I have large, historical issues in mind this week — issues, I mean, to do with our civilization, with its health and its survival.
In part this is because I took delivery midweek of Douglas Murray's new book, The Strange Death of Europe, subtitle "Immigration, Identity, Islam." I'll be posting a full review in due course. Here I just note, at a hundred pages into the book, that it's one everybody who cares about those big civilizational issues should read.
And the other reason I have those issues in mind is that I have been listening to the splendid speech our President gave in Warsaw on Thursday. That's the topic of my first segment.
02 — In praise of grandiloquence. Our President went to Poland and made a stirring speech. Remember the old radical chant, "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ. has got to go!"? Our President took the opposite line, counter-attacking: "Ho ho, hey hey, Western Civ. is here to stay!" I sure hope he's right.The speech of course was grandiloquent. A speech of that kind can hardly be otherwise.
There are parts of it I'd disagree with. We need to get out of NATO and let Europeans organize their own collective defense, if they have the will. So I'm not as thrilled as the President is about the money pouring into NATO's coffers.
Nor do I agree with him that the jihadis of Afghanistan and Iraq are significant enemies of our civilization, so long as we make an effort to keep them out of our countries, which we currently don't.
There was also some polite papering-over of the history of our past solidarity with the Poles. Here I can't resist quoting the story that opens Chapter 13 of Paul Johnson's Modern Times. I'll just read it to you off the page. Quote:
On 10 January 1946, the Tory MP and diarist "Chips" Channon attended a society wedding in London and remarked to another guest, Lady ("Emerald") Cunard [inner quote] "how quickly normal life had been resumed. 'After all,' I said, pointing to the crowded room, 'this is what we have been fighting for.' 'What,' said Emerald, 'are they all Poles?'"End inner quote, end quote.
And with the best will in the world towards our President — and I do have the best will in the world towards him — it was hard not to wince, knowing the President's own personal history then hearing him say that:
[Clip: "If we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive."]These are trivial blemishes, though, by comparison with the nuggets of pure gold in the speech. Nuggets like this:
[Clip: The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"]Those really are the fundamental questions of our time. They are the questions on the mind of every thoughtful patriot in the West, of everyone who cherishes our civilization. They are the questions posed by Douglas Murray in his book.
I'll allow some modest difference of opinion with our President over exactly who those people are who "would subvert and destroy" our civilization.
Sure: the Muslim fanatics of the Middle East, Africa, and West Asia are in there. They would destroy us if they could.
Much more important in the ranks of our enemies, though, are those of our own people who would open our countries to mass settlement from those regions. Also those of our own people who hate Western Civ., people to whom Western Civ. is only a catalog of oppression, slavery, colonialism, patriarchy, and cruelty.
These people infest our government bureaucracies, our schools and universities, our media outlets, our churches, our corporations. Do we have the will to face them down, to drain the swamps, clean out the stables, chase the money-lenders from the temples?
Well, that just circles us back to the President's question. Thank you, Mr President; thank you, thank you for stating that question out loud for the world to hear.
And you could hardly find a better place than Poland to say it. Protect our borders? The Poles can tell you things about that. They remember very vividly — how could they ever forget? — what happened to their borders 78 years ago, when Stalin and Hitler simultaneously invaded.
Concerning which, by the way — as an old Cold Warrior, but also as a person who just likes to hear the plain truth spoken — I'd like to thank our President all over again for not eliding the monstrous crimes of Soviet Russia.
Leftist historians and media types have been playing that game for decades — very successfully, stuffing Stalin's crimes down the memory hole. Our politicians have mostly gone along with them. Any ordinary, not-very-attentive citizen of the West knows that Hitler invaded Poland in 1939; nothing like as many know that it was a co-invasion, Hitler and Stalin acting together.
I just put the phrase "Hitler invaded Poland" into the Google search box. "About 450,000 results," says Google. Then I put in "Stalin invaded Poland." Replied Google: "About 211,000 results." Try it for yourself.
All right, history is written by the victors. When one of the victors is a savage totalitarian despotism, though, its evil deeds should be remembered.
Thanks to our President for remembering them, and reminding us of them on a major public stage. Said he [Clip: "in 1939, you were invaded yet again, this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east."] Thanks for that. He went on to mention the Katyn forest massacre, when much of the officer class of the Polish military were murdered by Stalin's secret police. Is Trump the first U.S. President to mention Katyn in public? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.
Then our President spoke frankly about the 1944 uprising, when Soviet troops, under Stalin's orders, held back from intervening while the Nazis put down the Polish patriots. Stalin didn't want Polish patriots around after the war, he wanted his own place-men.
So for all the fudging on NATO, for all the smirk-inducing stuff about family values, for all the over-the-top grandiloquence, I call this a great speech. I thank my President for having made it, and whichever one of his staffers — rumor says Stephen Miller — wrote it for him. Thank you, Mr. President, thank you.
not totally unknown, but it's kept at a gestural level. No Eastern politician seeks to atone for historical guilt by flooding his country with unassimilable aliens. Nor do any of them subscribe to the neocon cant about the enriching effects of diversity.
Constitutional government is in pretty good shape over there. India is more of a success than anyone would have predicted fifty years ago. The starving hordes invading Europe in Jean Raspail's 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints were from India, remember. Forty-four years on, India's feeding its people decently well, and has a successful space program to boot, or to sandal. The actual hordes currently invading Europe seem to include no Indians at all.
Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are prospering under open, consensual government. So are Indonesia and Malaysia, so far as I'm aware, which I admit isn't very far. Singapore's doing fine; Thailand could be worse. The Philippines are a mess, but no more so than they've ever been. Bangladesh and Pakistan are nothing to write home about, but they're trying hard, and they're not hell-holes.
What's pressing on our attention is of course North Korea. That really means China, of which North Korea is a client state. If China were to turn its back on North Korea, close the border and cease all trade, the Kim regime would fold like a cheap suit.
China sustains North Korea for three reasons: sentiment, geostrategy, and domestic prudence.
Kim has us in a bind. Another year or five, he'll be able to nuke our Pacific bases and our allies, or pop an EMP burst over our major cities. We really shouldn't let things get to that point; but unless we're willing to get into a major war, with China quite possibly involved on the other side, there's nothing militarily we can do to stop it.
Diplomatic and economic sanctions? North Korea is already sanctioned up the Wazoo; it's hard to see what more we can do. And of course China, and other unfriendly nations like Iran, just work round the sanctions anyway.
This is a real, big problem, and China's at the heart of it. We need to get some leverage on China. It shouldn't be that difficult. The communists' grip on power depends on keeping their economy humming, which in turn depends on us buying their products.
And we have an ace in the hole. That ace is, that we don't need to be involved with Korea at all. We could withdraw our troops from there — and from Japan, too — after a courtesy period to allow South Korea to make necessary adjustments. The South has twice as many people as the North and is fifty times as rich; they should be able to manage their own security.
The South would have to go nuclear, of course, which I'm guessing they could easily do. That would annoy the hell out of the ChiComs, with unpredictable consequences; but we'd be out of it, so why would we care?
It all comes back to China. There is the real black hole at the heart of Eastern Civ. in the present age. The best thing that could happen to the human race at this point in time would be for China to get rational, constitutional government. I don't see any sign of that happening, and I don't know of anything we can do to make it happen, but it would solve a great many problems.
If you mix with Chinese people a lot, their lack of political confidence — of confidence in China's government — is hard to miss.
I don't know any Americans who are sending their kids to college in China, or buying up real estate in China, or socking their funds away in Chinese securities. Contrariwise, every single Chinese citizen of my acquaintance — and it's a fair number — wants their kids in a Western university — in a couple of cases, even high school — and owns, or wants to own, property in San Francisco, or Vancouver, or London, or Melbourne, and has a portfolio of Western securities.
Today's Chinese are not short of civilizational confidence. They're bursting with it. They certainly don't believe they need to open their borders to a flood of foreigners.
What they're short of is political confidence. Their government, the government of the People's Republic, is irredeemably crappy, and they know it. Corruption is rampant; the air, the water, and the soil are poisoned; ordinary liberties are crushed. Best to set up some insurance for yourself and your family — a bolt-hole in the West.
So that's the state of the world today. In the West, mostly open and constitutional government but weak civilizational confidence and elite ethnomasochism; in the East, robust civilizational confidence, no ethnomasochism, but the biggest nation governed by a clique of cynical gangsters.
Hey, things could be worse. Within living memory, they have been. You could ask the Poles about that — or the Koreans, for that matter.
Let's we in the West work our problem, the problem of will, of civilizational confidence; and let's hope for the Chinese to do something about theirs.
Whatever: the revolution in sexual identity marches on … or sashays on, minces on, … it advances.
Here are some recent developments.
First, concerning Autumn Kent, a mathematician at the the University of Wisconsin-Madison who featured in my June Diary. Ms. Kent had had a letter published in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, complaining that the issue of that journal for the month of March, which is Women's History Month, featured a male mathematician on the cover. I had a little fun with that in the Diary.
A reader pointed out to me that Ms. Kent is not in fact a woman; she is a trans woman; that is, she is biologically male but chooses to present herself to the world as female.
She explained herself in an interview March 6th at the online version of Scientific American magazine. Edited quote:
I did not know that I was a girl when I was a child. I did not know for certain in any conscious way until the second half of my thirties … Our culture enforces expected gender norms so severely, devalues femininity so strongly, that even when I finally admitted to myself that I was trans, it took another couple years to admit to myself that I was a woman, and I privately identified as genderqueer in that period.End quote.
Eh, OK. I don't mind Ms. Kent pretending she's a woman, and hopes she finds happiness in her new persona. I even feel a very faint kinship with her, as another person whose surname is an English county.
I do think the cant about "privilege" and "bigotry" that she extrudes in that Scientific American interview is pernicious and uncalled-for, though; and I do wonder if her letter protesting that journal cover might not have had more force if it had come from an actual biological female.
Next, in the Canadian province of British Columbia, an eight-month-old infant has been issued an identity card with its sex identified as "U," for "Unspecified." This, says the Daily Telegraph, may be a worldwide first.
It's not clear from the story how this infant came into existence. The person who requested that registration is given by the Telegraph as, quote, "Kori Doty, a non-binary transgender parent who identifies as neither male nor female," end quote. The accompanying picture of Mr … Ms … Mx Doty shows a guy with a nicely-trimmed mustache and a couple days' growth of beard, wearing a low-cut dress and three strings of pearls.
I think this is a different case from that of Autumn Kent. Ms. Kent is living in a delusion; but it's a harmless delusion that I think the rest of us can cheerfully, in fact somewhat mirthfully, play along with. Mr. Doty — he's obviously a guy — is inflicting his delusion on a helpless infant. I don't think that should be allowed.
One more story in this regrettable zone. This is a story from the Daily Caller, June 29th. Here's the opening sentence, quote:
A self-professed asexual, genderqueer woman hopes her five year-old son also turns out to be "queer."End quote. It's then explained to us that the woman is using the word "queer" to refer to any kind of nonconformism in sexual identity. Well, thanks for the explanation, guys — sorry: persons — I wouldn't have known.
This infant — five years old, remember — is named Arthur. Quote:
Arthur was actually born a female, but decided at the age of three that he was a boy. Now Arthur presents as a boy, wearing his hair short and adopting male clothes.End quote. At age five. After deciding at age three.
Arthur's asexual genderqueer mother is in a polyamorous relationship with two other queer partners, she tells us. How an asexual person can be polyamorous, or for that matter how she can have a child, is not vouchsafed to us by the reporter.
I've always counted myself an easy-going libertarian in these matters, but I must say, in regard to that last story, I really think someone should rescue that poor kid.
To be fair to the former President, the context of his remarks was increasing intolerance by Indonesia's Muslim majority — they're 87 percent — towards the Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist minorities. In May a Christian politician was given a two-year jail sentence for blasphemy at the urging of Muslims who thought he'd shown insufficient respect to the Koran.
Obama didn't utter the words "Muslim" or "Islam" at all, though. It's hard to believe he didn't have his successor in mind when warning about "aggressive nationalism." It's well-nigh impossible to believe he doesn't think that Trump is a far greater threat to all he holds dear than Muslim fundamentalists are.Imprimis: Last week I quoted the opinion of my boss, Peter Brimelow, that all modern political diseases originate in Canada. I added that since Peter has written a book about Canada, his opinion has some weight.
Canada's lovable 14-year-old Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems determined to offer evidence in support of Peter's apothegm.
In an interview that aired last Friday on Canadian TV, Trudeau told his fellow countrymen that immigrants are actually more Canadian than Canada's legacy population of boring, white-bread Anglo-Saxons and Frenchmen.
Apostrophizing immigrants, Trudeau said, quote: "You chose this country. This is your country more than it is for others because we take it for granted." End quote.
Perhaps Trudeau could get together with Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal and Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard to figure out some way to disenfranchise the useless, deadbeat legacy populations of his country and ours, to fill up the whole of North America with diverse, vibrant Afghans, Somalis, and Guatemalans. Then the whole semi-continent would be as harmonious and successful as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Guatemala.
Item: A footnote to my remarks above about the awfulness of China's government: That country's leading dissident Liu Xiaobo has been released from jail on medical parole with apparently terminal liver cancer.
In 2008 Liu published a thoughtful, very literate document calling for political reform and a more open society. The document was co-signed by an informal group of Chinese, all well-educated and patriotic citizens like Liu. For this hideous crime, Liu was sentenced to eleven years in jail.
In 2010 the Nobel Prize committee awarded Liu the Peace Prize. At a very moving ceremony in Oslo that year, the prize was placed on an empty chair; the Maoists had not allowed Liu out of his cell to receive it.
Liu's wife and family have also been persecuted, of course — it's a grisly tale. Now the poor fellow is dying — under the watchful eyes of secret policemen, of course. You can't be too careful with a dangerous character like this!
And at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Xi Jinping and his capos pose and strut as the accredited representatives of a wise and ancient civilization. 'Scuse me, I need the barf bag.
That's not actually very far, as they lost my attention a while ago.
I've long since figured out, and expressed here on Radio Derb, that this is all political kabuki on the way — the halting, reluctant way — to a national single-payer system, with insurance companies left at peace in the private sector to do what insurance companies do: sell policies against unpleasant possibilities to people who are inclined to buy and can afford to. For the rest of us, universal basic coverage out of general taxation, as in most other civilized countries.
Yes, there'll be shortfalls, inadequacies, and waiting — de facto rationing. There are in the current system. There are in all other systems.
Healthcare is a circle that can't be squared, only squished into an approximate square-shape with round corners. There'll always be a gap between what citizens want from health-care and what they can be given. We should just strive to make the gap as small as possible.
I think the general public in their collective wisdom is coming to terms with this truth. July 5th the Kaiser Health system published a new poll. It showed steadily increasing support for single-payer across the years, now for the first time a clear majority — 53 percent.
There are some interesting wrinkles in the poll to do with party affiliation and the precise wording of the question, but rising fed-upness with the current tangled mess is clear.
Give it a couple more election cycles; some candidate will run on single payer, and sweep the Electoral College. You heard it here first.
Item: Finally: On Monday this week movie actress Lindsay Lohan tweeted her support for President Trump. Tweet:
THIS IS our president. Stop #bullying him & start trusting him. Thank you personally for supporting #THEUSA.End tweet.
I didn't think there was anything that could put much of a dent in my support for President Trump. Now that I know Lindsay's on the Trump train, I'm having second thoughts …
Pull yourself together, Derb. Humani nihil a me alienum puto. Welcome aboard, Lindsay! Just sit … a little bit further over there … if you don't mind …
[Clip: We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers."]We do indeed do those things, those of us not busy pulling down statues and demanding new pronouns. To see us out, here's a sample: the tremendous last movement coda to Brahms' Fourth Symphony, performed by the Brussels Philharmonic.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Brahms' Fourth Symphony, last movement coda.]