It took five centuries before the strychnine of corruption and fatigue finally killed the Roman Empire (né Republic). It’s taken the U.S. about five decades to reach a point where such a suicidal whimper no longer seems unthinkable.
If you want to know why we’re getting there faster, look no further than Professor Jacobson’s important post the other day at College Insurrection about what’s happening at his (undergraduate) alma mater: Western Civilization driven off campus at Hamilton college.
…By 2004-2005, Hamilton was among the most politically dogmatic campuses, evidenced by the controversial employment offer to pardoned terrorist Susan Rosenberg (who ended up withdrawing) and speaking invitation to Ward Churchill.
It was so bad that the college refused to allow the fully-funded Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization on campus, resulting in the creation of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization off campus in “downtown” at the bottom of the hill (in the same building as the former Alexander Hamilton Inn, for those of you familiar with Clinton). (You can donate to AHI here.)
Read the whole thing. Then read this post from yesterday by John Hinderaker at Powerline about the new Minnesota public school guidelines for teaching history:
As you read them, you imagine a senile old man, shuffling around in his pajamas and muttering, “Race, class, gender…race, class, gender.” Everything is about demographic interest groups.
College Insurrection covers such madness every day. As does the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
For those who were never poisoned by similar nonsense or (like me) have overcome the poison with an antidote of autodidacticism, it’s natural to wonder why American academics are such oikophobes. After all, history teaches that intellectuals are usually an early target of both the left and the right after regime change.
The answer has something to do with atrophied muscles. Three generations have passed since the West faced an existential threat—and four since the average academic and his average neighbor might have missed a meal unrelated to their newest fad diet. When you’re born into relative prosperity, insulated from the vicissitudes of life, and everyone in your social and professional circle validates your thinking, there ain’t much reason to question reality—especially if you believe in your own superiority.
Eventually, this will lead nowhere good. British intellectuals of the early 20th century considered British involvement in World War One to have been a mistake, given the island’s insulation from the madness on the continent; and they particularly objected to the UK’s first-ever forced conscription that required even the elite to participate somehow.
Fighting between nations was an obsolete notion, they contended, because nation states themselves were obsolete. Thus came the infamous, pacifistic Oxford Pledge in 1933—followed inevitably six years later by Hitler’s wake-up call.
Here’s the great Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Society:
[Cyril] Joad said that “the best way to ensure peace is to refuse in any circumstances to make war.” He urged “an intensive campaign to induce the maximum number of young people to announce their refusal to fight in any war between nations.
Joad was one of those who wrote graphically of the horrors and agonies of war, though Winston Churchill [who himself had fought-JE] warned that Britain “cannot avoid war by dilating upon its horror.” In Britain, as in France, patriotism was considered suspect as a cause of war. H.G. Well, for example, declared himself against “the teaching of patriotic histories that sustain and carry on the poisonous war-making tradition of the past” and wanted British citizenship replaced by “world citizenship.” He regarded patriotism as a useless relic to be replaced by “the idea of cosmopolitan duty.” J.B. Priestly likewise saw patriotism as “a mighty force, chiefly used for evil. A letter to The Times of London in 1936, signed by such prominent intellectuals as Aldous Huxley, Rebecca West, and Leonard Woof, called for “the spread of the cosmopolitan spirit” and called for “writers in all countries” to “help all peoples to feel their underlying kinship.”
Nearly a century before World War Two, de Tocqueville put his finger on the issue of valuing what you’ve earned yourself as opposed to that which is given to you, no matter how deserving you are of receiving it.
If freedom is refused to the Negroes in the South, in the end they will seize it themselves; if it is granted to them, they will not be slow to abuse it.
His observation, though specific to black slaves, is applicable to everyone on earth. Human nature, it seems, assigns greater value to (a) what we’ve lost and (b) what we’ve worked for than it does to what we assume to be inherently and irrevocably ours. As it turns out, literally nothing falls into that latter category. Including and especially liberty. There’s always someone waiting to take it.
If young people who will eventually be voting adults learn that the U.S. is neither exceptional nor indispensable—that its history is one of oppression and trampled rights; that the world might possibly have reached Utopian standards had Columbus not reached these shores, and that our Constitution is “a charter of negative liberties,” as Obama once put it—there’s little reason for them to care whether the American republic survives.
What ensues then will not be hilarity.