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Saturday, April 11, 2009

What happens when the highest value of in a civilization is to feel good about yourself?

In an essay on French Commandos freeing a yacht from pirates"

What happens when the highest value of in a civilization is to feel good about yourself? One of the reasons working through “proxies”, using rendition, or manipulating affairs through “engagement” is so psychologically attractive is that it largely possible to pay others to do the dirty work. Just as tradesmen are paid to unclog sewers, butcher the meat and do the sweaty farming out of sight, we’d just rather pay someone at the UN or Somalia to do something which might stain our self-image. Who was it who said that if the safety of Washington DC were at stake they hoped someone would “do what was necessary” to get the information as long as he never told anybody. Take the risks, son. Do it for us. But have the decency never to mention it. The police and military become some kind of garbage collectors who are told specifically to stay unseen while the polite world sleeps.

The one advantage — or curse — that the World War II generation had was that they could not pretend to innocence. They had nuked Japan. They had destroyed the Nazi Armies. They flattened cities. But they bequeathed innocence to their children. That was their most precious legacy. When you asked them about the war, they told you only the good bits and laughed about the rest. Laughed so that we didn’t have to know.

One of the real moral dilemmas that the Boomers and Generations X and Y had to resolve was how to stay alive alive in a world where the struggle for survival has not yet been abolished. One way was to pretend they were outside the food chain. The other was to conceal the food chain through a series of abstractions. People think it’s fun to be a revolutionary fighting some Third World tyrant for as long as they’re not reminded of the occasional necessity to slit a police informer’s throat.

I have this theory that there are, as a general rule, no atheists in foxholes because people in those situations are very much of aware of things as they are, not as they are imagined to be. Of the need for forgiveness. Of the uncertainty of life. And the hope for salvation. It’s Good Friday in a world that desperately wants to forget that it ever happened. The problem is that if you forget the Good Friday, you forget Easter too.

We have developed in America a chattering class whose ultimate objective is not heaven (they don't believe in God), or morality (it's all relative), or family (marriage is a temporary arrangement until someone better comes along) but feeling good about itself. This class seeks approval of others of its type. Obama is the archetype.

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