Totalitarian Narcissism

From Mark Steyn:

I did my best to keep my spirits up on Tuesday while guest-hosting America’s Number One radio show, but actually I was near overwhelmed by an awful sickening sadness, which is not the best disposition for broadcast entertainment. I woke up to the news that, during the night, in Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest monument to Christopher Columbus in the United States had been destroyed by someone called “Ty” and his chum:

A 225-year-old monument commemorating Christopher Columbus was vandalized early Monday amid the nationwide debate on removing Confederate statues and monuments.

A video posted on Monday shows the monument being smashed. It shows two unidentified people taping a sign reading “The future is racial and economic justice” on the monument. One of them then hits the monument with what appears to be a sledgehammer while the other stands next to the monument holding a sign that reads “Racism: Tear it down.”

“Christopher Columbus symbolizes the initial invasion of European capitalism into the Western Hemisphere. Columbus initiated a centuries-old wave of terrorism, murder, genocide, rape, slavery, ecological degradation and capitalist exploitation of labor in the Americas,” the video’s narrator, who identifies himself as “Ty,” says.

As you can see at right, almost every word painstakingly engraved on that obelisk has been obliterated. It stood for 225 years, and it was destroyed in the blink of an eye. Julia Manchester, The Hill’s reporter, continues:

This comes amid a heated debate across the country over removing Confederate monuments…

That’s one way of putting it, but not an honest one. Mark Steyn Club member David Elstrom left a comment here that deserves to be more widely distributed:

Mark,

I notice that the left media and even Fox News talk about the “discussion” on statues, or opine on the “conversation” concerning public monuments.

This Newspeak is apparently supposed to con the plebes into thinking something civil or democratic is happening. All I’ve seen is politicians or other apparatchiks rushing to remove statues (fearing the wrath of the mob) or actual mobs tearing things down.

If this is discussion, or conversation, then rape must be a “social event,” and sticking up the local convenience store a “financial transaction.”

Indeed. It’s hard to have a “conversation” with a guy wielding a sledgehammer. I was just sent a link to an Ohio newspaper purporting to report that one municipality was now “exhuming” the bodies of Confederate soldiers. I’m relieved to report that website appears to be fake. But it’s getting increasingly hard to tell. We live in a decadent age of totalitarian narcissism.

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Random Thoughts, Looking Back

From Thomas Sowell:

Any honest man, looking back on a very long life, must admit — even if only to himself — being a relic of a bygone era. Having lived long enough to have seen both “the greatest generation” that fought World War II and the gratingest generation that we see all around us today makes being a relic of the past more of a boast than an admission.

Not everything in the past was admirable. Poet W. H. Auden called the 1930s “a low dishonest decade.” So were the 1960s, which launched many of the trends we are experiencing so painfully today. Some of the fashionable notions of the 1930s reappeared in the 1960s, often using the very same discredited words and producing the same disastrous consequences.

The old are not really smarter than the young, in terms of sheer brainpower. It is just that we have already made the kinds of mistakes that the young are about to make, and we have already suffered the consequences that the young are going to suffer if they disregard the record of the past.

If you want to understand the fatal dangers facing America today, read The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill. The book is not about America, the Middle East, or nuclear missiles. But it shows Europe’s attitudes and delusions — aimed at peace in the years before the Second World War — which instead ended up bringing on that most terrible war in all of human history.

Black adults, during the years when I was growing up in Harlem, had far less education than black adults today — but far more common sense. In an age of artificial intelligence, too many of our schools and colleges are producing artificial stupidity, among both blacks and whites.

The first time I traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, as the plane flew into the skies over London I was struck by the thought that, in these skies, a thousand British fighter pilots fought off Hitler’s air force and saved both Britain and Western civilization. But how many students today will have any idea of such things, with history being neglected in favor of politically correct rhetoric?

You cannot live a long life without having been forced to change your mind many times about people and things — including, in some cases, your whole view of the world. Those who glorify the young today do them a great disservice, when this sends inexperienced young people out into the world cocksure about things on which they have barely scratched the surface.

In my first overseas trip, I was struck by blatantly obvious differences in behavior among different groups, such as the Malays and the Chinese in Malaysia — and wondered why scholars who were far more well-traveled than I was seemed not to have noticed such things, and to have resorted to all sorts of esoteric theories to explain why some groups earned higher incomes than others.

There are words that were once common but that are seldom heard any more. The phrase “none of your business” is one of these. Today, everything seems to be the government’s business or the media’s business. And the word “risqué” would be almost impossible to explain to young people, in a world where gross vulgarity is widespread and widely accepted.

Back when I taught at UCLA, I was constantly amazed at how little so many students knew. Finally, I could no longer restrain myself from asking a student the question that had long puzzled me: “What were you doing for the last twelve years before you got here?”

Reading about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and the widespread retrogressions of Western civilization that followed, was an experience that was sobering, if not crushing. Ancient history in general lets us know how long human beings have been the way they are, and dampens giddy zeal for the latest panaceas, despite how politically correct those panaceas may be.

When I was growing up, we were taught the stories of people whose inventions and scientific discoveries had expanded the lives of millions of other people. Today, students are being taught to admire those who complain, denounce, and demand.

The first column I ever wrote, 39 years ago, was titled “The Profits of Doom.” This was long before Al Gore made millions of dollars promoting global-warming hysteria. Back in 1970, the prevailing hysteria was the threat of a new ice age — promoted by some of the same environmentalists who are promoting global-warming hysteria today.

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The danger in the concentration of political power

“Perhaps the most important and readily demonstrable lesson of history is that freedom goes hand in hand with a state of political decentralization, that remote government is irresponsible government.”

William F. Buckley

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Mankind’s most brutal century — Why?
By Walter E. Williams
Jan. 5, 2000

THIS YEAR MARKS the last year of the 20th century. The century will be remembered for unprecedented technical progress, advance of knowledge and improvements in living standards.

It will be also remembered as mankind’s most brutal century. International and civil wars have yielded a death toll of roughly 50 million lives. As tragic as that number is, it’s small in comparison to the number of people murdered by their own government.

R. J. Rummel, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii and author of “Death by Government,” estimates that since the beginning of this century governments have murdered 170 million of their own citizens.

Top government murderers are: the former Soviet Union, who between 1917 and 1987 murdered 62 million of their own citizens, and the People’s Republic of China, who between 1949 and 1987 murdered 35 million of its citizens. In a distant third place were the Nazis, who murdered about 21 million Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians and others deemed misfits such as homosexuals and the mentally ill.

Less well known murdering governments include Turkey, who between 1909 and 1918 murdered close to 2 million Armenians. Two million Cambodians lost their lives under the Khmer Rouge; Pakistan’s government murdered 1.5 million people; and Tito’s Yugoslavian government murdered a million citizens. Our southern neighbor, Mexico, murdered about 1.5 million of its citizens between 1900 and 1920. Professor Rummel estimates that prior to the 20th century, government murder, from the Christian Crusades and slavery of Africans to witch hunts and other episodes, totaled about 133 million.

We might ask why the 20th century was so barbaric. Surely, there were barbarians during earlier ages. Part of the answer is that during earlier times there wasn’t the kind of concentration of power that emerged during the 20th century. Had Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Adolf Hitler been around in the 18th century, they could not have engineered the murder of millions of people. They wouldn’t have had the authority. There was considerable dispersion of jealously guarded political power in the forms of heads of provincial governments and principalities, nobility and church leaders whose political power within their spheres was often just as strong as the monarch’s.

In the case of Germany, when Hitler came to power, he inherited decades of consolidation by Bismarck and later the Weimar Republic that weakened local jurisdictions. Through the Enabling Act in 1933, Hitler destroyed any remaining local autonomy. The decent Germans, who made Hitler’s terror possible, would have never supported his territorial designs and atrocities.

Decent Americans are paving the road for tyranny just as Germans did. In the name of one social objective or another, we are creating what the Constitution’s Framers feared — concentration of power in Washington and the creation of a superstate. The Framers envisioned a republic. They guaranteed it in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, making an individual state’s authority competitive with, and in most matters exceeding, federal authority. Now it’s precisely the reverse. In the pursuit of lofty ideals like health care, fighting crime and improving education, we Americans have given up one of our most effective protections against tyranny — dispersion of political power.

Try this thought experiment. Pretend you’re a tyrant. Among your many liberty-destroying objectives are extermination of blacks, Jews and Catholics. Which would you prefer, a United States with political power centralized in Washington, powerful government agencies with detailed information on Americans and compliant states or power widely dispersed over 50 states, thousands of local jurisdictions and a limited federal government?

You say, “Williams, what happened in Germany could never happen here.” I’m betting that Germans who lived prior to the end of the Weimer Republic would have said the same thing.

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