Democracy and despotism of the majority

As political predictions go it took a good deal longer to unfold than he may have expected, but it rings a great deal truer than much of the pundtitry of our time.

Have we at last entered an age when our masters can in fact do that which we were warned to fear most – those who can destroy not only the body but also the soul, and I’m not referring to the speculations of Donald Tusk about the eternal destiny of his adversaries in the Battle of Brexit. It is a fearful prospect.

Fetters and headsmen were the coarse instruments which tyranny formerly employed; but the civilization of our age has refined the arts of despotism… The excesses of monarchical power had devised a variety of physical means of oppression: the democratic republics of the present day have rendered it as entirely an affair of the mind…

Under the absolute sway of an individual despot the body was attacked in order to subdue the soul, and the soul escaped the blows which were directed against it and rose superior to the attempt; but such is not the course adopted by tyranny in democratic republics; there the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved.

These were words written nearly 200 years ago. They described an anticipated tyranny whose seed was seen in the very structure of the evolving democracy of the United States of America. For a number of reasons – geographical, institutional and cultural – that seed did not germinate or flower in the lifetime of the author of those words. Nor did it flower in the lifetime of many of the subsequent generations – until now. 

In the past several decades, with the shrinking of the world and the spread of democracy, what Alexis de Tocqueville feared might happen to the fledgling democratic polity of the United States is now to be feared across much of the globe. Indeed it may no longer be just a fear. It may be our lived experience.

This lived experience is already a reality in the United States and is preoccupying any number of thinkers in that country who are contemplating the unfolding of many of the dangers feared by de Tocqueville. Among them are Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic, and Patrick Deneen in Why Liberalism Failed  (Yale University Press, 2018). On this side of the Atlantic, Douglas Murray engaged with the same issues in The Strange Death of Europe.

In Levin’s view the late 1960s and the bulk of the 1970s constituted the darkest, most ominous time in America’s post-war path-—it was the moment when we could no longer deny that something fundamental was changing and that, in some profound way, America seemed to be coming apart under the pressure of “the forces of individualism, decentralization, deconsolidation, fracture, and diffusion.”

Levin is not a pessimist. Neither is Deneen, who argues that the flawed foundations of liberalism have led us into a dangerous cul de sac. This unsustainable politics has provoked a reaction which has brought us into a culture war – bordering on a “cold” civil war – which is going to get worse before it gets better. Both see a hard time ahead.

What is truly remarkable is that de Tocqueville foresaw this nearly two centuries ago, foresaw it happening at the moment which mankind abandoned that understanding of itself which identified human solidarity as the key to a politics of peace and prosperity. While he was fascinated by the great good he saw in the democratic politics of America in the 1830s, it did not blind him to a certain paradox he perceived in the system.

De Tocqueville, grappling with that paradox, wrote in Democracy in America that he held it to be “an impious and an execrable maxim that, politically speaking, a people has a right to do whatsoever it pleases”, even though he still asserted that all authority resides in the will of the majority. What de Tocqueville feared – and what we now have stalking the body politic of numerous nations across the world – was the tyranny which the apparently simple and benign concept of majority rule seemed to forebode.

We now identify these as populist movements – and they occupy all sectors of the political spectrum, all equally threatening to our freedoms. What do they all have in common? They are movements riding, with passionate intensity, on waves of emotion and prejudice. They have abandoned the principles of justice and have replaced them with the principles of power and majority rule. They simply neither accept nor recognise that majority rule is no more than a technique by which we organise government, not a principle of justice. They are technocrats, not democrats. They are those who consider themselves not to be populists but to be “on the right side of history” while their opponents are the populists.

De Tocqueville saw it this way:

A general law—which bears the name of Justice—has been made and sanctioned, not only by a majority of this or that people, but by a majority of mankind. The rights of every people are consequently confined within the limits of what is just.

When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right which the majority has of commanding, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind. It has been asserted that a people can never entirely outstep the boundaries of justice and of reason in those affairs which are more peculiarly its own, and that consequently, full power may fearlessly be given to the majority by which it is represented. But this language is that of a slave.

Majority rule is a dangerous Leviathan in a society where relativism has resulted in Justice being denied as a universal principle. For that reason he is of the opinion that while in practical terms one social power must always be made to predominate over the others, liberty is endangered when the vehemence of this power is unchecked because it is the inalienable will of the people.

Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, and God alone can be omnipotent, because His wisdom and His justice are always equal to His power. But no power upon earth is so worthy of honor for itself, or of reverential obedience to the rights which it represents, that I would consent to admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority. When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on a people or upon a king, upon an aristocracy or a democracy, a monarchy or a republic, I recognize the germ of tyranny…

But it is his observations on the power of public opinion, in league with the tyrannies he foresees, that he most prescient and worrying.

Even in his day he saw public opinion in the United States as being far more influential than in Europe. In America, he argues, “as long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, a submissive silence is observed, and the friends, as well as the opponents, of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety.”

I know no country in which there is so little true independence of mind and freedom of discussion as in America. In any constitutional state in Europe every sort of religious and political theory may be advocated and propagated abroad… But in a nation where democratic institutions exist, organized like those of the United States, there is but one sole authority, one single element of strength and of success, with nothing beyond it.

Is he exaggerating here? Even if he was in terms of what prevailed in his own time, it is certainly not an exaggeration for our time. The Republic of Ireland might be taken as a sample of what the prevailing democracy now offers the dissenter. A two thirds electoral majority effectively legalized abortion there last year. Immediately the defeated minority was jeered at and told by the victorious majority, “It’s over.”  Months later, a public representative, one of those who defended to right to life  of the nation’s pre-born children, was shouted at in the street, “Ha, you lost”.

The reality is, the dangerous reality is, that power exercised in this way, as was done by the Democratic Party’s populist regime under the Obama administrations, produces a populist counter response and gives us the Presidency of Donald Trump.

De Tocqueville foresaw this kind of culture crippling freedom of thought and speech. He argues that within the barriers set by public opinion, the opinion of the majority, an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent it if he ever step beyond them.

Not that he is exposed to the terrors of an auto-da-fe, but he is tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority which is able to promote his success. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before he published his opinions he imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has he declared them openly than he is loudly censured by his overbearing opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence. He yields at length, oppressed by the daily efforts he has been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.

He imagines this new sovereign power, this new Leviathan, saying to its subjects,

You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people… Your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn. Go in peace! I have given you your life, but it is an existence comparably worse than death.”

How real all this now seems for the defeated and politically marginalized “losers” of Ireland’s battles for life and natural marriage? They are experiencing life as envisaged by Adrian Vermeule, Professor of Constitutional Law in Harvard Business School, when he summed up in First Things,the forms that “death” is now taking in the heart of our liberal democracies:

Progressive liberalism has its own cruel sacraments—especially the shaming and, where possible, legal punishment of the intolerant or illiberal—and its own liturgy, the Festival of Reason, the ever-repeated overcoming of the darkness of reaction. Because the celebration of the festival essentially requires, as part of its liturgical script, a reactionary enemy to be overcome, liberalism ceaselessly and restlessly searches out new villains to play their assigned part. Thus the boundaries of progressive demands for conformity are structurally unstable, fluid, and ever shifting, not merely contingently so—there can be no lasting peace. Yesterday the frontier was divorce, contraception, and abortion; then it became same-sex marriage; today it is transgenderism; tomorrow it may be polygamy, consensual adult incest, or who knows what?

De Tocqueville concluded that monarchical institutions of the past had thrown odium upon despotism. Let us beware, he said, lest democratic republics should restore oppression, and should render it – despotism – less odious and less degrading in the eyes of the many, by making it still more onerous to the few.

Have we disregarded his warning, to our cost?

Bringing down the house?


Donald Trump is leading his nearest rival, Ted Cruz, by a massive 42% to 20% in the latest poll from South Carolina, where the second primary takes place tomorrow. The other Republican contenders are trailing behind .  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand seems to be, for the moment, overturning Bernie Sanders’ victory in New Hampshire.

Clinton has the support of 59% of likely Democratic primary voters in South Carolina, which is a lead that has narrowed slightly from last month, according to CBS and reported in Time magazine. The former Secretary of State’s voter base consists largely of black voters, while Sanders, who leads among white voters and young voters, is behind Clinton with 40%, the poll shows.

What is happening? According to Simon Heffer in last Saturday’s London Daily Telegraph , it is all Barak Obama’s fault. In words I would not like to report directly he puts it this way.

Since George HW Bush left office in 1993 America has been ruled by a spin-obsessed Lothario, a dangerous halfwit and a clever incompetent. They all bore the imprimatur of their respective party machines. For much of America, Barack Obama is the last straw. He is the creator of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. If one of them becomes president – and I wouldn’t rule it out – and the world doesn’t like it, they know whom to blame.

Heffer looked back to the high emotions which were running riot across America in November 2008 when the news of Obama’s victory was spreading. They ranged from the barely concealed sourness and anger evident on Fox News to the state of almost convulsive ecstasy gripping the avowedly liberal network, MSNBC.

For many a miracle-worker had arrived in the White House. One inspired cartoonist had drawn a picture of the building and its pond on the front lawn. At the edge of the pond was a conspicuous sign, ‘Please do not walk on the water’.

One of the TV channels interviewed a woman outside her run-down house. She was in tears while telling the interviewer what the victory meant for her. “I now know,” she sobbed, “that my house won’t be foreclosed on.” Heffer hoped she was right, but still had to conclude that the evidence of the seven years since Obama the miracle-worker took office suggests she may have been disappointed.

I had seen Obama at the primaries, Heffer wrote, and at the Democrat Convention. I had waited for him to speak intelligently about the state of America and how he would put it right, but I waited in vain. The cliché at the time, which became more relevant later, was about how he campaigned in poetry but would govern in prose. Some prose can be magnificent: but not his.

He admits that Obama is clever and has a way with words: but his words contained little. He entranced audiences, first in his own party – which is why he beat Hillary Clinton, arrogant and boring then as now, for the nomination – and then in the wider electorate. John McCain – old, white, Republican and with the media’s hate figure, Sarah Palin, as his running mate – didn’t have a prayer.

The sobbing woman was white and middle-aged. The constituency which was most ecstatic about the arrival of the miracle-worker, the poor blacks, have been even harder done by. He cites an instructive article in the latest New Yorker, about evictions in Milwaukee, a city that is 40 per cent black. There, despite having been elected on a platform promising to end the misery of evictions, an industry now exists to service evictions – courts, lawyers, removal men, bailiffs – and operates full-time, dealing with masses who cannot pay their rent, or their mortgages.

Heffer says that while he doesn’t know Milwaukee, he is familiar with cities such as Baltimore, Newark and Trenton, which have square miles of squalor.

The racial tensions, which he as a black president was expected to heal have not lessened. Ferguson is still smouldering and trigger happy cops seem to turn up everywhere. There is no sense that law enforcement has become anymore user friendly that it ever was – and he clearly is getting nowhere on the issue of gun control. Add to all this, the feeling that his foreign policy is inept and worse. He has, Heffer says, largely removed America from international conversations.

After the disastrous interventions in the Islamic world after 2001 it is quite right it should think more deeply about such expeditions: but that does not mean the superpower’s global responsibility can be abdicated completely. The Kerry intervention in Syria last week was typically, and tragically, late. Mr Obama’s international legacy is the repulsive sight of Vladimir Putin, whom he underestimated, ruling the roost, the barbarians of Isil (for dealing with whom he had no strategy) and a Europe mired in introspection.

At this point, enter Donald Trump. For many, given this scenario, he is a fantasy knight in shining armour. Heffer notes, after ‘The Donald’s’ triumph in New Hampshire last week, how many of his voters complained of feeling that America was being kicked around in the world. A great nation that is being forced to confront its global impotence is one for whom the bombastic Mr Trump holds inevitable appeal; and an America with such deep-seated social and economic problems is one that will look to Bernie Sanders. After all, everything else has been tried, so why not what he calls “democratic socialism”?

The Obama era is almost over – but his legacy is a far cry from what was expected from him in those days when he too was the knight in shining armour. While America may have limply recovered from the financial collapse of 2008, it had relatively little to do with him. The sector dealt with the cycle like it has been doing off and on for two centuries and more. He does not seem to have done much to help America – and the rest of us who are dependent on its fortunes – to cope any more effectively with the next crisis which may be just around the corner. That this task may fall to one of the heirs-not-yet-apparent who are leading in their respective polls is indeed a worrying prospect. If his most abiding legacy is, as Heffer says, the creation of a space in which these two political aberrations have been able to thrive and capture the most powerful office on earth then we have reason to worry.

Heffer says that when he is gone no one will miss him, least of all the one-time allies who feel he has spurned them. He has, he says, made America much less relevant. That may be so, but looking around us at the world we live in today, we may well have reason to rue the irrelevance of a democracy which has done so much in the past to make the world a better place and, twice in the last century, lead it away from two horrific tyrannies.

Reliving the nightmare of Mary Shelly

For many this will be just one more reason to throw Christians – and particularly Catholics – to the lions again.

Planned Parenthood, the world’s leading abortion provider and promoter, has been put on the back foot again. Its political wing, the US Democratic Party, is hoping against hope that the storm created by David Daleiden will somehow be defused before it gains too much traction in the run-in to next year’s big election. Whether it does or doesn’t we can still anticipate that it will harden their resolve to continue moving conscientious Christians to the margins of the public square.

Daleiden is the man behind  the abortion provider’s exposure as a purveyor of body parts of aborted babies. His undercover videos have appeared online showing a Planned Parenthood official in California discussing, over what looked like a very nice lunch, the price of providing bits of babies’ bodies to a man and woman posing as buyers from a firm that procures tissue for medical researchers.
The New York Times and other fellow travelers, like the Democrats and the abortion lobby, cannot ignore the story. Today the Times carried a useful interview with Daleiden – the third item on its online headlines newsletter this morning. It could be described as even handed but between the lines I think you get a sense that they were looking for the story which might derail Daleiden and his activist group’s campaign. They didn’t get it.
In the videos the man off-camera is Daleiden. And, he said in an interview with the Times, more episodes are coming. Planned Parenthood’s estimates that he must have “thousands of hours of videotape” from infiltrating its clinics for two and a half years. Daleiden himself reckons he has enough recordings for perhaps a dozen videos that he can release at the rate of one a week for the next few months.
The time frame all but ensures political tumult ahead, according to the paper. “The videos will coincide with the Republican-controlled Congress’s final weeks of work on spending bills needed to finance the government after the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year. The first videos have already given impetus to conservatives’ push to hold those bills hostage unless they are amended to eliminate money for Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs. The risk, as in past years, is a government shutdown.”
All that is before we even begin to think of the Presidential election – and what Hilary Clinton is going to say in trying to defend her and Obama’s favourite NGO. Republicans are already shouting about this and Democrats clearly think they can use their interest in the issue against their political rivals and against Daleiden.

“By Boehner and the Republicans leaping into the middle of this, I think they further demonstrate the political nature of the attack,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “And as someone who’s done a lot of polling about Planned Parenthood, I feel reasonably confident that Americans, particularly American women, will see this as about politics, not about health care.”

What, we might ask, are politicians for, what is politics about, if they are not going to concern themselves with issues like this. Once again it all comes down to the definition and scope of the term “health care”. For some their duty of care only covers a portion of the population, for others it covers all the human beings living on the planet, before as well as after birth. This simple disagreement is at the root of the clash between two civilizations, a clash which at least matches that between the pagan Roman Empire and embryonic Christian world.
Daleiden’s storm is now gathering force and doing what he always hoped it would do over the past two years as he prepared the ground and put his plan into place. “When you know that you have something powerful, that’s going to shock a lot of consciences,”Daleiden said, it is “natural not to want to keep that under wraps.”
The Times interview tried the ploy of pleading the value to medical research which he might now be jeopardizing. He rejected that, saying, “Most fetal tissue work is real Frankenstein stuff.”
Daleiden said he had been an anti-abortion activist for more than a decade. He formed an anti-abortion group at his high school in Sacramento, a period when he met another young activist named Lila Rose. Until now, Rose had been better known to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights advocates for video stings by her group, Live Action. “Lila and I have been friends for many, many years,” Daleiden said.
He attributes his anti-abortion militancy to seeing images of aborted fetuses as a teenager. He is also the child of a crisis pregnancy. His parents, who are now divorced, were juniors in college when his mother became pregnant. He grew up “culturally Catholic,” and does not see himself aws particularly religious. But he now calls Pope Francis “my inspiration,” moved to follow the Pope’s encouragement to reach out to the peripheries and his “emphasis on just being active, on going outside of yourself to accomplish things.” 

All this is indeed a chilling illustration of what Pope Francis reminds us of in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si‘, “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself”, an advance in “security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture”,[83] as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well”,[84] because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. “The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should”; in effect, “power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom” since its “only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security”.[85] But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.

Apart from the immediate horror aroused by the vision of this trade in baby body parts, the related question which it poses and prompts to our consciences is once again that of the problem of men of science who do not see themselves bound by any conscience. If conscience plays no part in the way a scientist goes about his work then all we can expect is to relive the nightmare of that prescient woman, Mary Shelly – and it will be no nightmare. It will be the real world.  

The world at a watershed

I seldom pass a group of young children these days – or a mother with a newborn infant in her arms – but I ask myself  a rhetorical question. What kind of civilization will that little child grow up in or inhabit as an adult? I was not preoccupied with that question thirty years ago. I was confident then, despite the Cold War, despite the tribal troubles of my country, that changes were for the better. Our progress  at worst seemed to be a matter of two steps forward, one step backward. But the trend was forward. Is it no longer possible to have that confidence?

A friend of mine rejects any suggestion that our present discontents on the geopolitical front today are a fulfillment in any way of the late Samuel Huntington’s predictions of a clash of civilizations. It would be consoling to be able to agree with him – but it would also be naive and dangerous.

Know your enemy is one of the most basic principles of self-defence. If we fail to understand the true nature of the enemy confronting us both in and from the Middle East and within our own culture, we will make a terrible mistake.

Question: If the international community could put the clock back would it not now do everything in its power to stop the Rwandan genocide; if it had a choice now would it stand aside as Pol Pot systematically murders millions of his own people in the name of an ideology; does the world not now recognize that the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler was one of the greatest blunders recorded in history?

The Charlie Hebdo murders have been characterized as a vicious attack on one of the most fundamental values of Western civilization – freedom of speech and expression. They were that, but this is only part of the story. That massacre is just another flash-point it a greater war. Indeed it is a flash-point in which can be seen the basic elements of the lethal clash which Huntington foresaw. Huntington may be faulted for identifying too many potential clashing elements in his global analysis – but he was correct in identifying the essential element in the fault lines which were going to disturb the peace of the world. That element was no longer going to be the dynastic interests of the distant past, nor the national interests of the recent past, nor, in any major way, the material resources necessary for our way of life in our own time. These might be elements in the mix of the major conflicts of our times but they are not the root cause – because reason and negotiation are now accepted by the power-brokers as a better means of resolving our conflicting interests in these matters. The current Ukrainian impasse is an ethnic conflict with nationalist undertones. But is is unlikely to get catastrophically out of hand as it might have done in the days when the dynamics of  the European Balance of Power was so crucial to states. It will eventually be resolved by negotiation and agreement. It is not a clash of two civilizations, nor will it become one. Vladimir Putin’s posturing does not threaten the common good of the world we would like to see our generation’s children inherit. The jihadis of the Middle East do – and the nihilistic libertarianism represented by the likes of Charlie Hebdo do.

There is a three-way clash of civilizations threatening the peace of the world today. Two kinds of war are being waged – a hot war and a cold war. The hot war has multiple fronts. It is the war of the jihadis. Rather than Islamic, one protagonist in this war is Wahhabist or Salafist. This jihad    is waged against two enemies. Its primary enemy is the internal Islamic one – Muslims of any and every denomination who are not of its own pure brand. This is a war within Islam and its outcome is as crucial to non Muslims as it is to the happiness of ordinary Muslims around the world. The jihadist’s secondary target is a dual enemy – Christian civilization and the culture of the secularist West, two cultures under under one umbrella which are themselves engaged in the cold war now in progress within what we call Western civilization.

This cold war is between militant secularists and those whose conscience is guided by principles rooted in a reading of the human condition founded on both reason and faith. It is not a war between secular atheists and the rest because the majority in the secularist camp still profess an allegiance to some personal interpretation of Christianity – as one of its leading generals, Barack Obama, does. This is the war spoken of by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago when he predicted that he would die in his bed, that his successor would die in prison, but that his successor’s successor would be a martyr.

Side by side in the West there now exist Christian and the post-Christian civilization with the same mother, adhered to by one, rejected, more or less, by the other. They have not formally declared war on each other – but, don’t doubt it, they are at war. The battlegrounds are on two fronts: using constitutional and legal weapons on one front; using the media of social communication on the other. The ground being contested? The heritage of Christendom.

There have been victories and defeats on both sides. Who can deny that the witness to the world given by seven million Asians in the Philippines last month was not a resounding victory for Christian culture, or the Humanum Conference in Rome last year for its resounding affirmation of the values of the Judeo-Christian vision of humanity, its nature, dignity and destiny.There are others.

But how are we to read a question like this?

Have one million Brits signed up for an adultery website? American dating network Ashley Madison, which specializes in setting up extramarital affairs, says it has signed up that many British members. The “success” comes despite the fact that the website — which signs on with the tag “Life is short. Have an affair” — has been prevented from advertising on UK television.

Or how are we to read the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey? These and many more are signs of battles lost by those who have been fighting for the dignity of mankind and the triumph of that vision of our destiny which embraces more than the simply material, a perishable clump of cells. Charlie Hebdo is just one more manifestation of post-Christian culture. But the Christian way, the Christian weapon, of dealing with all this will never be violence or the suppression of freedom. It can only ever be, should only ever be, by the proclamation of the Truth, the eternal Truth. This, by virtue of its own power and its own promise, will ultimately triumph. How that triumph will be effected in the world is another matter, full of uncertainty. But are those who should be the protagonists in this triumph asleep or awake?

The tragedy of this cold war has many dimensions but one of its immediate and potentially lethal consequences is its weakening effect on those who should be confronting the violent and inhumane salafists, whose Christian victims President Obama did not even think were worthy of a sympathetic mention in his recent national prayer breakfast address.

Presidential prayers

The campaign of the salafists – whether under the agency of al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, or other manifestations of the jihad – cannot be separated from the spread of Muslim culture into the West. Islam by its very definition has the entire world in it sights. Salafism is not about territory. It is about souls. It is about converting, by fair means or foul, minds and hearts to Islam.

For all the centuries of its existence Islam spread by conquest and by migration. When it gained territory it then consolidated its captive populations and maintained them in the faith by the rigours of sharia law. Foreigners were an evil influence to be controlled or kept at bay – as the Wahhabists of modern Saudi Arabia seek to do today.

A sample of this civilization’s vision for our race can be seen in the manifesto on women’s life under the Islamic State published by female jihadis recently. It states that girls can marry from age nine and labels Western education as “strange”. The document criticizes the “strange studies” of Western education. Under pure Islam: “From ages seven to nine, there will be three lessons: fiqh (understanding) and religion, Quranic Arabic (written and read) and science(accounting and natural sciences).”

“From ten to twelve, there will be more religious studies, especially fiqh, focusing more on fiqh related to women and the rulings on marriage and divorce. This is in addition to the other two subjects. Skills like textiles and knitting, basic cooking will also be taught.”

“From thirteen to fifteen, there will be more of a focus on Sharia, as well as more manual skills (especially those related to raising children) and less of the science, the basics of which will already have been taught. In addition, they will be taught about Islamic history, the life of the Prophet and his followers.” The document, we are told, is designed to “clarify the role of Muslim women and the life which is desired for them”.

The guide is thought to be aimed at Arab women, rather than a Western audience. References to Saudi Arabia suggest that Saudi women are the main targets. But no one should doubt that the ultimate goal of all Islam in principle – and its Wahhabist manifestation in deadly practice – is the entire world.

A telling letter to the London Independent recently noted that the initiative by the Muslim Council of Britain to open the doors of some mosques to the public appears to be positive in the present climate. But, its author, Dr. Rumy Hasan of the University of Sussex,  pointed out, “it is mere symbolism, whereas what is needed are policy shifts of substance.” These are few and far between.

The British Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, in a recent and controversial letter to 1,000 mosque leaders,  asked them to consider how faith in Islam can be part of British identity. The likelihood is that for a majority of imams, Hasan says, “the two are, in fact, irreconcilable – this would certainly be the case for Saudi-funded mosques and those inspired by Deobandism, with its roots in South Asia. Indeed, they have been singularly hostile to being part of a British identity and integrating into mainstream society.

“We know that the meaning of the name of the Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram is ‘Western education is sinful’. In a similar manner for many mosque leaders, Western lifestyle is sinful.

“What would be of substance and positive is a commitment to values that embrace freedom of expression and the adherence to universal laws, rather than demanding separate rights and exemptions to the law of the land that has hitherto been the case by Muslim leaders.”

But it is here that we come to the intractable conflict within Islam. Many ordinary Muslim people want to get on with their lives. The imams will not let them. There is no place for freedom in the militant strain of Islam now dictating the pace in much of the Islamic world because there is no place for reason. Not until there is victory for a moderate Islamic culture can there be any semblance of what Eric Pickles is hoping to see.

After centuries of deadlock on the bloody borders shared between Christian civilization and Islamic civilization eventually these frontiers became porous as Islam controlled territories slipped hopelessly behind in development. The eventual consequence of this was the migration of Muslims into the states of Western Europe. In the Islamic homeland of Arabia this was a disaster. For them it meant the sinful contamination of their people and with this arose the sense of mission to save them, to bring them back to the rigourous practice of their faith. This is the mission now in progress among the Muslims settled in the West. The dream of the Wahhabists is that what happened in Anatolia (now Turkey) in the eleventh century will be repeated again. As Bernard Lewis points out in his History of the Middle East, the Islamic transformation of that country was accomplished by migrating tribes rather than by any military action on the part of the Great Seljuks, the Muslim conquerors of that age. After that migrations the Islamic forces moved in to organize the province which had been handed to them on a plate by a process of ethnic migration. By the end of the twelfth century a Turkish Muslim monarchy was firmly in place and Anatolia became a Turkish land. Masses of Turkish immigrants then entered from further east and a Turkish Muslim civilization replaced Greek Christianity.

Hagia Sophia, once the heart of Greek Christianity

With old Europe now threatening to degenerate itself out of existence and with its growing Muslim population now a target for zealous Wahhabist imams, who can predict what will happen? The outcome of the West’s own internal cultural conflict – between its Christians and its secularists is crucial. The latter is the primary force behind its plunging demographics. This suicidal trend is the product of the rampant hedonistic individualism embedded in modern secularism. It can only be arrested within the context of a truly Christian culture of life. If not, then the fate of Europe can only be the fate of Anatolia.

It is hard not to conclude that the world is now facing into an era of  momentous change of the deepest kind. Not to recognize the nature of this conflict, or the character of the forces now at war with each other, is to bury our heads in the sand and to render ourselves impotent when we need to be effective protagonists in the struggle to shape this world in every way necessary to serve the common good of humanity for centuries to come.

The Obama strategy on ISIS

The Daily Signal, the Heritage Council’s bulletin, gives us this take on Obama’s “strategy” for dealing with the Islamic menace incarnated in the so-called Islamic State:

On Wednesday, President Obama addressed the nation concerning an uptick of action against the Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL. It was a short address that also was short on surprises.

Obama began with an apt description of ISIS and the threat it poses. In this phase of his remarks, he got it right. ISIS is a horrendous group of murderers whose savagery knows no bounds. Action must be taken. He also emphasized there is a real threat to the homeland—not an immediate one perhaps but one that requires action.

Obama attempted to paint all the military actions taken so far as having been successful.  In this, he probably overstated at least a bit. Recent operations have helped, but the problem won’t be solved without additional actions.

Read the full analysis here.

Dreadful Obama – so thinks America


I know that I can sometimes come off as unrelentingly anti-Obama, but here’s proof that one or two Americans dislike him, too. The Quinnipiac University’s latest presidential poll says that Barack Obama is the least favourite president since the Second World War. That’s right: he ranks beneath Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George W Bush. George W Bush. Those surveyed said that Mitt Romney might’ve done a better job if elected in 2012. Which means that Americans actually prefer terrible hypothetical presidents to the real one they’ve got now. They’re taking a second look at the devil they don’t know.

That is Tim Stanley talking. Read more about why American think this man is so dreadful here.

Obama and Pope Francis: an imagined conversation


“He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion,” Obama said in an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera before the his meeting with Pope Francis.

Obama being the man he is, believing what he believes, attacking his Catholic electorate in the very depth of their Christian consciences, one is tempted to decode this. It is hard to take.

We know where Obama’s sense of decency and compassion is taking America: abortion and the killing of millions of infants awaiting birth, the deconstruction of the institution of marriage, and an anthropology as bizarre as anything that might be generated by the logic of Humpty Dumpty. With apologies to Lewis Carroll – and to Pope Francis – perhaps this was part of their conversation:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘marriage,’ ” Pope Francis said.
Obama smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you.”

“When I use a word,” Obama said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Pope Francis, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Obama, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Garvan Hill tries not to do cynicism. But sometimes the public face presented by men who are walking us all into a hell on earth makes it impossible to resist. I’m sorry. No, maybe I’m not.


The most lethal euphemism of all?

Is this the most lethal euphemism of all? We have had ethnic “cleansing”, a clinical-sounding term for numerous and variously bloody instances of forced migration. We have had “cultural revolution” for mindless communist barbarities. We have even the benign-sounding term “re-education” veiling the gulags of soviet Russia. There was, of course – until now – the daddy of them all: the “final solution” covering the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people.

But how about “planned parenthood”? We are fast reaching a stage where that very term, suggesting an acute sense of responsibility and connected with the most elemental and sublime of all human experiences, must send a shiver through us. But despite the horrendous evidence from the Gosnell trial in Philadephia, illustrating just the tip of the iceberg of human depravity which the abortion industry represents, and industry which is itself the very flagship of Planned Parenthood, we have the leader of the “free” world championing this “cause”.

This industrial health-service complex – which has nothing to do with health and less to do with service –  has accounted for the deaths of millions and millions of human beings, children and women, across the world in the past 50 years. You can take any approach to statistics you like and the figures will still come out showing that this is the single greatest human disaster that the world has ever seen. Don’t get distracted by the statistics but just for the record, one source cites

approximately 42 million abortions occurring every year worldwide. The same source calculates that abortion killed 73 times more Americans than died in battle in their last 12 wars combined.

There seems to be little doubt that the local Planned Parenthood group had been aware of complaints about what Dr. Gosnell was up to but did not intervene. The Philadelphia Daily News quoted the local group’s leader as saying that women had complained to the group about conditions at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, and that the group would encourage them to report their complaints to the health department. That’s responsibility?

In the context of Obama’s shameless support for Planned Parenthood, show most recently by his going out of his way to celebrate with them last week, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group said: “President Obama blatantly ignored this inconvenient truth about the abortion industry’s horrific lack of oversight and disparaged the pro-life advocates who wake up each morning with the goal of saving the lives of unborn children and women from the pain of abortion,” said.

Mr. Obama at the dinner last week ignored the Gosnell case but condemned lawmakers who have targeted Planned Parenthood. “When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they’re not just talking about you, they’re talking about the millions of women who you serve,” he told the group’s gathering, at a Washington hotel. “And when they talk about cutting off your funding, let’s be clear they’re talking about telling many of those women you’re on your own.”

He pledged his loyalty to the group. “You’ve also got a president,” he said, “who’s going to be right here with you fighting every step of the way.” Now they are chilling words.

Matt Barber in his column pulls no punches when he confronts these horrors.

 I mean, why are we surprised that an abortionist and his staff would, behind the walls of an always-lethal abortion clinic, commit one of the most horrific serial killings in American history? What did you think abortionists do, heal people?

 Why are we taken aback that there was no oversight, no regulation, or that Planned Parenthood, though privy to the clinic’s filthy, medieval conditions, refused to report it to the Department of Health? After all, Planned Parenthood, Barack Obama and the DNC have vehemently opposed all laws – such as those in Virginia, Mississippi and elsewhere – designed to prevent exactly the same kind of squalid conditions found in Gosnell’s clinic (and others), laws that simply direct abortion mills to meet the same minimal safety standards required of all other medical facilities.

 You didn’t really buy that whole “women’s health” nonsense, did you?

 We live in bewildering times. The President of the United States won his second term by a slender enough margin of the popular vote. But he is not just the President of the United States. He is the most powerful man in the world and for the old West he is effectively the unelected primus inter not-so-pares. As we were reminded during his last election campaign, had the peoples of Europe had a vote in  that election he would have won by a landslide.  Frightening.

Adding once more to the follies of four thousand years

“What are they thinking”, we sometimes cry out in near despair as we look on at the folly of governments and their agents, here and around the world, dismantling and destroying before our eyes the very substance of our social and economic fabric.

The economic fabric is, in most if not all western societies, the patient currently in intensive care. The medical teams are furiously arguing with each other about the treatments being applied to bring the wounded subject back to some level of well-being. The austerity faction has the upper hand but no one is really sure – with the exception of the opposing team – what history’s verdict is going to be on that. We are hoping for the best.

What there is no doubt about in anyone’s mind is what the judgement of history will be on why we got here. Everyone now knows that the folly of greed brought the house down about our ears.

But while we worry and fret over this patient, a deeper and more sinister folly remains rampant and untrammelled in the corridors of the powerful and is tearing apart something which will be much more difficult to restore to health. Every day – and for some decades now – the people entrusted with the care of the common good are putting new measures in place which are one by one destroying the very core elements which sustain our human and social well-being.

Booms and busts have been and will always be, we are told, part of the economic cycle. They come and go and as we muddle through them we learn a little each time – and then promptly seem to forget it again, falling back to some earlier position as in a game of snakes and ladders. But generally our muddling along seems to work out on average like three steps forward and two steps backwards.

With our social fabric the story is frighteningly different. For some reason, probably because the process of collapse is more silent and slow-moving, we are being lead onwards blindly into what a a growing clamour of voices is warning us will be a morass of social dysfunction and disintegration.

How is this happening? Part of the answer may be found in a wise and sobering book by one of the great popular historians of the Twentieth century, Barbara Tuchman. In The March of Folly, she dissects the “wooden-headedness” of the world’s leaders – of every political persuasion, from tyrannical despots to dedicated democrats – in their pursuit of public policy. This is a book which makes sober but certainly not consoling reading and explains something of the riddle we are forced to contemplate in our own day and age.

 A phenomenon noticeable throughout history, she writes, regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggest? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?

 Tuchman wrote her book in the early nineteen eighties so she did not have a chance to witness or comment on the economic follies of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She did not need to. Her case is watertight without them. From the lesson on man’s folly shown to us in the mythological tale of the wooden horse of Troy, through the follies of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, down through to the follies of any number of empire builders who ended up destroying their own work, to any number in our own day, the embarrassment of the powerful should be assured.

The mystery she puts before us is why can mankind, elsewhere than in government – and in government she includes all agencies engaged in the shaping of public affairs, like trade unions, representative organisations, and others – accomplish such marvels: inventions to harness wind and electricity, raising earth-bound stones into soaring cathedrals, construct the instruments of music, and so much more, and yet make such a mess of government. She quotes John Adams, the second President of the United States who had just witnessed one of the greatest follies of the 18th century – Britain’s blundering loss of her extension into the North American continent. Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “While all other sciences have advanced, government is at a stand; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago.”

Indeed, if we look at the United States today and compare it with the achievement of its founding fathers, we would have to question whether its governance is a “little better” or a good deal worse than in John Adams’ day.

No country or state has a monopoly of the commodity we call folly when it comes to public policy. The Chinese state is forging ahead to economic world-dominance while at the same time it is cutting its own throat with a one-child policy which will cripple it in the not too distant future as pampered spoiled brats grow into selfish adult males who will wreak havoc on a limited female population brought about by the whole-scale culling through sex-selective abortion. India, another state promising itself great achievements in the economic sphere, is silently destroying itself with its unlimited sex-selective abortion on demand.

Meanwhile in Europe the old countries which began their domination of the planet a millennium ago are slowly dying under the weight of their self-indulgence, aided and abetted by governments at every turn. Rampant divorce rates are wrecking families. Marriage is being destroyed in the rush to facilitate homosexual self-indulgence in the name of a concept of equality rooted in an utterly flawed anthropology.  Marriage has been further weakened by fiscal arrangements which facilitate cohabitation without commitment. The unintended consequence of this: rampant child abuse – where mothers seek to nurture multiple children begotten serially by nameless fathers.

All of this is fostered in one way or another by governments.

Tuchman qualifies her concept of folly in a way which makes it more than just idiocy but makes it culpable. Idiots can be excused. Culpable fools should not be excused.

To qualify as folly the policy adopted by a government or a representative agency must meet three criteria, she says. Firstly, it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. Judging a past era by the standards is a rampant modern practice which generates its own kind of folly. The injury which is perpetrated by the folly must be something recognised and predicted and warned against by contemporaries. Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available.  Thirdly, to remove the problem from reasons of personality, a third criterion must be that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.

The follies we fret over and predict above, as the harbingers of social disaster, fulfil all these criteria.

President Obama and his administration are constantly being warned of the legacies they are bequeathing to their society as a consequence of the destruction of the institution of marriage in which they are currently engaged. The same is true of the Dutch, the French, the British and now the Irish. David Cameron – with his government – is proceeding relentlessly with his redefinition of marriage in spite of a petition from well over half a million of his citizens to stop his folly – not to mention the wise and solemn warnings from the leaders of all the main religious denominations.

In relation to another folly, the world’s legislators were well warned by the teachers of the Catholic Church about the consequences, moral and social, which would follow the generation of a contraceptive mentality by the whole-scale ignoring of its teaching on human life and human sexuality in Humanae Vitae and the provision of contraception services to all and sundry. There are plenty of warnings on record to both the Chinese and the Indians about the folly of the abortion and semi-eugenicist practices which their policies are generating.

The governments of the world’s oldest states, and some relatively new ones, are verifying once again the truth placed before us by Barbara Tuchman and John Adams. Tuchman concludes:

 If John Adams was right, and government is “little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago,” we cannot reasonably expect much improvement. We can only muddle on as we have done in those same three or four thousand years, through patches of brilliance and decline, great endeavour and shadow.

 That is a worrying thought, for the stakes involved in our current follies seem much more serious than any since the follies she listed which lead to the tragic religious rupture of Europe in the sixteenth century. The injuries which mankind will sustain from our current follies will require much more than some geo-political adjustment or economic tweaking to put them right. The consequences may require much more than a bit of muddling on.

Is there room for heroes when this ethic rules the roost?

Sad, even terrifying, but true: James Delingpole in his Telegraph blog this weekend:

I’ll tell you what I fear. I think we have now reached that stage of last-days-of-the-Roman-Empire intellectual and moral depravity where almost no one in our dominant corporate/political/financier/lawyer class believes it’s worthwhile or even possible to do the right thing any more. Some of them may be vaguely aware that, yes, the only way the world is ever going to recover from the economic mess we’re in is through a radical agenda of cost-cutting, contraction of the state, sound money, and lower taxes. But they’ve made up their minds that none of this is a votewinner in our heavily socialised Western economies and that therefore the only hope is simply to grab what you can while you still can – and forget any fancy, idealistic notions you may have had about making the world a better place.

Read the whole piece here.