Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rage Against the Machine

Leftist terrorist groups are evidently experiencing a rebirth of sorts in Europe. Most of the terror organizations of the 1970s had died out, but lately, fueled by poor job prospects in socialist economies, the number of disaffected and radicalized young people has been increasing.

Paradoxically, these malcontents often insist on creating a more thoroughly socialist economic structure - socialism is the problem so the cure must be more of it - and an arrant secularization of society. The latter is also odd since European leftists are often allied with radical Islamists who are intent on bringing the whole world under the banner of Islam, and who, if they ever succeed, would immediately kill atheists like those lefties who champion the Islamists' various causes.

Strategy Page tells us that:

The widespread use of violence by Islamic terrorists has masked the revival of leftist terrorist groups in the West. Some of them are older groups trying to make a comeback. Three years ago, Italian police arrested fifteen members of the 1970s era "Red Brigades," and charged them with plotting the murder of people who did not agree with their revolutionary goals. The Red Brigades were part of an wave of small, violent, leftist revolutionary groups that emerged in the 1960s and 70s, and were largely gone by the 1990s. Actually, the groups never died out completely, but, except in Greece and Latin America, they were much less violent after the Cold War ended.

The Soviet Union had provided some support for these groups, but mostly they were sustained by disaffected middle class kids out to change the world. A new generation of disaffected, politically motivated murderers are now signing up. Many Western leftists still see the United States as the enemy of the people, and capitalism as something that must be destroyed at all costs. In an odd confluence, many of these leftists are marching (literally) shoulder to shoulder with Islamic radicals. This despite the fact that the two groups (one anti-religious, and the other very pro one religion) are natural enemies.

More enthusiastic adoption of socialist, and anti-capitalist policies in Western Europe over the last century has led to a high unemployment rate for people coming out of school, and this has made radical politics a more attractive proposition to some. But compared to the poverty and desperation in the Islamic world, the Western terrorists have a far smaller recruiting pool. But like the Islamic terrorists, the Western groups share the same basic myth. That is, if the world would only unite under a benevolent despotism, everything would be better. Like the Islamic radicals, the Western terrorists find it more comfortable to blame foreigners for their trouble. In this case, the big bad is the United States....

It is a noteworthy fact about our existential situation that there are millions of people around the globe whose lives are so empty that they are reduced to a nihilistic desire to just tear down everything, kill everyone who opposes them, and establish ..... what? An Islamic or Marxist paradise? When in history has such a paradise ever existed? When has a state founded on the blood of its predecessors ever been more just or prosperous than the polity it succeeded?


Reclaiming the Culture

In 1951 H. Richard Niebuhr wrote his classic Christ and Culture in which he argued that the faithful have throughout history adopted five different answers to the question of how Christians should stand in relation to the larger culture. These he discusses under the headings of Christ against culture, Christ in culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture, and Christ transforming culture.

Andrew Klavan,in a brief essay titled Celebrating the Good Stuff at City Journal, raises somewhat similar questions with regard to conservative attitudes to culture. Klavan argues that conservatives need to set aside their objections to so much of the anomic, progressivist, anti-family, anti-American, anti-Christian themes that pollute the popular culture and set about the task of transforming it into a more accurate reflection of what life in America really is.

Here's Klavan:

For years now, some of us conservatives have been struggling to take back American popular culture. Sick of movies, television shows, music, and literature disfigured by a lockstep conformity to leftist ideology, we've sought to wrestle the arts out of the grip of an alienated and small-minded elite and give it back to artists in moral synch with most Americans. The idea, as far as I'm concerned, is not to reshape the pop-culture landscape into one of sentimental patriotism and faith or limit artists to the creation of squeaky-clean family entertainment.

I merely want to see more art that represents the moral universe as it is: that shows a world, for instance, in which freedom is better than slavery and therefore America is better than, say, Saudi Arabia; a world in which military courage in defense of what's right is worthy of honor, and therefore a U.S. soldier fighting an Islamofascist is a hero, not an abuser; a world in which faith can be uplifting and not corrupting; in which women and men are different and therefore might be justly treated differently; in which ideas and behaviors can be judged on their own merits whether the people involved with them are white or brown or black.

For the past 40 years, too much of our culture has been dedicated to propagandizing us, to normalizing and elevating moral relativism, atheism, and brainless multiculturalism. The deep philosophical corruption that now permeates our government and the Obama administration's assault on American traditions and values could never have happened if we hadn't lost the culture first; they will never fully end until we take the culture back.

Here's what I consider the punchline of his piece:

But we can't win back the arts unless we love them. Too many conservatives boast of their philistinism. "I haven't seen a movie in years," they brag, as if that were some sort of achievement. Too many others seek to clip the wings of artistic imagination, demanding that artists turn away from anything disturbing or violent or sexual, which is to say from much of life itself.

Klavan is right. Whether one is a Christian or a conservative (or both), it is simply a self-defeating tactic to shun the popular culture on the grounds that it's too sordid. It is sordid, of course, but that's the milieu in which our fellow citizens live and move and have their being, and unless we are conversant with its major lineaments we make ourselves irrelevant to our fellows. We may as well be invisible ghosts for all that people will heed our concerns if we cannot relate to them in terms they understand. That means standing with them in the midst of the media in which they form their beliefs and opinions.

Of course, not everyone can be so immersed in pop culture that they can discuss knowledgably every musical group, tv show, movie, novel, piece of art, etc. but we can all know more than we do, and to ignore the cultural environment in which we live our daily lives is to cede it to those who would use it for purposes we might find distressing. It is to forfeit to the "other side" perhaps the most powerful tool available to society for shaping the hearts and minds of our successors.

The other side, liberals and/or secularists, have been pretty much dictating the cultural climate and norms for at least three generations. Why should we be content to let that continue?