Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is Progress Possible?

Jeffrey Feldman writes about Dinesh D'Souza's latest book, The Enemy at Home, and discusses the pressure on the Right in Amerika to recognize Osama bin Laden's allies in Amerika--the progressive Left--and to begin the taking up of arms against them.

"While he never comes right out and says that Americans should kill liberals, D'Souza's book shuttles his reader swiftly to that conclusion. By defining liberals as a "hidden" second front of terrorism, D'Souza's book invokes a very simple, widely held idea in America: that "War on Terror" means first and foremost, "kill terrorists." Thus, The Enemy at Home gives intellectual legitimacy to a widely accepted, rapidly growing Republican tendency to frame national security in terms of killing Democrats."

What Feldman mentions, but fails to see, is D'Souza's linkage between "traditional" cultures around the world and what he wants to see again in Amerika; the return to an unquestioned faith in external authority.

"From the American founding until World War II, there was a widespread belief in this country that there is a moral order in the universe that makes claims on us. This belief was not unique to Americans. It was shared by Europeans since the very beginning of Western civilization, and it is held even today by all the traditional cultures of the world. The basic notion is that morality is external to us, and it is binding on us. In the past, Americans and Europeans, being for the most part Christian, might disagree with Hindus and Muslims about the exact source of this moral order, its precise content, or how a society should convert its moral beliefs into legal and social practice. But there was little doubt across the civilizations of the world about the existence of such an order. Moreover laws and social norms typically reflected this moral consensus. During the first half of the twentieth-century, the moral order generated some clear American social norms: Go to church. Be faithful to your wife. Support your children. Go when your country calls. And so on. The point is not that everyone lived up to the dictates of the moral code, but that it supplied a standard, accepted virtually throughout society, for how one should act." (The Enemy at Home, Introduction)

That history can be seen as the struggle against such imposed authority is so far out of view as to be invisible. That this struggle against imposed authority is the foundation of democracy, self-determination, and individual freedom is equally ignored by D'Souza and missed by Feldman. But the discussion of the book and the social climate in which it has appeared is very interesting. Definitely worth a read.

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