(You'll forgive me if this rambles - it's a lot to say in a lunch hour, besides the actual linking work, so I didn't really edit it. I just want to start the conversation and see where this idea leads us.)
It's been building for some time, hasn't it? Rapid immigration; a cultural elite too timid to insist on assimilation (for fear of offending the newcomers); such restrictions on economic incentive that the newcomers can't escape government subsistence. There's more, of course, but that alone is enough to brew, over the short span of two generations, an explosive situation that is now boiling over across the whole face of France.
If you want the nittier, grittier details, there's always the excellent Victor David Hanson, or the equally-excellent Mark Steyn. Examples are provided. The real bone in the throat about it all is that we have a similar situation cooking over here, only on a lower simmer, with large groups of unassimilating immigrants. Now, we do have two things in much greater supply than the Old World, and they help some:
1. Economic freedoms. Our unions are not so exclusive as to shut themselves to new members. Our businesses are not so beholden to the state as to prevent most new ones from forming. As a result, many of the people who arrived on our shores penniless, knowing nothing of the language or customs, built happy and successful lives for themselves in ten or twenty years. (It happened with the Irish, Scots, Italians, Jews, and more recently is happening for Hispanic, Indian, and Vietnamese families.)
2. Cultural freedoms. Say what you want about American excesses - in fact, it's certain that you'd be echoing complaints from nearly every moral and religious viewpoint - but there's one true and good thing that they mask, that is still expressed by the sheer variety and magnitude of our possible choices of entertainments and goods. In all of this there is a good deal of healthy "live and let live," a willingness to let others enjoy things according to their tastes and not one's own. In rejecting the excesses on display, the Old World has often gone too far in reverse, and healthy innovation and creativity are stifled.
So, has the Fly gone to the Dark Side? Am I blaming the current war in Europe on disenfranchisement and 'root causes'?
No. That stuff is all half-baked bravo sierra. In fact, I think it gets used to prevent people from looking at the real problem. We have those things and they help, but they are not magic bullets, as the attacks on our own soil and our own people abroad have amply proved. The current enemy hates us for having those things just as much as they hate Europe for not having them. But not having them leaves Europe more vulnerable when the spam does hit the fan, and that's the point I want to make.
The French have made it a point to hold themselves snobbishly superior to much of the pell-mell character of America, and in doing so have wound up losing the good parts of that character - the self-reliance and determination, the imagination to solve problems and the vigor to put those solutions into practice. They're far too used to sloughing off major responsibilities to governments (either their own or the UN). Now those governments, themselves staffed by people in the same mental and spiritual situation, are overwhelmed by a force that not only has those strengths, but also lacks the key moral restrictions that channel those energies into useful pursuits. The Muslims who are currently busy destroying and pillaging are energetic, determined, and mentally-agile enough to have concocted a convincing Koranic justification for their mayhem - one which wins converts daily and allows them to believe that their own weaknesses are imposed from without by the infidel instead of rising from within. The result of these tectonic movements is not hard to predict - upheaval.
What's needed is a healthy dosage of that spirit on our side, hence the title of this post. In a sense, we need a cultural landing of liberal Western morals and values - not the debased leftist nonsense about tolerance, nor of accomodating oneself out of existence, but true liberality of thought for humanity. The freedom to disagree, by definition, includes the freedom to hold a different position and to argue it forcefully. That's where the force should end, however. If we weren't so afraid of letting those differences come out in our debate, maybe we wouldn't risk so much actual violence. (In a way, it's like letting people in an agressive sport work out their differences during the play. If you clamp down too much on incidental contact, you wind up with the same brawling that you'd get if you let too much go.)
To make this landing we have to be strong ourselves, but that isn't happening consistently. The Lost Budgie blog is an excellent compendium of some of the warning signs taking place in the rest of the West. The current example is that Christmas lights are going the way of Piglet, "Christmas does not fit in with its 'core values of equality and diversity'." (I don't see what's so exclusionary about "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill toward men," but then again...")
They started, as many here have already made long-standing practice, by calling them 'winter lights' or 'festive decorations.' But drained of their meaning, they are flimsy shells unable to provide any real nourishment for those who really want or need it; further, they provide no defense against those whose attacks caused such a shameful retreat. Not surprisingly, the attacks intensify, as is proper when it seems like the enemy is withdrawing. Over the past twelve days in France, the retreat is turning into a full-on rout. This begs the question - if your adversary isn't bargaining, but simply using concession as a new baseline from which to make further demands, are you really being dealt with fairly? I mean, we're told often enough that this tolerance thing is to make our society a fabulous mosaic of peoples and customs. But a mosaic requires that all those different colors and shapes form one coherent picture. Our current enemy in war wants a different picture than we do, methinks...
Besides, we already had that ideal at work in the United States, through the "melting pot" concept. "E pluribus unum," dammit - out of many, one. It was working, too, or at least working far better than the current nonsense. We had one people, all of whom, using their several strengths, built a much better country together than one based on a single point of view or one form of thought. The current multicultural approach is causing the opposite - from the one country, many incompatible little bits.
It sounds jarring, perhaps, since we're not used to thinking this way any more. We've been spoon-fed the same thin grey paste all our lives - don't insist on what you think is correct, or even what you prefer, lest you offend someone. Yet the someone in question, unused to having any of their own assumptions challenged in any way, quickly thinks that they're entitled to them - that they must forever remain unexamined. Oddly enough, that's exactly what Islam demands of its adherents, total submission of thought and deed. In trying to accomodate them, we've inadvertently affirmed the most radical interpretations of their creed. Wonder of wonders, they now fully expect that we're on board with the jihad - that we ought to, by right, surrender everything else of ourselves as well: our goods, our institutions, our laws, and our faiths. That's not every Muslim, perhaps, but it's enough of them to be a serious problem. We have to get them more used to having such aspirations crossed in small matters, so that we can have true peace and understanding instead of polite fictions masking deep resentments.
And, just possibly, by sticking up for ourselves we may force the more thoughtful of our adversaries to have respect for us. Perhaps, we may even help some of them to more rigorously examine their own beliefs and work to improve them - thus achieving through honest dialogue what we never could through cultural and intellectual appeasement.