Monday, April 23, 2007

Harvard leftist sees the Light?

Parapundit's Randall Parker excerpts an illustrative bit of commentary from the Harvard Political Review's Design Editor Alex Copulsky, who is responding to an article on Pope Benedict (the first paragraph, in which Copulsky portrays himself as a restless workaholic, describes the Pope as contradictory, and condescendingly refers to the Catholic Church as "decrepit", reveals the pedantic leftist angle he's coming from):
Benedict has a point that if one believes a clash of civilization is coming, the West's rejection of the Church has weakened it. As a liberal, secular Western liberal, I must admit that thinking in these terms makes me somewhat uneasy...after all, it's very far from PC, and only a skip, hop, and leap away from saying that “They are barbarians, and they ARE at the gates”. No one is saying that (publicly, anyway), but rather they are analytically pointing out that a certain tradition and way of life seems to be fading out, and may be approaching a crisis.
I feel like Patrick Swayze in the movie Ghost, when he's trying to stop Tony Goldwyn from making moves on his girlfriend, but despite his efforts, he's initially unable to influence the situation (as he's a ghost). Eventually, he knocks a picture onto the floor. Maybe all the "no one"s Colpusky assumes don't exist are influencing him somehow.

The argument that the West (including its epistemology, culture, people, and religion) faces an existential threat isn't novel. In his book Culture Warrior, Bill O'Reilly (who, with the most-watched cable news show on the air, is hard to miss) makes a case for exactly what Copulsky claims Benedict is uniquely undertaking:
He is convinced that the secularization of the West has harmed its prospect for long-term survival, and it must act to save itself.
Pat Buchanan wrote The Death of the West five years ago. He's not exactly an anonymous figure, either. Nor is Steve Sailer obscure--he's provided the impetus for national news stories and has provided commentary for us on televised national news, in additon to being one of the marquee writers for the US' major paleoconservative voice, The American Conservative. Lawrence Auster has created a terse, logical polemic showing the need for the Western and Islamic worlds to divorce. I agree with him.

Dispensing with the movie analogy, I wonder if a guy like Copulsky is consciously disingenious (a view held by frequent commenter John S. Bolton) or just incredibly naive?

Copulsky makes an easy argument for the latter, when he claims that he is "totally absorbed" in the first thing he starts reading at the library. It reminds me of how I became totally absorbed in classical music when I first listened to a full symphony in earnest (Beethoven's Sixth)--that I was so easily captivated was directly due to how unfamiliar I was with the genre going in. If you've been following the immigration debate closely for years, no single article is going to have you "totally absorbed"--the provoking article that absorbs you is the one that introduces you to the serious debate in the first place.

So Copulsky looks like a greenthumb. But if he's being mindfully deceitful when he says "no one" has argued that the Occident and Islam are incompatible, he may be equally furtive in other parts of his writing as well.

As a self-described member of the empirical right, I'm not religious. But it's difficult for me to separate the contemporary West from the history of the Catholic Church. The Italian Renaissance didn't spring up overnight. Buridan's theories on currency, Oresme's monumental work on how naturally occuring exchange rates are more conducive to economic activity than arbitrary ratios, and Azpilcueta's description of inflation, all occured during the Middle Ages.

The natural philosophy that really developed in the 12th Century broke from the Aristotlean understanding of nature in that it assumed a discernible explanation for natural phenomena. That is, non-living things progressively lost their attributes of personification. Smoke didn't simply rise because it liked the sky, or rocks fall to the earth because they liked the ground.

The Benedictine Cistercians made the first largescale use of hydropowered mechanization. Suddenly monasteries were self-supporting, even utility-creating. And the Catholic Church's networking allowed these advances to be transmitted throughout Europe very rapidly.

The first universal hospitals were constructed under the auspices of the Church in the 4th Century, breaking from the Roman focus on physicians caring for particular members of society.
Anselm, Occam, and one of the most important figures in Western thought, Aquinas, all operated in the Middle Ages. Scholasticism took rational, logical argumentation to a degree of sophistication that was unequaled in the rest of the world.

Even modern liberal ideas on justice and inalienable, ecumenical human rights trace their first champions back to Churchmen like Las Casas.

Copulsky astutely identifies the thrust of the Pope's argument thus:
The key part of Benedict's argument is that the culture of rationality and respect for one's fellow man that inform “good government” is a distinctively Christian legacy.
In this sense, Benedictine's concern for the decline of the Catholic Church is legitimately shared by secular Westerners: It is more than a reduction in church attendance--it is a sign of a moribund civilization. Few Westerners will put their careers (let alone their lives) on the line for the amorphous idea of freedom of expression. Largescale ethnic nationalism among those of European descent may be counterproductive and isn't (yet) realistic anyhow. Western nationalism is making a comeback, but it may be too little too late. The universalism of Christian ideals appeals to Westerners, but in practice the Christian body will remain predominately Western.

I'm also concerned about the downtrend in religiosity for a very secular reason: religious societies procreate; irreligious ones do not. The correlation between religiosity and fecundity at the national level is a rigorous .85. Literal belief in religious explanations for various phenomena or instructions for moral conduct are more likely to be bought by people with modest IQs. The stuff that replaces those religious explanations are hardly more accurate or beneficial than the ones they are replacing (the hip-hop culture, reality TV, self-indulgence, etc). The relative elevation of Christianity in the West is not going to stop pioneers in nanotechnology or research at MIT from going forward.

5 comments:

JSBolton said...

Copulsky may mean that no one he cares to recognize as being part of 'public' discourse, or of publishing that is vetted (catch-22 in place), would say that the moslem and other hostile barbarians are at the gates.
If I were to inspect this for slyness
and indirection, I'd first ask whether what he means isn't something like:
you can't say that in public, so give up already...
but we can and do say this in public.
Not only that, but the left is getting publicly excoriated for making common cause with the
Islamic savage, against civilization.
Even more depressingly, for such left triumphalism, if that's what it is,
would be publication of the fact that making common cause with the Islamic theocrats and their terror offensive, signifies the betrayal of every single principle the left has ever disguised itself as being for.

Anonymous said...

I would like to think that Copulsky may be coming around, but I doubt it. He is obviously a very bright individual, but the liberals/leftists in the US (and just about everywhere else) seem incapable of changing their ways, regardless of what is in front of their faces, whether it is a suicide bomber in Jerusalem (the Israelis made them do it!), a beheaded women's rights activist in Pakistan (do feminists even know/care, or like Pelosi, put on the headscarf out of cowardice?), murdered Yezidis (who?), Iranians calling for a resumption of the Holocaust(they are just acting out against Israel, right?), an army medic shot dead by a sniper as he struggled to save a wounded comrade on a nameless street in Fallujah (just another low class, low IQ white redneck from the South, so why get worked up?), or 3,000 some (fellow?) Americans in NYC that were either incinerated alive or jumped to their deaths (does Copulsky remember that or did he view it with ironic detachment as well, or were they capitalist exploiters who deserved it?). Since they have no religion that they believe in themselves (except liberalism, leftism, narcissism, environmentalism, etc...) they cannot actually understand that islamics (who lack a sense of post modern irony and are unwilling/unable to "deconstruct" things on an academic level) may take this religion stuff seriously and have no problem killing for it, or that beloved 3rd worlders don't share such high ideals about women's rights, free inquiry or any of the other things that he (and I, to my shame) take for granted every goddamn day. These liberals and leftists have deconstructed every fucking thing you or I could possibly imagine from religion right down to that asshole who made a movie about fast food. Thanks to them, the foundations of our society are shaky. The enemy knows this and cleverly exploits this weakness. Sadly many liberals/leftists revel in it because it is edgy and "speaks truth to power" or some such other bullshit.
They will continue to believe their fantasies right up until they are put up against the wall and either begging for their lives or trying to make a deal. The West faces a threat that not only involves muslim fanatics, but 3rd world demographics and 5th column traitors who are trying and succeeding in hollowing us out on the inside. Not only are barbarians at the gate, but guys like Copulsky have left the back window open for them so to speak.

al fin said...

This is Copulsky's idea of appearing broad-minded. His underlying world view is unaltered.

I would not be concerned about people such as Copulsky if not that their world view is being branded onto the brains of at least 90% of students who experience conventional education.

Call it the "Peter Pan Syndrome", perpetual infantilisation, psychological neoteny, or whatever you choose. The brains of the youth have been prepared for being indoctrinated by Copulsky and his cohorts.

Audacious Epigone said...

John,

You mean he may be trying to tee Benedict up? "Didn't no anyone was saying this, but it's sort of persuasive at first..." (and then waiting for leftists to come in and say how hateful it actually is, etc)?

Anon,

But do these leftists realize that they are threatening the very liberalism they claim to be champions of? Is it malicious, are they simply too caught up in moral posturing to take notice one way or the other, or do they actually pine for a despostic or oligarchic third-world state to be made of today's developed nations?

Al,

You could improve on the Wiki entry for Peter Pan syndrome for sure.

Anonymous said...

"But do these leftists realize that they are threatening the very liberalism they claim to be champions of? Is it malicious, are they simply too caught up in moral posturing to take notice one way or the other, or do they actually pine for a despostic or oligarchic third-world state to be made of today's developed nations?"

Many are just fucking idiots who have no clue about how the real world works and really think that that 3rd worlders, muslims and others will greet them and their liberal ideas with open arms. it is wishful thinking. They will have their heads sawed off instead of having a group hug. I almost feel sorry for them.
The other part of the liberal/leftist bloc are more sinister. They want a despotism because they feel that they will be in charge and stick it to the "facists" (really white people who value liberty and freedom and aren't good party members). Look at the big time leftists in this nation like Hillary, Gore and many in academia or daily kos or whatever. When Gore lost the election, Hillary called for abolishment of the electoral college (I don't remember her complaining when her husband became president). They want to change the rules if they don't win, but they will settle for changing the people if they can. 3rd worlders are overwhelmingly leftist in their political orientation, that is why they want to bring in more. Go back and read how many leftists in the West were pleased with Stalin's show trials. Gore is an arrogant asshole who still cannot believe he lost to Bush and Kerry is just as bad. Both are narcissists as well who really hate Americans who don't agree with them. They hate religion, guns, liberty and white people who don't share their fucked up communist beliefs. Religion, guns and liberty mean you don't look to the gov't and they hate that and white people, especially rural whites (or enough of them) are pretty much the only group in the nation that doesn't look to the state as their savior and believes in guns, God and liberty. That is why they must go. Luckily for us, the left in this nation is made up of a bunch of pussies like students, academics and weakling wealthy socialists who don't have the guts or wherewithal to really remake the us as fast as they would like. So they will push love of 3rd worlders, immigration and islam instead.
For all that bullshit during those antiwar rallies and protests over the WTO, or whatever is the cause of the day for these clowns, none of them have the guts to engage in any real violence. For all the Che Guevara shirts, slogans and raised fists, it is all vandalism and spray cans, it is for pussies and they know it. Notice these leftists protestors never take on whites in the South, who they really hate, because they know all too well they will be greeted by a a shotgun blast or bullet. But we are still in trouble as a nation. These people still vex us and plague our land. (This is a rant and is not quite a coherent piece of work, so I would be happy to clarify if there are questions) But when real violence comes, and it will, we had all better be ready. But that is another comment thread. Just keep the shotgun behind the door and the shells in the cabinet.