places like Korea and others, the communists had effective armies. They occupied countries by proxy and presented a direct threat to U.S. interest.

If you can explain how any of that is equivalent to the current muslim world I would be interested in hearing you detail the great "Islamic threat".

Pardon me if I think it's a bogey man that various entities need to create to keep frightened right wing children in line.

7/27/06, 2:34 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

The Nazi and Communist threats relied on conventional military power. Even after the communists acquired nuclear weapons their proxies relied on conventional military power until recently with North Korea.

Our unwillingness to crush nations that sponsor terror and the growing spread of nuclear weapons means that the lethal capacity of any oiled-up Islamic savage makes them a greater threat to America than the Nazi Wehrmacht. The latter was never posed to damage major American cities. But covert Islamic attacks can and very likely will strike American cities bring us to our knees before we strike back.

Israel is in worse shape since she was unaware of some of the sophisticated weapons positioned north of her border and will be unable to stop a nuclear attack. Israel will be annihilated unless Iran is neutralized. On the European front, nations are slowly being subverted from within reminiscent of communist 5th column threat, but here it is immigration rather than recruitment.

Of course, if in 2000, I told you that Arab terrorists would destroy the WTC, you’d call be a deluded right-wing paranoid. After the next attack, the left will say there was never any threat until we provoked them. We got your number.

7/27/06, 4:06 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Jason,
I'll have to revisit to read the lengthy articles you referenced--too tired tonight to focus for long. But I want to say "Hear! Hear!" to the following comment you made:

Of course, if in 2000, I told you that Arab terrorists would destroy the WTC, you’d call be a deluded right-wing paranoid. After the next attack, the left will say there was never any threat until we provoked them.

And the last sentence of your article sums up a critical point, IMO:

As we understand a person’s actions by understanding his/her character, we understand a culture’s unfolding by learning about its dominant philosophy or religion.

7/27/06, 9:14 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Pardon me if I think it's a bogey man that various entities need to create to keep frightened right wing children in line.

This from the same dumbass who will swear the Cold War ended with the Cuban Missile Crisis on any other day.

Ducky, it's getting harder and harder to believe that you don't smoke crack.

7/28/06, 1:26 AM  
Blogger Weingarten said...

I wish to second the "Here! Here!" that Always On Watch gave, as it focused on two essential points.

With regard to the first point, there were a few who noted that the first World Trade Center bombing aimed at bringing down one of the buildings.

With regard to the second point, one might characterize the dominant outlooks of Islam and the West. For the former, it is the imperative of the believers to forcefully subordinate mankind to Allah; for the latter it is the commitment for government to bestow benefits on the unproductive, at the expense of the productive.

When these outlooks interact, the former is committed to taking, while the latter is committed to giving. Their interaction can only be a strengthening of Islam, along with a weakening of the West.

This raises the questions of what will be, and what should be. Currently, what will be is the continuation of the suicide of the West, and the homicide of Islam. What should be is the replacement of the sacrificial Social Democratic outlook, by the kind of self-enhancing outlook that is offered by Liberty And Culture. We must cease undermining our civilization, and instead rebuild it.

7/28/06, 6:28 AM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Jason,

I agree. It is becoming very apparent that when the next big attack comes, the left will still be out to lunch, because they will blame Bush for having provoked the otherwise sweet Islamofascists.

For a long time now, I have expected that things would change. I thought the left would come around and be a part of Western Civilization again, and I thought decent Muslims would rise up and take control of their religion.

Apparently, I have been wrong, for the reasons you state.

Somehow we were able to effect change in post-WWII Japan. I believe we have not been as ruthless in our prosecution of the Iraq war and its aftermath, and I think that is some of the reason for our lack of progress. However, it does seem rather apparent that even if we were able to effect real change in Iraq, or another Islamic country, there would still be tens of thousands of Islamofascists ready and willing to kill the decent in order to establish the indecent.

7/28/06, 9:29 AM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Beamish, once Kruschev backed down over Cuban missiles it was over.
There was a standoff and the Soviet Union went into its economic decline.
I'm sorry that rational people can't credit St. Raygun with anything but rhetoric.

I will say that if Brezhnev had lived, Ronnie Raygun may have gotten us into one big freakin' war. That much is possible. I leave you to explain why that was necessary when it was obvious the Soviet Union was in severe decline.

7/28/06, 9:48 AM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Unfortunately Jason you through your Randoid economic sympathies wouldn't help our culture.
The commodification of a culture intrinsically creates value system in which the importance once conferred on ideas has been shifted to commodities [cars, clothes, large homes etc.] and day-to-day life is rendered more trivial as it progresses without meaningful questions.
Certainly you can see this in the crap film and music "culture" that is out there (Beamish, how but a chorus of "Freebird") but the state of the media as "the market" finds it can make bucks on news as entertainment is even more troubling.

Remember, the "free market" (LMAO) regresses to the mean, the least common denominator. It cannot do otherwise and maximize profit. When it starts doing that with your culture its time to recant and stop whining.

7/28/06, 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

Comrade Duck writes: "The commodification of a culture intrinsically creates [a?] value system in which the importance once conferred on ideas has been shifted to commodities. . . ." Love that clunky Marxist prose. The Duck Pasha most be the last person in the US to still subscribe to THE DAILY WORKER. Actually, I think it likely that more value is attached to commodities in, say, Cuba or North Korea than in the US--because scarcity tends to increase value. And as much of a Nockian/Menckenish elitist as I am, I'm willing to live with the vulgarisation of culture under a free-market because I'm okay with the yahoo being able to get his "Freebird" as long as I'm able to get my Wagner, Mahler and Yanni. In a collectivist society, someone like Commissar Duck would be taking that choice away from us deliberately, if his stupid economic policies didn't eliminate our choices through scarcity. (Duck would probably ban "Freebird," or at least insist that it be retitiled "Socially Responsible Bird.")

7/28/06, 11:02 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

You had me before Yanni. :)
Actually, you said it well. Excellent points. No matter who is performing at Madison Square Garden, one can still go to Carnegie Hall. One doesn’t have to be in the majority in a free society.

While music and art is important, when I talk about culture, I’m primarily concerned with ethical percepts and political principles; in addition, epistemology (which I don’t talk about here.)

The greatest threat to our cultural comes from the universities. We could use a free market in education but a free market doesn’t guarantee people will make the wisest choices. A free market just won’t enshrine the worst choices. It is not so accidental that illiberal societies degenerate into spiritual and material wastelands. In the long-run a healthy ideas and material prosperity go hand and hand.

7/28/06, 11:43 AM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Jason did you read the Department of Education report (the one they tried to bury buy releasing on a Friday afternoon)?

No achievement differences between public and private schools.
There have been similar studies done in Boston and parochial schools were found to be no different in achievement when you control for economic factors.

Now we do have some problems with education but we can't wait for the Randoids to help solve them. You are far more interested in ideological purity (you are a Stalinist which is why I feel you deserve so much reproach) than actual progress and solutions.

My take would be that the arts are critical because they will invigorate debate and lower income kids have to be given a stake in the culture which is not being done by following the Bushista economic line which is dampening social mobility and widening the income disparity (deadly to an open democratic culture).

7/28/06, 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

If there are no achievement differences between private and public schools, either (a) the private schools have lowered their standards drastically since I went to school; or (b) there has been an amazing improvement in the public schools. Except in isolated cases so rare that they become celebrated in the media as exceptions to the rule (e.g., Marva Collins), scenario (b) seems unlikely.
For what it's worth, I went to private Catholic elementary and high schools, which at the time were well known for their high standards. For one thing, disruptive students could and would be removed from the premises immediately. (That is, if they were lucky. The nuns and Christian Brothers might instead simply beat them into docility. Problem solved.) Non-Catholic parents wanted to get their kids into these schools just so the kids could get a decent education and not get knifed. The Catholic high schools--at least in the NYC area--seemed also good at producing students who could think critically. (They were so good at this, in fact, that many of us eventually left the Church.) Perhaps in subsequent years they've lowered their standards, as I've heard. Now, probably, even Mr. Ducky would be considered one of the sharper students. I mean, say what you want about his reasoning processes, or lack thereof (because, you know, logic is a tool of the ruling classes to oppress the laborers), at least Ducky is able to read, memorize and regurgitate big chunks of Marxist jargon and rhetoric. Most students graduating from high school today probably couldn't even do that unless Big Bird taught them "DAS KAPITAL for Kids" on TV, which given the ideological bent of most PBS stations, isn't probably isn't that far out a scenario.

7/28/06, 2:44 PM  

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