Brendan O’Neill of Spiked writes of Paris one week after. About the lack of passion:
It’s the feeling you’d expect to see following a natural disaster, when tragedy is inflicted on people by forces beyond our control, rather than after a conscious, bloody, moralistic attack, on the citizens of Paris and the values of France. The flower-laying, the books of condolence, the exhortations not to give ISIS our hate because that is what it wants… this has all been good and decent and moving. But where’s the fire? The anger? …
Yes, it would have been disastrous if there had been an anti-Muslim uprising after Paris. So thankfully, overturning the dire fears of media elitists, there was no pogrom. But fire doesn’t only have to take the form of cravenly torching a mosque. There can be moral fire. Political fire. A fiery commitment to defending the values that were attacked: in this case the value of a free and open society.
He’s right. Passion to defend freedom is missing (both in Europe and in the U.S.). But I can think of half a dozen reasons why.
Maybe it’s because passions have been manipulated so often into some powermonger’s disastrous war. Sensible people are tired and wary of that. Maybe it’s because so many have been so brainwashed into thinking that no set of values, no one civilization or aspect of civilization, is superior to any other. Therefore millions are missing the very concept of a moral high ground. Maybe it’s because people have forgotten that there’s a difference between defending Western values and submitting blindly to Western governments that have increasingly abandoned those values in their limitless pursuit of an endless “war on terror.” Maybe it’s because, in places like France, one of those values (free speech) is being suppressed and criminalized in an attempt to placate the very thugs who wrought their havoc in Paris.
Maybe it’s because whoever “wins” in the big global terrorism battle, all people see for themselves is helplessness and loss of freedom.
I owe Pat a hat tip for finding the Spiked piece. But I’ve been collecting similar writings all week. A lot of them are good in themselves, but the writers seem lost. They’re disturbed but appear to have no idea where anyone should go from here. The undercurrents are ominous, though. The things they don’t say worse than the things they do. They hint and await politicians to say other words aloud.
Peggy Noonan writes about changing perils and foolishly unchanging leadership. She has a point. But I can’t help but notice she’s writing in the “War Street Journal.”
Niall Ferguson warns that Paris feels like a scene in the fall of Rome. True. Yet his piece, too, has a drumbeat of war about it.
Charles Moore offers a British viewpoint vs the ghastly excuse-making of John Kerry. Again, so much right, but again, the war drums beating in the background.
And another war is the last thing we need. Want things to get even worse? Oh yeah, have another war. Or escalate one of the many existing ones.
But I stand by what I wrote the other day. The attack on Paris was an attack on Western values and Western civilization — which are already staggering from rot within.
There are a hell of a lot better ways to defend both human life and humane values than the murderous, terrorist-inspiring inhumanity of yet another Middle East war.
When I talk about values and civilization, I’m talking about just that. I’m not talking about Western governments; they were helpful as far as they mostly stayed out of the way and provided a few basic organizational services. But they’ve been as uncivilized as any (and have piled up even more bodies thanks to technology and superior force). I’m talking about values that found one of their greatest expressions in our own Bill of Rights (an anti-government document appended to a government one). I’m talking about civilization in the sense of the amazing feats of prosperity, civility, and intellectual achievement fostered by individual freedom.
That’s what the barbarians of Paris are attacking. To them, all that’s made us great is just decadence. (How ironic that some of the foulest savages on the planet consider themselves to be on a moral crusade while calling all of us “crusaders,” consider themselves superior to the rest of us while committing mass slaughter and individual acts of utmost brutality.)
But what can anybody do — except what we hereabouts always do; try to go on living free no matter what barbarities terrorists and governments (but I repeat myself) engage in?
Donald Trump wants to bring back waterboarding. Several R’s are vying to outdo each other with proposals for more surveillance, more databases. Oh yeah, that’ll help a lot. Neocons want not only more war but more militarization domestically. (And the people advocating these things have about as much concept of Western values as the terrorists do.)
The uber-government “security establishment” wails and rails about the horrors enabled by encryption when in fact the ISIS agents were working in the open. When in fact “authorities” had a multitude of the usual chances to halt the usual suspects — and as usual ignored warnings or failed to follow up on what they knew.
And the same old script plays over and over again.
ISIS itself seems to be the only player departing from the familiar. (That link is a must-read, BTW.)
I find I have a lot more to say — about how ISIS does indeed represent Islam (though of course we must issue the obligatory caveat — not all of Islam) despite all the #terrorismhasnoreligion prattle — about how Islam and Arab culture* are fundamentally incompatible with everything that made the free, vibrant, successful West so exceptional in history. But this is thick stuff to delve into and will only raise pointless arguments.
The main point now is that we should be angry and passionate and more ready than ever to preserve individual rights. But other than cherishing those rights in our own lives, and being ready to preserve them … the questions of how? and what next? loom.
* More precisely, the submission-at-swordpoint violence of Islam and the Arab culture that spawned the bitter religion and the Middle Eastern and North African cultures that fostered and continue to foster it today.