The Endarkenment turned another corner last week.
As virtually everyone knows, last Friday the Islamic State perpetrated a series of horrific attacks at multiple locations in Paris, an historic, cultural, and symbolic capital of Western civilization which has birthed the likes of Voltaire and Hugo. (Elsewhere that day, a lethal attack in Kenya of similar scope left scores of victims. While it is not as culturally significant as the assault on reason and civilization in Paris, it is also noteworthy.) [See note below--11/20/15.] These attacks were ideologically similar to but much more ambitious and devastating than the January 7 attack on the headquarters of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo when two Islamists murdered magazine staffers for publishing cartoons that depicted Mohammed. Last week’s attacks were horrific but not surprising to those who have been paying attention and understand the nature of ideas and the consequences of appeasement (which means they were probably surprising to most people alive today). As of Wednesday evening, the death toll was well over one hundred. The count of injured victims was well over three hundred. As of Thursday morning, the alleged mastermind of the attacks was killed in a police raid.
I was away from home and computer for an extended time during and after the attacks, which is one of the reasons I have not posted much until now. Another is that more prolific commenters (Mark Steyn, to name one) have said most of what needs to be said. (They are relatively unusual in a militantly non-judgmental culture of relativists, appeasers, and cheek-turners, including many “libertarians”.) A third is that, when dealing with broad abstractions and fundamentals, their application in relation to concretes and specifics is a job for policy makers and generals (who are failing miserably primarily because they have the wrong fundamental ideas and abstractions). After a while, the rare integrator in a culture of disintegrators sounds like a broken record (to use a trite simile). The menace of “terrorism” (which is symptomatic of a deeper cause, the Islamic religion) has the same fundamental solution as the ongoing economic meltdown, the dumbing down of the Eloi, the increasing sloth and ennui of a once-robust culture, etc. Follow reason. Embrace the individualism and secular reason that once lit the lamps of Enlightenment and liberty.
In addition to an increasingly rare antidote of generalized Enlightenment in the metastasizing Endarkenment, I have a few things to add that may be semi-unusual.
One observation is mostly personal, but I was particularly saddened that the site of one of the attacks was Le Bataclan, a concert venue built in 1864 on le boulevard Voltaire. On June 25, 1998, the extraordinary Dream Theater (who would be a household name in a rational culture) recorded their live album Once in a LIVEtime (EastWest Records America 2CD, 1998) in the venue. It is appropriate, symbolically, that one of the last bastions of exultant expertise and musical brilliance in a dying genre and culture has a connection to one of the prominent sites in one of the most significant, coordinated, and extensive attacks on the West.
Another is more general.
Although nothing significant has changed in the past week in terms of the day-to-day lives or quality of life of most people (yet), those who identified Friday’s events as a turning point are correct. The Islamic State, an exceptionally wealthy and organized organization that is starting to display the characteristics of an actual state (such as controlling territory), carried through a notable series of attacks. One might reasonably say they won the battle. Western leaders will likely respond according to the inertia of the Endarkenment, with more appeasement, more welcoming of “refugees” (who were numbered among Friday’s attackers), and more of a siege mentality at home, treating everyone but Muslims with suspicion and more feckless “security checkpoints” and laws and “safety precautions” while the inchoate police state continues to rise around a once-free West. (Matt Drudge and others are reporting that the Transportation Security Administration misses 75% of dangerous weapons.) Both the multiculturalist left and the religious right are fundamentally the same on this issue (as they are on so many others), which is why there are no significant improvements in policy and nothing significant changes. And that means there will be more (and worse) attacks. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to metaphysics as well as physics: When nothing changes, everything gets worse.
It is true that the ongoing jihad against the West is not “the fault of all Muslims”. That is also irrelevant. It is the fault of Islam. It is impossible to practice any bad ideology consistently, and most don’t come close. The exceptions are the consistent exemplars of the ideology. Human beings are generally good, including most Muslims, but that does not mean that Islam is not evil and that its consistent embodiments are not waging war against the vestiges of human civilization.
A perspicacious thinker with whom many reading this are familiar once said to me, “There’s still a lot left to lose.” That was a few years ago, and more lights have been snuffed (even before last Friday), but the lights are not completely out yet. From weblogs to Dream Theater live albums to technology to human camaraderie, it is still easy enough for the intellectually disarmed to evade the Endarkenment and the intellectually aware to live in defiance of it. And defy they should. Islam means “submission”. Don’t submit (to Islam or anything else). A war (which is what it is—the enemy certainly sees it that way) starts with one mind and body at a time. Like everything else in life.
Even if leadership and general competence were better, practical responses to the crises are no longer enough. Current and not-so-current events should have indicated by now, even to the pragmatic and the status quo supporters, that the global crises are philosophical. The (global) culture needs a paradigm shift down to its deepest roots, or Friday’s attacks will soon seem comparatively trivial (and today’s status quo will be as dead as the gold standard and rifle ranges in downtown Los Angeles).
In “The Duel Between Plato and Aristotle”, the epilogue to Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Dutton, 1991), Leonard Peikoff wrote, “To save the world is the simplest thing in the world. All one has to do is think.” It should be simple enough, but few are up to the task anymore. Hence the spectacle of millions of Facebook profile pictures modified with the superimposition of the French tricolor flag while a tiny fraction of those might seriously examine the problem and its solutions. If most individuals of the older (meaning post-teen) generations aree irrevocably stunted by Pragmatism and the culture it spawned, it would be imperative to try to educate children properly and encourage genuine critical thinking and inductive reasoning.
With an entrenched education monopoly, that may be a hopeless undertaking. But the universe is a benevolent place (contrary to the conventional culture and its headlines and horror movies), the human mind (virtually each individual one, including those of the aged) has enormous potential, and a conscientious, rational individual should keep fighting (intellectually and otherwise) as long he can.
*Update, 11/20/15: A reader and friend has informed me that the aforementioned attack on Kenya occurred months ago. Reports circulated on the Internet that day by people who ignored and evaded the categorical differences between the attacks and used them to assert that the Western media and its customers and viewers do not care about Kenya and Kenyans. I was busy working at the time of the reports and was not able to read them in as much detail as I would have liked.
|"Bataclan, Paris 6 April 2008" by Céline from Dublin, Ireland - Bataclan - Paris. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bataclan,_Paris_6_April_2008.jpg#/media/File:Bataclan,_Paris_6_April_2008.jpg|