The Illusion of Permanence
Mark Steyn has a long piece from the January issue of The New Criterion reproduced in OpinionJournal today. Reading it in tandem with The Guardian’s report on Iran’s nuclear program can make for a very gloomy morning. Key graphs:
Permanence is the illusion of every age. In 1913, no one thought the Russian, Austrian, German and Turkish empires would be gone within half a decade. Seventy years on, all those fellows who dismissed Reagan as an “amiable dunce” (in Clark Clifford’s phrase) assured us the Soviet Union was likewise here to stay. The CIA analysts’ position was that East Germany was the ninth biggest economic power in the world. In 1987 there was no rash of experts predicting the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact and the USSR itself.
Yet, even by the minimal standards of these wretched precedents, so-called post-Christian civilizations–as a prominent EU official described his continent to me–are more prone than traditional societies to mistake the present tense for a permanent feature. Religious cultures have a much greater sense of both past and future, as we did a century ago, when we spoke of death as joining “the great majority” in “the unseen world.” But if secularism’s starting point is that this is all there is, it’s no surprise that, consciously or not, they invest the here and now with far greater powers of endurance than it’s ever had. The idea that progressive Euro-welfarism is the permanent resting place of human development was always foolish; we now know that it’s suicidally so.
Avoiding collapse or eclipse requires great seriousness. Which is why next week’s Senate hearing on Judge Alito will bring even more gloom, and not because Alito will be defeated. He won’t be. But we will be forced to watch, again, the performances of Senators Leahy, Biden, Kennedy, Durbin and Schumer –perhaps the five least serious senior Democrats. Can a country survive a sustained period of such knucklheadedness in high places? In an era such as this one? When the radical minority routinely abuses the obscure filibuster process so as to deny obviously and urgently necessary measures such as renewal of The Patriot Act?
Others commenting on the Steyn piece:
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Send me links to your analysis of Steyn’s piece and I will update this list throughout the day. It is important that the essay receive wide readership.