Thursday, March 16, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Eight years ago I wrote a piece for the local paper on the significance of St. Patrick, and I thought I'd share it with you on the eve of this year's observance:

Millions of Americans, many of them descendents of Irish immigrants, will soon be celebrating their Irish heritage by observing St. Patrick's Day. We are indebted to Thomas Cahill, and his best-selling book How the Irish Saved Civilization, for explaining to us why Patrick's is a life worth commemorating.

As improbable as his title may sound, Cahill weaves a fascinating and compelling tale of how the Irish in general, and Patrick and his spiritual heirs in particular, served as a tenuous but crucial cultural bridge from the classical world to the medieval age and, by doing so, made Western civilization possible.

Born a Roman citizen in 390 A.D., Patrick had been kidnapped as a boy of sixteen from his home on the coast of Britain and taken by Irish barbarians to Ireland. There he languished in slavery until he was able to escape six years later.

Upon his homecoming he became a Christian, studied for the priesthood, and eventually returned to Ireland, where he would spend the rest of his life laboring to persuade the Irish to accept the gospel and abolish slavery. Patrick was the first person in history, in fact, to speak out unequivocally against slavery and the last person to do so until the 17th century.

Meanwhile, Roman control of Europe had begun to collapse. Rome was sacked by Alaric in 410 A.D., and barbarians were sweeping across the continent, forcing the Romans back to Italy and plunging Europe into the Dark Ages. Throughout the continent unwashed, illiterate hordes descended upon the once grand Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books. Learning ground to a halt, and the literary heritage of the classical world went up in smoke or moldered into dust. Almost all of it, Cahill claims, would have been lost if not for the Irish.

Having been converted to Christianity through the efforts of Patrick, the Irish took with gusto to reading, writing and learning. They delighted in letters and bookmaking and painstakingly created indescribably beautiful Biblical manuscripts, such as the incomparable Book of Kells which is on display today in the library of Trinity College in Dublin.

Aware that the great works of the past were disappearing, Irish Christians applied themselves assiduously to the daunting task of copying all surviving Western literature - everything they could lay their hands on. For a century after the fall of Rome, monks sequestered themselves away in cold, damp, cramped mud and stone huts called scriptoria, so remote and isolated from the world that they were seldom threatened by the marauding pagans.

Here these men spent their entire adult lives reproducing the old manuscripts and preserving literacy and learning for the time when people would be ready once again to receive them. These scribes and their successors served as the conduits through which the Graeco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the benighted tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruin of the civilization they had recently overwhelmed.

Around the late 6th century, three generations after Patrick, Irish missionaries with names like Columcille, Aidan and Columbanus began to venture out from their monasteries and refuges. Clutching their precious books to their hearts, they sailed to England and the continent, founding their own monasteries and schools among the barbarians and teaching them how to read, write and make books of their own.

Absent the willingness of these courageous men to endure deprivations and hardships of every kind for the sake of the gospel and learning, Cahill argues, the world that came after them would have been completely different. It would likely have been a world without books. Europe almost certainly would have been illiterate, and it would probably have been unable to resist the Muslim incursions that arrived a few centuries later.

The Europeans, starved for knowledge, soaked up everything the Irish missionaries could give them. From such seeds as these modern Western civilizations germinated. From the Greeks the descendents of the goths and the vandals learned philosophy, from the Romans they learned about law, from the Bible they learned of the worth of the individual who, created and loved by God, is therefore significant and not merely a brutish aggregation of matter.

From the Bible, too, they learned that the universe was created by a rational mind and was thus not capricious, random or chaotic. It would yield its secrets to rational investigation. Out of these assumptions, once their implications were finally and fully developed, grew historically unprecedented views of the value of the individual and the flowering of modern science.

Our cultural heritage is thus, in a very important sense, a legacy from the Irish. A legacy from Patrick. It is worth pondering on this St. Patrick's Day what the world would be like today had it not been for the Irish thirteen centuries ago.

Buiochuas le Dia ar son nan Gaeil! (Thank God for the Irish), and happy St. Patrick's Day.

A Reprieve?

According to this article, the launch of the Iranian oil bourse has been postponed.

It looks like we might have to wait and see how this unfolds.

Axis of Evil Update

Good news:

Iran's clerical and business establishments, deeply concerned by what they see as reckless spending and needlessly aggressive foreign policies, are increasingly turning against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Within this context, many see the president's long-running confrontation with the United States and Europe over Tehran's nuclear program as an attempt to demonize the West and distract the Iranian public from pressing domestic problems.

"His appeal was to those for whom class discrimination is important, and his simple lifestyle gave an air of credibility to his claims," said Nasser Hadian, a political analyst at Tehran University who attended high school with Mr. Ahmadinejad. Mr. Hadian predicted that senior Iranian clerics would continue to support Mr. Ahmadinejad -- or at least not move against him -- for about a year because of that popular support. But privately, he said, they feel he is isolating Iran internationally and putting its economy at risk. Also at the back of their minds is the fear that his anti-corruption drive ultimately threatens their own considerable privileges.

The value of Tehran's stock market had fallen by $10 billion under Mr. Ahmadinejad as of February, the Los Angeles Times reported. Other recent Western news reports say that the nation's vibrant real-estate market has withered and that capital outflows are increasing. Mr. Ahmadinejad's spending has pushed the inflation rate to an estimated 13.5 percent, and several estimates say it could go as high as 30 percent this year. Economic analysts note that inflation will be felt most acutely by the poor, undermining the president's support among his most important constituency.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's detractors say the broad coalition against him is attracting many of the regime's powerful personalities and may include even the supreme leader himself, despite his superficial statements in support of the president. They point to a recent decree by Ayatollah Khamenei giving the Expediency Council, headed by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, oversight of the presidency. The clerical establishment has close ties with the capitalist class and is said to be appalled at the rapid slide of the economy since Mr. Ahmadinejad's inauguration. The clerics are also thought to be deeply apprehensive about the president's aggressive foreign policy.

Mr. Ghaninejad said that by confronting Iran over its nuclear program, the West was in fact throwing a lifeline to Mr. Ahmadinejad. "If they keep piling on the pressure, Ahmadinejad will become a national hero," the newspaper editor said. "Let the Iranians deal with him. If you leave him alone, he will become a bankrupt politician within a year. With greater pressure, only the extremists will benefit."

Bad news:

North Korea has the right to launch a pre-emptive attack against U.S.-backed South Korean forces because the two Koreas are technically still at war, the communist state's official media said on Tuesday. The comments came as North Korea shows its displeasure with annual joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises, which Pyongyang has said are a preparation for an invasion of its territory.

A spokesman for the North's Korea People's Army (KPA) said distrust is high between the United States and North Korea, and Pyongyang "will never remain a passive onlooker to the U.S. pre-emptive attack on the DPRK," its official news agency reported. DPRK is short for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The KPA side is of the view that a pre-emptive attack is not (the) monopoly of the U.S. and the DPRK, too, has the right to pre-empt an attack as the most effective and positive act for self-defense in the light of the hard reality that the DPRK and the U.S. sides are still technically at war," the spokesman was cited as saying.

The question that occurs to us is, if Ahmadinejad's government will collapse if just left alone, why hasn't North Korea's government suffered similar collapse already? North Korea is much poorer, more oppressive, and more isolated than Iran. Yet they just keep chugging along, murdering their people and threatening to murder everyone else, just like Iran. Maybe the "leave them alone" advice isn't so good.

Racist Prodigy

Michelle Malkin, whose blog, in my opinion, is the best on the net, has a good piece on the racist poet Autum Ashante. Autum is all of 7 years old, but: New York Post education reporter David Andreatta reported this weekend, she was invited to perform at public middle and high schools in Peekskill, N.Y., for Black History Month. After asking white students to remain seated while she led black students in a recitation of the Black Panthers' Black Child's Pledge, Autum (now home-schooled by her single father, a Nation of Islam member and poet) angrily read this original poem:

White Nationalism Put U In Bondage

White nationalism is what put you in bondage

Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin

Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with

Steel, tricks and deceit.

Nothing has changed take a look in our streets

The mis-education of she and Hegro - leaves you on your knee2grow

Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse

They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers

They took the black women, with the black man weak

Made to watch as they changed the paradigm Of our village

They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went So far as to kill the unborn baby

Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage

Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin

They drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with Steel laden feet, throw in the tricks alcohol and deceit.

Nothing has changed take a look at our streets.

Leaving aside churlish questions like whether a seven year old would have ever come up with a word like "paradigm" on her own, Malkin notes that:

Complaints from shocked students and parents led to a tape-recorded apology sent to all parents apologizing for the performance. Autum's father condemned white district officials as "racist crackers." Autum defended her poem by explaining to the Westchester Journal News that white people are "devils and they should be gone. We should be away from them and still be in Africa."

Michelle reminds us of the media outrage over the two white thirteen year old girls who sing racist lyrics and wonders how much outrage there'll be over Ms Ashante's diatribe.

Easy answer to that one.

Go to Michelle's page for the whole story and related links.

Learning the Hard Way

Here are a couple of reports on how low our economy has sunk under the incompetent supervision of George W. Bush:

WASHINGTON - Jobs grew at a healthy clip in February, the government reported Friday, helping boost wages to their highest year-over-year increase in more than four years while encouraging more jobless people to reenter the labor force.

The stronger-than-predicted net increase of 243,000 jobs was the largest gain in any of the last 12 months except for November, when the economy was rebounding from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The report signaled that wage growth, which has lagged behind inflation even as the unemployment rate has tumbled, might finally be making a comeback. "The growth in most workers' wages is probably just about to catch up with inflation, resulting in the first inflation-adjusted wage gains in years," he said.


NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose sharply on Tuesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 indexes hitting their highest in nearly five years as U.S. Treasury yields fell and record profit from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. boosted shares of financial companies.

The liberals have been telling us for years that those tax cuts wouldn't work but we obstinately refused to listen. Now we're learning the lesson the hard way and getting just what we deserve for not heeding the economic sages in the Defeatocrat party.