Men and their world
Mark Steyn observes that "in the other G7 developed nations, nobody clings to God’n’guns. The guns got taken away, and the Europeans gave up on churchgoing once they embraced Big Government as the new religion." By rights they shouldn't be "bitter". But they are.
In my book America Alone, I note a global survey on optimism: 61 per cent of Americans were optimistic about the future, 29 per cent of the French, 15 per cent of Germans. Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least “bitter” people in the developed world. Secular gun-free big-government Europe doesn’t seem to have done anything for people’s happiness.
In fact Steyn suggests that whatever happiness is actually experienced derives, not from any benefits conferred by the absence of guns or God, but from the knowledge that unlike Americans they don't have any. The shootin' irons got not to do with it so much as the self-congratulatory feeling that "there but for the grace of Gaia go I". It's interesting to speculate how many sophisticated intellectuals would be gripped by an evangelistic revival tomorrow if Americans should somehow turned to pacifism and atheism en masse. A writer for the London Daily Mirror wrote in 2004 that:.
Were I a Kerry voter, though, I’d feel deep anger, not only at them returning Bush to power, but for allowing the outside world to lump us all into the same category of moronic muppets. The self-righteous, gun-totin’, military-lovin’, sister-marryin’, abortion-hatin’, gay-loathin’, foreigner-despisin’, non-passport ownin’ red-necks, who believe God gave America the biggest d*** in the world so it could urinate on the rest of us and make their land “free and strong.”
Anything but that.
But Mark Steyn's observation, though amusing, raises the question of what God and guns are indicators of. While important subjects in themselves they are also proxies of deeper attitudes. Steyn argues that (remember that we are talking stereotypes here) Europeans and Americans calculate their "best interests" in strikingly different ways. For example, Europe decided it was in their "best interest" to entrust bureaucrats with the responsibility of providing cradle-to-grave welfare.
Europeans did “vote for their own best interests” — i.e., cradle-to-grave welfare, 35 hour work-weeks, six weeks of paid vacation, etc — and as a result they now face a perfect storm of unsustainable entitlements, economic stagnation, and declining human capital that’s left them so demographically beholden to unassimilable levels of immigration that they’re being remorselessly Islamized with every passing day. We should thank God (if you’ll forgive the expression) that America’s loser gun-nuts don’t share the same sophisticated rational calculation of “their best interests” as Thomas Frank, Obama, too many Democrats and the European political establishment.
Americans in contrast, opted to leave that responsibility with individuals. The phrase "In God We Trust" is often attached by wags to the words, "all others must pay cash". It's a restatement of the belief that there are no special people, no natural overlords, no entitled class upon the earth. Bureaucrats are just people doing a job in uniform clothes. At the end of the day the world consisted of you and your Maker.
God and guns are a talismanic connection to the idea that the individual is supreme.
Naturally not everyone wants to live on that basis. Many societies live on principles that are quite different. And it is perfectly correct to say that a society founded on the attitudes for which God and guns are a proxy will not solve human problem. There were still be hunger, crime, hatred and disease in America. There will be things to hate in it. But that is not its claim. The claim is only that by and large this imperfect system is better than the alternatives.
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