As a three-year resident of Lower Manhattan whose apartment is situated no farther from Ground Zero than the future Cordoba House—that is, a couple of blocks away—I might be expected to entertain no very tepid feelings toward this Islamic complex and the controversy it has provoked. As it happens, my take on the whole enterprise has undergone quite a bit of reassessment since I first heard of plans by Muslim developers of suspect financing to build a mega-mosque on Ground Zero. The phrasing of the last sentence alone should give some inkling as to the first corrections in order.
If built at all, the Cordoba House, or Park51, as it’s now being called, will be an Islamic cultural center hosting a library, auditorium, gym, swimming pool, day-care center, and culinary school—out of which some space for an indoor mosque shall be carved, true. But what a far cry from a mega-mosque of towering minarets, blaring out the calls of muezzins five times a day, summoning the faithful to prayer! And it wouldn’t stand on Ground Zero or even overlook it. As to the sources of the funds, the developers have so far raised only enough money to buy the old building on Park Place, which they intend to demolish. The rest, an estimated $100 million needed to actually build, furnish, and staff the 13-story Islamic complex, remains to be vouched for. No terror-tainted sources have been tied to the developers’ financing, nor any irregularities found with their assets. At this point, none are likely to surface either, at least not before more funds can be raised and their sources scrutinized.
And yet, even after the smoke cloud of misleading rhetoric is dispersed, a sour taste still lingers about this Cordoba initiative, which no profusion of goodwill can clear away. For one thing, there is the questionable symbolism of Cordoba, where Muslims, Catholics, and Jews admittedly lived in relative peace for a few centuries, but only as far as the former subjugated the latter two, at least nominally. However enlightened this Caliphate of the Middle Ages was, and whatever the merits of the arrangements that prevailed between its religious communities, none of them could be held up as a model for emulation in the 21st century.
Then there’s Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf, the public face of the project. Though professing himself a moderate dedicated to improving relations between the West and the Muslim World—and taken as such at his word by the State Department, in whose employ he is currently journeying to the Middle East on a mission of “interfaith outreach”—he can supposedly reconcile said religious tolerance and liberality with the implications of the following statements (emphases mine):
I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened [September 11, 2001]. But the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. … Because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.
Asked whether Hamas meets the definition of terrorist group:
I’m not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.
Is Feisal Abdul-Rauf a woolly cleric, well meaning but naïve, and perhaps somewhat scornful of consistency—moral and intellectual—that alleged hobgoblin of small minds? Or is he rather a subversive, astute fanatic, well versed in those formulaic platitudes that make a leftist’s heart melt but wholly unmoved by the charms of such things as Coexist bumper stickers? Of course, he might even be a mere career fundraiser, secretly indifferent to questions of theology or conscience, jealous of his professional reputation as bridge-builder extraordinaire, and too mindful of wealthy donors and patrons in the Middle East to risk stepping on their toes by damning their pet terrorist groups. In any case, Mr. Abdul-Rauf does not seem the kind of man anyone in his right mind would want to welcome into his neighborhood, especially as the head of his local Islamic community center.
Last and most important, although the most incensed critics of Park51 have shamelessly overstated the actual proximity of the complex to Ground Zero, I cannot but judge it in very poor taste to insist that this Islamic cultural center should be built nearly two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood. Even if the most honorable intentions could be imputed to the developers, demolishing a building damaged on September 11, 2001, by fragments of the hijacked planes, in order to erect in its place an Islamic center, is so obviously crass that they shouldn’t wonder why the majority of Americans—68 percent, by the latest count—oppose the undertaking.
That’s as far as I can sympathize with the opponents of the Cordoba House. And the American Center for Law and Justice could have obtained both my signature and my support had it organized a private petition for New Yorkers to civilly register their disapproval of Park51 instead of trying to block its construction through the courts. But, I should hope, the distinction between finding something distasteful and justifying coercive action against it cannot be so subtle as to elude most Americans. It is a hallmark of civilization—conspicuously wanting, by the way, in those Islamic societies whose young men seethed with rage and destroyed everything they could get their hands on because the portrayal of their prophet in certain Danish cartoons had mortally offended them.
It might have been possible to shame the developers of Park51 into reconsidering where to build their Islamic center, had their right to build it wherever they pleased not been called into question. But because most opponents started to conflate that matter with whether the mosque and Islamic center in Lower Manhattan were generally desirable or publicly acceptable, so, in turn, did some champions of the other side of the debate. In the process, the shady imam and his fellow developers have acquired the aura of noble “martyrs” to the cause of the First Amendment, bold visionaries molested by a growing mob of bigots—which is unfortunate and counterproductive. Of course, they must build near Ground Zero now, to prove that they can, their plight carrying such a high symbolic weight and what have you.
So we must contend with a thorny First Amendment case—and no, zoning laws cannot treat a mosque near Ground Zero as they might treat liquor stores near schools or strip malls in places where they offend local sensibilities, because neither liquor stores nor strip malls are expressly protected by the Constitution, whereas the free exercise of religion is. Therefore, no government interference with the developers’ property rights could be warranted. And this marks the first topic of public interest on which I fully agree with President Obama, who said:
Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.
But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.
Neither did I find his subsequent clarification the least bit disingenuous; quite the contrary:
I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.
So there is no arguing on whose side the law is. As for decency, well, I wish I could say that decency, at least, were squarely on the side of Cordoba’s opponents, but their cause has been hijacked by the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, bottom-feeding activists who, collectively, allege that Barack Obama is the love child of Malcolm X and extol Serbian war criminals indicted by the Hague Tribunal as valiant paladins of our civilization (for having slaughtered thousands of Muslims in the Balkans). Another leader of the opposition to Cordoba, John Joseph Jay, considers every single Muslim a legitimate target for murder. These three have founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sponsors the anti-Cordoba ads now plastered over New York buses, and work closely with the aforementioned American Center for Law and Justice. Suffice it to say, such people do not represent me and should not represent anyone who understands what they are up to.
But leaving these anti-Muslim fanatics aside, the sane opponents of Cordoba—most of them staunch conservatives and champions of individual liberties—must still account for the unprincipled ease with which they propose to infringe the property rights of private developers. Hypocrisy, however, is a plague on both houses, conservative and liberal. For it is the latter, the usual proponents of Eminent Domain, most of whom have never heard of a Walmart or casino in their remotest vicinity whose construction they didn’t want to stop, but whose lips are now curling up in self-righteous indignation at the gross encroachment upon these Muslim developers’ property rights. Of the many counterfactual scenarios and thought experiments so popular with those pundits fond of reasoning by analogy, my favorite is by Cathy Young, from her excellent piece in RealClearPolitics:
Let us consider a hypothetical, leaving aside for a moment the usual examples involving Germans and Auschwitz or the Japanese and Pearl Harbor. Suppose a group of Christian anti-abortion fanatics bombed the offices of Planned Parenthood in New York, killing hundreds. Suppose that, 10 years later, a conservative Christian group, strongly pro-life though repudiating violence, wanted to build a 13-story community center and church next to the site of this tragedy.
Most likely, the roles in this debate would be reversed. Quite a few liberals would denounce the planned construction of the center as a slap in the face to the victims and their families; the likes of Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin would decry anti-Christian bias and voice outrage that the actions of a handful of extremists would be used to denigrate all Christians or all abortion opponents.
Indeed. Apparently, no ground is as hallowed as to deter some from exploiting the sentiments it commonly excites. But of the 68 percent of Americans opposed to the Cordoba House, I wonder what percentage concede that the developers have every right to build their mosque and Islamic complex near Ground Zero. And whatever our numbers be, I also wonder, who represents us in this debate?
Congress has passed or contemplated so many blunders of late that I, for one, am finding it harder and harder to muster fresh outrage toward every new one. But this latest being cooked up by Chris Dodd deserves a special shout out:
First, Dodd’s bill would require startups raising funding to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then wait 120 days for the SEC to review their filing. A second provision raises the wealth requirements for an “accredited investor” who can invest in startups—if the bill passes, investors would need assets of more than $2.3 million (up from $1 million) or income of more than $450,000 (up from $250,000). The third restriction removes the federal pre-emption allowing angel and venture financing in the United States to follow federal regulations, rather than face different rules between states.
All the prerogatives over private businesses; all the power over health care, now near absolute; all the dabbling in the inner workings of financial institutions; in short, all the regulation in the world, couldn’t satisfy this government. Are the Democrat legislators ever going to have enough? Or is their regulatory fetish feverishly looking for new, exotic objects?
It was not uncommon for a pharaoh to deface the monuments of his predecessors, insert his name in their inscriptions, or impose his likeness on the heads of their statues. The enterprising ruler—whoever he might have been—responsible for introducing this practice debased the respect traditionally accorded to a Pharaoh’s postmortem, opening the door of precedent for successors to usurp his monuments and achievements in turn. Fiddling with the permanence of the past in exchange for artificial boosts to a leader’s legacy tends to be self-defeating.
Today the Obama administration is behaving as if its mandate—conferred by a majority of voters frustrated with the Bush administration—carried sufficient authority not only to break with the past but also to undo it. The new man in the White House is bringing retroactive changes to foreign policy and showing no scruples about reneging on the long-term commitments of his country when they interfere with his own plans. On September 17, President Barack Obama officially announced that he would abandon the Eastern European missile-shield program, thus scrapping the treaties Gorge W. Bush had signed with Poland and the Czech Republic. The decision has drawn expressions of dismay from the governments of both countries.
“Catastrophic for Poland” is how a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense described the suspension of the program. Mirek Topolanek, the former Czech prime minister who had gone out on a limb with his own electorate by signing the missile-defense treaty two years ago, interpreted the decision as another sign that “the Americans are not interested in this territory as they were before.” He added ruefully that “this is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence.” Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland and founder of Solidarity, observed with bitterness: “I can see what kind of policy the Obama administration is pursuing toward this part of Europe. The way we are being approached needs to change.”
Brian Deese hails from the establishment elites: the son of an engineer specializing in “renewable energy” and a political science professor at Boston College, he majored in political science at Middlebury College, went on to Yale Law School, took leave to become deputy economic policy director for the Obama campaign, then moved on to the White House’s National Economic Council. The New York Times recently profiled Mr. Deese, 31 years old, as the face behind the dismantling and restructuring of General Motors:
Mr. Deese’s role is unusual for someone who is neither a formally trained economist nor a business school graduate, and who never spent much time flipping through the endless studies about the future of the American and Japanese auto industries.
The profile quotes Lawrence Summers on Deese:
“And there he was in the Roosevelt Room, speaking up vigorously to make the point that the costs we were going to incur giving Fiat a chance were no greater than some of the hidden costs of liquidation.”
Yet Mr. Deese’s impressive legal and politically scientific education has apparently not instilled in him any basic understanding of opportunity cost. Presiding over General Motors’s operations should teach him a few lessons, which he is likely to ignore, as have scores of career bureaucrats preceding him. The argument Mr. Deese employed in favor of nationalizing General Motors — that costs to the government would be greater under dissolution due to associated unemployment and insurance expenses — betrays inability to see past the numbers in front of him.
Experience, and particularly Barack Obama’s purported lack thereof, had been a rhetorical hot button throughout this suspenseful electoral race. I personally considered it a powerful argument in favor of John McCain not because I believe experience particularly hones political skill or renders a candidate more fit to govern, but because it provides the electorate with a reasonable estimate of what kind of shortcomings (and of what magnitude) to expect from that candidate. Voters could then assess this empirically observed predisposition for disaster and rationally decide whether they can live with it for the next four years.
The American electorate must not be nearly as risk averse as I am since it just gave Barack ‘Black-Box’ Obama a resounding vote of confidence. He managed to build a vast but unstable coalition around a deliberately vague platform of ‘all-things-to-all-people’ platitudes designed to be meaningful only in the mind’s eye of the uncritical beholder. Not only are his idealistic (read: loony leftist) supporters in for a rude awakening once Obama fails to fulfill their fantasies, but his staunchest critics too may be disappointed when their apocalyptic predictions are not fulfilled: “Obama’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
The president elect has not said or done anything earth-shattering since delivering his victory speech, but so far the signals from his transitional team should be encouraging to anyone hoping for a centrist or at least non-ideologically leftist disposition from the new administration. Obama has already hinted at leaving the Bush tax cuts alone, is keeping Bush’s Secretary of Defense, has dropped his windfall profits tax proposal, and has aggregated an economic team which even Karl Rove considers respectable. While the leftist fringes are understandably experiencing buyer’s remorse, some seedy corners of the Right are swarming with hyper paranoid delusions fueled by the urge to preemptively demonize Obama before he has even taken office, let alone implemented any concrete executive orders.
Conspiratorial rumors about Obama’s birth certificate and of him being a Muslim or the son of a communist spy are not just bizarre and ridiculous in themselves, but they signal a failure at constructive political introspection from the Right. Republicans better address their shortcoming and work at redefining their message going forward. Immediately after the election I was concerned whether most voters were so emotionally invested in Obama’s success that they would airbrush his upcoming debacles. Now that the fringes of the Right are starting to agitate so soon after the election, my biggest worry is that some of Obama’s opponents may be so emotionally invested in hatred of their political rival as to lose the ability (and credibility) for mature political debate.
I found this lovely political cartoon while browsing through the pages of The Courier Journal on a recent trip to Louisville.
Kentucky’s journalistic elites reveal holding a rather bold view of their state’s electorate. Contemptuous insinuations of ‘racism’ charges have been seen and heard plenty of during this electoral race, but this cartoon is so painfully lacking in subtlety that it reminded me of an insightful article from The Los Angeles Times.
For the first time in human history, a largely white nation has elected a black man to be its paramount leader. And the cultural meaning of this unprecedented convergence of dark skin and ultimate power will likely become — at least for a time — a national obsession. In fact, the Obama presidency will always be read as an allegory. Already we are as curious about the cultural significance of his victory as we are about its political significance.
Does his victory mean that America is now officially beyond racism? Does it finally complete the work of the civil rights movement so that racism is at last dismissible as an explanation of black difficulty? Can the good Revs. Jackson and Sharpton now safely retire to the seashore? Will the Obama victory dispel the twin stigmas that have tormented black and white Americans for so long — that blacks are inherently inferior and whites inherently racist? Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a “post-racial” America? And shouldn’t those of us — white and black — who did not vote for Mr. Obama take pride in what his victory says about our culture even as we mourn our political loss?
Answering no to such questions is like saying no to any idealism; it seems callow. How could a decent person not hope for all these possibilities, or not give America credit for electing its first black president? And yet an element of Barack Obama’s success was always his use of the idealism implied in these questions as political muscle. His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America — and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.
Obama’s special charisma — since his famous 2004 convention speech — always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas. In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up — given an air of “change” — by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in.
This worked politically for Obama because it tapped into a deep longing in American life — the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism. In running for the presidency — and presenting himself to a majority white nation — Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma.
Obama is what I have called a “bargainer” — a black who says to whites, “I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me.” Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.
Obama’s post-racial idealism told whites the one thing they most wanted to hear: America had essentially contained the evil of racism to the point at which it was no longer a serious barrier to black advancement. Thus, whites became enchanted enough with Obama to become his political base. It was Iowa — 95% white — that made him a contender. Blacks came his way only after he won enough white voters to be a plausible candidate.
Of course, it is true that white America has made great progress in curbing racism over the last 40 years. I believe, for example, that Colin Powell might well have been elected president in 1996 had he run against a then rather weak Bill Clinton. It is exactly because America has made such dramatic racial progress that whites today chafe so under the racist stigma. So I don’t think whites really want change from Obama as much as they want documentation of change that has already occurred. They want him in the White House first of all as evidence, certification and recognition.
Never express yourself more clearly than you think. —Niels Bohr
Barack Obama and the political architects of what will be his administration have expressed themselves rather clearly with respect to their plans for imposing mandatory community service on young Americans. The puzzle is figuring out just what they are thinking!
Here we have Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff, in a 2006 interview with Ben Smith of the NY Daily News. Perhaps Emanuel was not expecting to be in a position to have to own up to his own words when this interview took place, but some of his most outrageous utterances seem to have inspired Obama’s “master plan” for America.
Right before the nine-minute mark of the podcast we hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
Citizenship is not an entitlement program. It comes with responsibility.
Citizenship is not an entitlement program? Well Mr. Emanuel, the nation’s top 1% earners who shoulder as great a tax burden as the bottom 95% would not argue with you over that. For them citizenship is more like a charity program. In fact, the nation’s highest-earning one-fifth of households receive $0.41 for every dollar paid in taxes —the rest going to finance entitlement programs for the bottom one-fifth which receive $8.21 in government spending for each dollar paid in taxes.
Anyone for whom citizenship can be conceived of as a welfare program owes such privileged existence to the productive citizens whose socks are being taxed off. The government cannot expect gratitude or reciprocation from the recipients of its “generous benevolence” funded by the compulsory taxation of other people’s dime.
Emanuel’s pronouncement sounds like a vernacular paraphrase of John F. Kennedy‘s “…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…” regarding which Milton Friedman had the following to say (and I couldn’t have said it any better):
In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive.
The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom? And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? (Capitalism and Freedom)
The political conglomerate of pseudo compassionate anti-establishment collectivists we commonly refer to as “the Left” in America, has furthered its agenda by appealing to the electorate’s passion for radical personal freedoms since the 1960s. Social liberalism represents one side of the libertarian-philosophy coin, and its adoption by Leftist activists has been one of the few redeeming qualities of the Democratic Party. It seems as though in the face of ideological degeneration by the Republican Party, —manifested in its abandon of fiscal responsibility and free enterprise ideals (the other side of the coin)— Democrats are lowering their own standards too by compromising on their support for personal freedoms. In such an environment of intellectual slack the mask is finally slipping on the Left’s true agenda.
Being in the opposition party no longer, being the anti-establishment rebels no longer, they have no more need for their staple “stick it to the man” oratory flaming up our culture, and no more affinity for “personal freedoms”. The Left is mainstreaming and its agenda is achieving dreadful consistency.
The dichotomy between economic freedom and personal freedom had always been a faux rhetorical construction. Economic tyranny, even within an unrealistic bubble of personal freedom, can be reduced to a state of limited autonomy within bureaucratic boundaries dictating severe redistribution of the fruits of any successful efforts. Economic tyranny entails an indirect and often passive infringement of personal freedoms. Personal tyranny is directly intrusive and the active intervention required to enforce it cannot go unnoticed or un-resented by the citizenry. Infringements of either personal or economic liberties are all steps toward the same absolutist political direction, whatever their different nuances on the radicalism scale.
History reveals economic planning and social engineering to be sister tyrannies. In none of the countries where communism ever took over were personal freedoms of speech, association, or personal expression (dress code), reproductive rights, or privacy considerations respected. The absolutist self-declared representatives of the proletariat dictated not only the logistics and priorities of economic production but also conformist uniform morality to the masses. Personal freedom without economic freedom was always unsustainable middle ground.
The new administration is insinuating itself very boldly in the spectrum of personal freedoms previously assumed to be off-limits for the Left. Obama and Emanuel will not be satisfied with allowing us to lead our individual lives as we please while merely contingently burdening us with heavy taxes in case we “overly” succeed at making a living. No. They also want your sweat and blood. They want to not only ration the funds in your bank account, but also the hours in your week during high school and college, as well as a bloc of a few months between the 18th and 25th year of your life.
Is the Left getting bolder, or is it just getting consistent?
A casual observer of Albanian Communist cultural paraphernalia (such as Enver’s speeches, Socialist Realist paintings, Party-approved monuments or poems, state-produced films, etc.) might deduce that Enver Hoxha fancied himself a glorious leader of an epic rural nation because of the pervasive themes of mythological collective greatness and romanticized legends coloring Albania’s grim history. Enver is also portrayed as nothing short of an Iliadic hero. But that’s because of all the quixotic sugar-coating, underneath which Enver’s relationship with his people was merely that between a shepherd and a big flock of sheep. Yet judging by what little of his writings I have managed to stomach reading, he sounded like a romantic type of sorts, hence the many coats of purely ornamental lipstick on the pig that his 50-year reign was.
Aside from the vast legacy of quintessentially communist, hideous, decrepit, pigeonhole-type multipurpose buildings whose cheap paint has been peeling off for decades like a leper’s scabs, and, let’s not forget, the nearly 800,000 bunkers awkwardly dotting every corner of the country, Albanians have another haunting ubiquitous scar by which to remember Uncle Enver (as his young minions were expected to affectionately address him, just shy of full-fledged Big-Brotherhood): the aftermath of his pathological pursuit of Albanian folk music as a medium for communist indoctrination and personal self-aggrandizement. Certainly not the humblest of fellows, Uncle Enver relentlessly insinuated himself into Albanian art, and had epic songs re-written to glorify himself as the one and only eternal mythological leader of the Communist Party and, by extension, of the entire nation.
The repulsive paintings and sculptures in the vein of Socialist Realism are one thing. That genre was a totalitarian and expressionally barren artistic staple of Communist rule across the world. As much of a sore to the eyes as that “art” was, it is now no more, with no irrevocable harm done. By contrast, the perversion of Albanian music is a far graver and uniquely damaging offense because song has historically been the paramount medium of artistic expression for the Albanian people —an icon of cultural identity far more relevant than visual art. Epic songs form the centerpiece of Albania’s oral tradition. Replacing the historic themes of Albanian music with idolization of a modern totalitarian dogma is more subtly Orwellian than any act of blatant revisionism could have been.
In order for the Western reader to appreciate just how abominable this perversion of art truly is, some basic familiarity with the epic musical tradition of Albania is needed. Below are a few sample songs with lyrics translated by yours truly, for you to explore and digest before we dive head-on into Uncle Enver’s hard-core dementia. Traditional songs will be analyzed for a compare-and-contrast exercise with Communist pseudo-folk creations. I hope you may find this batch of songs interesting and, —dare I hope?— instructive, even from a purely anthropological perspective into the cultural heritage of this obscure Balkan nation.
Hasmi zu vatane/ The enemy has taken over the homeland
Lulet u thane/ Flowers have dried up
Flaka mbuloi fshane/ Flames have engulfed the village
Foshnjat u qane/ The babies have cried themselves out
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
Nxirrni Jatagane/ Pull out your swords
Zini histikme/ Take your positions
Ne na kini prane/ Stay close to us
Trima me palle/ Brave boys with swords
O ju djemte tane/ Oh you boys of ours
This emotionally electrifying, somber song from the South portrays the setting of a clash with foreign invaders, almost certainly Ottomans: the destruction of the village as its men are preparing to fight back is laconically described. The reference is probably to one of the countless spontaneous Albanian rebellions to which the Ottoman Empire typically responded by sending over punitive squads to burn down the rebels’ settlements, kill their leaders, and terrorize the villagers who had supported them. The tone of the song and the subtle dreadfulness of the lyrics —the nuances of which do not lend themselves easily to translation,— foreshadow a tragic end for the villagers: they are getting ready to put up a valiant fight before they die. Note that throughout the minimalistic lyrics, the only recurring epithet of praise is “brave”. Bravery (a notion loosely interchangeable with heroism) represents the pinnacle of valor for Albanian men to aspire to.
Here is another rendition of this famous song—albeit more mournful in tenor.
Janines ci pane syte/ What have Ioannina’s eyes seen! [If only you could have seen through Ioannina's eyes/ what happened in Ioannina]
Ja-Janino’/ Io.. Oh Ioannina
Ish e premte ajo dite/ That day was a Friday
Te Pese puset ne gryke/ At the entry of the Five Wells [geographic designation]
Zenel Celua vet i dyte/ Zenel Celo in second person [was not alone]
Zeneli me te Velcione/ Zenel with the Velcionian [someone from the Velc village]
Dhe trimi Jace Mavrone/ And the brave Jace Mavro
Cau mespermes tabore/ Cut right through the soldiers
E shtriu pashane e gjore/ And knocked down [slew] the poor Pasha
This very famous song commemorates the turning point of a battle against the Ottomans in Ioannina (a city situated in modern Greece which has been historically Albanian until the implosion of the Ottoman Empire, at which point Greece annexed it with the backing of Great Britain and France, and eventually had it ethnically cleansed). Three men, two of which are mentioned by name whereas the third one is identified by only his village of origin, heroically cut right through the enemy lines and kill the Ottoman Pasha in the heat of the battle.
The lyrics and melody reek of pride and reverence, but the song-writer’s perspective is modest: S/he lets the simple story speak for itself, and again, uses only the underhanded “brave” epithet (and uses it just once) to give any overt praise. Such laudatory restraint is a staple of not only epic music, but of Albanian tradition in general, which was forged by coarse minimalism through the centuries.
There are many renditions of this great song, a traditional polyphonic one to be found here, and —a modern, somewhat bastardized but uplifting version— here.
Doli Shkurti hyri Marsi/ February is out, March is in
Ne Gjirokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi [local head of Ottoman forces] was killed in Gjirokastra
Te vrane bimbash te vrane/ They killed you Bimbash, they killed you
Hitoja me Bajramne/ Hito and Bajram did
Nga Janina vjen Mazapi/ The Mazap [Ottoman leader] is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore [geographical designation] at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth [Cercizi said so himself]
Mylazim largo taborre/ Mylazim [Ottoman official], send your soldiers away
leri djemt e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
se do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ Or I shall make you red, with paint [an indirect reference to blood]
do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
se ashtu e kam zakone/ Because that is how I do things
Cerciz Topulli me thone/ They call me Cerciz Topulli
Hyri Prilli, doli Marsi/ April is in, March is out
Girokaster u vra bimbashi/ Bimbashi was killed in Gjirokastra
Bimbash, tu shofte emri/ Bimbash, may your name be extinguished [cursed]
me jete paguhet nderi/ With life is how honor is paid off
Nga Janina vjen mazapi/ The Mazap is coming from Ioannina
Ne Mashkullore te rrapi/ To Mashkullore at the plane tree
Te rrapi ne Mashkullore/ At the plane tree in Mashkullore
Foli Cercizi me goje/ Cercizi spoke through his mouth
-Mulazim hiq tabore/ Mylazim, send your soldiers away
Leri djemte e mij te shkojne/ Let my boys go
Se trimat ashtu leftojne/ Because that’s how brave men fight
Ashtu sic kane zakone/ The way they are used to [the way they know how]
Do t’ju kuq t’ju bej me boje/ I shall make you red with paint
- Cerciz vrane Hajredine/ Cerciz, they killed Hajredin
-Mire bene qe e vrane/ Good for them
Degjoni, qafa Kapllane/ Listen up, I swear on my life
Haken s’ja leme pa marre/ We won’t rest until we avenge him
Ne xhandare e ne nizame/ Through nizams and policemen
Kokat e tryre ne sater do vene/ Their heads shall roll
Ashtu sic beme per anene/ Just like we did for Mother
Cerciz Topulli was a revolutionary hero from Gjirokaster who fought for the liberation and independence of Albania. With his guerrilla unit, he killed the head of Ottoman armed forces in Gjirokaster in early March, 1908. Later that month he led the battle against Ottoman reinforcements in Mashkullore. That is the historic reference of the song: him facing down the Ottomans with a speech under the plane tree in Mashkullore. This is an early 20th-century song —much more recent than the others presented so far— hence the instrumental background (a modern occurrence) instead of the bare polyphony.
Excellent renditions of this song include this, and this one.
Though Cerciz Topulli is one of the most loved national figures of Albania (especially in the south), the song-writer engages in no direct glorification of his persona. Here again more is less: Cercizi’s valor is instead illustrated by means of his own words, in terms which are self-evident to the audience: brisk yet somewhat implicit references to a tradition or second nature of fighting with bravery to the death and of how honor/freedom is worth dying/killing for.
Mora rrugen per Janine/ I was headed for Ioannina
isha vetem/ I was alone
bashke me arabaxhine/ Along with the servant
apo nate/ At night
bashke me arabaxhine apo nate/ Along with the servant at night
atje me zune pusine/ That’s where they had laid the ambush
isha vetem/ I was alone
copa-copa ma bene melcine dhe zemren/ They chopped my liver and heart to pieces
The reference to the ambush in this painful song is, I believe, actually Greek rather than Ottoman. Starting from the last half of the 19th century and until the first half of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians have been killed or otherwise forcefully expelled from what consequently became the northern part of modern Greece. As can be easily inferred from these songs, Ioannina was a very important city in Albanian culture. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two other touching songs centered on Ioannina.
Në Janinë ferman po vjenë/ The enemy is coming to Ioannina
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them [in battle]
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling [it is getting late]
Këmbekryq mbi kanapenë/ He sits on his sofa with legs crossed [in lotus position]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Ali Pasha, dili pritë/ Ali Pasha, lay an ambush for them
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Dil Ali Pasha përpara/ Come out Ali Pasha and face them
Dil Pasha se po vjen nata/ Come out Pasha because the night is falling
(inaudible) more koke-prere/ … head cut off [they are coming for your head]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The soldiers are approaching
Në Turqi (inaudible) ta prene/ In Turkey they cut your …. [quite possibly meaning "They ratted you out in Turkey" or "They sealed your fate in Turkey"]
Asqerëtë po vijnë/ The Soldiers are coming
O veziri në Janinë/ Oh you Vizier of Ioannina
Fitove mbi tradhëtine/ You won through treason
The song is from 1822, and depicts the last day of Ali Pasha, the infamous Albanian ruler who had rebelled against Ottoman authority. He’d been betrayed by his own nephews, was vastly outnumbered by the Ottoman forces closing in on him, and had retreated to his castle in Ioannina. His loyal troops are urging him to fight, but he quietly awaits his death, knowing that there is no hope for victory at this point.
We do know from historical sources that when the end was so imminent that he was asked to surrender for the beheading, he declared: “My head…will not be surrendered like the head of a slave” and kept fighting till the end. But the song suggests that he didn’t sacrifice his troops en masse through any hopeless confrontation with the Ottomans before it got to that point. The reference in the song to Ali’s head being severed is therefore quite literal, as his head was in fact cut off and brought to the Sultan in Istanbul. Though the song is sympathetic to Ali Pasha, it does not lionize him in the least, but rather emotionally recounts with a subtle touch of tragedy the last tense moments of his reign.
Ne Pese-Puse Kala/ At the castle of the Five Wells
dolli palo Jorgua/ [is where] the vile George has come out
Kostandini shkeli krijne/ Constantine swore on his life
te ben pashken ne Janine/ to wreak havoc in Ioannina [in protest of Greece's annexation attempts]
Riza beu-tha-do ndroj dine/ Bey Riza said he would change his faith [convert to Greek Orthodoxy]
do bij bajram ne Athine/ and celebrate Eid al-Adha in [deflect to] Athens
Janine, e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, oh black [mournful/poor/doomed] Ioannina
del e shih asqere qe vijne/ Come out and look at the soldiers coming
Mahmut beu me dhjet mile/ Bey Mahmut with ten thousand [of them]
Moj Janine, o moj Janine/ Ioannina, oh Ioannina
veqil keshe Sheh Aline/ You have Sheh [Ottoman title] Ali for your lord
kajmekami me katine/ The assistant [Sheh Ali's] and his wife
radhazi telit i bijne/ are each playing strings [musical instruments] [meaning: Nero plays the flute while Rome is burning]
Mecove, e zeza Mecove/ Mecove [region near Ioannina], poor/black Mecove
shume u mbajte, pra tu hodhen/ You put up a lot of resistance [carried yourself with dignity], which is why they are assailing you
shqipetaret perpara shkojne/ Albanians are moving forward
me jatagane ne dore/ With swords in their hands
Valle kush e beri fora?/ Who do you think did it big [bravely jumped into battle]?
Selam Hasani nga Vlora/ Salem Hasani from Vlora
pika gjak i kullon kordha/ Blood drops are dripping from his sword
Janine e zeza Janine/ Ioannina, black/poor/doomed Ioannina
Janin-o/ Oh Ioannina
mire ta bene tertipne/ They served your tradition well [sarcastic: they treated you real well]
Selim Qori me Uznine/ Selim Qori and Uznia
ne Korfuz vane e te shitne/ Went to Corfu and sold you out [to the Greeks]
anapolona tre mile/ for three thousand napoleons [gold coins]
Janine te mbite ngjoli/ Ioannina, the swamp is engulfing you [concrete reference: the local lake---metaphorical reference: Greece]
hapi site se te mori/ Open your eyes or it will take you over
Po e pe qe te te marre/ If you see it taking you over
veri xhepanese zjarre/ Blow your castle up
me mire t’e djegesh vete/ Better to burn it yourself
se ta marre Junani shkrrete/ than for Greece to take it abandoned
Janine, motra Janine/ Ioannina, sister Ioannina
dil e shih c’djelma qe vijne/ Look at what kind of boys are coming for you
Taborret e Vlores vijne/ The warriors of Vlora are coming
per Bezhan e per Janine/ for Bezha [a region] and for Ioannina
dolli mileti i prine/ The people are coming to greet them
nuk e mbanin dot gezimne/ They cannot contain their joy
dridhej vendi ne Janine/ The ground is shaking in Ioannina
ka muzikate qe bijne/ from the music they are playing
The above is a merger of three Black-Ioannina-themed songs. Not long after the death of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Empire started crumbling apart at the corners. Greece had GB’s and France’s backing to annex southern Albanian lands. Some Turkish warlords were bribed and joined the effort to invade Ioannina on behalf of Greece as mercenaries (Bey Mahmut with ten thousand soldiers). Other Ottoman officials are deflecting and converting to Eastern Orthodox Christianity so they can get asylum in Athens (Bey Riza). King George I has claimed Ioannina his, but Constantine (local Albanian leader) has sworn not to let it go. The Ottoman-appointed governor of Ioannina is doing nothing (his assistants are blissfully playing musical instruments). Greek soldiers are approaching. Meceva (region situated to the west of Ioannina) is under assault. Albanians are organizing a resistance. Fighters are coming in from Vlora (their heroism in battle against Greeks is described). The locals are cheering for them as Ioannina’s last hope and have taken heart from their arrival. The singer, in the vein of traditional Albanian honor, is advocating collective suicide for the keepers of Ioannina’s castle in case of defeat. The castle is to be blown to pieces rather than abandoned to the Greeks.
How that fight turned out is given away by today’s political maps of Albania and Greece respectively: Ioannina’s Albanians suffered a brutal fate. Even at this crucial moment when the need for heart-warming propaganda is at a record high, the song-writer does not succumb to the temptation of expediency: the Albanian fighters are modestly portrayed merely as brave boys with swords. The boundaries of praise and glory are unmistakably unpretentious.
One last great song before I get to Enver’s “gems”. This is in fact a lyrical song with epic overtones:
Mbeçe more shokë mbeçe/ I shall stay my friends, I shall stay [farewell]
Përtej Urës së Qabesë/ Across the Bridge of Qabea [somewhere in Asia]
Të fala i bëni nënëse/ Say hello to my mother
Kaun e zi le ta shesë/ Tell her to sell the black ox
Në pyestë nënëja për mua/ Should my mother ask about me
I thoni që u martua/ Tell her that I got married
Në pyeste se ç’nuse mori/ Should she ask what bride I got
Tre plumba te kraharori/ [Tell her] Three bullets in the chest
Në pyeste se ç’krushq i vanë/ Should she ask what guests came to his wedding
Sorrat e korbat e hanë/ [Tell her] Vultures and Crows who ate him
Another great rendition of this dreadful song can be found here. It is about the death of a young Albanian man as a “nizam” (forced recruit) serving in the Ottoman army away from home, in some remote corner of Asia. Ottomans used to draft local youths from the lands they occupied to serve for many years in the ranks of the Ottoman army and fight anywhere in the world for the Empire’s expansionary expeditions or defensive efforts.
The simplicity is striking and painful. This is Albanian folk music at its best.
… … …
This small repertoire is, I believe, more than sufficient to get the message across: Albanians have been an austere, impoverished, and proud people, who were caught for centuries between the brutal Ottomans and the aggressive advances of their neighbors —Greece and Serbia— in a triangulated struggle for survival. The self-imposed price for relative freedom under Ottoman rule was a nearly complete lack of infrastructure and urbanization. Warrior-villagers had to be able to disperse quickly in the forest or retreat into the mountains. Both transportation and long-term accommodation had to be made painstakingly difficult for the Ottoman armies. Hence Albanian settlements as well as personal codes of conduct preserved an archaic medieval austerity well into the 20th century.
Albanians had no resources or inclination to build magnificent edifices of exquisite artistic value, the kinds of which ornament Western European cities. They never reached the kind of prosperity through which talented individuals could afford to specialize as professional artists. For example, Albanians have had virtually zero accomplished painters from their midst (with the exception of Onufer, the famed Byzantine artist). The impoverished warriors had no business pursuing fine arts. Song was their only means of expressive recourse, through which anyone could afford to be an artist. Albanians made the most out of singing since it was the only testament they could assemble for their history: Ioannina is gone after a lot of bloodshed, but there are no photographs, videos, or documentaries depicting what happened. The archeological remnants of the one-time Albanian stronghold are now inaccessible deep within the borders of Greece. The only things Albanians have to commemorate their attachment to Ioannina are their ancient passionate songs. They provide the only livening supplement to the textbook-dry account of events.
Songs are all that Albanians have had of lasting artistic value and cultural impact. Through them traditional values such as honor and bravery are extolled, and measured —as opposed to sycophantic— praise is given to individuals who best exhibited these virtues during the course of memorable events. It is easy to notice the sincere, organic, and bottom-up nature of the songs’ lyrics: The fresh narratives were likely written by either the very participants in the depicted events or by their immediate friends or relatives. The tradition of epic Albanian songs is an intangible monument to freedom, and Enver Hoxha raped this respectable tradition.
The megalomaniac insinuation of his persona everywhere in the musical repertoire and the top-down engineering of labored, sycophantic lyrics, could only be matched in an alternate universe in which Il Duce Mussolini brought back Michelangelo from the dead and coerced him to repaint the Sistine Chapel —the pinnacle of Italian art— according to a fascist artistic tone: with sharp contours and blunt shades to represent fascist vigor, and with Mussolini’s face replacing God’s.
The performers were robbed of the archaic stoicism of their original songs. They were turned into tacky-colored clowns instead, in the big circus that the entire country had become. Just what am I talking about here? How’s this for a birthday present for the Fuhrer?
Dëgjo, Argjiro shqiponja/ Listen, Argjiro, [the castle of Gjirokastra, Enver's hometown] you eagle
këngën, që të sjell gjitonia/ to the song the fair woman has brought you
ç’të ka lezet lëm’ i këngës/ How graceful is her song
Për birin e shtrenjt’ të zemrës/ for her son dearest to her heart
Moj nëna gjirokastrite/ Oh mother from Gjirokastra
gjiri yt me qumësht drite/ Your breast-milk is made out of light
dhe mbi gjithë djepet që rrite/ And of all the cribs [infants] you brought up
ç’t'i jepje shqipes e dite/ You knew just what to give to Albania [i.e: Enver]
lum si ne!/ Blessed/Lucky are we!
Mbas çdo bore në furtunë/ After every snow fall from a storm
ball’ i malit zbardh më shumë/ The mountain’s [Enver's] forehead is even whiter [shinier]
në çdo thinj’ të mençurisë/ In every gray hair of wisdom
beharët e Shqipërisë/ lay the summers [golden days] of Albania
Mes çdo dallge e rrebeshi/ Through every wave and flood
sa udhëheqës, aq ushtarë/ as much a leader as a soldier
historia siç të deshi/ That’s how history wanted you
Komandant dhe Komisar/ Both Commander and Commissar
Shqipërisë, fjale jote/ To Albania, your word
kushtrim dhe flamur epoke/ is a call/chant and flag signifying an era
iu bë dritë siç ëndërronte/ and it was turned into light [fruition] as it [Albania] was dreaming
rrofsh sa moshë e kësaj toke!/ May you live as long as the age of this earth!
Shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
Shëndet trimit, Enver Hoxhës/ [Good] Health to the brave Enver Hoxha
se të vërtetës së kohës/ Because you were the truth of our times
i dhe krahët e shqiponjës/ You gave wings to the eagle
Shqipëria, nënë e gjirit/ Albania, your nursing mother,
të uron, bir: Jetë të gjatë!/ is wishing you, son: A long life!
dhe kur thotë: “Dita një mijë!”/ And when it says “May your days multiply by 1000!”
nënës prapë i duket pak!/ Even that to the mother seems like too little
O majë e malit me borë/ Oh you snow-capped mountain top
që s’qas re në sinorë/ allowing no cloud to cover you
emri yt gëzim lirie/ Your name is joy of freedom
lule në çdo buzë fëmije/ A flower in every child’s lips
Rrofsh Enver!/ Long live Enver!
Nga Saranda në Tropojë/ From Saranda to Tropoja [southernmost and northernmost cities]
shkon urimi gojë me gojë/ The blessing spreads from mouth to mouth
kush ndrit udhën siç do nëna/ You are the shining light on our path that mother [Albania] always wanted
sa vetë kombit i rreh zemra/ so much so that the entire nation’s heart beats [for you]
Over the top, much?
Uncle Enver seems moved and is weeping. At this point in his life he must be truly scared of dying, hence all the gag-worthy clues to longevity, the age of the Earth itself, and his days multiplied by 1,000. I can imagine how the prospect of death must have been much more painful to him than to us common mortals, since he had much more to lose in life: absolute power over the lives of over 2 million people, for one thing, and supreme control over perception of reality itself by an entire nation. He does not shy from milking his omnipotence for all its worth: he wants his entire nation to tell him he will live forever, in order to indulge himself in believing it. If perception is reality and he essentially controls both, with everyone telling him he will never die, who is he to say any differently?
Enver took great pride and satisfaction in urbanizing and “industrializing” Albania. Shedding the traditional rural garb in favor of mediocre Western clothing was seen as a sign of progress: the transcendence of the proletariat from provincialism and backwardness into the modernity and economic development brought by Communism. We are left to wonder then, why Enver would revel in the performances of such deliberate throw-backs to a more primitive era. The traditional costumes of these performers are symbols of inferiority and backwardness by Communism’s own standards, according to which industrial supremacy trumps all else. The discrepancy could have a purely sentimental explanation, of course: A young Enver may have enjoyed folk songs dedicated to local or national heroes (such as the one about Cerciz Topulli) and he probably once fantasized about being the one for whom such songs are written and performed, so in that sense he may be fulfilling a remote fantasy. Another explanation I suspect, is that the purpose of these songs, —his personal glorification— would be better served if the performers lowered themselves in the eyes of the audience. The tyranny of Communism operates under the cloak of universal equality, which is not the ideal environment for anyone’s personal aggrandizement. A certain perceived distance in status is required between Enver, —the would-be larger-than-life hero— and the sheep singing his praises, hence the deliberate status of inferiority in their appearance: they had to be lowered, so he could stand even higher by contrast.
Notice the lead male singer’s nervous smile and the woman’s exaggerated gestures. In genuine polyphonic epics, the performers almost universally acquire an intense, somber, and contemplative demeanor, as can be seen from the first two videos. The sycophantic servility and mindless collectivism permeating from these lyrics are alien to, in fact, antithetical to, the rugged, passionate, proud, and primitively individualistic culture that produced that choral singing arrangement in the first place.
Never before had Albanians been ruled by an absolute tyrant to whom they had to sell their souls in musical currency. Where is the underhanded praise? Where is the implicit pride? Where is the passionate minimalism? Gone without a trace: what we just saw has been a grotesquely faked orgasm of a traditional folk song.
Whereas here we have what seems to be a young Kyle MacLachlan (or perhaps his identical twin) singing to Enver’s glory, this time in the Northern tradition.
Enver Hoxha e mprehi shpaten, / Enver Hoxha sharpened his sword,
Edhe nje here o per situaten. / Once again for the situation.
Kjo asht shpata qe u rrin tek koka / This is the sword that hangs above the heads,
Gjithe amriqve o qe ka bota. / Of all enemies around the world.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
Ylli i kuq shnderrin mbi maja. / The red star [communist symbol] shines above the mountain tops.
Bien daullja edhe zyrrhaja. / Drums and bagpipes are playing.
Porsi nuse asht ba Shqipria. / Albania is looking just like a bride [pretty/festive].
Flamurtare i prin Partia. / The [Communist] Party is leading her forward with a flag.
Enver Hoxha, Tungjatjeta! / Long live Enver Hoxha!
Sa keto male e sa keto shkrepa! / [May he live as long] as these mountains and these rocks,
Zanin shqipes lart ia ngrite. / You raised the eagle’s voice up high.
Gjithe kete popull ne drite e qite. / You brought this entire nation out into the light.
First things first: Anyone dressed like a medieval shepherd should not have the first clue on what a political party is. Having these archaic tribal characters sing about the glories of Marxism-Leninism is a deliberate anachronism. It’s completely out of place. And what’s with the depiction of Enver Hoxha as a fierce warrior? Sharpening his sword? Could there be a more absurd mental picture than the tame bourgeois old man in the gray suit barbarically threatening the world with a sword?
As if the performance were not derogatory in itself, these singers are subjected to another indignity: In the end, everyone in the choir is seen wearing wildly different costumes, which in fact represent the main regions of Albania with their respective micro-cultures. The spontaneous regimentation of these singers from such diverse musical and thematic traditions into a single choir is just about as natural as a Russian, Chinese, Sub-Saharan African, Italian, and Arab child, respectively, coming together and holding hands to sing Kumbaya My Lord. Parading the representatives of these largely disjointed traditions as interchangeable collective pegs (under the guise of national unity) on Enver Hoxha’s altar demeans the unique character of each micro-culture, whose songs are distinctively regional.
The same longevity themes are pounded on anew, with greater force with each passing year in order to counter Enver’s growing fear of death. These farcical songs are all so emotionally flat that they sound virtually interchangeable. The lyrics may have well been all written by the same author or by the same committee. Gone is the finesse, the originality, the pride. This prolonged desecration has delivered a devastating blow to folk music in Albania because people simply don’t respect the medium anymore, after decades of continuous subjection to such Orwellian performances as the ones you have just seen.
Folk song used to be a means of resistance to oppressors and commemoration of freedom-seeking revolutions. From 1945 to 1985 however, it became the jewel on the crown of Albania’s most ruthless dictator. The kind of radically collectivist intellectual atmosphere these songs were engineered to facilitate is best illustrated by the next and last song of this article: an unfathomable dynamic of crowd hysterics exalting a larger-than-life leader to whom the crowd’s minions fully surrender their egos. Hoxha instituted a civilian national security force in Albania, called “Sigurimi“, —literally meaning Safety/Security— which enforced the strict observance of the state religion, —Communism— across every corner of the country’s social life, no matter how remote.
Spies and agitators lurked everywhere, and it was not unheard of for family members to turn in one-another over miscellaneous charges of ‘blasphemy’ against statism. Under such repressive conditions so prohibitive to free thinking, citizens were left talking almost entirely to themselves whenever uncomfortable questions or suspicions would arise in their heads, while the rest of the world almost certainly appeared to each of them as a monolithic collective blissful in its unanimous acceptance of Party orthodoxy. I wonder how many a poor soul was ever reduced to wonder whether s/he was the only one in the entire nation entertaining ‘impure’ thoughts. Such ecstatic crowds bursting into unhinged Communist chants should come as no surprise under the circumstances then, since this predictable crowd behavior represented a rare chance for each person to be absolved of his/her private ‘thought crimes’ by publicly renewing the allegiance to the Party and to the Fuhrer and coming out of the experience with a clean slate on their hitherto troubled conscience.
An entire generation of Albanians was born, raised, and matured under such conditions —my parents among it. What’s done is done. Albanians have the cultural scars to remember this horror. I sincerely hope that Americans at least, will taste the danger of ecstatic crowds and spit out any ideological propositions stealthily conducive to such unhinged rampant collectivism before their political system gets poisoned.
Gjirokaster heroine/ Gjirokaster, heroine,
Bujarisht prite Shqiprine. / You have been a generous host to Albania [the festival for Enver's birthday is held in Gjirokastra, his home town]
Sollem kangen, burim drite, / We brought the song, a fountain of light.
Lum per djalin qe ti rrite, hej! / Blessed be the son you raised [i.e Enver], oh hey!
Ke rrit trim, ke rrit dai, / You have raised a brave, great man
Për kët trull, për kët Shqipni. / For this land, for this Albania.
Zemrat tona gzojn njiherit, / All our hearts are joyous at the same time,
Në ditlindjen e Enverit, / for Enver’s birthday.
Urojn tbardhat nanat tona: / Our white [venerable] mothers wish:
T’njefshim tmirën, o Enver Hoxha! / May we only see good [things] happen to you, oh Enver Hoxha!
Si ortek që zbret prej malit, / Like an avalanche descending from the mountain,
Derdhëm n’sofër t’festivalit / We poured down to join the festival’s table.
Fjale prej zemre, bardh si bora: / Words from hearts white [pure] as snow [sincere words]:
Bir i popullit të lumt dora! / Well done [great job], oh son of the people!
N’lule tballit gjujmë tradhtinë, / We shoot treason [traitors] right in the forehead.
Qelibar e rujmë Partinë. / We safeguard the [Communist] Party like a gem.
Gjumi kurrë nuk të zuni, / You never fell asleep [working so hard],
Vepra jote armiqt tundi; / Your deeds shook the enemies.
çove lart grushtin e zanin, / You raised the fist of your voice high up.
Jetën lidhe me vatanin. / You tied your life to the homeland.
T’lindi kombi burr të rrallë, / The people/nation gave birth to you, a rare man.
Lum Partia që t’ka n’ballë! / Blessed/Lucky the Party for having you at its front!
Money doesn’t buy happiness, of course, but it ought to remove almost all obstacles lying in its way. $109 million, 109 million opportunities for yourself, yet all you care about are the so many “opportunities” you have for our country? All these glorious master-plans you have concocted for us little people… Who the hell do you think you are Hillary, and what’s your excuse for being so miserable despite your riches?
Donate all your millions first, before you get the audacity to screech for raising taxes for the rest of us. What a contemptible hypocritical corrupt power-hungry Leftist byotch! It makes me feel all toasty inside to know that despite your fortune, you always have been and always will be miserable! That’s the story of your life.
That the GOP is experiencing an identity crisis is self-evident. Over the last few months the Party cannibalized herself as one candidate after another tripped over his feet trying to climb on top of her shaky political pedestal. No one can convincingly say what Republican voters were looking for, but we must infer they’ve pretty much found it in John McCain. Yet there is restiveness in the so-called Conservative sector, once hailed as the core ideological constituency of the Right but now finding itself marginalized to the peripheries of the Republican Party whose political headquarters are being rebuilt Leftwards.
Most Conservative icons have criticized the Arizona senator’s controversial Conservative credentials, but some have gone as far as to boycott the Party over his nomination, thus translating the Conservative tantrum into a highly leveraged ultimatum. So Conservatives indeed feel betrayed by the GOP’s leadership, but have they ever scrutinized their faithfulness to their own principles? Most importantly, have they ever coherently articulated what Conservative principles represent? …Can they?
The notion of a true Conservative is farcically reinvented ad nauseum by the latest self-proclaimed specimen, the same way that “change” has become a politically prostituted mantra for the Left, devoid of any substance or pretense thereof. Yet change can ultimately mean anything to Leftist “revolutionaries” preaching overhaul for the sake of overhaul: nothing ideologically uncomfortable about it. While the Party of perpetual “progressive” reform need not be bothered with the intricacies of well-defined “change,” conserving for the sake of conservation just doesn’t fly as well. The future is necessarily open-ended, but anyone invested in preserving valuable aspects of a supposedly cherished past, ought to be able to coherently pinpoint what is worth preserving (or even restoring, if the past is remote enough) and fluently articulate why.
The Conservative movement has lost its conceptual anchor into the essence of America’s greatness and is now consumed with merely conserving the Conservative movement. The future has historically been unkind to reactionaries; hence Conservatives’ recent fall from relevance should come as no surprise.
Vague platitudes of a Conservative golden era are ludicrous. There was never such a thing as a glorious way of life Americans ought to have preserved like an insect captured in the amber of history. Allusions to morally airbrushed “good old days” founded in sound “Judeo-Christian” values are nothing but blurred second-hand collective hallucinations of a generation disastrously failing to grasp modern-day ideological challenges. Before ever being entitled to a dominant voice in this country’s future, Conservatives must sever their romantic attachment to this idealized fabricated past.
American traditions and lifestyles always have and always will be in a vector of flux and experimentation toward modernity. However, the political recipe for human flourishing and sustained prosperity is timeless. America’s founders lucidly articulated it throughout the Founding Documents and embedded it in the early American institutions. This philosophical prescription for maximal individual liberty and limited government has transcended centuries as America’s fundamental nature.
The fathers of Modern American Conservatism—Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and William Buckley Jr.—are now all dead. Instead of bemoaning their loss as tragically irreplaceable and praying in vain for a second coming, Conservatives better adjust their intellectual rear-view mirror until the founders of the American Nation come into clear sharp focus. Ironic corruption of language notwithstanding, it is Liberalism, as it is classically understood, that Conservatives better get in the business of conserving, and in so doing, shed some ideological dead-weight of their own.
The inane treatment of Judeo-Christianity as a proxy for Western Civilization should be first to go. Tying the moral foundations of the American Nation with cultural archetypes of prehistoric Biblical Jews, or with those of devout Europeans emulating them is beyond preposterous. The dogmatic authoritarianism inherent in Judeo-Christianity and its ubiquitous tradition of framing Man as a wretched sinful creature fallen from grace since birth, are antithetical to a societal infrastructure built around individual freedom and dignity.
Judeo-Christianity provides no coherent moral justification for why humankind deserves freedom. The Bible presents men and women as fundamentally unequal and incorrigibly flawed, offhandedly condones slavery, and offers absolute monarchy as the sacrosanct form of government prescribed by God.
The reference to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence by the Deist Thomas Jefferson was appropriate in so far as it further legitimized the proverbial self-evident truths through divine pedigree. Free enterprise is not the coincidental result of collective utility maximization by enlightened social engineers. It is rather the inescapable byproduct of the enshrinement of individual rights, which are inalienable and morally absolute, and which deserve philosophical protection as such. The loose mention of a non-denominational Creator served as a rhetorical shield to the indisputability of natural rights, through appealing to Colonialists’ lowest common philosophical denominator. But nothing in the founding documents insinuates individual rights to be derivatives of religious dogma.
The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion. —John Adams
Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. —James Madison
Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry… The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. —Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson casually defines the protection of citizens and their property from aggression to be the only legitimate domain of government intervention. Such negative rights retain their internal consistency even when scaled up for large complex communities and are always straight-forward to enforce.
Social Conservatives seeking to use government to legislate morality to the masses have been poisoning the well for too long by destroying the consistency of negative rights, thus opening the door to government co-optation by demagogues with various agendas and malignant vested interests from all sides of the political spectrum. Their religiously inspired diatribes against full American freedoms continue to alienate people in droves, particularly because most Americans today are rightfully oversensitive regarding matters of conscience, religion, social institutions, and private behavior.
Until it extirpates this reactionary faction, the Conservative movement’s defense of free markets is hopelessly doomed to intellectual impotence. Economic self-reliance through free proud enterprise on the one hand, but moral paternalism in matters confined to the bedroom or uterus on the other hand, are ideologically irreconcilable positions both of which sound hypocritical when preached by the same voice.
Judeo-Christian values are neither sufficient nor even necessary components of Americanism. Conservatives with a mental blind spot to this reality often try to justify the institutionalization of Judeo-Christianity by deeming it to be the only absolute ideological shelter for freedom. Plato alone has spoken with more clarity and conviction about absolute transcendental values such as Justice and Goodness, than there can be found throughout the entire Bible. Natural Law has enjoyed a fertile tradition in Western Philosophy, originated by Protagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, carried out by the Stoics, and augmented by many great thinkers up to the present day.
Not only is the firm binding of natural law with religion not dictated by any philosophical necessity, it is also a strategically self-defeating position for Conservatives to take in the ongoing battle for hearts and minds. I cannot think of a more dangerous proposition for the future of American institutions than the prospect that their desirability and justification depend on the dubious existence of Abraham’s God.
Didn’t Conservatives get the memo? Organized religion is dying at a head-spinning rate not only in this country but across the entire Western world. The proverbial writing on the wall could be seen for decades but reality checks for Social Conservatives come with a time lag. The Religious Right has been running on very tenacious fumes against the demographic tide of events thanks in part to the politically convenient tendency of its base to vote as a block on pet issues. The levels of bi-partisan pandering Social Conservatives have enjoyed in the past are no longer sustainable.
Religion never provided a particularly satisfying map of reality for its subscribers, its main redeeming quality being community building. Churchgoing used to be an essential social event for millions of interaction-starved Americans. It is no longer so. With new lanes being added to the information highway, increasing opportunities for remote social networking, and free access to scientific materials, the Church cannot compete with the sophisticated social outlets Americans can afford today.
That is not to say the new generation is ready to live without dogma, but modern outlets for mysticism cannot be so blunt. The religionists’ children are rejecting their parents’ stale Judeo-Christianity only to fall prey to “secular” new-age religions. These new cultural bubbles can be harder to burst than organized religions because proud “secularists” aren’t self-aware of their own mysticism and violently resist being called out on it. Reality escape-routes unmarked by 6,000-year-old Earths and Noah’s Arks are necessarily and conveniently more elusive.
If religion ever was the opiate of the masses, the “secular” Left is crack cocaine for the ideologically-vulnerable apostates of organized religion. New generations are laughing Judeo-Christian superstitions out of the cultural scene but are also rejecting economic freedom and limited government by association. The Religious Right nearly drowned the baby in the filthy bathwater, and the “secular” Left is ready to throw both out altogether.
Many thumbs sticking in the wind are becoming increasingly sensitive to the “spiritual hunger” aspect of the Zeitgeist. Al Gore and Barack Obama are already successfully exploiting it to bootstrap their own glamorous personality cults. Feminism, radical environmentalism, animal rights, anti-globalization, anti-Americanism, global-warming hysteria, and all-encompassing Statism, are all very much in vogue.
Such developments should attune Conservatives to the cultural necessities of our times: Americans are experimenting with many templates of morality, but they would rather succumb to nihilism or moral relativism than return to the “caves.” Judeo-Christianity is going to die and unless Conservatives genuinely reform their movement to develop enticing modern ideological propositions, the Left will undoubtedly win by default and civilization will succumb to the void.
The name Conservatism should be second to go. Its taxonomic subtleties don’t scale well across long periods, as the ideological reference-point can be easily lost with such a term that doesn’t directly address what it is conserving, but only that it is conserving it. This inherent vaguery is a potential melting crack pot for multidenominational reactionaries. The mental associations are not sexy either in a world where Saudi Arabia can claim conservative as a label.
Liberalism may be a suitable replacement, though I am not convinced enough Conservatives can be de-programmed to call themselves Liberals. It would certainly be an interesting exercise in ideological self-assertion, forcing a public fight over what true classical Liberalism stands for and who deserves to call oneself a Liberal. Putting the Left on the defensive would allow today’s Conservatives to define the boundaries for tomorrow’s battles.
The stance on abortion must also go, and I don’t care about the order in which it does. There are intelligent arguments on both sides of the fence, but in so far as the anti-abortion cause is religiously inspired, it is lost. What is worse, Conservatives are earning compounded surpluses in the hypocrisy department with shady political maneuvers. Nowhere does the Constitution address the issue of abortion, therefore the Tenth Amendment spells doom for universal anti-abortion activists.
Lacking the kind of demographic muscles needed to erect a Constitutional Amendment for their pet issue, Social Conservatives have repeatedly tried to pressure the Supreme Court as a backdoor toward their ends. Conservatives who spiritedly call out Democrats on their big-government insinuations that flagrantly violate the Tenth Amendment need to look in the mirror first. There will never be popular support for an anti-abortion amendment, and such political middle-ground is clearly unsustainable. Abortion is an unfortunate issue for Conservatives to tarnish their reputation as committed defenders of the Constitution.
Indeed, the sanctity of life is a moral topic deserving great political attention. Just as there may genuinely remain environmental issues to be dealt with collectively after, but not until, full property rights are conferred and enforced, there may remain hues of uncertainty to be settled politically (preferably at the state level), as to when an embryo becomes a fetus and when a fetus becomes a person. However, this issue is hardly worth political priority until full Constitutional rights are restored for non-uterus-bound citizens, or at least a general contraception/early-abortion alternative is secured for all women. In any case, no cause is worth the corruption of Constitutional channels.
The Conservative position on immigration is also overdue for a makeover. The need for secure borders is a forgone assumption, but most other problems and solutions are open-ended and politically challenging. Under current arrangements, illegal immigrants largely subsidize a thoroughly corrupt Mexican government, thus indirectly supporting a vicious cycle: destructive socialist policies keep Mexico’s economy paralyzed–in turn further promoting more employment-seeking adventures across the border.
America has invaluable leverage for pressuring Mexico’s government to reform. Here the proverbial stick is not as effective as a politically-engineered carrot. Offering realistic guest-worker programs contingent upon Mexico meeting well-defined milestones could spark an economic renaissance in Mexico and greatly discount economic despair as a motive for illegal immigration. Only the cream of the crop of today’s Conservatives could devise a coherent platform of concentrated classically liberal measures for Mexico.
Other pro-capitalist templates for combating the roots of illegal immigration are available. Undocumented workers are attractive to American employers because as a source of labor, they exhibit none of the problematic rigidities of the domestic labor pool: they don’t unionize, are not owed social security or other benefits (though millions of undocumented workers pay payroll taxes), absorb below-minimum-wage positions, cannot sue the employer over work-related damages, and provide much needed overall labor liquidity. Undocumented workers are meeting a demand which only a free labor market could satisfy by itself. Domestic reforms dismantling labor’s internal barriers are not only very American per se, but would also essentially dissolve the comparative advantage illegal immigrants currently enjoy.
Such proactive solutions require leadership of a level currently unknown in the Republican mainstream. Even if immigration reform were successfully implemented, it would not be more than a patch-up solution. Establishing a principle of citizenship is the only final answer.
The Constitution outlines an implosion-proof political structure that leaves virtually no channels for economic parasitism by any groups or individuals. To an American it isn’t supposed to matter much who her fellow citizens are, their culture, customs, race, or language, because the only way they can legitimately affect her is through voluntary trade and cooperation, which are mutually beneficial by definition. The corruption of American institutions through collectivist meddling in general and welfare statism in particular, turns every American into a partial slave to his fellow citizens. It is not fashionable to resent such arrangement, but who wants the collective pool of burden to grow!
Nativist immigration policies chronologically coincide with the rise of the Welfare State, but this is more than a coincidence. Aspiring Americans get the short end of the stick, which is regretful because Americanism by choice is nobler than merely by birth. Immigrating to America is itself a highly entrepreneurial act and the Right ought to welcome the many millions of worthy aspiring Americans from across the world.
The Left has astutely cultivated the victimization, destructive subsidization, and exploitation of every under-class into a politically lucrative enterprise. When Democrats screech out for unconditional amnesty for the twelve million illegal aliens, don’t think they mean it! The Left needs this permanent under-class to remain such, but these outbursts earn sympathy from minorities and force Republicans into the ugly nativist role, a role which many have displayed great natural talent for.
Republicans cannot afford to be the anti-immigration Party, and no, insincerely squealing against “only anti-illegal immigration” will not cut it if they are clearly unwilling to propose any practical channels for foreigners to legally settle into the country. Until these rhetorical attitudes are drastically revamped, the Left will win over new Americans by default.
Full circle back to the current election…
The brief taste of political relevance Conservatives enjoyed with Reagan may be ironically preventing them from moving forward. Their movement seems tragically chained to the past by a delusion of bygone grandeur. For many, the Reagan administration symbolized the triumph of unadulterated Conservative principles, a golden era they nostalgically evoke the return of, a glorious legacy not to be compromised. Having once had it their way, the prospect of ideological reformation is now an unpalatable concession, akin to selling out.
I don’t think most Conservatives have an appreciation for the unrepeatable constellation of historic factors, all the odd stars perfectly aligning to momentarily propel their movement into prominence in the 1980s. As powerful as Reagan’s appeal was, the 1980 election was equal parts a rejection of Nixon and Carter’s destructive Statism. Even the supposedly untainted Conservative principles implemented during the Reagan years were largely divergent elements cobbled together in an unstable mandate. Those times will be no more because they can be no more. “True Conservative” principles are too ideologically explosive for any Republican executive to handle consistently (e.g. the failed Contract with America). Something’s got to give. Unless they are content with perpetual scraps from their own Party (i.e McCain), Conservatives need to challenge the nation to get excited about freedom, individualism, entrepreneurship, the dignity of self-reliance, and the future.
Instead Conservatives have chosen to overextend their electoral reach with a stubborn bluff from which their movement can only emerge bankrupt. The tantrum is unsatisfiable because their demands are helplessly incoherent. They won’t get their cake and are politically starving no matter how obnoxiously they want to both have it and eat it: low taxes but swelling deficits, individual freedoms but moral paternalism, limited government but virtuous intervention, a strong military but the equivalent of suicide in the battle of ideas, attacking terrorists overseas but refusing to coherently communicate how and why.
Amidst resentment and overall stupefaction, the GOP’s ideological foundations are cracking louder and louder as the presidential election approaches. One thing is clear in this mess: The GOP is haphazardly dragging her dirty political consciousness further to the Left with her candidate choice, despite sparkling friction from the Conservative base.
Judging by the relatively far-fetched and often unrelated or even contradictory explanations presented over the course of the nomination race, I suspect that even pundits are just as confused as everyone else by what’s happening. Some rightfully emphasize that none of the more ideologically appealing candidates were interesting or inspiring; others contend that the leadership has fallen out of touch with the base over core issues, and cite the Republican record on spending in recent years to corroborate their case.
This macro-scale shift to the Left cannot be blamed on any renegade political actor usurping the electoral spotlight. Unhappy Conservatives are giving too much credit for the Republican fallout to John McCain, the reheated electoral left-over from the 2000 campaign. The nodes on the cause-effect chain can be elusive to trace, but we must not get this pivotal issue backwards: The shift to the Left has already happened in America, the witnessed reflection into politics being a mere manifestation of this deeper sadder reality.
Eight years of vacant leadership, blurred sense of purpose, and compromised half-measures by the Bush administration have left America confused, disheartened, and hyperpolarized. Republicans simultaneously slammed on both the gas and the brakes of their political machine through very curvy terrain.
A politically expedient immigration plan was unconvincingly presented and quickly swept under the carpet. The administration halfheartedly fought Democrats over spending, only to outdo them with reckless Republican deficits, thus absurdly equivocating the principles behind the otherwise greatly beneficial tax cuts.
George W. Bush sleepwalked through his ambitious mandate in the Middle East, unwilling or unable to communicate to the nation the strategic purpose of the fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, failing to defend the many successes, and refusing to provide assertive counter-narratives to the “Bush lied, people died” hysterics. Unchallenged, the Left has monopolized nearly all communication channels assessing the progress of American foreign policy and has compoundingly invested its political comeback in the debasement of America’s efforts abroad in general, and in the framing of Iraq’s war as a meaningless failure in particular.
And now a giant sore economic boil is imminently bursting, leaving many intelligent and well-meaning Americans confused, vulnerable, and in many cases helpless, from their last taste of this politically constipated Republican rule. The themes running through Barack Obama’s campaign are evidence to how attuned the vanguard Left is to this moral void. Soothing tales of collectivist utopias are creeping into the nation’s cultural subconsciousness through the widening cracks of the Republican status-quo.
America is the world’s highest-philosophical-maintenance institutional experiment, but many of her traditional defenders are unworthy of today’s challenges. The problem is that the Right doesn’t know what it is fighting for. Freedom isn’t free, but until freedom is even properly understood, let alone defended, America’s future is in urgent jeopardy.
The burqa/headscarf is unfortunately becoming so ubiquitous in the US and Canada that I am starting to get tired of getting outraged every single time I spot it. Being rightfully appalled can be exhausting business. I have noticed that I tend to bypass the appropriate emotional response (read: repulsion) increasingly more often lately, and instead just silently proceed to make more additions to my deportation wish list. I do make a distinction between the headscarf and the full-body burqa: while the former is simply disgraceful, the latter should be illegal to wear in public because it covers the face along with enough loose space in the gut area for its wearer to comfortably squeeze in a concealed weapon, which has practical ramifications for criminals on the run and would-be bank robbers. I also differentiate with respect to the nuances of disgust reserved for the spread of the burqa in Western Europe on the one hand, and across the US, Canada, and Australia on the other hand. How so?
In short, Europe stands for nothing today. Ethnic nation-states in the Old West are crumbling under a scary moral void. Too many European citizens have no such thing as a comprehensive set of principles behind their various national identities; all they’ve got is their measly “Germanness”, “Frenchness”, “Britishness” or whatnot to hold on to, all of which are rapidly eroding in the acid of Cultural Relativism that the Europeans have been so eager and so stupid to embrace.Europe cannot stomach the backwardness of its Muslim Immigrants, yet it has no new cultural home to offer them. The French want their immigrants to participate in their “Frenchness” somehow, but “Frenchness” is inherited, it can never be acquired. Of course Sarkozy’s father was an outcast because of his Hungarian last name. There’s no way to get around it: Europe never forgets anyone’s ethnic otherness. The Holocaust is very eloquent on this subject. The European identity is ethnic/tribal at its core, not ideological. Europe has no moral shelter to offer even its natives, let alone its immigrants. Now that the church has been dethroned from its historic position of moral hegemony, the Old Continent is mutely agonizing like a giant headless cockroach awaiting slow starvation.
So what do Europeans have to say to burqa wearers, or to female circumcisers for that matter? “That’s not how we dress/do things over here”?? Europeans have no firm conceptions of why some of their traditions and practices are objectively superior to the new influx from the savage world. That’s because the moral foundation of their civilization has been a mix of Christian theology (now increasingly irrelevant) and pure ethnocentricity (Cultural Relativism has rendered ethnocentric supremacism impotent.) So I do not feel as strongly about defiant burqa-girls in Western Europe. I think it would be in their best interest to renounce their backward ways and embrace the less backward European tradition, but there is no guarantee that they will be fully accepted by the nationalistic establishment even if they do so. Furthermore, because Europe advertises its culture as a nationalistic dogma instead of a cogent moral argument, of course there will be poor penetration within the Muslims: they’ve already got their own big fat dogma! It also makes European culture less appealing to defend, thus I am less outraged when I spot burqa-girls flagrantly defacing it.
By contrast, the former British colonies are not ethnic nation-states. They are essentially membership clubs, the belonging to which is based on clear ideological commitments. For example, the national identity of the US is nothing but a moral profile outlining American values. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t like freedom, then why do you come to the US? If you don’t value self-realization, then what are you doing here? The burqa/headscarf and the subjugation they imply, of women to men, flies in the face of the American tradition of freedom and equal moral entitlement of genders. It is an uncompromising culture of freedom that is supposed to make Americans “American”.A lot of Americans themselves skimp on the “all men created equal” statement here and there but at least pay it due lip service. Now if someone so visibly refuses to partake in that culture, then what is supposed to make them “American”? They clearly do not belong in the country.
Until the day comes when national boarders are obsolete and anyone can freely go/live anywhere, the US will have to discriminate between peoples of the world with respect to their admissibility into the country. Because America is not an ethnic nation-state, it would be racist to select on the basis of ethnicity (the Diversity Visa Lottery is preposterous, I know). All that remains then is ideology, and to a lesser degree, skills. Being American should not be a matter of arbitrary background circumstance, though it’s sadly becoming more and more fashionable for disaffected youths born in the country to view it as such, but rather a conscious choice affirming one’s embrace of a free life and the moral entitlements and responsibilities stemming from such a life. A similar argument goes for Canada, Australia, and New Zealand too, although these countries’ values are perhaps less explicitly outlined than in the case of the US constitution.
Back to Europe… Well you know what they say: there’s eurotrash and then there’s Euro Trash. I must confess that for practical reasons I consider most if not all of Europe to sadly be trash. I exhausted a good part of this topic above, but there’s plenty more to be said. Western Europe is plagued by rampant political correctness and a Fallen Empire syndrome: what a deadly mix!
The former is manifested in hasty and pathetic attempts by Western European countries to reinvent their identities within a contrived culture-neutral neo-leftist frame. This confirms my gut suspicion that neo-leftism is the popular fallback of the half-assed apostates of Christianity. The nanny state is increasingly replacing the Church’s traditional social and moral functions in European countries.
The latter haunts the conscience of nearly every European but they are so repressed about it that you wouldn’t have a clue, and probably wouldn’t believe me unless you have some first-hand experience with Eurobullshit. We need to remember that it’s been less than a century since the Old West gave up its imperialist status quo. The European public image has been drastically sanitized since, maybe too drastically in too short a time for the European sub-consciousness to catch up. The Old Continent is torn between its emerging proletarian neo-leftist identity and the burning shame from its fall from relevance.
A lot of it is sublimated into raw leftist strife, but underneath it all Europe deeply resents not being a superpower: it misses its old glory, its colonies. This motivation can be traced back to the foreign-policy inclinations of the former superpowers:they keep supporting their traditional vassals of centuries ago, no matter how much the dynamics have changed since. The European stance on Serbia is a prime example of this. There is no practical reason to maintain these positions because the imperialist intentions of exerting influence by proxy in any given region have almost completely disappeared. Europe sticks to its antiquated positions/favoritisms for nothing but continuity’s sake. It’s a way of reassuring itself that it’s still relevant in the world, that it can still decide the fate of smaller nations, that it has the cojones to stick with its stubborn and arbitrary nation-building (or “nation-destroying”) initiatives without being made to flinch (take that, America!). Defiance and rage against the US are outlets for Europe’s sour grapes mentality.
The bottom line: a growing army of passive-aggressive drones in chronic collective-identity crisis. So many European youths feel helpless, have no light in their eyes, lack an ideological back-spine, and are brainwashed into State worshiping. Europeans like thinking of themselves as cultured, tolerant (I’m probably repeating myself, since the conventional wisdom maintains that cultured and tolerant are synonyms) worldly, classy (unlike those brute Americans) and progressive. Yet they obsess over petty nonsense like attacks on the purity of their languages (the perpetrator being of course, English), commonly despise avant-garde entrepreneurship as plebeian vulgarity, but value the study of dead languages, equation-drilling, their regional literature, and pedantic academicism.
The truth is that while Europe has been the driving locomotive of Western Civilization for the major part of the latter’s existence, the amazing philosophical evolutions (revolutions?) it spurred have found room to burst only at the seams of Europe’s backwardness: the greatest most progressive ideas originating from the Old West were only grudgingly and halfassedly accepted by the establishment, often not before vigorous attempts to repress them. Socrates got served, the Athenians almost had Aristotle’s head on a plate, Galileo was persecuted, Roger Bacon was imprisoned, John Locke was intimidated, and the list goes on and on. The revolutionary thinkers who carried the Western tradition forward were very often cutting against the grain of their own culture, and to this day Europe has yet to fully accept and adopt what its best minds have suggested it…
There are meaningful historical reasons for Europe’s decline:
Under many variations, ethnocentrism has been ubiquitous in the world since the dawn of civilization: to view essential aspects of oneself as derivative from the collective, and not only to prefer one’s way but also to believe it best, superior to all others, has been the natural status quo for millennia. Collectivism and the firm binding of the good with one’s own way through refusing to see a distinction between the two, form the very cultural fabric of ethnic nation-states.
Greek philosophers were the first men we know to address the problem of ethnocentrism. Distinctions between the good and one’s own, between nature and convention, between the just and the legal, are signs of this movement of thought. They related the good to the fulfillment of the whole potential of the individual and were aware that few, if any, of the nations of men had ways that allowed such fulfillment. They were open to the good: They used reason to seek it out. They wanted to be able to evaluate themselves and others, and thus had to use objective standards to judge even their own practices (The Closing of the American Mind, p.36-38).
Fast forwarding to the end of Medievalism: Eventually, in as far as curious objectivity was applied to the physical world through the quest for finding new and better ways, the advancements in technical knowledge/engineering yielded such staggering tangible results to the benefit of the population at large, that most of Europe eventually embraced this new fashion of thinking (to the Church’s great discontent). It even became fashionable for wannabe enlightened monarchs to cultivate their own “pet scientist-philosophers” in their courts.
The application of rational objectivity began to spread by contagion to the conception of human nature. The fruits of this experiment were thornier than their counterparts from the natural sciences: The emergence of Man in a new ethical frame that conceived of him as a free rational agent with inalienable moral entitlements derived from his very nature as Man, with his life, liberty, and happiness as paramount values, was an ideological stab to the heart of the collectivist ethnic nation-state and its authoritarian power structure. So this re-conception of ethics on a universal individualist plane appeared as a threat to ethnocentric culture and a dangerous uprooting charm. Politically, the development of these heretical ideas inspired administrative transformations: mostly on an incremental basis but also through bloody revolutions.
There is no national science just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science. —Anton Chekhov
Yet friction from Europe’s tribalistic heritage was enormous, and certainly sufficient to considerably damp down the impact of these advancements. Compromises with the establishment were sought, which often corrupted the essence of the proposed liberal values for the sake of preserving social order: at the end of the day, it meant conserving the status quo. This resistance to liberalism didn’t originate from just the ruling class with indeed much to lose, but sadly from Europe’s masses, the people with so much to gain from the adoption of liberty. National identity pointed them back to the passionate attachment to their backward provincial ways, and away from Western Thought that was trying to liberate them from it. Science chipped away at subjectivity while universal individualist ethics eroded collectivist chauvinism, but the bulk of Europe’s population could not bring itself to turn the page.
The people of Europe had been split into fanatic religious sects at constant war, isolated in ethnic factions, pitted against one-another for centuries, trapped in puddles of provincialism infested by superstition. Embracing liberalism meant giving up the immense pride derived from the minuscule differences between their customs and myths and those of their neighbors. It meant giving up their collectivist identity with its perks of supremacist righteousness and feelings of superiority, which they had no felt need to objectively scrutinize.
They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. —Edmund Burke
Countries like England and Holland did experiment with economic freedom with great results, but only on a fickle discretionary basis and for purely consequentalist reasons. They never accepted the moral foundations that supported free markets and free societies. Lacking firm ideological and institutional commitments to universal individual rights, these countries’ courtship of these classical Man-centric values did not stand the test of time. In short, Europe had too much cultural baggage for liberalism. The seeds of freedom had to be sewn somewhere else.
After failed efforts to conceive a new society within sterile Europe, the United States of America was Western Thought’s first love child: a country conceived in liberty, self-determination, and natural law. Indeed its initial political formulation wasn’t flawless: slavery and deficient political rights for women were ugly incumbents. Yet it’s noteworthy that the Founding Fathers never specifically banned women from voting (but the states did have that power and used it). Many of them were also vocal abolitionists throughout their lives. Most importantly, they drafted the Constitution as such an airtight argument for freedom, that with time it successfully transcended all the leftover debris of Old-Continent tyranny that were originally incorporated into the country for the sake of expediency.
Whereas Europe’s kinky flirts with freedom revolved around the whim of kings, queens, political coalitions, or angry mobs, America’s political heart was always in the right place. While Europe was still consumed by its ethnic wars well into the 20th century, America was busy getting prosperous through commerce. While Europe was preparing to butcher millions of its own, America was becoming a new home to thousands every year, affording them opportunities never dreamt of in their old caste-based societies.
So I wonder: How and why exactly did Europe pull a 180 and get so hard-core PC in just a matter of decades? What catalyzed such a drastic surgical detachment from the tribalist undertones of its billennial culture? I think it was mostly an implosion:
Marxism had an ideological binding-effect on European nations. It consolidated international strife into an intra-national dynamic of factions in perpetual state of struggle and discontent:from the old chauvinistic rivalry between the English and the French, to the more intimate strife between the proletariat and the capitalist class within the same country. Note that the Marxist paradigm is an elaboration of, and qualitatively self-similar to, the original looser frame of ethnic hatred: Like the latter, it interprets people in collectivist and dehumanizing terms (ethnicity/class), pits them against one another over grievances that are often imaginary or second-hand (differences in language, religion, regional customs/ transient relative positions in the labor market), and encourages them to consume their hatred (ethnic cleansing/class war). Marxism was a fractal refinement of ethnic conflict. It brought it physically closer to the hearts of those who had craved hatred for its own sake throughout generations. It was a deeper more “nuanced” drill into the same direction of projecting hatred inwards.
One important trait Marxism doesn’t share with classical ethnic chauvinism is self-victimization. While ethnocentrism is usually supremacist, leftist strife acknowledges a deep inferiority complex through its obsession with the “exploitation” of the proletariat. This partly explains why Marxism spread like fire in Russia and Eastern and Southern Europe: these nations were history’s rejects. Their powerful western neighbors, the Ottoman Empire, and other transient regional superpowers had brutalized and humiliated them for centuries, often using them as pawns in international conflicts. Marxist self-victimization appealed to these countries’ peoples on a very intimate level.
By contrast, Western Europe was too invested in its grandeur to immediately succumb to an oppressed and dispossessed internal vision of self. But around the middle of the 20th century, the Old West woke up with a terrible headache from a hangover of lost greatness. A few remarkable things had happened:
First of all, Europe practically lost all its colonies. So used were the former colonial powers to their international limbs, that they now felt stubbed. This certainly took a toll on their collective self-esteem.
Most importantly, America saved Western countries’ political viability after both world wars, besides saving their people directly from annihilation. The vital and one-sided reliance on their unrefined transatlantic cousin was hard to swallow. Both wars had exploded from the major western powers’ unhinged ambitions of world dominance. By the end of WW2 all the initial contenders were devastated to the bone, while the insolent fresh-faced USA emerged as the world’s supreme powerhouse among international applause for saving Europe from its homicidal lunacy.
The pendulum of power had permanently shifted away from the Old West, but the humiliation did not end there. Adding insult to injury, as a bonus consequence of their insane war, the USSR was now looming like a giant cancerous nuclear mole right on Europe’s ass. The troubled continent had to look for protection from the US, again.
The prospect of being vassals to the US does things to the sub-consciousness of a people whose primary notion of identity for centuries had revolved around the ability to dictate submission to the rest of the world. If you’re an American who has felt European rancor first-hand, this might explain a few things.
When the USSR ceased to be a threat, there was a collective sigh of relief, and then just silence. With no imminent threats to distract it, Europe could finally fully digest the realization that it was now irreversibly light years behind America in just about every relevant respect. Europe did slowly succumb to a pitiful internal vision of self, which allowed socialism to creep in like a virus since the end of WW2, infiltrating the severely weakened immune defenses of national pride.
Cultural relativism is an interesting highlight of Europe’s neo-leftist disposition. It’s generally touted as an umbrella to shield the mostly Muslim immigrants from cultural scrutiny but in reality it’s largely a self-serving construct. It serves as an outlet for collective neurosis through escaping reality. In a world dominated by pragmatic dynamics, led by the USA and trailed by Eastern emerging powers, Europe has to face everyday what it missed out on: the opportunity to be relevant, to institutionally embrace freedom and capitalism, and to be part of the new world order. Instead the Old West cannibalized itself in the last century over supremacist collectivist dogmas, and its consolation is now that at least its priorities were correct: that everything is culturally relative, that there is no such thing as natural law dictating what man’s proper mode of existence is, that one politico-economic system is just as good as any other (so long as a collective culture backs it) no matter the objective level of prosperity it can afford its people (so Europeans can proudly refuse to acknowledge failure or back away from their societal miscarriages), that cultural hegemony is the only thing worth fighting for (as Europe bloodily did), and that their delusions are not deluded so long as they really believe in them.
The core of Europeans’ passion for political correctness lies in their psychological need of escaping reality, of hiding their heads in the sand, of refusing to acknowledge their ideological failures, and avoiding a much needed objective assessment of their situation.
Many Europeans channel these repressed needs by applying the sophistry of cultural relativism to their backward immigrants, but in reality it’s themselves they are trying to shield and protect. When the clash between their culture and the savage Islamic influx is truly shocking, most Europeans don’t know how to react. They are so invested in cultural relativism that the path of least resistance is often appeasement.
There is a minority that fights fire with fire, counteracting the pressure from Islam with ultra-nationalistic fascist sentiment. This goes to illustrate that the European identity is mostly tribal/ethnic, not ideological, and that itself is the main problem. The most popular defense of Europe’s identity comes as a resurgence of ethnic chauvinism, rather than as an appeal to Western values on their own objective merits.
Europe needs a reality check urgently. It is sad to see America becoming more and more like Europe, when Europe is the one in dire need of looking up to what America is supposed to be. Rome didn’t fall in a day, but until Europe acknowledges its big problem, gives up the stubborn and irrational attachment to its collectivist ways, and develops enough character to challenge radical Islam on a moral plane, it will remain the sick man of the Free World.
I was peripherally acquainted with Jeffrey Sachs’ work from a while ago, and didn’t think much of it. Nothing seemed to distinguish him from the many misguided Keynesians who dominate the public arena of mainstream economics by default nowadays. But while all purist free-enterprise champions are alike in what they advocate, I guess every dull little statist economist is a statist in his/her own way, with a unique master plan for development, each involving creative offshoots of applied Communism, some more deranged than others.
Sachs’ uniqueness doesn’t end there: He is not your run-of-the-mill statist economist always on the perpetual brink of choking on his own triviality. He knows what he is and he certainly knows what he is doing. Unlike most laughable economists who sound so stupid only because they cannot see how overly seriously they take themselves, Jeffrey Sachs is pure self-aware evil!
In his interview with Steven Colbert he sounds like a crook and a charlatan. Listen to him talk, pay attention to his smile, the look on his face, and tell me if you don’t see a man who knows he is lying on the spot. There is nothing misguided about him, he is fully premeditated in what he is doing.
Hanging out with Bono and Angelina Jolie has got to make Sachs second-handedly feel like a superstar, and second-hand glory is more then enough for a pathetic authoritarian creature to get off on. He knows he will be long dead before his voodoo economics falls out of fashion so he’s completely safe and comfortable riding the wave of popularity propelled by the cumulative mediocrity of Oprah-worshiping drones in particular, and the entire ecosystem of leftist-strife spewers in general. Good for him!
Note in the Colbert interview how cheaply he is pandering to the moonbat base by spewing venom on the military and W. Bush. Sachs is befuddled at how “the President” has allotted to the crusade against malaria (read: handouts to Africa) for the next five years, the measly equivalent of the daily budget of the military. That makes no sense “in his book/s”, since the military is just killing people and not helping anyone, whereas Sachs could save the world with that cash! Oh brother… They just have trouble figuring out anything at all in Washington these days. Instead of signing Sachs a blank check, they give him a laughable $1.5 billion to work with.
If only “the President” were a feudal lord free to piss the spoils from his taxpayer vassals on grandiose personal-charity events to his heart’s content! W. Bush is certainly under no obligation to give any money at all; it is in fact arguable that he is under an implicit constitutional obligation to not spend taxpayer money on handouts to other countries, which generally end up benefiting only their dictators and some distinguished ungrateful parasites like Sachs, whose genial administrative plans for that money are sure to entail much more than just a multi-billion-dollar mosquito-net shopping-spree.
It is obvious to me that Jeffrey Sachs is a conman, but it might not be obvious to you, so I will stop pushing on that front because at the end of the day it’s not so relevant whether he is a crook or just a misguided moron, but rather whether his economics adds up. So let’s turn to his economic ideas and consider them on their own merits. Everything Jeffrey Sachs has said (and I expect him to ever have to say) about development pivots around the “poverty trap”, a conjecture whose gist can be safely summarized as follows:
Poor countries are so poor today because they started out so poor for one reason or another, that their people cannot even minimally afford to save today to accumulate capital for investment. And it takes a critical mass of investment to achieve any tangible results in development, since for example, a bridge constructed only half-way through is of no use, but once it is fully built, it will rock the world! But the dirt-poor subSaharan Africans cannot afford to save for projects that will deliver results the day after tomorrow: they would starve by tomorrow if they cut their consumption every-so-slightly today to give rise to investment! So you see, they’re stuck in a Poverty Trap, and we the West need to give them just enough aid for them to make it through the initial hump, to get out of the trap. They’d be all set from there on.
This is the focal point of Sachs’ argument for development. Please watch carefully while this snotty undergrad blasts off Mr. Smarmy Harvard PhD with a single unpretentious quasi-rhetorical question:
If the key to development is escaping this poverty trap, then wouldn’t foreign direct investment be perfectly capable of doing the job instead of foreign aid?
The opposite of Sachs’ booga-booga poverty crap should normally be observed: countries starting out at the very bottom of the developmental ladder for “one reason or another” should grow at rates much faster than normal due to the proverbial catch-up effects. Investment in India returns a whooping 19% on average! Countries too poor to save for themselves don’t need to: rich foreigners can supply the capital, the natives only have to freely accommodate it. Everybody wins, and no Big Plan is needed, just a native government that sufficiently tolerates free enterprise.
But there is no foreign investment going on in Africa. Investors won’t inject their funds into those countries because the volatility of institutional thuggery that doesn’t give a shit about its citizens’ life, liberty, and property, let alone the property of foreign investors, is not conducive to profit-generation. Africa doesn’t need any handouts: they just fatten its dictators, cripple whatever free independent spirit its people have, give parasitic jobs to an army of bureaucrats, and hold these countries back from moving towards freedom and self-reliance. What Africa desperately needs is government, of the kind that will let its people be. The best thing that could ever happen to the continent would be for America to colonize it and govern it according to its constitution for a century or so.
But Jeffrey Sachs urges governments to throw money to a cause which no private investor is willing to back. There would be no returns from it, no end to poverty through it, and no end to it, period… just handouts after handouts after handouts. He knows it too, if you read between the lines he is calling it what it is in so many words: perpetual charity.
And being the authoritarian cock that he is, he won’t stop at urging people to donate individually and privately. His great cause, his Big Plan is larger than life: not only private investors won’t walk the walk, but even private philanthropists will not give enough to satiate Sachs. The Government is his only hope, the only agent rich and careless enough to finance his Big Scheme. And despite receiving insane amounts of taxpayer money, he yet bites the fat hand feeding him, complaining that the US government won’t just give him any number he fancies. Every cent that he does receive is taken by force, since he has not been able to raise it voluntarily through cheesy U2 concerts, private charity, and private investment combined. It’s a $1.5 billion no one else but the government would give him, and it’s still not enough, it’s never enough.
This post is so impressive that I would feel compelled to reproduce it in its entirety if that was cool, but it’s not. so here’s the link to the full thing. While the author, Matt Taibbi, doesn’t seem to have any good solutions to the problems he himself brings up about Liberalism (perhaps because he is still too invested in it), his exposé is nevertheless very relevant:
…The American left has turned into a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility.
It shies away from hardcore economic issues but howls endlessly about anything that sounds like a free-speech controversy, shrieking about the notorious bugbears of the post-9/11 “police state” (the Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, CARNIVORE, etc.) in a way that reveals unmistakably, to those who are paying close attention, a not-so-secret desire to be relevant and threatening enough to warrant the extralegal attention of the FBI. It sells scads of Che t-shirts ($20 at the International ANSWER online store) and has a perfected a high-handed tone of moralistic finger-wagging, but its organizational capacity is almost nil. It says a lot, but does very little.
The sad truth is that if the FBI really is following anyone on the American left, it is engaging in a huge waste of time and personnel. No matter what it claims for a self-image, in reality it’s the saddest collection of cowering, ineffectual ninnies ever assembled under one banner on God’s green earth. And its ugly little secret is that it really doesn’t mind being in the position it’s in – politically irrelevant and permanently relegated to the sidelines, tucked into its cozy little cottage industry of polysyllabic, ivory tower criticism. When you get right down to it, the American left is basically just a noisy Upper West side cocktail party for the college-graduate class.
Here’s the real problem with American liberalism: there is no such thing, not really. What we call American liberalism is really a kind of genetic mutant, a Frankenstein’s monster of incongruous parts – a fat, affluent, overeducated New York/Washington head crudely screwed onto the withering corpse of the vanishing middle-American manufacturing class.
The people who are the public voice of American liberalism rarely have any real connection to the ordinary working people whose interests they putatively champion. They tend instead to be well-off, college-educated yuppies from California or the East Coast, and hard as they try to worry about food stamps or veterans’ rights or securing federal assistance for heating oil bills, they invariably gravitate instead to things that actually matter to them – like the slick Al Gore documentary on global warming, or the “All Things Considered” interview on NPR with the British author of Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.
Another dirty little secret of the left: at least when it comes to per-capita income, those interminable right-wing criticisms about liberals being “elitists” are actually true. According to a 2004 Pew report, Americans who self-identify as liberals have an average annual income of $71,000 – the highest-grossing political category in America. They’re also the best-educated class, with over one in four being post-graduates.
What makes the American left silly? Four pimply college students wearing I READ BANNED BOOKS t-shirts are taking up a collection to agitate for dolphin-safe tuna… Things that in a vacuum should be logical impossibilities are frighteningly common in lefty political scenes. The word “oppression” escaping, for any reason, the mouths of kids whose parents are paying 20 grand for them to go to private colleges. Academics in Priuses using the word “Amerika.” Ebonics, Fanetiks, and other such insane institutional manifestations of white guilt. Combat berets. Combat berets in conjunction with designer coffees. Combat berets in conjunction with designer coffees consumed at leisure in between conversational comparisons of America to Nazi Germany.
We all know where this stuff comes from. Anyone who’s ever been to a lefty political meeting knows the deal – the problem is the “spirit of inclusiveness” stretched to the limits of absurdity. The post-sixties dogma that everyone’s viewpoint is legitimate, everyone‘s choice about anything (lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, even class) is valid, that’s now so totally ingrained that at every single meeting, every time some yutz gets up and starts rambling about anything, no matter how ridiculous, no one ever tells him to shut the fuck up. Next thing you know, you’ve got guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats leading a half-million people at an anti-war rally. Why is that guy there? Because no one told him that war is a matter of life and death and that he should leave his fucking stilts at home.
Then there’s the tone problem. A hell of a lot of what the left does these days is tediously lecture middle America about how wrong it is, loudly snorting at a stubbornly unchanging litany of Republican villains. There’s a weirdly indulgent tone to all of this Bush-bashing that goes on in lefty media, a tone that’s not only annoyingly predictable in its pervasiveness, but a turnoff to people who might have tuned in to that channel in search of something else.
But to me the biggest problem with American liberalism is that it hasn’t found a new legend for itself, one to replace the old one, which is more and more often no longer relevant. I’ve got no problem with long hair and weed and kids playing “Imagine” on acoustic guitars at peace marches. But we often make the mistake of thinking that the “revolution” of the sixties is something that rightly should continue on to today. American college types don’t have to fight for shit anymore. Remember the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill album? Remember that song “Fight for Your Right to Party”? Well, people, that song was a joke. So was “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “And the Cradle Will Rock.” The only thing American college kids have left to fight for are the royalties for their myriad appearances in Girls Gone Wild videos. Which is why they look ridiculous parading around at peace protests in the guise of hapless victims and subjects of the Amerikan neo-Reich. Rich liberals protesting the establishment is absurd because they are the establishment; they’re just too embarrassed to admit it.
Modern leftist activists have usurped and perverted the meaning of words so blatantly that I wonder how they can possibly get away with it! Their coup d’état against language puts Orwell’s Newspeak dictionaries to shame. Through this persistent perversion, true liberalism has been fooled into adopting self-defeating terms for naming its key virtues:
Capitalism has ubiquitously replaced Free Enterprise in our vocabulary, tainting the latter with Marx’s flawed notions of the labor theory of value, and making it unnatural to defend as a system centered around the arbitrary possession of tangible ‘Kapital’ and the benefits accruing to its owners, not around universal individual freedom thanks to which anyone can accumulate capital among other things.
The Left labels the middle class bourgeois with elitist contempt.
It keeps a straight face while calling itself Liberal, which is a slap in the face for Classical Liberalism. The newspeak term for a true Liberal is now Libertarian, which sounds dangerously close to Libertine, especially to the profane who might Google it.
It has proclaimed itself to be Progressive: What’s so progressive about leftism? If anything its entire ideology is dreadfully regressive, pointing back to the greatest failed experiment of the 20th century, which almost every participating country has gotten out of after incurring colossal losses of life, wealth, and liberty.
The Left prides itself for being Secular, a characterization which the moronic Right backs and exacerbates without understanding its implications. Now the Left can conveniently prey on the ever growing generation of youths and intellectuals disillusioned by corrupt Christianity but who are not yet ready to live without God. Clinging to the Left’s unchallenged label of Secularism fulfills their delusion of having succeeded in their impotent pseudo-struggle to break free.
If religion is the opiate of the masses, “secular” leftism is the crack cocaine of the half-assed apostates of organized religion. The Left recruits these useful idiots and exploits almost effortlessly what their religion has primed them for: radical altruism, mass-scale masochism, and irrational dedication to a supremacist dogma. Getting away with this might not be so easy if Leftism was exposed for the religion that it is instead of being labeled as Secular.
Let’s start claiming back the meaning of words, shall we? Start calling the Democrat base the Religious Left. Rename the Libertarian Party the “Liberal Party” to confuse Leftists and bring attention to the classic ideas of Liberalism, and stop conceding perverted definitions of notions which are key to the discussion of our political and ideological realities. How about that?
The blog had been down for so long due to server problems that I was starting to forget about it. I know I could have been writing on the side all this time and have a enough material for a full scale post attack by now. But not having the blog to post on the spot has been of huge demotivation to my writing. I have a bunch of topics coming up soon though. Looking forward to being prolific again!