The enemy within

Throughout the thirties, Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, supported the appeasement of Hitler, like a good number of other prominent people in Britain. Furthermore, however, Rothermere was an admirer of Hitler and after the Munich Pact, the high watermark of appeasement  in 1938, he sent a telegram to the Fuhrer which is shocking to read now.

MY DEAR FUHRER EVERYONE IN ENGLAND IS PROFOUNDLY MOVED BY THE BLOODLESS SOLUTION OF THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN PROBLEM STOP PEOPLE NOT SO MUCH CONCERNED WITH TERRITORIAL READJUSTMENT AS WITH DREAD OF ANOTHER WAR WITH ITS ACCOMPANYING BLOODBATH STOP FREDERICK THE GREAT WAS A GREAT POPULAR FIGURE IN ENGLAND MAY NOT ADOLF THE GREAT BECOME AN EQUALLY POPULAR FIGURE STOP I SALUTE YOUR EXCELLENCYS STAR WHICH RISES HIGHER AND HIGHER.

By September 4, 1939, all had changed and Rothermere’s Daily Mail proclaimed “We now fight against the blackest tyranny that has ever held men in bondage.” But it was too late. The appeasers had landed the world into the second of the twentieth century’s  mega-bloodbaths.

Hindsight is one of the more facile and useless of man’s natural gifts. Foresight is one of the most useful,  but also one of the most difficult to attain. A great many people claim it but History is a ruthless agent when it comes to sorting out the sheep from the goats.

Just now there seems to be a small publishing industry developing around those who are prophesying a dire future for western civilization – and the future of its number one protecting power , the United States of America.

Among recent books looking at our future prospects are The World America Made, by Robert Kagan,  Eclipse: Living In The Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, by Arvind Subramanian, After America: Get Ready For Armageddon, by Mark Steyn, and Becoming China’s Bitch and Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now, by Peter D Kiernan.

These were all usefully reviewed by Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times last month. Add to that the latest by Patrick Buchanan, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? This was reviewed in the current issue of The American Spectator by Matthew Kenefick,  a Church historian and a Research Fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute.

Buchanan does not assert that the country will not survive, Kennefick tells us, but rather argues that it will no longer be the country that the Founding Fathers envisioned.

If the United States does not alter its current trajectory, Kennefick hopes that the book will survive to be read centuries from now by some future Gibbon as a prophetic cri de coeur unhappily ignored in its time.

“Perhaps”, he speculates, “ that writer will ask how a republic blessed with a continent of great natural resources, a Constitution unique in human history, and a populace blessed with the Christian faith could have committed suicide. However, Buchanan reminds us: ‘Demography is Destiny.’ In the United States since 1973 more than 50 million future citizens have been aborted, the contraceptive mentality has brought the middle-class population below replacement level for the first time in our history, the top money-making entertainment industry is Internet pornography, and the easing of divorce laws has encouraged adultery and split up families with devastating impact on millions of children. Now, in perhaps the final step, traditional marriage between one man and one woman is gradually becoming merely one more option.

“The number one health problem in our country in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Depression is not hunger, but obesity. The real question is whether America is worth saving. One thing for sure, it is no longer ‘Exceptional.’ Consider what is left of Europe for a sobering view of our future. The only hope for our country is a moral and spiritual revival. Are we up for the challenge? The next decade should give us the answer.

“That’s why ultimately we should look in the mirror for the cause of our decline. In the immortal words of Pogo: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’”

But if Pogo’s problem was the physical pollution of the environment this is as noting as compared with the pollution of our very spirit – and the enemy here is still ourselves and our reluctance to face the truth about ourselves.

All these books have a different take on the predicament of the West after the first decade of the 21st century. Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic, but they all ask us to wake up. They all recognise that something is broken and needs to be fixed. The appeasing instinct of Lord Rothemere, if we indulge in it, will be as lethal to us now as it was then. Sleeping it all off in the interests of a quiet life is not an option. The time-bombs which Buchanan lists are already ticking away and unless they are defused soon their destructive force will end it all for us – perhaps this time not with a bang, but with a whimper. Indeed time-bomb is the wrong metaphor. The metaphor for all this in our age is an all-consuming bacterium invading our bodies and our souls. Quick, where are the anti-biotics?

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