Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Gotta Keep em Separated?

Quoth Marco: Let me take that grain of truth metaphor and turn it on its head. Lets say I postulated that grain should be separate from state. Somewhere like Australia, there is no tariffs, less interference in trade in grains from government. Now is Australia any richer than than the EU because of this? We would probably agree that we are better off than the EU in grain trade because of our policy. However this does not mean the EU won't still successfully trade in grains for millenia - nor does it mean Australia is demonstrably any better off. It's quite clear to me that USA is more successfully religious compared to Israel, Northern Ireland or Iran. However, although these other countries/states are seemingly "successful" and "good" at some level, in religious conflict terms, they are complete disasters. This is the crux of my argument and probably the point of our disagreement. You don't think there is a religious conflict problem in Israel that has anything to do with the fact that the state is defined by its religion. And yes, I know that some arabs vote, but I don't know why palestinian refugees should be locked out of the voting process, at least in theory. Are they afraid of becoming citizens of a jewish state?

Okay, I will have one more stab at this. I admit that this is an argument I took on in a fit of bravado to be contrary, and I do not have the same emotional investment that I do in our other discussion. Therefore it is much less stressful to talk about than the fact that 89% of my fellow citizens are in thrall to the Prince of Darkness.

As it has unfolded, your argument seems to have two parts:

(1) Nations without an established church are more successful economically than those that are not.
I think this is not sustainable as a general principle, given the brief sample of nations I discussed earlier. You counter that successful nations would nevertheless be more successful if they also had separation of church and state, other things being equal. However, you note that this is not demonstrable- the separation can never be carried out in controlled conditions while leaving everything else the same-and therefore it cannot validly be used as an argument to change the policy of a state. Argument (1) is an assertion based on faith, not evidence, and unless there is a ‘will to believe’ among the populace that separation of church and state will benefit them, it should not be contemplated.

(2) Religions will be more successful as religions- in mediating God to the citizens of a country- if they have to compete with one another.
I do not think the spectacle of religions competing with one another is very edfiying or likely to bring people closer to God. Do you remember the old atheist adage that there is no need for them to disprove religion, since all religions have already provided convincing arguments disproving each other? Competition is likely to discourage the weak and bring about contempt for religion among the elite.
Most of the world’s nations have one clear majority religion, and in this case, while freedom of religion is a natural human right, a close association of the dominant religion with the state may either help or hinder both of them, depending on the situation.
Where there are naturally present a large number of competing religions, it is probably better, in terms of their success purely as religions, for one of them to be established and the others to be persecuted: ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.’

I do not see how Israel, Iran, and Northern Ireland can be held up as complete disasters in religious conflict terms. There are two possible reasons why there might not be any religious conflict: the laws of the state are in harmony with the laws of God (which would be good), or, the religions are cowed and afraid to challenge the laws of the state (which would be bad). Stoning buses on Shabbat, while religious conflict, is not a disaster: it is a positive sign that religion is alive and well. Overall, there seems to me to be about the same degree of religious conflict in Israel as there is in the United States. I deplore the persecution of religious minorities in Iran, but this is not a natural consequence of the union of Church and State, as witnessed by the long and successful existence of flourishing Christian and Jewish minorities in Dar-al-Islam in earlier centuries. I do not see how Northern Ireland is an example of anything. The Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1870 and there is complete separation of Church and State in Northern Ireland. Both Catholics nor Presbyterians are religious minorities in the United Kingdom, and they are simply competing in the manner you have suggested is a good thing.

Finally, some Palestinian history.
According to the UN partition plan, there was intended to be a Jewish state and an Arab state in the area occupied by the British Mandate of Palestine. The Jewish state was established, and those Arabs remaining there were recognised as citizens of that state. Gaza was occupied by Egypt, which did not attempt to establish an Arab state there, or recognise its inhabitants as citizens, because its goal was the annihilation of Israel. The West Bank of the Jordan river was occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan, which annexed it and (I think) offered citizenship to its inhabitants. This annexation was only recognised by a very few countries (Pakistan and the United Kingdom, I think). The inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank do not vote in Israel because they live in disputed territories that have not been annexed by Israel: there would be an entirely justifiable uproar if Israel were to do this. It would be like letting Iraqis vote in the United States elections: the world community would be thoroughly pissed off, even though you and I might think it would be a good idea. To be consistent, of course, Jewish settlers in the disputed territories ought not to be allowed to vote either. Inhabitants of East Jerusalem and the Golan, which have been annexed to Israel, vote just like Arab citizens of pre-1967 Israel.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

1999 Again

And today was the fifth anniversary of this poem-like entity, which is actually relevant to the Separation of Church and State argument- as a central idea of the PLE is that when religions become too concerned with the idea of 'individual salvation' instead of remaking society, civilisation is doomed...

(to the tune of “Away in a Manger”)

Outside of my window the muscle-cars roar;
and arabic techno blares out as before
Like stallions of ‘Umar at Badr they go by;
Like Tariq’s white chargers they lift my heart high
O Soldiers of Allah!
O Men among Men!
Rise up from the south-west and start it again

Once numberless anchorites camped by the Nile
And sought their salvation in durances vile
Honoured and sainted, their souls were saved well
while Rome’s Eastern Empire slid sideways to Hell
O Soldiers of Allah!
Your ancestors came
To bring Egypt justice and lift up God’s name

Now numberless channels on Cable TV
Sell us salvation from the Land of the Free
Safe in our blindness, we’re all born again
to beggar our neighbours still steeped in their sin
O Soldiers of Allah!
Let Islam arise
and cast out false Prophets who damn with their eyes

We are a sad country of lost Nazarenes
who’ve long since forgotten what holiness means
Blaphemers of ‘Isa are feted and paid
Usurers, sodomites, merrily trade
O Soldiers of Allah!
Rise up and proclaim
That all must now bow before God’s holy name

Cast down all the idols from where they’re enshrined
The Satans of commerce and all their foul kind
We’d find it far better to live as your slaves
Then with Packers and Murdochs and such godless knaves
O Soldiers of Allah!
Come save us we pray
Convert us or kill us or drive us away

We murder our children, we grind down the poor
We steal and we lie and we drunkenly whore
Like Many-Columned Iram, like Aad and Thamoud,
Bring God’s wrath against us as God’s people should.
O Soldiers of Allah!
O Party of God!
For love of our children do not spare thy rod

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Three Degrees of Separation

Marco has advanced the thesis that the principle of Separation of Church and State enshrined in the United States constitution is a major, or even the major, factor in the success of the United States, and that nations that have such a principle are likely to be more stable and prosperous than those that have not. If I have misstated his thesis, I am sure he will correct me!

Now, I am not sure that this is a general principle at all. There are three obvious questions: Which Church? Which State? And, most importantly, what do we mean by Separation? I asked Marco for a definition, and I am taking the liberty of reproducing his response below:

My definition of Separation of Church and state is the principle (enshrined in USA's constitution for instance) that the laws of the "Church" as in any moral edicts or by-laws given in any registered religious organisation are independent of the laws of the country. It also means that the head of state cannot also be a head of a religious organisation. This does not mean that just because murder is disallowed with Christians that this law cannot be also a law of the country, but that the country's law is independently defined, judged and policed from any christian institutions. Although Australia does not seem to have this enshrined in the constitution, the principle is well known, and is argued at great length when, for instance the GG is/was also the head of a Church. I agree that where there wasn't an alternative in the past history, in the examples you mention for instance, long and stable Theocracies did thrive - but in modern history, from whence the principle first surfaced, how have countries that disavowed the principle thrived compared to ones that didn't?

(1) If by ‘independent’ is simply meant, ‘there should be laws of the state separate from the laws of the religions followed by people in the state’, I agree. There is no reason these laws of the state should be quite as all pervasive as they are in Australia; Israel, for example, gets along reasonably well with no civil marriage or divorce. At its most trivial, there are many things that need laws, but are not important enough for religion to deal with: traffic lights, income tax, corporations law, etc.
Every state that I can think of has some laws that are not religious laws; I don’t know if Afghanistan under the Taliban was run completely according to Shari’a. Sudan and Sa’udi Arabia (and to a lesser extent Iran) have a very large religious component in their laws, and I don’t think we can say they are that much less successful than the surrounding nations who share a similar cultural background but are more secular. And on the other hand, Utah was quite prosperous and successful as a theocracy. I don’t think there is enough proof that this form of the general principle holds, although I suspect it will once the state is large enough to hold significant minorities who are not wholehearted adherents of the religion in question.

(2) If ‘independent’ is meant in the sense of ‘independent variable’, such that the laws of the state should not be a factor in determining the laws of the religion, then again I agree completely. If our religion demands polygamy, or wax fruit, woe betide the state that tries to legislate against us! The laws of God beat the laws of man as surely as rock beats scissors. To be fair, religions should not accept money from the State, because he who pays the piper calls the tune. The State should not fund religious schools.
However, there have been plenty of successful states where Church and State were not separated by this formulation of the principle: The United Kingdom, for instance, where the tenets of the religion were determined by the State and the Head of State is the Head of the Church; Russia, which experienced extremely rapid development and economic growth in the late 19th century with a church wholly subservient to the State; ditto Japan, with the state-sponsored Shinto cult. The prosperous nations of Scandinavia have (or had) state-sponsored Lutheran Churches on the same model as the Church of England.

(3) If ‘independent’ is meant in the sense of ‘independent variable’, such that the laws of the religions followed by people in the state should not be a factor in determining the laws of the state, then I would strongly disagree. I would argue that this is not the practice of the United States, nor the theory on which the United States constitution is built. The United States was a nation with a great variety of (Christian, Protestant) religions when it was founded and its founding documents rest on a foundation of 18th century theism- the basic religious ideas that just about everyone could agree to. ‘That each man is endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights...’ Without that bedrock consensus, I doubt that the United States or the United States constitution would have been as successful as they have been.
Nations that have instituted separation of Church and State on this model that I can think of are France and Italy in the period 1870-1914, approximately. They seemed to do reasonably well in that time. I am leaving out all those modern states that have actively tried to destroy religion, like the Communist ones... they had too many other problems.

I think ‘Separation of Church and State’ is not a determinant of a nation’s prosperity. If the Church and the State are both pulling in the same direction (e.g., a Protestant or Confucian work ethic with an economically responsible government and a clearly defined rule of law), it does not matter whether the Church and State are separate by definition 2 (United State) or not (England, Japan...). Which Church? and Which State? are very important questions. If the laws of the religion insist on a three day week and generous subsidies for uncompetitive manufacturing industries, the State will probably be better off ignoring them. But even if the laws of the State are based on some Anarcho-Syndicalist fad, the right sort of religious laws might keep the economy moving...

I wanted to talk mostly about ‘what is good?’ but have ended up talking mostly about ‘what will make us more money?’. Hopefully my answer to the first is clear. My answer to the second is, it depends: Which Church? Which State?

Monday, December 20, 2004

More about Whitman

I have mentioned before my disappointment at how infrequently intellectual sense and moral sense seem to be joined together. How many times have my favourite scientists and authors, brimming with logically sound, robust, exhilarating ideas, proven to have the moral sense of a (feckless, maladjusted) rodent? How many times have moralists I find inspiring, sustaining, utterly consistent with my inner sense of what absolute morality must be, proven to be complete idiots- holding to be true propositions that are not only logically ridiculous, but in their implications ethically monstrous?

Here, for example, is the paragraph that caused me to suddenly recoil from an essay- very enjoyable up until then- by a Professor of Philosophy at a Catholic university in the United States:

The second form of the denial of the minor premise is not ‘I would be perfectly content if only,’ but rather, ‘I am perfectly content right now.’ This, I suggest, verges on culpable dishonesty, the sin against the Holy Spirit, and requires something more like exorcism than refutation ... it is subhuman, vegetative, pop psychology. Even the hedonist utilitarian John Stuart Mill, one of the shallowest minds in the history of human thought, said that it was better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.

‘Denial of the minor premise’ is defined in the previous paragraph as saying: ‘I do not observe any such desire for God, or heaven, or infinite joy, or some mysterious x which is more than any earthly happiness.’ Thus, happy people who don’t believe in God ought to be- exorcised? – to make them unhappy? And Whitman, apparently, was either a charlatan or a vegetable- perhaps a spring onion.

The logic in the final sentence is also breathtaking: if ‘one of the shallowest minds in the history of human thought’ agrees with what I am saying- gosh, then it must be true...

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I find that it is exactly five years since I wrote this, and it has been a long time since I have put up anything even vaguely like a poem, and "vaguely like a poem" describes this pretty well:

If you had asked me how I felt yesterday morning, I would have said
(were I not timid, knowing myself to be a craven, a poltroon)
“Nine parts Walt Whitman to one part Osama ben Laden”
(will any of you remember those names on December 18th, 2999, children of my children’s children?)

Some days the beggars at Redfern station are infinitely precious to me, their faces and their voices and their ethereal lies.
The dance of the Filipino Baptists in their carpark, moving backward and forward and backward again, each in turn, until each car has made its way out.
The men with crutches, the men whose gaits are strange, who look down always, who I see on the footpath outside the coffee and nut shop.
The women who do not look weak, not in the least, the women in the hijab, who make me think of Kipling:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains
and the women come down to cut up what remains
just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
and go to your God like a soldier

All of these are precious to me.

Some days I can see the Spirit of God hovering over every person I see, every silent passenger, every jogger glimpsed out the window for a half-second, every infant passed by incomprehending as I am swept along by the inrushing or outrushing human tide on Abercrombie street.
I see the face of God in the tired faces of the old men in Ramadan, in the square-jawed young men from Utah with mandarin nametags - in the little girl whose mother is feeding her peanuts from a paper bag, in the empty lullaby of the quatschen of the city office girls.

The names of the twelve stations and their waiting crowds are like the verses and the notes in a great hymn of praise.

Bless and keep them all, Lord God, Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

And it struck me as I arrived at my place of work yesterday morning that joy and rage are less than a hair’s breadth apart in my being, and one is always mixed with the other.
If you are Walt Whitman, all is good in itself, whatever it is, and joy is just joy.
But if you are one part Osama ben Laden, if you believe that a flaw is a flaw, that no man is good but God alone, that suffering is real suffering and despair is real despair,
then the joy and the pity and the rage, the thirst for goodness and the hatred of the dark,
are only one thing, one thing, one thing.

From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Legged Beasties...

...and also from unreasoning faith in the The Economist, O Lord, deliver us!

Marco has made the somewhat irresponsible comment that he prefers not to look at primary sources, instead trusting The Economist to judge material for him. He has also made the perhaps teensily hubristic comment that our ongoing discussion of the situation in Iraq has been a convincing victory for him, since I have been too busy to post a response :)

I am going to summarise arguments from last month, carried out on Marco's blog and by email, here.

* Everyone who wants to argue about the number '100,000' ought first to read the Lancet article.

* I have been accused of having an insufficiently hard-headed view of human nature, but the methodology of the study assumes that when you ask people a question, they will tell the truth. Respondents were told that the purpose of the study was to measure mortality before and after the invasion. Note that the only region showing a clear drop in reported mortality is the only formerly autonomous Kurdish region surveyed, where respondents are most likely to want to push the 'things are better now' rather than the 'things are worse now' worldview.

* The main point that I was trying to make is that the war-related mortality cannot be taken in isolation from the pre-war increases in mortality due to sanctions, and it is too early to call. There seems to be more uncertainty in pre-war Iraqi child mortality figures than I thought, but anyone who wants to argue about it ought first to read this other Lancet article. The figures in the more recent study do not tally with these, which means either: (1) I was blinded by spin, and there was no humanitarian crisis in pre-war Iraq; (2) Things were getting better under the UN's oil for food program, and the humanitarian crisis in pre-war Iraq was winding down; (3) The urban areas surveyed in the more recent study were more prosperous than less accessible rural areas suffering more badly from the health effects of sanctions.

But, I don't really want to argue about any of that stuff. I am only interested in that one eternal question: what should we do now?

What is the optimal way to move ahead in Iraq from here? That's what I want to argue about. Comments?

Iraqi Reconstruction

I must state at the outset that this post is not about the reconstruction of the Iraqi state and infrastructure, though that would be interesting- I am inclining more and more to the view that what will be required for stability and the establishment of democratic institutions is Iraqi deconstruction, i.e., the dismemberment of an artificial state into three separate entities.

Instead, this post will be an attempted reconstruction of my as-yet-and-probably-forever missing document, 'Valid Arguments against the War', from March 2003. Rather than reconstructing it word for word in the best free-wheeling textual criticism style, as if I was seeking to prove Shakespeare was a Jehaovah's witness, I will describe what it was like in broad brush strokes:

The animating principle of the author appears to be a fear of global nuclear war leading to the destruction of civilisation and possibly the human species. The desire to avoid the reoccurence of the situation of 'Mutually Assured Destruction' that suffused his childhood and warped his personality is paramount in his concerns.

He begins by letting off a little steam by arguing that most of the arguments given against the war either are not relevant, or are not arguments at all. An example of the first are that people will die in an invasion: of course people will die. People are dying now because of the effects of sanctions; is it better to die in a hospital of a post-operative infection easily controlled by unavailable antibiotics, or to be hit by a rocket-propelled grenade? The question has to be, how many people are dying now, how many people will die if nothing is done, how many people will die if something is done. An example of the second is to keep saying that the West supported Saddam in the 80s, as if this is relevant to what we should be doing in 2003. We supported Stalin in 1941-5.

The author then quotes three arguments against the war that he considers valid and respectable, which may be summarised as follows:

(1) It could all turn out really, really, badly. By 'really really badly' the author envisions something along the lines of a limited nuclear war between Israel and Iraq, with cities turned into lakes of fire and vastly more civilian deaths then Saddam could have caused in another twenty years, plus a permanently poisoned and maimed relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. This is the best reason not for going to war to make China safe for democracy; it was the best reason not for going to war to make Iraq safe for democracy; and it was predicated on Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It did not come about, hurrah!

(2) It could all turn out really badly. By 'really badly' the author envisions the US stuffing up the invasion and subsequent reconstruction to such an extent that Iraq is left either a failed state, or a rabid Islamic republic in the Iranian orbit. This argument is still a valid one. We shall see, we shall see. The most significant downside of this outcome, in the author's view, is that it would impede the establishment of worldwide US hegemony and hence increase the risk of Mutually Assured Destruction happening again in the lifetime of his grandchildren.

(3) It could strike a fatal blow to the Post World War Two World Order. The author does not consider this a major tragedy, but recognises that the PWW2WO is a real acheivement, a considerable advance on the Pre-WW2WO, and that others have a legitimate right to feel strongly about it and to urge sacrifices in its defence.
This does not seem to have come about, either: NATO and the UN are still here, if a little more dysfunctional, and will probably limp through to the end of the second Bush administration without collapsing entirely. The camel's back will bear a few more straws.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Read an opinion poll in the paper the other day to the effect that a majority of every religious group you care to name is 'pro-choice', and this percentage was increasing with time. I wonder what sort of push-polling they had to do to get a majority of Muslims in favour....

Q: Do you think immigrants to Australia should obey Australian laws?

Q: Do you think the perception that immigrants want to change Australian laws to be more like laws in their home countries is one reason they may encounter fear or resentment from native born Australians?

Q: Do you think Australian abortion laws should be changed?

I don't believe the results for a minute of course, because they strike directly at my mental strategy for not being sent to prison (see previous posts), but they were kind of depressing. So I went home and drank a lot of red wine, then kidnapped Amanda's character Indric (buff, irresponsible gardener to a mysterious big shot in the Department of Magical Security) and forced him to leap out of a burning zeppelin into a klemn-infested swamp carrying his unconscious unrequited love interest. So the day ended well for all concerned.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Quote for December

Yes, it's William Burroughs, and it's not "abortion is a form of murder," which you might have expected!

Here it is: "To concern oneself with politics is to make the mistake of the bull in the ring, which is to charge the cloth. In exactly the same way that the bullfighter conditions the bull to follow the cloth, politics teaches the masses to follow images and illusions."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Die Blog Die

Net... very... slow... here...

Also, it is so damn nice at home now that I don't seem to be riled up about much of anything now. And even Philip Adams seems to have become kindler and gentler post-Elections, so that I occasionally find myself agreeing with him. Son cosas de la vida, eh?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Not Drowning, Moving...

Marco,the old pal I once tried to sneak illegally into Laos with, has been reappraising his support for the invasion of Iraq in light of the continuing instability and the Lancet study suggesting a figure of 100,000 excess deaths in the year since the invasion vs. the year before. I plan to do the same thing, revisiting the 'Valid Reasons to Oppose the War' document that I sent to Androoo long before I accidentally clicked that button when trying to comment on Lexifab. But I can't find it yet. Sigh. I will also put a link to the original Lancet article and address Marco's plausible suggestion that I have been blinded by spin.

In the meantime, I been moving house, not writing, for most of the last two weeks when not at work. And on Sunday I am off to the City of Churches for a few days, followed by a brief trip to Devil Bunny City! With luck some novel-writing will get done... I was going to visit the nuclear reactor to watch other people do some experiments I am kind of invovled with, but it was too much trouble putting in all the documents for security. It was just too much trouble finding all the necesary bits and pieces and getting them witnessed. Honest,that's the only reason. I'm not trying to cover up any clandestine trips to Azad Kashmir.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


This is just a quote, from Primo Levi's books "The Periodic Table"...

I admitted that we are not all born heroes, and that a world in which everyone would be like him, that is, honest and unarmed, would be tolerable, but this is an unreal world. In the real world the armed exist, they build Auschwitz, and the honest and unarmed clear the road for them; therefore every German must answer for Auschwitz, indeed every man, and after Auschwitz it is no longer permissible to be unarmed.

Monday, November 15, 2004

An Embarassment of Riches, part the next...

The first item was about abortion, of course, and it was a letter to the editor. The wrtier was affronted that the 'abortion debate' had risen up again. She made the point, very sensible given her premises, that we were not having a debate about reintroducing slavery, or taking the vote away from women, or counting aborigines in the census, or any of that stuff. Abortion for her was a fundamental human right. You don't have debates about fundamental human rights. Progress is progress.
However, we have a broad national consensus that women and coloured folks are not subhuman, thank God. We don't have a broad national consensus that young folks are not subhuman, may He rain fire from heaven upon the infidel.

But, from her premises, the writer was perfectly correct. If a foetus was an integral part of a woman's body, it would be her fundamental human right to do with as she pleased. If the world was flat, then refusing to build a fence around the edge would be a reckless invitation to public liability suits. Those are perfectly valid opinions for a Tupinamba tribesman to hold. But you can't claim to believe there is something called progress and base your morality on pre-Copernican science.

On the opposite page was another piece on abortion, which focused on the idea that women who have abortions do not suffer any serious physical or psychological after-effects, and that the claim by the anti-choice lobby that they did was a wicked tactical feint. A common debating point seems to be that anti-choice people only care about foetuses, and not about women. If that is so, why are so many of us of the female persuasion? We do care. I think that is a great term of the author's, anti-choice. I like it. I am going to appropriate it and claim it. I am anti-choice and proud. Civilisation is a process of limiting the choices that we consider valid. We don't have the choice, as citizens of a Western democracy, to strap explosives to our bodies and blow ourselves up in pizza restaurants. Our laws do not permit that sort of thing. Our ethics do not permit that sort of thing. We have denied ourselves that choice. That is not a valid decision for anyone to make in our culture. Marco does not have the choice to get rid of union representatives by knocking them on the head and dumping in the river, like his counterpart in Guatemala. We have denied Marco that choice- highly inconvenient as it might be, both for him and for our balance of payments- through legal sanctions and the moral oppprobrium of the community. We do not have the choice to drive at 130 kph in a 110 kph zone. We do not have the choice to drive in the bus lane on Parramatta road. We do not have the choice to sacrifice kittens to Tlaloc in fiery backyard holocausts. We are ****ing civilised.

I, personally, have never made any choices whatsoever. I have blindly followed the ineluctable dictates of my conscience.

I sense that I am beginning to drift ever so slightly into hyperbole. My finely tuned sense of hyperbole has picked up some faint emanations, based on the fact that I seem to recall Hitler said almost the same thing as I just did in Mein Kampf. Perhaps a little humility is in order. I should say I have blindly followed the ineluctable dictates of my conscience, or else I have dithered about waiting for something to happen.

Oddly enough, I also detected a few faint glimmers of hyperbole from Phillip Adams' article, down the bottom of the page on the right. He quotes Colin Powell to the effect that the Neo-Con faction in the Bush Administration are "****ing crazies", and goes on to list some of the things he thinks they will do. I doubt that they really will do any of those things, but they were fun to read.

For instance, Mr. Adams thinks that they will give a nod and a wink to the Israelis to take out the Iranian nuclear research facilities at Bushehr. I wish they would, but I suspect that Bush is realistic enough to be very very quiet and just hope it happens, like me. Can you imagine the 1991 Gulf War, if the 1981 raid on Osirak hadn't happened? It was probably the best thing the Jewish state has ever done for the world.

Mr. Adams also suggests that the Bush Administration will 'encourage the most irresponsible elements in Taiwan'. They won't do that either. If they really were Napoleonic evangelists of the Republic they would, and future generations- after they built civilisation back up from the smoking rubble- would thank them for it. Because the most irresponsible elements in Taiwan are not the pro-Independence forces. They are the rusted-on Kuomintang diehards who damn right believe in One China, just like Douglas Macarthur, only it is their China, and those renegade provinces on the mainland had better get their house in order and get with the reunification program. An administration that was really bent on Armageddon, as Mr. Adams thinks, or on spreading democracy, as I kinda wish, would say: 'What the hell do we care what you think, you unrepresentative swill? We're recognising these little guys here, who elected their damn government. We don't care if you cut off our supply of consumer goods. We've gone naked before, and we can go naked again. We've got more bombs than you do, so just try and invade, you handpicked successors to the most murderous regime in human history...'

Uh oh, I think my hyperbole detecting senses are registering something again.

Must... write... novel. Must... stop... procrastinating.

An Embarassment of Riches

On two facing pages of the newspaper the other day, I saw no less than three items that I immediately felt like responding to. Doubtless part of this was NaNoWriMo induced procrastination, but they were all full of good stuff.
Fortunately, I have lost the actual newspaper, so I won't be able to transcribe all three items in full, and comment on every nuance. So I won't lose quite as much novel-writing time as I might be tempted to. Unless I ramble on and on.
Which I seem to be doing.

Part of the problem actually is that my main characters are trapped somewhere with no way to get out, and I know what they will do when they get out, but I have no idea how they are going to get out. Hmm, I suppose the sensible thing to do would be to skip ahead and take up the fire-hose of prose once they have escaped, and fill the gaps in at my leisure once I have written a good slab of text. Dammit, I oughta go do that now...

USAF in the ROC

Dear Typical Australian Foreign Policy Commentator,

I have a disagreement with my brother. He is 5'11 and weighs 80 kg, while I am 5'10 and weigh 75 kg. Which one of us is right?

Yours Sincerely,

Confused in the Near North

Dear Confused,

The bigger person is always, always, always correct. Haven't you heard the saying, 'might makes right'? If you provoke your brother into kicking the shit out of you, don't come crying to us for help.

Yours Sincerely,

T. A. F. P. Commentator

[Disclaimer: All advice given in this column does not apply to white folks]

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Rosh Hashanah Surprise

‘Thought that I was finished,
Thought that I was complete,
Thought that I was whole instead of being half of something,’

-The Proclaimers

I may as well tell you about the really disconcerting thing that I mentioned on October 24th. Disconcerting to me, anyways. Even though I have all these science degrees, and a seven-year-old son, I was blithely unaware of 20th century doctors’ fads and- apparently-more than usually imperceptive and lacking in prurient curiosity. Thus I never for a moment dreamed that I might be circumcised until Mum told me, when I was thirty-three years old. I thought I knew all about that kind of stuff and it is a shock to find myself so woefully ill-informed...

Gosh. Here I was thinking I was more in touch with my feminine side than most men and it turns out I am some kind of hyper-masculinised freak. I mean, *mucous membranes* on your genitals, how girly is that? Yuck.

Purely by accident, I found out on Jewish New Year. And Mum says they didn’t do it for health reasons, but because of God’s covenant with Abraham. I vaguely thought St. Paul had said all that sort of thing was rubbish 2000 years ago. Perhaps my family is more conservative than I had thought. Maybe we are actually part of one of those strange crypto-Jewish lineages who have been hiding out from the Inquisition for hundreds of years. My mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s name was Robanski, is that a Jewish name? I don’t know.

I guess it is reassuring to find there is some organic basis for my attraction to these uncompromising monothesistic creeds of the desert...

Monday, November 08, 2004

Interim Findings

My randomly rolled location is apparently almost dead on the city of Itaituba, which was founded in 1974 or thereabouts as a gold-mining boomtown. So I can put some gold in the novel. There is also an enormous mass of rapids a short distance upstream, so where I have already put the enemy tribe, so it provides a good way to make their village relatively close but also relatively accessible...
Helpfully for my licence to make stuff up, I have found that basically nothing is known about who was living there in 1456 BCE: the best places for agriculture are on the floodplains, where the soil is constantly renewed, and historically that is where almost all the people in the Amazon basin have lived- and their pots and stuff eventually get washed away with minor course corrections of the rivers. Interestingly a lot of cultivated plants (manioc, peanuts, the whole capsicum/chile complex, pineapple, avocado...) were first domesticated in the Amazon basin prior to 2000 BCE and appeared in Peru and on the Carribean Coast pretty much as they exist today, without any ancestral forms- so there was some lost civilisationing going on somewhere. The general location I randomly rolled has also been postulated as the source of the speakers of the Tupi-Guarani language family, at around my randomly rolled time. Someone in Wisconsin has written a PhD thesis attempting to reconstruct Proto-Tupi-Guarani, so I will try to get hold of it.
I have also learned that the Trans-Amazon highway, which scythes so dramatically across the continent in my atlas, no longer exists; it was built in the 1970s but was too expensive to maintain, so huge lengths of it have already turned into secondary growth forest.

The Most Vital Reason?

I shall get stuck into the separation of Church and State in a while, Marco, after I have justified the rest of my bizarre claims. Here is my nomination for the #1 reason for America's success, written some time ago...

This is my thesis, not novel so far as I know: free movement of labour is just as great a factor in economic success as free movement of capital, and that the economic success of the United States of America, as well as its perceived inequality, is a result of its long reign as the world’s largest area in which free movement of labour is allowed.

In that movie with Danny De Vito and the woman that can’t act, the factory making copper wire is about to close, because it has been superseded by the fibre optic revolution; before it is rescued by the airbag Deus ex machina, the obvious moral is: “why don’t the workers up and move to Silicon Valley, where the jobs are?”

As Americans do.

As the government of France is keen to prevent people from doing; I spoke this week (actually 2000 sometime, I think) with the Scientific Attache to the French Embassy about a joint project we are starting up with a research establishment in Toulouse, and one of the good things about the industrial spin-offs anticipated are that they will keep people in the regions. An uneconomic region, to my way of thinking, should revert to nature.…

My family history is littered with abandoned regions. My roots are in soft soil; my parents were born in different towns from me, and their parents in different towns from them, and so on, back across from west to east and beyond to Europe and stasis. And Europe is still stasis, and will never seize the lead from the mobile lands. It is only India, I think, that could possibly manage to overtake the United States, barring some strange eruption of the human spirit in China. Even now, my aunts and uncles are scattered across a dozen states, and my cousins go forth themselves, moving, ever moving. I have come fourteen thousand miles, and fifteen hundred again.

The more mobile a workforce is, the more it will provide opportunity for an economy to adapt quickly; liquidity of labour is as important as liquidity of capital. A poor region saves on public expenditure by exporting people and living on remittances; new enterprises can begin where conditions are most congenial to them, and grow there as large as practicable, instead of being dispersed about the regions.

How is America less equal than Europe? Let us consider on the one hand Puerto Rico and Central Park West, and on the other Albania and Geneva; where is the greater inequality? It is only the unnatural walls against the movement of labour that prevent ten thousand Albanians forming a ghetto on the shores of Lake Leman.

Consider this: Napoleon has conquered Russia, and the serfs are free citizens of a United States of Europe. It is easy to imagine them still kept backward by their old masters under the Second Republic, until the railways come. Then they flood east, an alien deluge, a flood of cheap labour; soon there are three million of them in the centre of Paris. Europe is richer; they are richer – make them twice as rich as they would be in Putin’s Russia, and the French richer too; inequality! Poverty in the midst of a gleaming metropolis, the shame, the shame – and the citizens of a Union that stops at the Ohio might shake their fingers admonishingly, ignoring the new Haiti of the fallen Confederate States at their doorstep...

Enough already! Give Europe no barriers to the movement of men over eight million square kilometers, and give her three-thousand miles of land boundary with poorer nations; she will be better for it. A multitude of Slavs and Arabs, who will work for less than the Western man, and the tumbleweed (native of the Ukraine) rolling through the empty streets of towns better abandoned – in a generation, she will be able to rule the world...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Another Big Quote

It has been a long time since I circulated that last essay by Hillel Halkin (April last year, methinks) but he is always worth reading. Here he is again:

My brother, the Other

"Get the virus out of the White House!" a Kerry campaign worker was shouting as I passed him on 93rd and Broadway a few days before the election. "Help beat the psycho-killer!"

It wasn't his private slogan; I heard the same chant elsewhere in Manhattan, where I happened to be during the last days of the campaign.

I grew up in the US and don't remember anything quite like it. The closest analogies are the Nixon-Humphrey and Nixon-McGovern campaigns of 1968 and 1972, when Democratic strongholds like New York were equally vituperative toward the Republican candidate. But '68 and '72 were essentially one-issue votes; everything was dominated by Vietnam.

In 2004 America is divided into two hostile camps that disagree on just about everything. The electoral results bear this out dramatically. Overall nationwide, it was a close vote. Taken on a state-to-state basis, however, it was close in only a few places. Bush won some states by a huge margin, Kerry others. It was one America voting against another.

To an ex-American visiting from Israel, there is something disconcertingly familiar about this. Extreme political polarization is an old story here; there has been no time when it didn't exist. In America it is new - and to those who care about America's future (which is to say, to everyone on earth, since America's future is in some ways everyone's), it is worrisome.

I don't know what it was like in Bush country. I wasn't in any of it on this visit. But in Kerry country, the president and his supporters weren't just the other political party. They were a frightening and demonized Other who were fellow countrymen only in the technical sense of the term.

The Kerry voters I spoke to assumed as a matter of course that voting for Bush meant you were either a hopelessly warped or a hopelessly misinformed individual, and in either case incapable of rational thought.

The country is split by what seem to be two mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable value systems - one urban, secular, liberal and post-modern, the other rural, religious, conservative and pre-modern. It takes a pinch to remember the not-so-distant days when America's two political parties were commonly referred to as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, mirror images of each other that had to exaggerate minor quarrels in order to create the illusion that there was any difference between them.

And yet, to return to the subject of rational thought, it could be suggested that rather than seeing the Democrats and Republicans of 2004 as representing conflicting value systems that must be accepted in toto one way or another, there is much to be said for picking and choosing from positions on either side.

The sad thing is that these positions have become so locked into a general, across-the-board gestalt that Americans have lost the capacity to consider them on a case-to-case basis.

Thus, if you are a Republican today, you are by definition for the war in Iraq, for American unilateralism in foreign policy, against reliance on the United Nations, against international treaties on environmental issues, against pro-environmental groups in general, for high-income tax cuts, for public support of religious schools and institutions, against gun control, against gay marriage, against legalized abortion. If you're a Democrat, it's just the opposite.

It's a take-it-or-leave-it package, the forces of Good against the forces of Evil.

AND YET what on earth is the logical connection between Iraq and environmentalism, between religious schools and gun control, between gay marriage and abortion? Who says that being for or against one of these things necessarily means being for or against another?

It's certainly possible to believe, for example, that the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq was a correct one whose consequences should continue to be borne for as long as there is any hope of stabilizing that country, while at the same time believing that the refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol was an error.

In general, there is something absurd about the notion that being a political conservative means being an environmental radical. (True environmental radicalism, after all, consists not of trying to conserve as much of the natural environment as possible, but of giving carte blanche to its destruction.)

When George W. Bush speaks of the need for forcefulness in fighting Islamic terror, he is wise; when he pretends that the dangers of global warming don't exist, he is foolish. Why can't one say that?

Why can't one be both for gun control and for a measure of government support for religious institutions? The argument against gun control goes back to an 18th-century Constitution that promised citizens the right to bear muskets, not concealable pistols and submachine guns.

The argument against supporting religion originates in the same Constitution, whose signers feared the creation of a European-style established church, not of dozens of equally competing Christian, Jewish, and Islamic denominations.

Super-strict constructionists should logically oppose all gun control and all state support for religion; constitutional evolutionists should be tolerant of both.

And what is the inherent link between gay marriage and abortion? Although Judeo-Christian tradition condemns both, it is certainly possible to separate them, whether by arguing that one condones the taking of life and one doesn't, or by arguing that one subverts accepted notions of sexuality and one doesn't. They're not at all the same issue, even if nearly all Americans treat them as though they were.

But one of the problems with political polarization is that issues cease to be issues and become symbols of political identity. We saw that happen in Israel a long time ago. Tell someone here that you're against the recognition of Reform conversions and for civil marriage, or vice versa, and you'll be looked at as if you had said you're for daylight and against sunshine.

And yet what, really, apart from identifying you as either "religious" or "secular" in people's eyes, do the two positions have to do with each other? By pigeonholing one another, we also pigeonhole our thought processes.

It is sad to see this happening in America, a country known in the past for the pragmatic, anti-ideological nature of its politics. Although Europeans have always sneered at these politics for being dull and conflict-free, they have in fact been a great source of national strength, allowing American voters to make judicious distinctions without having to feel they have deserted to the enemy.

The America of the Bush-Kerry election has become a country of enemies. This is bad for America and bad for the world.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

This is a brief NaNoWrimo comment... I tend to take on other people's mannerisms when speaking to them, and other people's styles if I am reading while I write. Last November I did not read any novels, and found it easy to keep my own style throughout, but then I was writing in Tsai. It seems more difficult to keep hold of my own voice in the 'real world' - I find my current effort is being influenced by Isabel Allende's amazonian novel, by John Christopher's tripod series, by the Danny Dunn novels, the prophet Ezekiel, and (of course) William S Burroughs' yage eating (or is it smoking? or drinking?) adventures in the jungles of Ecuador. I am hoping that the number of novels drawing from this particular set of influences is small enough that the final product will seem reasonably non-derivative, regardless...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Happy Days on the Tapajos

The dice have spoken: 56 degrees 2 minutes West, 4 degrees 11 minutes South, in the heart of Amazonia. 1456 BCE. I can see some research will be in order...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

October's Factoid

The electorate I currently live in had the lowest informal vote in the country (tied with somewhere in Melbourne). This means that we have the lowest aggregate population of incompetents and disaffected radicals voting for Osama bin Laden or the Easter Bunny, so we must be statistically both more clever and more smugly satisfied with our lot than the rest of the country...

The Invisible Unicorn's Poison Memes: #1

Long ago, I managed to read the entire Divine Comedy in three successive days, on the 31st of October and first and 2nd of November- the Inferno the first day, Purgatorio the second, and Paradiso the third. I have always wanted to do this again, but have never managed. This anniversary has reminded me of something I wrote not so long ago, in November 2001, which was intended to be the first part in a series on horrible memes rampant on the Earth:

November, 2001

I would like to talk about the rational implications of a certain relatively common meme.

This is the meme that people who fail to perform certain acts, or say certain words, will continue to exist for an infinitely-prolonged period of time after death in a state of physical and mental agony.

If you have not encountered this meme before, I suggest you read “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, by James Joyce.

Interesting things happen when you introduce infinity into any calculation. With moral calculations, the renormalisation problem is especially acute.

Most people of my acquaintance who are infected with this meme apparently solve the problem by ignoring it. They say they believe it with their mouths and never allow the words they speak to percolate into their brains at all. Most of them have never made any visible effort to convince me, for instance, to perform the acts or say the words they believe will save me from this fate. I have always been offended by this, as it suggests they have no strong feeling one way or another whether I am tortured eternally.

They may, however, be consciously following the renormalisation strategy of fatalism. If God decides who lives and who dies, free-will is an illusion, and no human act can save or condemn, then they are let off the hook, and don’t need to act on their meme. This strategy was splendidly elaborated and proudly proclaimed by the Protestant Reformers as their chief contribution to the well-being of Christendom, though it has been present there from the beginning, and is also very strong in Dar-al-Islam.

The strategy of fatalism is a good one, since it saves the rest of us from the rational consequences of a meme that says there is such a thing as Hell and that human actions can play any part in deciding who goes there and who doesn’t. Let us consider those rational consequences, hmmm?

First of all, and pretty obvious, people who go around convincing people not to do the things your meme bundle says are required to avoid Hell should be removed from the picture. This is why preaching Christianity is a crime in so much of the Muslim world. This is why Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews and Muslims from Spain. This explains the witty advice of the Archbishop of Beziers to the crusaders against the Cathars: “Kill them all, let God sort them out.” Even people who were very strong on fatalism, like Jean Calvin, burnt the odd heretic just in case.

Of course, if you really care, you will torture the heretics until they confess and repent, so they can be saved too. Every version of this meme has ended up here, no matter how strongly it has been bundled with statements like ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Now, for a slightly more extreme example.

Lots of people are being born all the time. A relatively small number of these perform the right acts or say the right words prescribed by the particular strain of the meme. The total number of people who are condemned to infinite suffering is increasing all the time. If you are a very very good person who is infected by this meme, therefore, and you are kept awake at night worrying about all the innocent children – most versions of this meme have some form of innocent children – growing up, dying, and being condemned to infinite suffering, you will strive to do the logical, rational, and humane thing.

Kill them. Kill them all. Now. Stop this infinite horror, save the children, save the future generations who would suffer from ever being born at all. Destroy the world.

A finite amount of suffering inflicted in this life – divided by an infinite amount of suffering inflicted in a future one = 0.

The world hasn’t been destroyed yet, for a few good reasons.

(1) We haven’t had weapons that could destroy the world for all that long
(2) There aren’t very many very very good people around. To go through with destroying the world, you need to believe implicitly, at the very core of your worldview, in the existence of Hell, and it would take a Hell of a lot of courage to carry out an act that would (most memes agree) send you there, too, no matter how many innocents you saved.
(3) This meme is usually bundled together with some other memes. For instance, on the Fundamentalist Christian fringe, it is also believed that Jesus will return next Friday, or before the end of the Third Test at the latest, and put an end to the whole show anyway. Among us Catholics, where fatalism is weaker, those who express this meme most strongly are also those with the strongest obedience to the Church hierarchy. So until the Pope decides destroying the world is a good idea, we are safe.

Which brings us to Osama-bin-Laden. He is not a bad man. He has spent tens of millions of dollars on schools and hospitals and food for hungry people. He has abandoned a life of luxury to live in a hole in the ground and be chased from place to place like an animal. He has given himself over to be hated by billions of people. Osama bin-Laden is not insane. He is most probably a much better man than 99.9% of us. He has all the makings of a Saint. But he is infected with this particular meme.

Any activist, non-fatalist Muslim, anyone who is into building schools and hospitals and feeding the hungry, is in particular danger of going over the edge. All religions are not created equal, much though the secular world would like to think so. There is no Muslim second coming. There is no Muslim Pope. Heretic removal goes right back to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And there is no second hurdle to get over – all Muslims are saved, no matter what they do. For Muslim sinners, Hell is finite; there is no need to terrify Muslim schoolboys with homilies on the physical and mental torments that await them should they stray (see James Joyce again). It is very easy to reach a certain conclusion:

Anything that protects Muslims from apostasy is permissible.

And that is, I think, as far as Osama bin-Laden has thought things out. I don’t think we are in danger of Osama bin-Laden destroying the world. It is not that he is not evil or insane enough; he is not good enough, not quite good enough to be kept awake at night by the suffering of the world. He is kept awake at night by the suffering of millions of starving Iraqi children. If more of us were, the world would be a better place.

Now, let’s have a look at the first speech Osama bin-Laden released , shortly after the bombing of Afghanistan began. An important thing to remember is that it is primarily addressed to the Muslim world; we infidels do not really intrude on his world view except as cardboard cutouts. It is like I found growing up Catholic, if you are surrounded by the One True religion you do not notice the others much. To begin:

Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed. Grace and gratitude to God.
America has been filled with horror from north to south and east to west, and thanks be to God that what America is tasting now is only a copy of what we have tasted. Our Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more than 80 years, of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated.

Now Osama is exultant that the Great Satan is being punished for its evil acts, but is also thankful that America has been struck with only a weak copy of what Muslims have suffered. He is exultant because he sees this as the first step towards making a difference, a first step towards saving Dar-al-Islam from the poison memes of the West.

God has blessed a group of vanguard Muslims, the forefront of Islam, to destroy America. May God bless them and allot them a supreme place in heaven, for He is the only one capable and entitled to do so. When those who have stood in defence of their weak children, their brothers and sisters in Palestine and other Muslim nations, the whole world went into an uproar, the infidels followed by the hypocrites.

We in the West are of course the infidels, and the hypocrites are all the Muslim governments that have rushed to the side of the United States.

A million innocent children are dying at this time as we speak, killed in Iraq without any guilt. We hear no denunciation, we hear no edict from the hereditary rulers.

The Saudi government is especially targeted here (the ‘hereditary rulers’) – they are happy to support the United States but have done nothing when so many more have died because of sanctions in Iraq.

In these days, Israeli tanks rampage across Palestine, in Ramallah, Rafah and Beit Jala and many other parts of the land of Islam, and we do not hear anyone raising his voice or reacting. But when the sword fell upon America after 80 years, hypocrisy raised its head up high bemoaning those killers who toyed with the blood, honour, and sanctities of Muslims.
The least that can be said about those hypocrites is that they are apostates who followed the wrong path. They backed the butcher against the victim, the oppressor against the innocent child. I seek refuge in God against them and I ask Him to let us see them in what they deserve.

Again, this is addressed to Muslims; Osama doesn’t care anything for the West, and what its leaders think or do about Palestine. The Arab League has done nothing since the current crisis erupted in late 2000. Muslim leaders have given no military aid to the Palestinian Authority; they have even cut, rather than expanded, their humanitarian aid. They have offered only the most perfunctory condemnations of any Israeli act. But they were quick to condemn the killers of those who had their hands on the levers of American military and economic world hegemony, the machine that pumps the poison of paganism into the Muslim world. The picture of these Muslim leaders is bitter and scathing; ‘what they deserve’ is most likely a euphemism for ‘Hell’.

Every Muslim after this event [should fight for their religion], after the senior officials in the United States of America starting with the head of international infidels, Bush and his staff who went on a display of vanity with their men and horses, those who turned even the countries that believe in Islam against us – the group that resorted to God, the Almighty, the group that refuses to be subdued in its religion.

‘Display of vanity with their men and horses’ – this seems to me to be a reference to Pharoah’s army, which was cast down in the Red Sea. A reminder that long before, great armies with impressive vehicles and weapons have been cast down by the power of God.

They have been telling the world falsehoods that they are fighting terrorism. In a nation at the far end of the world, Japan, hundreds of thousands, young and old, were killed and [they say] this is not a world crime. To them it is not a clear issue. A million children in Iraq, to them this is not a clear issue.

The question is, if the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified, if sanctions on Iraq are justified, why is not the attack of September 11th a legitimate act of war? Dropping a bomb on civilians in Hamburg, Tokyo, Tripoli, or Basra is an act of state-sponsored terrorism. There is absolutely no difference except that these acts were done by men who could dilute the responsibility among themselves and hid behind a faceless bureaucracy, the other was done by a few brave men.
Osama bin Laden did not set out to kill civilians; he did not bomb discotheques or buses, like the young men sent out with ‘peace partner’ Yasser Arafat’s blessing, but the buildings where the greatest concentration of people directly involved with the U.S. military and the U.S. financial juggernaut were to be found. You do not have to be Noam Chomsky to believe that the Pentagon has killed its millions, but Wall Street its tens of millions. 20 000 children died last year in the country my mother was born because it needed to service its foreign debt.
Of course it is evident that the passengers on the hijacked planes were more innocent, but by definition anyone innocent dying in a jihad is a shahid, or sanctified martyr. I believe would have been easy to insure the salvation of those aboard the planes by getting them to recite "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah." I hope that this was done.

But when a few more than 10 were killed in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, Afghanistan and Iraq were bombed, and hypocrisy stood behind the head of international infidels, the modern world’s symbol of paganism, America, and its allies.

This is ugly. It is ugly because he does not count the hundreds of African victims; perhaps he is doing so because from the American point of view only dead Americans count – which may be unfortunately true.
It is also important to note that Osama does not see this as a war with the Nazarenes, but with the Pagans. The image he has of the United States is a pagan nation, the chief herald of godlessness. This would be less the case if Muslim countries had less severe prohibitions against preaching Christianity – if he could have seen the Benny Hinn show in Saudi Arabia, for instance - for in fact the United States is the least godless nation of the West.

I tell them that these events have divided the world into two camps, the camp of the faithful and the camp of infidels. May God shield us and you from them. Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion. The wind of change is blowing to remove evil from the Peninsula of Muhammad.
As to America, I say to it and its people a few words: I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Again, his concerns are local rather than global; we in the West can go to Hell, as long as we keep our hands off of Dar-al-Islam. He is not good enough to destroy the world.

Mind-Numbingly Dull Minutiae again

T minus 11 hours and counting- Nanowrimo is almost here!

I may stay up late to randomly roll the setting for this year's novel, or I may decide that is too geeky. Or I may *yawn* fall asleep early this afternoon and not wake up until it is time to go to work...

Arik and Me

Oceans of ink have been spilt over the Arab-Israeli thing (and more recently, uncounted numbers of electrons have been fired through cathode-ray tubes in vain), so it is sort of irresponsible for me to add more, but I will anyway. You all know what my oldest and most strongly held political position is. For a very long time (1982-2000) my second oldest and most strongly held political position was support for the Palestinian struggle and a one-state solution to the whole Arab-Israeli thing. It seems strange now, but that’s the way it was. I was just struck very heavily at an impressionable age by the massacres in the Lebanese refugee camps, and my position was reinforced by reading the liberal Catholic press throughout the First Intifada.
When the Al-Aqsa Intifada erupted, I rapidly became confused, because the stories I was reading in the Devil Bunny City Morning Herald just didn’t make sense. Why would all of this stuff be happening now, when a final deal seemed so close? The meaningless ‘cycle of violence’ seemed, well, meaningless… I started wandering around the web looking for a more coherent narrative. The Palestinian web-sites were short on facts and long on whinging, and didn’t make any more sense than the Australian newspapers. But the narrative I found in the Jerusalem Post did make sense. Within a few weeks I found that I had been transformed from a rather vague supporter of the PLO to an enthusiastic supporter of the Zionist state. This was a little bit scary. What else did I believe in that was wrong? Would I wake up one morning and discover that Margaret Sanger was right after all? God, I hope not.

But enough personal human-interest stuff. What are my cosmically arrogant ex cathedra pronouncements for today?

Pronouncement One:
The Palestinian refugee problem is first and foremost the creation of the Arab states. The leaders of the Arab nations have kept millions of people in miserable limbo for generations to score political points against the Jews. Imagine we are back at the beginning of last century, and you live in one village, and a few miles away your brother lives in another village. Both villages have had the same culture and religion for more than a thousand years, and have been part of the same Ottoman administrative unit since fifteen-hundred and something. Far away in France, somebody draws a line on a map, and your village is now in the British Mandate of Palestine, and your brother’s village is in the French Mandate of Lebanon.
Twenty-eight years later, you run away from your village because you don’t want to end up as collateral damage. And fifty-six years after that, your great-grandchildren are still denied the rights of citizens in Lebanon.
Millions of Greeks were kicked out of Asia Minor in the 1920s, and were absorbed into Greece. Millions of Germans were kicked out of Eastern Europe in the 1940s, and were absorbed into Germany. About the same number of Ukrainians were expelled from Poland in the 1940s as Arabs left Palestine. Who has heard of them? Nobody, since they were absorbed without incident into the Ukraine. The Japanese kicked out of Sakhalin were absorbed without incident into Japan. The South Asians kicked out of Uganda have been absorbed without incident into the United Kingdom. The Arab world is vastly larger than Greece or Germany, has not been devastated by a general war, and has vast resources. Its leaders did not allow the absorption of a relatively small population of people of the same religion, culture, and heritage, using them instead as a political football.

Pronouncement Two: It seems to me that the government of any democratic country faced with the situation Israel is in would react in the same way. You can allow your subjects to be blown up, but not your constituents. And again it seems to me that almost any democratic country faced with a proportional rate of civilian casualties (say, about 400 a year if it was us) would react with much more ‘bombing them back to the stone age’ than Israel has.

Pronouncement Three: The Middle East would be in far better shape today if Israel had simply annexed the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 and given their inhabitants the same rights as other Arab citizens of Israel. Despite my conversion, a two-state solution is still rubbish. A Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza strip would be an unworkable Bantustan. In 1948 the leaders of the Yishuv accepted a U.N. partition plan that gave them a state with a 60:40 Jewish:Arab population. Why is a single state between the river and the sea with a 60:40 Jewish:Arab population so unthinkable today? Yet even the most liberal Meretz-voting commentators I read in the Israeli press are terrified of the ‘demographic time bomb’ that would lead to Jews becoming a minority in Israel/Palestine. This is doubtless due to the fact that a high proportion of the Palestinian population really do want to drive the Jews into the sea. Yet far, far larger numbers, relative to the Jewish civilian population, were murdered by Arab extremists in the years 1929-1948 than in the latest uprising. And the leaders of Israel then accepted a state with a 40% Arab population. The national myth is that during the War of Independence, that 40% was reduced to 10% because the Arabs left of their own free will. If that is true, and they were not expelled as a matter of policy, why is it so unthinkable that they ever return?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Book Meme

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal...
5. ...along with these instructions.

"From where I sat, I could actually see the tiny white crystals on his shoulders."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Fallacy Number Six

Grey vs. black. Or grey vs. grey?
It should be obvious that to someone like me, who apparently wants to drag the western world kicking and screaming into the 13th century, the United States and the Deranged Islamofascist conspirators are both mottled grey, and that the Islamofascists even have a few patches that are paler than the corresponding patches on the Great Satan.
But I am fortunate in that I am not forced to make such a choice, because this is only an existential conflict for the Islamofascists, and the dynamics of global hegemony are such that they will inevitably be bombed and Coca-colonised out of existence. Similarly, the Pope is not forced to make a choice, and can afford to indulge in pious platitudes against war, knowing his words are not going to have any bearing on the outcome. It is not like Spain in the 30's, when the Church had the potential to determine which of two equally powerful and very dark grey movements would prevail. Yes, we are very lucky. Powerless, but lucky.

Given that there is no existential threat to the West, there is no analogy to the stark choice facing the U.S. liberals addressed by Koestler. There is no need for such people to abandon long-term principles to defeat a non-existential threat. If you are someone who sincerely believes that Bush is leading the world towards tyranny, then you should not care if Al-Qaeda appear to be a bit darker grey than the military-industrial complex. The military-industrial complex does not need your help to squash them. The 'war on terror' may be a little longer, and more unpleasant for frontline countries like Israel (and perhaps the one or two American cities taken out by terrorist nukes) because of your liberal efforts, but if the resulting Orbis Americanis is a kinder, gentler one, it will be an acceptable sacrifice.

No Blood for Cotton - Stop Lincoln's War

Dammit, the residents of a state ought to have the right to secede if they want. The more power is centralised, the more potential there is for totalitarianism. What does a guy have to do to get some democracy around here? Just been reading Gore Vidal on how much of the U.S. Constitution was supended by Lincoln under special 'war powers' legislation, beginning the rot of the Republic. Since the emancipation of the slaves was an unintended consequence of hostilities, I now endorse the slogan at the head of this post, which I coined in Neo-COnservative jest last year.

Dammit, I don't want world government. World government is the unpaltable but undeniable alternative to Mutually Assured Destruction, Mark Two. The Pax Americana is the only game in town, and while I do count myself lucky we are not looking at the Pax Sinica or Pax Ruritanica, I would much rather live in Happy Fun WorldTM. But nobody can even agree on what Happy Fun WorldTM would look like, let alone how to get there.

More disconcerting discoveries:

*Vidal calls the 'New York Times' 'neofascist'. I am used to it being derided as the flagship of the liberal media conspiracy, so this is refreshing. It pleases me nearly as much as the claim I read years ago that Nixon was a communist stooge.

*'Derrick', as in 'Derrick the Dragonslayer' actually is a real name. I saw a Lieutenant Derrick Something-or-Other being interviewed at a school in Kirkuk on CNN the other night.

*The last discovery is too disconcerting to go into right now, and what I really want to talk about is Koestler's fallacy number six. I keep changing my mind what it is I am going to say, is all...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Revisiting Koestler's Fallacies, Part Two

Okay, before I start on another fallacy, I would like to issue a (probably unnecessary) warning about applying historical analogies too literally. Islamic fundamentalism is infinitely less of a threat to the United States than Communism or Nazism was. I find it difficult to even conceive of any possible way it could ever threaten the existence of the United States, except through war hysteria. This means that avoiding war hysteria ought to be the main aim of US rhetoric and policy. Appeasement will not hurt the United States for generations to come. Of course, it will probably have disastrous effects in countries that are struggling with a real islamofascist threat, but the world as a whole should potter along reasonably well. This has just come clear to me recently, if it seems to contradict anything have written before...

If you are not someone seduced by the Utopian Neo-Conservative vision of making the world safe for democracy (i.e., if you are not someone like, er, myself) then appeasement is a perfectly rational strategy anywhere islamofascists do not have a realistic chance of overthrowing the government. Hmm, it all makes sense now. Within its pragmatic assumptions, Old Europe is right.

Okay, to the first fallacy. There is no real analogy in our time to the confusion of 'East' and 'Left' Koestler talks about, but we do suffer from a severe problem of a similar linguistic/conceptual nature. This is the problem of habitually talking about the struggle we are involved in as a 'war on a noun.' Indeed, a war on a noun with no universally agreed upon definition. The 'war on terror' is a dumb, dumb, dumb name. Where to draw the line between 'terrorism' and 'legitimate armed struggle'? It depends entirely, it seems, on whether we are the good guys fighting the bad guys, or the bad guys fighting us back. I would like to suggest the following definition:

Terrorism is the deliberate use of lethal force against civilians for political ends.

'Use' is there so that no one may be prosecuted for thoughtcrime, or for what they write or say. Writing that the Pentagon ought to be blown up is not terrorism.

'Lethal' is there to avoid snaring in the definition every picketer who ever threw an egg at a scab's car.

'Political ends' are, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the South African Truth and Justice Commission, always a mitigating factor for any crime. A terrorist is a better person than a psychopath, not a worse one.

The main elasticity in my definition, which could be argued about endlessly, lies in in the words 'deliberate' and 'civilian'.

First of all, there are many degrees of carelessness between 'collateral damage' through an accident that could not reasonably have been avoided and an unequivocal terrorist act. If you are expecting an armoured personnel carrier to drive over your booby trap, and a busload of villagers drives over it instead, you are not a terrorist. But if you lay your trap without particularly caring who drives over it, you certainly are.

The word 'civilian' will cause the most trouble. There are infinitely many degrees of being organised, and degrees of being armed, between the barefoot boy who stoops to pick up a rock and the uniformed officer on the deck of an aircraft carrier. In those numberless conflicts around the world where combatants do not wear uniforms, and move among the civilian population like fish in the sea, it will be particularly difficult to draw a line. The Arab world, for instance, has consistently tried to define Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza as 'non-civilians'.

Taking a step backward, what can we say is definitely not terrorism?

*Blowing up soldiers at a checkpoint, while bad for them, is not terrorism.

*Blowing up oil pipelines in Colombia, no matter how much it helps the US State Department demonstrate that there is less terrorism now than there was in 2002, is not terrorism.

*Blowing up the US Marine HQ in Beirut with a truck bomb in 1983 was not terrorism.

*I think we can confidently assert, following the exegesis of 'Return of the Jedi' given in the movie 'Clerks', that strikes against civilian employees of military organisations is not terrorism. Thus, the attack on the Pentagon would not have been terrorism, if everyone on the plane was a volunteer shahid.

*Blowing up a Hamas leader is not terrorism, if you are sure he is one. Knocking down his family home is not terrorism, because it does not involve the use of lethal force. Unless you don't bother to check if his mother is still inside; then it's terrorism.

*By the same token, shooting a settler on the West Bank as goes about his business is not terrorism, if you are sure he is a member of a paramilitary organisation. But shooting a rocket at his settlement, not giving any consideration as to whether it hits an armoury or a kindergarten, that is terrorism.

By any stretch of my definition, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were state-sponsored terrorism. The greatest terrorist acts in history. So how can the President of the United States claim that all terrorists are evil men? Or that all their motives are evil? Perhaps another name for 'terrorism' is simply 'total war'. What makes Timothy McVeigh's declaration of total war on the United States any less valid than Harry S Truman's declaration of total war on Japan? Total wars are bad things, whether they are fought by nations or individuals. And a 'war on total war' is a dumb, dumb, dumb concept.

A Brief Digression

Here is a picture I found on a Libertarian website this morning.

My loyal audience has unanimously asked: "Leave aside for a second the single-issue-voter thing you have going, and tell me: is there any reason whatsoever to support the notion that The Incumbent is capable of doing the job at all, let alone with distinction? Because to me he looks like a genuinely dull-witted man with no decision-making abilities, no economic or foreign policy credentials and a collection of almost random beliefs that he is more prepared to espouse than live by."

Leaving aside my single-issue thing, I don't think there is very much to choose between them. To me they both look very much like genuinely dull-witted men with no decision-making abilities, no economic or foreign policy credentials and a collection of almost random beliefs that they are more prepared to espouse than live by. I think the difference between what their foreign policies will be in practice will not be very great, and that the anti-Bush media will be sorely disappointed by a President Kerry.

Considering them both as ciphers manipulated by faceless cabals of sinister conspirators, and attempting to put aside not only my single issue thing but fallacy number four...

...All that leaps to mind is that the Republicans have traditionally paid slightly more lip-service to trade liberalisation, which I consider the single most important factor in reducing poverty worldwide. Except, the question was 'Is there any reason to expect he will do a good job?' not, 'Is there any reason to vote for him?'

This is the only reason I can see: The American public (who are in the best position to know whether he is currently doing a good job or not) are still supporting him in roughly the same proportions they did in 2000. If he was an absolute incompetenet dropkick, this would not be the case, no matter how much he was in tune with whatever selfish blinkered Zeitgeist was dominating the country. Dubya is also (according to these poll results I just read on the web, which means they must be true) more popular than Kerry in the frontline countries in the War on Terror, Israel and Russia. They may also be blinkered and selfish and deluded; but they surely have more experience of terrorism and what to do about it than we do...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fallacy Number Four

I guess I have spent enough time on my high horse writing about what's wrong with the world; now it is time for a mea culpa; what's wrong with me? I suspect it may be Koestler's fallacy number four.

Notwithstanding the fact that the gutting of the higher education system and the mandatory detention of asylum seekers began on Keating's watch, they have been enthusiastically continued by the Howard government. And I think both things are very bad.

I am in favour of an increase in the Medicare levy. I love Medicare. I hate private health insurance. It is elitist and inequitable. I am a refugee from the American health care system.

I am in favour of a reallocation of government funds from private to public schools. I love public schools. I think they are the institution that does the most to build up a decent society. I hate private schools. They are divisive and inequitable. I think Malik Fahd and the other King's School do an equally bad job of educating young people to live in a pluralistic democracy.

One reason I am a vegetarian is because I think raising sheep and cattle has comprehensively destroyed Australia's flora and fauna. I think the prices we pay for water and petrol are much too low and should be increased to reflect their true environmental cost.

Yet, I was not annoyed at the weekend's election results. I was gleeful. This is not just because I really do support trade liberalisation, stoning adulterers, and the Pax Americana. I think I have fallen prey to the anti-anti fallacy. I am an anti-anti-Howardist. Whatever the merits of their case, I cannot stand to be on the same side as Phillip Adams and Alan Ramsey, and the rest of the anti-Howard legion. Their hyperbole is so ludicrous, their hatred so vitriolic, that I cannot help being for whatever it is they are against.

Fallacy number four also has a bearing on my position on the war in Iraq. If the vociferous spokespeople for non-intervention had not so obviously been the 'usual suspects', if they had not so openly been kneejerk anti-Americans being anti-American, if they had not so often been Marxists defending a fellow Marxist, or the elected representatives of states run like businesses defending their business interests; if the 'left' contribution to the debate had been even as sensible and nuanced as Dick Cheney's contribution on the 'right'; if someone had logically argued some reasonable alternative plan, I would have been more sensible and nuanced myself.

'No Blood for Oil'? 'Bush = Hitler'? 'Fuck War'? I would rather chew off my own leg than associate with the people who would march under such slogans. I am indulging in the fourth fallacy.

There may have been some alternative that did not necessitate war, that did not continue to deny Iraqi civilians food and medicine, that did not just let Saddam thumb his nose at all those UN resolutions. Maybe there wasn't. Maybe we do live in the best of all possible worlds and the current situation is the best we could reasonably hope for at this stage. But I confess I did not spend much time looking for such an alternative, in my instinctive revulsion to the puerile rubbish the 'usual suspects' sprayed at the three leaders of the Anglosphere.

Revisiting Koestler's Fallacies, Part 1

Re-read yesterday the essay ‘The Seven Deadly Fallacies’ by Arthur Koestler, which doesn’t appear to have been illegally posted on the web by anyone yet. It seems in many ways appropriate to our present international situation, so I thought I would reproduce almost all of it here:

[This is a condensed version of a compressed version of an extempore lecture given in Carnegie Hall, New York, in March 1948.]

The war hysteria from which a considerable number of people seem to suffer here in the United States is not a sign of mature awareness. Nor is the mentality of appeasement. Appeasement of an expanding power creates a fog in which neither of the opponents knows where he is; and so the world slides into war, without either of the opponents wanting it. Appeasement means playing poker; a firm, clearly outlined, principled policy means playing chess. I shall take it for granted henceforth that war hysteria and appeasement are our Scylla and Charybdis, and that the liberal’s precarious task is to navigate like Ulysses between the two.

Allow me, as an aid to navigation, to point out some of the logical fallacies and emotional eddies in which young idealists frequently get shipwrecked. Here they are:

1. First is the confusion of Left and East. Some sections of the reactionary press are unable or unwilling to distinguish between liberals, New Dealers, Social Democrats, and Communists; they are all damned Reds. Naturally we are indignant at such poisonous imbecility. But the Left itself is partly responsible for this confusion. The Left Babbitt assumes that there is a continuous spectrum stretching from pale pink liberals to red socialists and so on to infrared Communists. It is time that he got it into his head that Moscow is not to his left but to his east. The Soviet Union is not a socialist country, and Cominform policy is not socialist policy. So let us bear in mind that ‘East is east and Left is left’ and if the twain sometimes still meet, the meeting is purely coincidental.

2. The second fallacy is the soul-searching fallacy. The other day there was a press conference at which I mentioned that the frightened people in Italy and France look upon you Americans as their only hope of salvation, both from the economic point of view through ERP, and from the military point of view against open or disguised Russian aggression. Thereupon one of the reporters present said, ‘Do you really believe that we can help Europe with our dirty hands?’ I asked: ‘What do you mean by “dirty hands”?’ He said: ‘Well, I mean our policy in Greece, and in Palestine, and backing up Franco, and the way we treat Negroes and Jews. We are dirty all over, and when we pose as defenders of democracy it is sheer hypocrisy.’

The answer to this fallacy is to project the argument back to 1938. Then it would have run as follows: ‘We have no right to fight Hitler’s plan of sending the Jews to the gas chambers as long as there are “restricted” hotels in America and so long as Negroes do not have absolute equality here. Once American democracy has become a perfect democracy, then and then only shall we have a right to defend what remains of Europe. And if Europe goes to the dogs before we have finished, that’s just too bad and cannot be helped.’

3. Third, and closely related to the soul-searching fallacy, is the fallacy of the false equation. Its European version runs: ‘Soviet totalitarianism is bad. American imperialism is equally bad. There is nothing to choose between them, so let us stay in No Man’s land until fate catches up with us.’ To prove that the American system is ‘just as bad’ as the Russian system, to make the two sides of the equation balance, your purist has recourse to half-conscious little subterfuges. He equates the Hollywood purges with the Moscow purges. He has never lived under a totalitarian regime, so when he draws comparisons he does not know what he is talking about. His conscience is in revolt against the appalling slums of Chicago, in which the Negro workers of the slaughter-house industry live like rats. I have spent a few days in Chicago, and I was appalled by what I saw and heard and smelled. Do not think I am a naïve tourist, a romantic admirer of your system. But now compare your treatment of racial minorities at its worst, with the Soviet treatment of the minorities of Crimean Republic, the Chechen Republic, the Volga-German Republic, whose total populations were deported because they had, as the official Soviet communiqué said, ‘proved themselves unreliable during the war’. Even the babes in their cradles were unreliable and had to go to Siberia. In Chicago I saw men on strike, and sympathised with them. In Russia strikes, or incitement to strike, are qualified as high treason and punished by the maximum penalty. In American elections political machines corrupt and distort the People’s will. In Russian elections 99½ per cent vote for the one official list- the remaining ½ per cent presumably being in bed with influenza. Your enlightened Babbitt equates in imperfect democracy with a perfect totalitarian regime; his philosophy boils down to the maxim that there is nothing to choose between measles and leprosy.

4. Fallacy number four is the anti-anti attitude. It runs: ‘I am not a Communist. In fact, I dislike Communist politics, but I don’t want to be identified with anti-Communist witch-hunting. Hence I am neither a Communist nor an anti-Communist, but an anti-anti-Communist. If W. R. Hearst says that twice two is four, I shall automatically hold that twice two is five, or at least 4½.’

Don’t laugh, for the roots of this fallacy are very deep in all of us, myself included. I remember how painful it was when a doddering elder in a London club walked up to me and said with a tap on my shoulder: ‘Well, young man, I am glad that at last you have come round to see reason. I myself knew twenty-five years ago what Bolshevism means, and it’s never too late to repent.’

You can’t help this sort of thing; you can’t help people being right for the wrong reasons. In the last war we fought in the name of democracy in an alliance with Dictator Metaxas of Greece, Dictator Chiang Kai-Shek and Dictator Stalin. At that time Nazism was the main menace to the world, and politics is based on forming alliances. But there is a fundamental difference between a war-time alliance, and political identification with one’s allies. Being allied to Chiang did not mean that we wished to imitate the Chinese regime. Being against our will in one camp with the Hearst press or Senator McCarthy does not mean that we identify ourselves with their ideas and methods. This fear of finding oneself in bad company is not an expression of political purity; it is an expression of a lack of self-confidence. If you are sure of yourself- politically and ideologically- you will no longer be frightened to say that twice two makes four, even if Colonel McCormick says the same.

5. Fallacy number five is the sentimental fallacy. For years we were allied to Communists in the struggle against Nazism, and now when we have to part company, the roots of past loyalty are difficult to tear out. Our bedfellows of yesterday do not share this sentimental squeamishness. Over the slightest disagreement they will denounce us as Fascists, traitors and cannibals. These emotional ties are one-way ties, and it is essential to bear in mind that they are entirely irrational and conservative in nature.

6. Fallacy number six is the fallacy of the perfect cause. It is related to number two, the soul-searching fallacy. Only absolutely clean hands have a right to reach out to protect and save what remains of Europe. Only an absolutely perfect cause is worth fighting for. And the search for the perfect cause becomes an excuse for quietism.

History knows no perfect causes, no situation of white against black. Eastern totalitarianism is black; its victory would mean the end of our civilization. Western democracy is not white but grey. To live, even to die for a perfect cause is a luxury permitted to few. In 1942 or ’43 I published an article which began with the words: ‘In this war we are fighting a total lie in the name of a half-truth.’ The total lie was Hitler’s New Order. The half-truth was our democracy. Today we face a similar emergency and a similar predicament. Once more the choice between us is merely that between a grey twilight and total darkness. But ask the refugees who manage to escape, at the risk of their lives, from behind the iron curtain into our grey twilight world whether this choice is worth fighting for. They know. You don’t.

7. The last fallacy, number seven, is the confusion between short-term and long-term aims. It is the most dangerous of all. By long-term aims I mean the age-old struggle for reform, for social justice, for a more equitable system of government. By short-term aims I mean the necessity of fighting an immediate emergency.

The danger of confusion is twofold. Your leftist Babbitt may refuse to fight against the short-term emergency until he has finished the job of creating a perfect government in his country, in a century or two. The opposite danger is to become so obsessed with the immediate emergency, that all principles of the long-term struggle are thrown overboard. Ex-Communists and disappointed radicals are in particular danger of toppling over the other extreme. It is essential that we should keep in mind that there are two distinct levels involved in our struggle; that to defend our system against a deadly threat does not imply acceptance of everything in this system, does not imply giving up our long-term fight to improve it; and vice versa, that our criticism of the shortcomings of this system does not free us from the duty to defend it, despite its ambiguous greyness, against the total corruption of the human ideal.

The power-vacuum which two world wars have created in Central and Western Europe, has inescapably linked your fate with that of the European continent. I feel the enormous burden which is falling on your shoulders. For there will either be a Pax American in the world, or there will be no pax. Never has such a burden and such a responsibility been borne by any single nation in history. It is the more unfair to you as yours is an adolescent civilization, with adolescent enthusiasms and adolescent pimples. The task of the progressive intelligentsia of your country is to help the rest of the nation to face its enormous responsibilities. It is time for the American liberal to grow up.

Ill-informed comments from me to follow…