Tuesday, January 17, 2006

AFTER THE SUICIDE OF THE WEST

The Islamofascists have a fanatical belief that theirs is a holy mission, that incinerating infidels is their bounden duty. For them suicide is a gateway to paradise. For us suicide is just that: suicide. Although we began by calling this symposium “Threats to Democracy,” it became clear in the course of our proceedings that the threat was larger, more encompassing than that title suggests. As the succeeding essays make clear, what we are dealing with is the real culture war—a war, as Burnham said, “for survival.” In “It’s the demography, stupid,” Mark Steyn writes about the West’s survival in the most elemental sense: much of what could once upon a time have been called Christian Europe is simply failing to reproduce itself. “A society that has no children,” he notes, “has no future.” But the demographic timebomb, as Douglas Murray, Roger Scruton, and Keith Windshuttle note, is only part of the story. As Scruton puts it, a kind of “moral obesity” cripples much of Western culture, “to the point where ideals and long-term goals induce in them nothing more than a flummoxed breathlessness.”

The question is whether we believe anything with sufficient vigor to jettison the torpor of our barren self-satisfaction. There are signs that the answer is Yes, but you won’t see them on CNN or read about them in The New York Times. The people presiding over such institutions would rather die than acknowledge that someone like James Burnham (to say nothing of George W. Bush) was right. It just may come to that.
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