"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain apparently unfit to print; and BSG on being "worthy of survival"

That is, at least according to the New York Times. Shortly after Obama's "Plan for Iraq" was published in that very paper, its editor rejected a similar piece by Sen. McCain. I'd argue that it'd be responsible journalism to present both sides of the debate and let the readers decide for themselvses. But then, no one expects responsible journalism from that rag anymore. Anyone interested in McCain's piece can find it here.

Moving on, after a short dry spell I finally got to do some BSG while I was on duty this weekend, and, as happens so often with this series, a couple of its episodes got me thinking. One of the recurring themes, frequently mentioned by the Cylon Number Six, is that humanity is, at its core, a brutal, bloodthirsty race unworthy of existance. This issue came to the forefront again in a two-parter that pitted two ship commanders against each other in a race to see who could stab the other in the back first and gain control over the entire human fleet. I won't give everything away, but ultimately both pull themselves back because, as Commander Adama says, "it's not enough for humanity to survive. We must also be worthy of survival." He realizes that survival is pointless if it requires abandoning the things that make us great. This is a topic that I've discussed indirectly on these pages, and one which I'm sure many readers have thought about on their own after glancing at modern headlines. The debate has sharpened since 9/11, and it comes down to whether Western cultural can sustain itself in the face of challenges from without and implosion from within. Few would argue that, for all its flaws, Western culture has produced the richest, freest, and most dynamic nations in all of history. But I've sometimes wondered if we've reached our apogee. Defenders of the West have become fewer precisely when the number of battlefields has increased. This change is most pronounced in Europe. Once the "tip of the spear" for democracy, freedom, and tolerance, the Old World has given up ground on all fronts. Democracy is slowly being replaced by the diktats of technocrats in the EU; freedom in the markets has given way to increasingly stiffling statist economic policies; tolerance has virtually given way to surrender, as nation after nation bends over backwards to appease the growing radicalized Muslim populations within their borders (I was particularly disheartened to recently hear that Britain - a nation that left the footprints of democracy on every inhabited continent - was considering putting booties on police dogs to avoid offense while searching the houses of Muslim suspects). A stark sign of this cultural despair is the spiraling demographic decline among many European populations; they see a grim future, and so are only holding out long enough to collect their state-funded retirement benefits while there's still a state left to dole them out.

Things may not be quite as dire over here, but there are signs that North Americans are compromising some of their same rights. In the Great White North, there's been serious debate about setting up a parallel legal system of sharia courts, separate from the established judiciary, for Ontario's Muslim community. Free speech has been trampled on by Human Rights Commissions that have non-existant evidentiary rules and pay the fees of the claimants regardless of the weakness of their cases. In both instances, the rule of law has been sacrificed in the name of false tolerance. Even here, we see arenas like higher education - where the free exchange of ideas is supposedly enshrined - enact suffocating speech laws that only serve to muzzle one side of the debate. Perhaps they're taking their cue from Congress' Fairness Doctrine, which seeks to determine how much of each side of a debate a listener can hear rather than let the listener decide for themselves.

Some may think that we can compromise on these things and still survive, and we may; but we will lose the greatness that got us to this point in the first place. When we sacrifice freedom of speech in the name of political correctness, or define tolerance as only applying to the most radical group that's willing to riot for it, we're really saying those things aren't as important as sheer animal survival. And sheer survival is not what the West is about. And before I ramble on too long, I'll get to the point. Commander Adama knew there was little point in coming out on top if he destroyed what his civilization was all about. There is little point in us simply enduring if we sacrifice our timeless values for the sake of some short-term comfort and stability. Survival is more than maintaining lines on a map. The West is worthy of survival because of what it stands for; we should stop selling ourselves down the river simply because it's easier and less messy.

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