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Are We Declining? Are We Falling?

Let me preface this post by saying that I spent my last day in France making a quick trip to stay with a farm family in Picardy. I’ll be writing about that in a separate post. One of the things I did while there was visit a restored German trench from the Battle of the Somme. As it turns out, the trench went right through the farmer’s land. One million men died or were wounded in that battle.

One. Million. Men.

My hosts told me that everything I saw around me in the villages was built after the war. There had been virtually nothing left.

What we are going through today is, I think, the working-out of what happened there on the Somme — and, more broadly, World War I. That is not an original thought, of course, but if you want to see where Western civilization committed suicide, well, the Somme is as good a place as any to visit.

Rusty Reno writes in his column this month: [1]

Millennials are derided as “snowflakes.” But feelings of intensified vulnerability are not limited to the young. Religious believers also see themselves under assault. Rod Dreher’s recent book, The Benedict Option [2], has struck a chord in large part because it is suffused with end-of-days sentiments. “If demographic trends continue, our churches will soon be empty.” “We’ve lost on every front.” “The public square has been lost.” We face a “thousand-year flood.”

When religious people talk like this, one would think secular people should be confident and secure. But that’s not the case. They express a similar pessimism. They watch The Handmaid’s Tale, a TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s imagined future of theocratic fundamentalism that forces women into sexual servitude. This dystopian pessimism was reinforced last fall when a number of powerful men were accused of sexual harassment. This led the New York Times to appoint a new “gender editor.” She told her readers that we need to battle against the “widely held perception that women’s bodies are available for public consumption.” There is peril everywhere, it seems. An academic friend tells me the administration at his university asks faculty to remove personal information from their curricula vitae—date of birth, home address, citizenship, marital status, and so forth. “It is good practice nowadays to not make this kind of personal information publically available.”

He continues:

Our present cultural moment is one of suspicion, anxiety, and worries about vulnerability. Many, perhaps most, fear that they are being discriminated against and marginalized. And those who don’t? They often live in the fear that they will be accused of white privilege or some other sin. Perhaps this is to be expected. Patriarchy, racism, heteronormativity—they are said to infect everything. One area of public discourse immune from the postmodern hermeneutics of suspicion is wonkish policy debate. But this is dominated by economistic thinking, which takes as its first premise rational self-interest. Here, too, we’re pictured as eyeing each other with competitive suspicion.

The anxiety baffles me. Our society works pretty well. In many cities, crime is down dramatically, reaching historically low levels. The economy grows, both here at home and globally. American war-making has settled into a pattern of limited engagement that leaves most of us undisturbed. Meanwhile, public culture rings with warnings that things are heading toward disaster—global warming, resurgent racism, populism. Every week our office receives review copies of another book that promises to show us how to “save liberal democracy.”

Some point to social media as the source of our unease. It debases political discourse by reducing debate to brief punches and jabs. Others bemoan the general coarsening of our society. How can we feel at ease when TV hosts launch into rants liberally punctuated with f-bombs? And it’s not just celebrities posing as political commentators, but the commentators themselves, as well as those on whom they comment, including the present occupant of the White House. Then there is the general atmosphere of polarization and rancor, which beckons us to reach for rhetorical weapons. As many have pointed out, half of the country has difficulty talking to the other half. The red vs. blue divide has become cultural.

The chasm between reality and how we talk makes me skeptical of end-times rhetoric. It’s not the 1930s. Even the 1930s were not the 1930s of our overheated political imaginations. In this issue I offer a more modest explanation of our present travails (“Goodbye, Heraclitus”). Our crisis, I argue, emanates from problems in the upper reaches of society, not anger or protest from below. The unease at the top is the result of the decadence of our postwar political and cultural outlook. This failing consensus makes our leadership class increasingly unable to lead. And this, in turn, gives our present debates and challenges the atmosphere of crisis and doom. Those who need to lead us are frustrated with their ineffectiveness. They don’t like being ignored and tuned out. Like Americans abroad who imagine that foreigners will understand their English if they yell more loudly, the instinct of our elites is to insist upon their solutions (and their authority) with even greater force.

At the end of an era—and we are at the end of one, the postwar era—there’s a great deal of heat and not much light. We will have to endure a time of political and cultural disorientation. As we do so, let’s maintain our equilibrium. Our society needs people who remain focused on human realities rather than the apocalyptic visions and self-referential polemics of our disoriented elites. God’s truth illuminates reality, which means that as religious believers, we should be able to keep our cool in the present, overheated moment.

Read the whole thing. [1]

It is always a good thing for me to read sensible words offering caution about apocalypticism. I mean that. I take Rusty’s remarks with a sense of gratitude.

But — and you knew there would be a but — I simply cannot believe that from a Christian point of view, “steady on” is a sensible general option. No, I’m not saying “run shrieking for the exits” is what we should do, but it seems quite clear to me that we Christians (and all religious believers in the West) are in an intense crisis, one that will prove decisive for our future.

After all, Pope Benedict XVI himself spoke of the spiritual crisis of Europe as the worst since the Roman Empire’s fall. In a 2008 general audience in Rome, Pope Benedict commemorated the patron saint of his pontificate, saying in part: [3]

Benedict describes the Rule he wrote as “minimal, just an initial outline” (cf. 73, 8); in fact, however, he offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today. By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognize the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe. Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity” (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990). Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.

John Paul II spoke of the communist utopias. This alludes to why this crisis is far worse than most people think, given that they judge by the fact that “our society works pretty well.” Yes, historically speaking, it does. But guess what: techno-optimism was quite strong at the dawn of the 20th century. That all died in the Somme, and at Verdun. Or at least it ought to have done; Auschwitz should have finished it off. And if not that, then Soviet communism, and Maoism.

Point is, civilization is an extremely fragile thing. What concerns me — not as a Christian, in particular — is that we are fast losing a sense of what it means to be human. We are a people unmoored from transcendent values, from history, and from a sense of limits. How far can we go? Can anybody say with any confidence? The point is not that things are more peaceful and prosperous than they ever have been, but the growing sense — a realistic sense! — that it’s all a high-wire act without a net.

This past weekend, I met a French Catholic social activist who told me that he had appeared at a small demonstration in Paris last year in which he held up a sign saying that the gender of children is not a game. (I saw the sign: that is literally what it said.) He said that the media treated him and his fellow demonstrators as if they were the second coming of Adolf Hitler. He knew things were bad for people who believe the things that he does, but it deeply shocked him that his position is considered by the dominant culture today to be viciously bigoted.

Ten years ago is the blink of an eye. Had you told people in 2008 that this was coming, and coming fast, they would have accused you of scaremongering. Yet here we are.

As a Christian, specifically, I don’t know how fellow believers can be sanguine about what we’re seeing. The Western world will go on without Christianity, should it come to that, but as believers, we hold that this would mean the loss of countless souls. I want my children, and their children, and their children’s children, to profess the Christian faith. I believe their eternal destiny depends on this. Christianity in Europe is flat on its back — and we in the US are on the same path. Now is the time to sound the alarm! I strongly urge you to read my response from last October to the absurd remarks of Father Antonio Spadaro [4], a top Jesuit adviser to Pope Francis. His retro-1970s accomodationist rhetoric is based on an absurd read of the times, at least in the West. For US Catholics, sociologist Christian Smith delivers a bit of the bad news:

Just over half the young people raised by parents who describe themselves as “liberal” Catholics stop going to Mass entirely once they become “emerging adults”—a new demographic category that means either prolonged adolescence or delayed adulthood, defined here in Young Catholic America as ages eighteen to twenty-three.

But now, let’s put that sad trend in perspective: The picture isn’t all that much better for the children of “traditional” Catholics. Although only a quarter of those young adults say they’ve stopped going to Mass entirely, only 17 percent say they’re going every week, and in general, their allegiance to church membership and participation seems nearly as faded as the kids of so-called feckless liberals.

Nobody is safe. The time to act to sauve qui peut is now. One of the strongest points I’m taking away from my time in Paris is that young French Catholics (30 and under) know much better than their American counterparts what it is like to live in a post-Christian country — and they know that if they don’t live with more radicalism than their parents, they aren’t going to make it.

“The chasm between reality and how we talk makes me skeptical of end-times rhetoric,” my friend Rusty Reno writes. Just looking at the situation with Catholics and other Christians, what reality, exactly, is there to be skeptical about? I talked to a Catholic farmer this weekend who showed me his village church. They have one mass there every three months. There is one priest for 25 parishes.

On the up side, I met a young French Catholic couple who returned last year to France from Houston, where the husband worked in industry. They were part of a big, active Catholic parish in the city, and came home to France full of enthusiasm and ideas for living a more active Christian life. Reality is not dismal everywhere! But we have to be serious about our time and the challenges it poses. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

76 Comments (Open | Close)

76 Comments To "Are We Declining? Are We Falling?"

#1 Comment By JonF On February 21, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

Gromaticus: the Enlightenment view is actually a secularization of the Christian view. Remember, the Christian view does not end with Apocalypse but rather with the New Jerusalem. The Enlightenment view tries to realize the New Jerusalem in the here-and-now– something the Calvinists sought as well. There’s a deep historical reason New England is the most liberal region of our country.

#2 Comment By kevin on the left On February 21, 2018 @ 4:20 pm

“But it is the complete disregard for limits that worries me. In some senses I understand the tendency of younger people in particular to look down at “limits” as they might at Grandpa’s suggestion that his 1978 Buick sedan was the Best Car Ever. ”

But(generally speaking) young people care about limits – just not necessarily the same limits conservative Christians are concerned about. To wit, compare how receptive each group is to arguments about the environment and the limits of it carrying capacity.

#3 Comment By dave On February 21, 2018 @ 4:27 pm

You know Mr. Dreher, I don’t have an argument about your main point – it’s an idea I have not developed well yet – but it’s that I don’t know that it is accurate to think of the United States as Anglo-Saxon / British. It was, sort of. Officially, I suppose. It was a cord, a multi-cultural cord of many threads.

The British thread was a dominant thread for a time. Officially. But even as the country developed it was a Spanish country, a French country. Sioux, Cherokee, Onanadagan. African. Asian, after a time.

Europe is having it’s problems and we are having ours, but I am not sure they are the same. And I think we’ve a strength and resiliency that Western Europe does not. But there needs to be a different attitude. There is much to appreciate in American culture, I think. But in order to do that, one to has to understand that American culture was never one thing. It has always been a multi-braided thread.

#4 Comment By KD On February 21, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

Kara writes:

No one is forcing anyone to do anything. They are asking … nay demanding .. that they be accepted for the human beings they are without hate and judgement and simply be treated equally.

And because you bitterly cling to your bourgeois, reactionary viewpoint, the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal of Supreme Social Justice sentences you to five years in Goolag.

#5 Comment By MichaelGC On February 21, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

As per Wikki, a more correct interpretation of the title for Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West (German: Der Untergang des Abendlandes) is actually Downfall of the West.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 21, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

Take that paragraph and substitute “black skin” for “gender”.

The word “gender” does not appear in the quoted paragraph. Kara needs to learn to write more clearly if she wished to communicate with her fellow human beings.

Further, the words “gender” and “sex” are not synonymous. And, more important, neither “sex” nor “gender” are comparable to “black skin,” for legal, sociological, ethical, or political purposes. That they have been conflated is one of the great mislocations of the early 21st century.

The only objective distinction between dark skin and light skin is whether one’s ancestors were more likely to die of sunstroke or Vitamin D deficiency before reaching the age of puberty and reproducing. Babies are born mostly “white” no matter what their parents look like, although some quickly darken post-partum. As long as they have been hanging out where the sun don’t shine, melanin production is at a minimum. Live in a cave long enough, you can get the same result no matter how dark your skin was when you entered the cave.

That this rather minor distinction has been turned into a series of sociological myths is indeed one of the great abominations of the last five centuries.

Sex, on the other hand, is a real functional distinction. It doesn’t affect the ability of a woman to become a lawyer, but without complex, expensive intervention with unknown side effects, it does affect the ability of a man to lactate, or conceive and give birth.

There is no equation between the two, no matter how many MAD Lib games you play substituting one for the other in the same sentence.

NFR: The belief that things will continue to improve as our technological mastery of matter improves. — RD

A terribly important point. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Coca leaf was a useful mild stimulant for people living in high altitudes with thin oxygen who had to walk up and down hill a lot. Distilling and concentrating the essential chemicals was a horrible mistake.

Social conservatism is downright toxic to those under 35 in America

I remember what the future looked like to those of us who grew up in the 1960s… and I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected president. I also remember when Jimmy Carter was a southern conservative Democrat who led the opposition to George McGovern. I remember when the first cohort of apolitical self-centered young people hit college campuses as “The Movement” began to fade.

Nothing is so unreliable as to project current fads and trends indefinitely into the future.

#7 Comment By Mike W On February 21, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

If anyone is interested in reading more about WWI, “The Pity of War” by Niall Fergusson is a good place to start ( [5]) I certainly can’t comprehend the idea that for many communities, they lost an entire generation of young men. Nearly every male between the ages of 18 and 35…dead.

Rod, more than three million men fought in the Battle of Somme. One million were wounded or killed – in any case, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

For a little perspective, there were 620,000 US military deaths in the Civil War, 116,000 in WWI, 405,399 in WWII, 58,209 in Vietnam, and 6,626 in our current war in Iraq-Afghanistan.

#8 Comment By Tim On February 21, 2018 @ 6:38 pm

Thank you, Gramaticus, yes, so much of our confusion results from our failure to see that original sin is at the heart of our human condition. Modernists can’t see this at all and as a result, lift their fists and cry, “We will not serve” (the Lord of Hosts). Thus our deep and deepening state of crisis.

#9 Comment By Sharon Astyk On February 21, 2018 @ 6:46 pm

What interests me is that pretty much everyone sees us as already fallen. Kids grow up reading post-apocalyptic literature that is effectively always-already. Our current President thinks that we have already fallen to the deepest depths – his inaugural speech was a post-apocalyptic vision. Only the economic right and the middle-of-the-road left deny this obvious fact. I would not be as bleak about religion as you are – I suspect we are rife for the next thing, the thing we don’t see coming, and because human beings need G-d, that will be intertwined. Whether it is a form of Christianity (or other religion) that you or I or any other person particularly will appreciate is another question all together, and one I don’t feel a strong ability to stake a position on. But I think that the “if trends continue” argument may be wrong. I suspect trends probably won’t – if not in a modern Somme, in some other fairly substantive break.

[NFR: I haven’t heard from you in ages! How are you?! How happy it makes me to see your name. Drop me a private note if you have time. — RD]

#10 Comment By Matt On February 21, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

Civilisation collapses due to lack of interest. Men aren’t getting married because the cost is too high, and marriage failure will see the man suffer all the consequences.
Enormous numbers of men have been divorce raped by the state, bankrupted and jailed for child support default.

As a Catholic I tell men to avoid marriage at all costs, find something better to do with your life. 50% of marriages fail, and all they will get is alimony slavery and see their kids once a month. If they suffer business failure and mental health issues during the divorce rape they could end destitute and jailed for non payment of child support.
The state exists to extract resources from men to women, when marriage fails, the state will take your life, liberty, property and children.

The MGTOW movement is a sign of a civilisation that does not believe in itself. No marriage, no communities, no civilisation.

I’ve seen so many Catholic marriages destroyed and catholic men head spray or hang themselves, it all untenable.

You want the real picture, go to the family law courts each day and watch mentally ill destitute men get jailed for child support arrears. Yeah ” deadbeat ” dads they call them, after they have been ground into the dirt.

After working in the courts for years seeing this, I don’t want to support this society, I would rather see it burn.

#11 Comment By Eric Mader On February 21, 2018 @ 7:49 pm

I read Rusty Reno’s pieces now and then, waiting for one to impress me as more than just fluff. It hasn’t happened yet. Reno is like the David Brooks of First Things: so middle of the road he’s not on any road at all. But the column inches keep piling up, don’t they?

Sorry if that’s not all that Christian of me. Just getting exasperated with pundits who can’t see the cliff we’re heading to.

Rod’s paragraphs in answer raise the real questions. And dear Kara, whose comment posted first, who is so confident in the findings of a decade of postmodern identity masturbation, appears just in time to show the lamestream Maoists at the gates! One can hear her eagerness to get the concentration camps built ASAP for all those who don’t check her trite little boxes. And these Maoists, this time, have all the assets of Silicon Valley and the trendy corporations ready to flatter and virtue-signal their Miley-level dogmas to the Win. Gulags in Nebraska. After which, Rusty (and maybe David Brooks too) will be led away muttering “But can’t we talk about this?”

Which is why, though I subscribe to Rod’s general thinking on the Benedict Option, on the cultural front, when I encounter these SJW hordes online or in public, I’m in favor of a more Milo Yiannopoulos brand of In Your Face Offend All Their Sensibilities Glee. Debate is dead, and we really have nothing to lose. Except this war.

#12 Comment By catbird On February 21, 2018 @ 7:57 pm

Not sure how relevant this is to the discussion here, but guess which three countries suffered the highest casualties on a percentage basis in World War I? France? Germany? Russia? Britain?

Nope!

Serbia, Turkey, and Romania, in that order.

Only after those three comes France, Germany & Austro-Hungary.

At least Serbia got a big Yugoslavia out of losing 15-25% of its people. Until it all fell apart after 1990, leaving Serbia smaller than it was in 1914. Talk about a waste.

Information here:

[6]

#13 Comment By TA On February 21, 2018 @ 9:43 pm

(I think an earlier comment on this got eaten, so forgive the possible double post.)

A Dreher-bait article courtesy of the Washington Post sister site:

[7]

44% of people under 30 are open to non-monogamous relationships.

17% of people under 45 have had non-monogamous relationships with the consent of their primary partner.

#14 Comment By Olga On February 21, 2018 @ 10:08 pm

With a quick search of “the google”, I quickly found scientific articles discussing the complexity of sex (biological presentation) and gender (social construct). [8] [9]

I know people that are intersex. These are individuals that have an xxy chromosome. I know men that had a testicle that never dropped. “Women” who later learned that they had non-distended testicles, no ovaries and no uterus, but since they did not present with a penis at birth, were reared as female.

On the other end some people that are physically healthy and their bodies present as clearly male or female, but for unknown reasons they identify with the gender that they do not present with. This might have to do with when the hormones were released during pregnancy.

Remember, most people that are born male or female also identify as either male or female. The percentage of people in this grey area is only 3-6%. All these individuals want is for the most part to be left alone. Also the ability to pee when they are at the mall or a restaurant would be nice as well.

#15 Comment By Rick On February 22, 2018 @ 2:42 am

To Kara:

“The people who “believe the things that he does” are no different from those who believed that black people shouldn’t sit at a lunch counter with a white person. Or shouldn’t work the same jobs as a white person. Or shouldn’t live in the same neighborhood with a white person. Or marry a white person.”

It isn’t though. That’s a false equivalency. The truth is a child’s gender isn’t a game. Nor should it be whether they be non-binary or not when they mature physically and emotionally.

Saying that is not the same as denying a black person the right to vote. Or lynching. Or segregation. Or racial slurs.

If the left is to be taken seriously we have to dial down the hyperbole by a factor of 1000.

Otherwise you’re no less moronic than a Trump supporter.

#16 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 22, 2018 @ 4:51 am

Franklin

I wouldn’t label your focus “cynical”. I’d rather call it “reasoned”.
Your intuition that the lack of a “golden shore” – whatever it be – is something that makes violence and oppression inescapable is something that call for a lot of reflection and pondering.
The first remarks that come to my mind are that for sure that “golden shore” didn’t prevent the violence and in Europe, but for sure prevented Europe to revel in repeated cycles of self-destruction until total material and human annihilation. The suicidal tendencies are still there, and they are manifest – I’d say preeminent – in the culture, but at least they don’t take the shape of 1917 or 1939.
Your point about scapegoating is also of paramount importance. René Girard has analyzed the recurrent phenomenon of scapegoating across Paganism and Christianity. According to him, the scapegoat is the point of discharge of the tensions of a community, and it undergoes a cycle of victimization and deification.
His major insight is that Christianity has unveiled the hidden law behind the sacred violence based upon the scapegoating-divinization cycle in pre-Christian societies and abolished it.
He also says that the abolition is not completely effective since this is a basic tendency of humanity.
I’m afraid that in a godless society, a society were there are no “golden shores” to flee to, the scapegoating cycle will become strong again. It’s not without a reason that the two major totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were major scapegoating machines.
So yes, I share your concern.

#17 Comment By JonF On February 22, 2018 @ 6:40 am

Matt,
The men who aren’t marrying are the one who don’t have anything to lose: the poor and working class. The middle class and the rich men are marrying still. Your whine inverts the reality of the situation. And so what if you lose some money? Is money the ultimate value in life? You can’t take it with you. As I have said before (maybe not to you) any man who thinks that way is no good catch and is doing the ladies a favor by removing himself from the marriage pool. You claim to be a Catholic, but should any Christian put material things on such a pedestal?

#18 Comment By Matt On February 22, 2018 @ 9:02 am

Jon F: I have seen men destituted by the courts in favour of women, destituted monetarily, emotionally and taking their liberty, and children. Even female lawyers say to the male clients that the courts favour the mother. My job was to provide protective services to the judges and I saw and heard everything from private chambers to open court.
Men have no rights, it’s a gynocentric star chamber, men are completely destroyed in this process.
The last straw for me was watching a pink haired raging feminist ideologue judge take a mentally wrecked man’s last possession, his cheap fishing rod $ 50’s worth. He fished at a wharf as his last sanity preserving activity.
Homeless, because his wife got the house and a boy friend, and the kids. His business was gone and his kids were gone.

Yeah don’t put material things on a pedestal, a man doesn’t need any material things, he can live on air.

The guy hanged himself, and it was business as usual at the courts, women judge’s gathering for usual raucous 5 star lunches with white wine and laughter.
I had seen countless travesties committed by these feminist ideologues, but that point I saw them as the new ss officers of the death camps.
I was treated like the dumb lurch and errant boy by these nazi pigs, I saw their vindictive decisions everyday.
The only thing protecting them was my oath as an officer of the court, but I realised that I had become the greatest danger to them despite that oath.

“Your whine inverts the reality of the situation. And so what if you lose some money? Is money the ultimate value in life? ”

I have seen the reality. So what if a man loses his money? So what if a man has no access to his kids? So what if a man is homeless. So what if some other man is being a father to his kids? So what if a man loses his mental health and hangs himself. Just so what.

Men are disposable, they just don’t know how disposable they are until they are chewed up by the beast. Men don’t care about other men until this happens to them, there’s not the solidarity like women have. I said to many guys just starting the process ” You are going to have big learning curve “, can’t tell them the reality, they just have to experience it.

If marriage fails the chances are you will not be a father to your kids, women get custody 85% of the time, and she only has to say that she is fearful of you, to get court orders to deny you all access, with no objective evidence in most cases. Seen it so many times.

Marriage is not worth it these days, not for a man.

#19 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 22, 2018 @ 10:34 am

Giuseppe,

Thank you for your generous perspective. I’ve spent many years of internal battle with my cynical side. It’s helpful to have your point of view here.

Nationalism, and the analogous identity focus — in which I include religion at the top of the list — is the first destination for the acquisition and maintenance of power. That’s a loose conclusion I’ve come to from reading Machiavelli, by the way. I have a personal example.

My mother’s family fled Croatia in the early days of the Ustasi regime. They arrived via ferry in northern Italy, and were gathered up by the good and devout Catholics in and around Asti. In direct disobedience to the “non-intervention” policy statements from the Vatican, they and other Jewish families were protected by these Italians often at the risk of their own lives.

Her story is one of extreme circumstances, which I very much doubt will be repeated. Her lifelong attitude is one I’ve come to embrace: there’s no more noble person than the Italian peasant (in her words); and her unspoken but clearly expressed distrust of the Roman Catholic Church was strong. She saw no contradiction or hypocrisy in her attitude. As a comparison point, she was not shy to say out loud “there’s something rotten at the heart of the German culture”; when I chastised her as being a bigot, she looked me in the eye and said “Yes, I am.”

People, in their local context, are generous and compassionate, very often not caring about the “identity” of the stranger or visitor. Certainly racism and other such bigotry informs their lives and their attitudes, but if they can “divorce” themselves from the strictures of nationalism or identity focus, they can and will prove themselves in every positive way.

Nationalism is very much a two-edged sword. Robert A. Heinlein — science fiction author, veteran and military historian — wrote (my paraphrase) that nations invariably go to war for practical reasons; young men need high ideals to convince them to risk their lives. This is the positive side of such things (such as it can be). It works exactly the same on the negative side, where the scapegoat “ideal” so easily captures the passions of hoi polloi.

#20 Comment By The Scientist 880 On February 22, 2018 @ 11:28 am

Siarlys Jenkins,

“I remember what the future looked like to those of us who grew up in the 1960s… and I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected president. I also remember when Jimmy Carter was a southern conservative Democrat who led the opposition to George McGovern. I remember when the first cohort of apolitical self-centered young people hit college campuses as “The Movement” began to fade.

Nothing is so unreliable as to project current fads and trends indefinitely into the future.”

You remember incorrectly. Baby Boomers showed no clear preference for liberal policies during the first 3 elections that they voted in. The baby boom generation is typically placed as births from 1946-1964. The 1964 election was the first election where the oldest boomers were eligible to vote. Goldwater got blown out with the under 30 demographic 64%:36%. 1968 was a three way race. If you combine the Nixon and the Wallace vote (both representing different kinds of conservatism), You actually see that the majority of the under 30 vote was voting conservative. In ’72 Nixon won the under 30 vote 52%:48%. Ford in 1976 only lost the under 30 vote by 8% to Carter. Reagan in 1980 only lost the under 30 vote by 6%. In ’84 and ’88 Republicans won the under 30 vote decisively 60%:40% and 63%:37%. This is the 3rd election millennials have voted in and republicans haven’t even come close to being competitive with the under 30 vote. We have seen roughly 60:40 democratic voting in all three presidential elections.

Lastly, You can’t look at the lived experience of Baby Boomers and extrapolate that to Millenials or Post-Millenials. The Baby Boom generation is much whiter than younger generations. There is no evidence that non-whites become more republican as they age. My parents were born in 1958 and 1960 and neither vote republican just like the vast majority of other black people who were here in 1960. I focus on blacks because Asians and Hispanics were not here in any large numbers in the 1960’s.

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#21 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 22, 2018 @ 12:04 pm

Matt,

I’m following your argument with JonF (with whom I often agree, in general), and I’m prompted by your apparent anger to offer my two cents.

I have to wonder, in the spirit of clarity, if your anecdotal experiences are supported by others. I mean that in a cooperative sense. There’s very much another side to it all, where women have been (and sometimes still are) treated by some men as disposable, whether children are involved or not.

Divorce litigation is very complex, as I’m sure you can describe better than I could. There are other factors involved, starting with the quality and commitment of the legal counsel men hire. From my very much not a lawyer perspective, a judge’s leeway in such proceedings is directly proportional to the strength of the case made by counsel.

Jon: I find your characterizing Matt as “whining” wasteful and a bit beneath you. I assert from personal experience — my own parents when I was 13, two sisters divorced, one with children — that the emotional context of divorce is strong and not to be denigrated without a very close familiarity with the people and circumstances. I will go out on a limb and further assert that you will rarely find cause to be so dismissive.

#22 Comment By JonF On February 22, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

Matt
Your posts on this topic are tedious and unnecessary, Are there injustices in the world? Of course there are. I could rattle off a dozen right now of various sorts. But the response to injustice is to fight it wherever possible– not indulge in pointless whining, and not to reach for broad brushes and blame everyone within ten parsecs of a particular wrong. Most women are not as you portray them (our host’s wife is a good example– and even you should be able to think of others). And most marriages do not end badly or at all, except by death. The divorce rate is somewhat under 50%– and many of those divorces are caused by bad behavior by the husband, and most do not involve any sort of financial judgment beyond splitting up the joint assets. Alimony is awarded in just 10% of divorces, and it’s usually temporary (and sometimes women have to pay it to men too). Child support is another matter– but if you want to tell me fathers should not have to support their children you will find lesss sympathy from me than if you argued for eating kittens and puppies for breakfast.
And in the final count life is what you make of it. Bad *stuff* happens to all of us, and yes, injustice should be fought (but never with broad tar brushes), however if all else fails, then this is my advice: get over it and move on.

#23 Comment By K squared On February 22, 2018 @ 10:05 pm

apropos of Mike W.’s comment above:

I visited a small church in Barfrestone, Kent last year. There’s a plaque commemorating WW 1
which lists a dozen or so dead from the village. The population of Barfrestone in 1901 was just over 100.

#24 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On February 23, 2018 @ 8:13 am

Franklin

I agree with everything you say. Just a remark.
When you mention the non intervention policy of the Vatican, this was not an indication not to help people in distress. Quite the contrary – it was rather an indication not to take sides. Which in my opinion was very reasonable as it would have only made things worst.
In Italy only, in during Nazi occupancy and in the immediate aftermaths, about 400 priests, nuns and monks were killed. Of those, about 2/3 by Nazis and Fascists and 1/3 by Communists.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 23, 2018 @ 11:39 am

Giuseppe,

I do agree about the non-intervention policy, especially that it was very much misunderstood at the time. The cautionary tale there is Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, then archbishop of Zagreb. His “public” face was cooperation with the Ustasi (a spurious charge). His private face was, in my family’s case, privately calling in Jewish families, giving them forged papers identifying them as Catholics, and telling them to flee.

Those priests, nuns and monks were all martyrs in my outsider’s opinion. May God bless them all.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 23, 2018 @ 11:50 am

Thank you Scientist 880… you have provided a string of data that proves my point perfectly. You probably can’t see the trees though, because you are so infatuated with your forest. Incidentally, elections seldom reflect the opinions of more than half the population. But in any case, projecting any given statistic indefinitely into the future puts one on very shaky ground — as you have just demonstrated.