Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Pitiless Crowbar of Events
Some years ago I heard John Madden (the former coach turned broadcaster) on the radio. He was talking about Bill Belichick. As I recall it was during one of those dominant runs when The Patriots were reeling off long strings of victories. After a good but slightly ragged win Coach Belichik had found plenty on his team to criticize- and he took corrective action in the form of punishing workouts for the team.
The reaction, mostly from outside the professional football world, ranged from outrage and derision to amusement, and even condescension. But Madden, himself a former very successful coach, defended it. He explained it this way:
“Whatever you let go when you’re winning, you will have to live with when you are losing.”
(Note: Yes, I used this example for a different reason in a post a number of years ago. I bring it back now because it is even more important that we insist on it now.)
This is the reason that practicing “the fundamentals” and learning from the mistakes that you make even when you are dominant is the key to sustaining a winning record in any sport and it is also the analogue of staying true to the founding fundamentals of a culture even when there is no immediate threat.
It has become a habit for us in the West to assume that we will be winning forever. We have, after all, dominated the civilized world for several centuries. We are tempted to sooth ourselves with the lazy, guilty fictions of power. We are tempted to think things like: “Everyone in the world wants the same thing, they would be just like us if they could…” or “If some other people hate us, we must have done something wrong to them…” or “If all other cultures just had the opportunity, they would choose to live with our liberal ethos and our material richness…” or, even, “We are the richest, most powerful nation on earth, surely we can afford to…”
These are perfect examples of the kinds of things that, if you let (them) go when you’re winning, you will have to live with when you are losing. Just look at Greece, Italy and Spain, countries that spend lavishly on un-productive social programs that incentivized many people to become unproductive themselves and now that they are up against hard times, they cannot seem to find their way to solvency. Or recall the victorious allies of World War I who failed to foster and support good government in Germany and then appeased Hitler (believing him to be, “reasonable”, “humane” and “pragmatic" despite his own words to the contrary) until more than 60 millions of people perished and civilization itself hung in the balance.
Nobody in the west can see this as clearly as someone from the outside.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn saw it. In his 1978 commencement speech at Harvard he delivered a very clear and ominous notice to the western world about this blindness. He said:
“But the blindness of superiority continues in spite of all and upholds the belief that the vast regions everywhere on our planet should develop and mature to the level of present day Western systems, which in theory are the best and in practice the most attractive. There is this belief that all those other worlds are only being temporarily prevented (by wicked governments or by heavy crises or by their own barbarity and incomprehension) from taking the way of Western pluralistic democracy and from adopting the Western way of life. Countries are judged on the merit of their progress in this direction.”
Solzhenitsyn, our friendly outsider, says that we do not comprehend the danger we face because we think that there will be a point of convergence where all other cultures (he calls them worlds) will overcome their backwardness and corruption and begin to think and act like us…
He said, “…It is a soothing theory which overlooks the fact that these worlds are not at all developing into similarity. Neither one can be transformed into the other without the use of violence.”
Having our way so habitually has even made us a little shame-faced about it. We try very hard not to rub it in- not to appear to be “running up the score” on the opposition. In fact, we invented multiculturalism so that we could pretend that there really is no competition- that we are all just the same as everyone else and that there is no reason why any other culture should feel anymore threatened by us than we do of them.
And that is why it seems so important to our president that we not speak of Islamic Terrorism. He is pretending that there are no valid reasons for the behavior of that “other world” that is compelled by its world view to convert or kill us. He insists that the fact that many peaceful “good” (read westernized or at least accommodationist muslims) exist means that those Jihadis, totalitarians, caliphate-ists and Muslim supremacists are an aberration, as though they might be coopted with good jobs, economic incentives, fancy duds from Banana Republic and day passes to Disney World.
John Kerry tries to soothe us by telling us that even if it seems “counter-intuitive”, we are safer now than we have ever been.
Has our perspective has become so warped that we are not afraid of the bestial cruelty of beheadings and burning living, sentient men in cages? Have we been on such a long winning streak that the wholesale slaughter, torture, rape and enslavement of untold hundreds of thousands in the Islamic State have no power to move us? They do assuredly hate us for our success and power- and how much more must they despise our smarmy, condescending, refusal to acknowledge the Islamic origin of their rage?
That Islamic world embodied in the Islamic State (calling it ISI or ISIL is a fool’s game! It is what it is.) does not share our values and our scruples. We cannot seem to believe it, but they have no interest in becoming like us. We are so busy trying to console them for being so backward that we cannot comprehend that they don’t see it that way. So our journalists and well-meaning, naive young women go there and are engulfed in the ocean of blood that is beyond their imagination.
Solzhenitsyn had been a sort of odd hero up until that speech. He was, after all a political refuge from the Soviet “world” who took refuge here by choice. He quickly became viewed as a crank after it. I remember the polite but troubled way in which most reviewers of that speech backed away from his ideas. They did not engage his observations because they had voluntarily foresworn the use of the words that would have been necessary to do so. They fancied themselves inhabitants of a world that had outgrown that kind of history and those words. They no longer had the words for it in their own vocabularies. And back then the vocabulary was so much broader and unconstrained than it is today. The Correctness Mafia has been picking off words and ideas progressively and spreading the debilitating blankness of omerta wider and wider.
We actually have become so polite about it that we feel that discussing those things that make Western Civilization better than (or preferable to) other cultures (let alone the measures that might be necessary to defend the west) in public constitute some kind of “bad form”. We even have whole sets of words and ideas that we refuse to use because they sound too harsh, too male dominated, too power oriented, too insensitive or judgmental.
A special target of the politically correct is that greatest of cultural blueprints, The Constitution of The United States of America. According to them, The Constitution does not merit protection and reverence so much as it does “interpretation” and, even, “updating”. Arguments that twist equality of opportunity into equality of outcome. The expansion of the god-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to include three square meals, cash payments, free health care and a nice warm place to live at the expense of others is something that we could support for a limited time when times were fat but it has proved even worse for those that we granted those new rights (entitlements) to than it has for the country. We broke them and now, they tell us, we own them. Or maybe they own us.
In order to sooth ourselves that we are so nice that we will forgo the things that made our parents’ and grandparents’ generations great, we are literally throwing down our defenses. Political Correctness is Unilateral Cultural Disarmament.
Solzhenitsyn put it in the starkest of turns:
“There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of a petrified armor around people's minds. Human voices from 17 countries (Note: Of course, he was only speaking of the communist “world” add to those 17 countries the Islamic State and large portions of the other 49 Islamic nations of the world) of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.”
If we could put a good coach in charge, a geopolitical Belichik or an American Solzhenitsyn, he would put a stop to it before another game went by. Right now, we own the biggest, baddest crowbar why should we wait until a bigger one comes along? We should not be “putting up” now with that which could destroy us in future, less happy times.
But then we are not likely to get a football coach to run for President of the United States so what are our alternatives? There are a number of good solid administrators and executives in the Republican ring who might serve well but my favorite is the surgeon.
Dr Ben Carson is another type of man (like a great coach) who by training and nature would never fail to notice and correct sloppiness or error no matter how inconsequential. He knows that when a patient’s life is in the balance he needs to pay attention to every detail, every ounce of blood every brain cell and every suture. He has become our most outspoken critic of political correctness for that very reason.
That only inspires the “Correctiods" to try to pervert what he says and to deride how he says it.
At last year’s CPAC, for instance he gave a speech in which he compared and contrasted our present politically correct leaders, the Islamic State and the founding fathers of our country. In doing so he found that the founders were similar to the Islamic State in that they had the dedication and courage of their convictions to the extent that they would dare everything - even life itself for what they believed. This comparison seemed to bring out the livid rage in much of the liberal press. They produced headlines that implied that Dr. Carson thought that there was some moral equivalence there. What he was really saying was that our leaders today lack even the courage to understand what threatens us let alone defend us properly against it.
Here is the money quote from Dr. Carson in that CPAC speech, and the reason I believe he is the important voice we need. After comparing the dedication of the Islamists and out founders he clearly called out the difference:
"They've got the wrong philosophy, but, they're willing to die for it while we are busily giving away every belief and every value for the sake of political correctness. We have to change that.”
The only way to change it is to stop doing it- just stop. I will plead guilty to being an emotional, even passionate writer (some might even say overwrought). As such I am in no way capable of conveying the simple, confident and clear vision that Dr Carson possesses. So I want to give you two quotes from a pair of his articles that I hope serve to sum up, not only his ability to put his finger on exactly the right course of action but his ability to do it in an amiable, if direct and open way. On the drift of Political correctness he responded to being called an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, he told Bill O’Reilly:
“We need to be in a place where people feel free to express themselves and not to be intimidated by political correctness It’s destroying our nation, And there is a reason that our founders, (made) one of the very first amendments freedom of speech, freedom of expression.”
On the threat we face from the Jihadis he states what should be obvious to anyone who will open his eyes to the true situation:
“This is a critical time in the history of the world, and we must clear our heads and think logically about the consequences of underestimating the threat posed by a host of Islamic terrorist groups. It is very clear that they have a plan that they believe will yield a victory in their quest for world domination. Some in our country are arrogant enough to believe that such a goal is preposterous. Others believe that our time has come and gone and that resistance is useless.
Both of these beliefs are absolutely wrong and do not take into account the strength and resolve inherent in the American character. The battle we are entering will be difficult and will be fraught with surprises, but as Winston Churchill said, “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors. Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.”
That is true and honest leadership, and honesty is the biggest crowbar of all.