Tuesday, April 22, 2008

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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Blogger Whiskey said...

Steyn doesn't like to talk about why Europe went the way it did. He just assumes "magic" or the welfare state. Which begs the question, what gave rise to the Welfare State? Which came quite late in most European nations aside from Germany.

IMHO it was the pill and the condom. It freed women from the old choices -- dangerous exciting men who won't stick around, or the boring old guy who will. The old religion that went with it. The urge to disarm men. It was commonplace according to old Ambler novels for French drivers to carry revolvers in the glove box. Or attend Mass regularly.

What changed? IMHO, women dominated the voting, if only by a small margin, and women had different desires when liberated by the pill and condom.

4/22/2008 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I don't support the Second Amendment because I own a gun. I staunchly support the Second Amendment because I want my right to bear arms to be recognized if I so choose to exercise that right.

I think my desire to own a firearm is directly proportional to the government's desire to take it away. If the government tried to ban guns entirely, I would try to make sure I had a gun.

When people want their rights respected, it doesn't necessarily mean they desire to exercise those rights. It means they want the liberty to exercise those rights, including the decision of whether to exercise one's right.

This is an important distinction that statists frequently refuse to contemplate.

4/22/2008 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

No government gets abolished that monopolizes the use of force. Only Americans have a reset button on their Constitution. Here lies the root of American Exceptionalism.

April 19, 1775 -- when marksmanship met history.

4/22/2008 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Liberty Is NOT the Gift of the State, and its defense cannot be outsourced exclusively to the government.

4/22/2008 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Europe is a bunch of losers. Yep, they're a bunch of wussies that have beaten many times. And they're still a bunch of losers, which is why America had to get involved to solve the Balkan crisis.

America is a winner.

The losers gave up God and guns because, well, they are losers. And they are bitter because, well, they are losers.

I might have it wrong. It could be that Europe is a bunch of losers because they abandoned God. Guns went because losers want to repress each other.

Or I might just be wrong.

But I must confess that I feel more comfortable hanging with a crowd of one-toothed rednecks than I do a bunch of cheese-eating-surrendur-monkeys. And I like pulling into the parking lot of a Walmart and parking next to a spray-can camo finished Ford truck with a duct-taped fender complete with NRA sticker in the window and a Bush/Cheney sticker on the bumper.

And I hate the thought of Hillary in the Whitehouse.

4/22/2008 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger mercutio said...

Wretchard wrote:

"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."

People seem to realize, eventually, that life is about a balance between the two. Aristotle notes that the balance is desirable, though people tend towards extremes. (Although if I had enough cash I'd gladly subscribe to the "individual is supreme" side of things.)

Contra to what dla posts, I do not think that Europeans are losers. There's a wide range of types, just like in the U.S.

I was in Seville last year for Holy Week, the biggest Holy Week event in the world, with 60 or so brotherhoods in procession. That's religion. Yes, it's Spain, and one doesn't see such evidence of faith-in-society as much in other countries.

Some Spaniards I met ask why they, with their college degrees, should and never will make more money than the street cleaner public employees. Now that's a situation to make a non-street cleaning man bitter.

4/23/2008 06:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dla: It could be that Europe is a bunch of losers because they abandoned God.

What do you mean they abandoned God? They only abandoned their Cathedrals. They are building mosques like crazy in Europe, and the ArchBish of Canterbury is saying Sharia Law is inevitable.

Meanwhile the immigrants who come to the states pack the Cathedrals, not mosques. So count your lucky stars.

4/23/2008 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

America, for a couple of centuries at least, has been made up of people who came here to get out from under the ruling class of their native country. And made good.

Which is exactly why the European ruling elites have loathed us the whole time.

4/23/2008 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"And I hate the thought of Hillary in the Whitehouse."

Yeah, me too...but you know, I'm getting over my fear of her after getting a load of what Obama seems to be all about. Turns out there are worse things in the world than another Clinton presidency.

Please save us, Mr. McCain. I'm sorry I said Thompson would be better than you.

4/23/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Russia Embraces Its Church, Leaving Western Faiths in Cold

The Kremlin has turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other denominations through harassing measures.

4/23/2008 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger dueler88 said...

As "Uncle Ted" Nugent put it:

"I believe that a person's moral compass can be determined by how he references free men the right to defend themselves."


Do I have the right to defend myself? Until the government is prepared to provide 24-7 guarantees on my personal safety - in a way that I find acceptable - then I will acquire the tools and proficiency necessary to insure the safety of me and my family.

The UK has taken the approach of banning handguns while providing a security camera on every streetcorner. I can't be the only person that understands that footage from the vast majority of security cameras is viewed AFTER a crime takes place. When I need to protect myself, I need it in a split-second.

I don't think that the ACLU will take to kindly to cameras on every streetcorner, either.

But it's really about applying the general attitude of individual choice and responsibility to the specific case of personal security.

That's just for philosophical starters, too. Governments, when left unchecked, have a way of acquiring and maintaining power, and there can be no clearer description of this phenomenon than in the Declaration of Independence. I'm still amazed that these concepts can be subject to serious debate.

4/23/2008 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Absolut-ly wrong.

The only difference is that the states to the south of America are not Islamic. If 90% of the 11 million illegal immigrants America uses were Muslim then America would be more Islamized. If the states to the south of Europe were predominantly Catholic they would be less Islamized.

4/23/2008 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Cohoe said...

IMHO, women dominated the voting, if only by a small margin, and women had different desires when liberated by the pill and condom.

Savage invaders are not the same thing to a man and a woman. To a man, the savage invaders want to kill or enslave him. To a woman, they are potential sexual partners. Men and women are not, of course, starkly seperated like this, but the bias is real, and it exists at something like the brain stem level.

The stereotype of the woman liking to see her competitors fight for her favor didn't baselessly spring from the fount of someone's fevered imagination.

4/23/2008 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

I remember way back when, before the Iraqi insurgency began picking up steam, one of the standard comebacks regarding the 2nd Amendment from leftist debaters was, "The guns aren't going to help you fat, doughnut-eating wingnuts. Any professional army would whip your assess." Funny how you never hear that argument anymore.

4/24/2008 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Cannoneer No. 4 has it exactly right - Americans have a reset button on the Constitution - that button is the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence trumps the American government its self because it defines tyranny and unjust government, and it points us to a Divine law which is higher than the Constitution - that Divine law is the source of our human rights whereas our Constitution and government are the reasonable man-made instruments to secure those God-given rights. Even the Constitution can be corrupted by tyranny - we are seeing the beginning of in now as some Supreme Court decisions have re-defined some of the Constitution’s provisions by judicial decree - and without the consent of the governed which is executed constitutionally through either legislation or amendment.

The Declaration of Independence defines tyranny and unjust government - meaning any foreign government which would threaten, or any American government which fails to secure our God-given rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness - and any foreign government which would threaten, or any American government which fails to govern with the consent of the governed.

The Declaration of Independence is an eternal declaration of war against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

4/24/2008 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Quoting myself:


"Continental Drift"

Europe is the First-born son in an old wealthy family, of which America is the later born. Europe stayed home, waiting patiently for Papa to age and eventually die, so as to inherit the family groves and fields and business interests.

Biding its time, gritting its teeth, putting up with indignities and whippings and even the contempt of its elders, Europe opted to set aside pride and independence for the guarantee of eventual inheritance of the hoarded treasure of earlier generations. In doing so, Europe learned to shun risk-taking, to avoid the rigors of exploration, adventure, challenge, the examination of exotic options.

Europe traded independence for security.

America packed its few bits of belongings in a kerchief and hiked off down the lane to seek its fortune elsewhere. It learned to think for itself, to assess and face difficulties and find its own solutions in the absence of guidance and advice.

On its own, working out its own fate gradually made it more able to see the world as it is instead of how it wishes it were. But America's choice of freedom instead of the comfort of staying home also allowed it to dream; to imagine that its dreams could be realized.

Now, Europe has come into its inheritance, but for all its grudging tedious waiting, it has learned rather to sit on its hoard like some arthritic dragon, than to boldly flex and exercise its powerful sinews.

With flinty eyes Europe views with alarm the confident stride of its younger sibling, at once jealous of the success gained by adventure, luck and daring, and fearful of an America that having proved its own fiber, cannot be cowed by Europe's bullying or tempted by its wealth.

Worse, Europe is shamed to see what it might have become had it not opted for the safe and comfortable way, instead of the challenge of freedom.

Admittedly, this is only a convenient metaphor.

But I think it captures the essence of the relationship between the European collective mind, and the attitude of America, particularly since 9-11-01. That attack is conceptually a continental divide.

On one side of that event, logic and beliefs all were governed by a gravitic force pulling one way: toward insularity. timidity, conformity, passivity. On the other side of that discontinuity, perceptions, logic, and motives are pulled by an opposing force, drawing America toward awareness, purpose, will, sobriety, responsibility.

Stephen Green at Vodkapundit links to an article in the coming Weekly Standard:

"Islamic Europe?"
From the October 4, 2004 issue: When Bernard Lewis speaks . . .
by Christopher Caldwell
10/04/2004, Volume 010, Issue 04

The article is short. Quick, provocative read. It puts me in mind of a number of articles that have come out in the last year indicating that current birth rates among the European "native" populations yield either zero or negative population growth, while the immigration and the birth rates among immigrants are leading to accelerating population growth among non-natives. Some predictions assert that in many European nations the natives will become minorities within the lifetimes of those living today.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. But at least it seems worth considering whether cultural dislocations and hostilities might result from a process that is too hurried.

For several centuries, Europe has been losing many of its most productive, vigorous, independent-minded folk to immigration or to its many conflicts. The remainder is then, is— inevitably— LEFT.


Of course, this is an entirely self-serving and smugly self-congratulatory analysis. But I think it has a little truth. At least it explains for me why certain folks in America, having come into wealth and comfortable living by marriage or inheritance rather than by their own industry, have attitudes that coincide so markedly with the worst of the European socialists.

4/25/2008 11:20:00 PM  

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