The proximate cause is yesterday's terror bombing of London. National Review's Victor David Hanson wrote a fine piece on it for today's online content, and he noted something that needs greater airing:
It is not that we don't believe in Western values as much as we don't even know what they are anymore. The London bombings were only a reification of what goes on daily with impunity blocks away in the mosques and Islamist schools of London.His point? Everyone understood the difference between Nazis and Germans, but we seem unwilling to do so with suicidists and Moslems. We shrink back from honest appraisals because we feel that others will mistake us; but the stakes are too high to worry about that right now.
While I was mulling that I thought about a debate I'd had, off and on, with moral relativism, the thought that truth is wholly subjective. (A lot of it is here, and here again.) As one friend described it, there are many ways up the mountain. He himself is no relativist, but I was forced to ask myself a question in reply to what he said: are a multitude of paths merely a better way to get lost on one? Is it not much more probable that, given more paths, that one might find oneself heading down the mountain, while fooling oneself with the thought that you're still pretty high up? We may have six trails to choose from, but some may well be far harder than others.
That's when my mind seized on the strange parallel - we are, by and large as a culture, grown quite unwilling to distinguish good from evil, both for enemies without and within, in both physical and spiritual war.
I suppose it's much to do with wanting friends, and avoiding unpleasant confrontations. These are valuable impulses, but like any mere impulse, it needs balancing with other impulses. The impulse to just get along is so ascendant that the equally-valuable survival instinct, the one that makes us fight for our lives, is dulled. If that's all, then there's hope - we can always be roused, can be shaken out of our stupor.
But some people claim to have moved beyond all that - it's "judgmental" to say that something is better, or preferable, or more desirable. In fact, some go so far as to say that not only are some things not better than others, they aren't really different at all. Just like with Nazis and Germans, there is a distinction that is not being grasped here - the monumental difference between sin and sinner.
This sort of confusion has led Derbyshire to fear that we haven't the stomach for the current outer fight against terrorists. I hope he's wrong; at least, I hope that, having lost it, we can find the stomach again. But there's no doubt that we've been spoiled by our current material state. Our grandfathers fought, grim-handed and uncompromising, against tyrants and conquerors - but they weren't the only ones. Those left behind suffered rationing and rolling blackouts. Millions worked the factories and fields. And all of this followed the long economic hardships of the Depression. Basically, those 16 years of their lives sucked out loud. They came out of it and built a prosperity unmatched in human history; the rest of us, born into the world they died for, show no taste for a similar struggle to preserve it.
"Stomach" and "taste" are really the perfect words for it - instinct words. The elites, in essence, are turning up their over-refined noses at such common, visceral notions. They show the same scorn towards anything concrete: evil in the world or evil in the human heart. They seem to think that simply being sad and sympathetic will save one's soul, as well as the world at large.
The saints tell of another way - a Christ who didn't excuse, but died to show both justice and mercy; soldiers from His lands who fight to liberate, not conquer; leaders who call on His name, who send aid to any suffering land, and succor any suffering people. Perfect? Hells no, but much worth fighting for, much as He himself died for us while we were yet sinners. It is no coincidence at all that a society "moving beyond" His teachings finds itself suddenly reluctant to act on them. That they claim to do so out of love and compassion is bitterly ironic.