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  • RERUN–Sleeping with the Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on September 20th, 2012 (All posts by )

    (originally posted 2/26/10)

    Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for dictatorships and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these goons? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.

    The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:

    Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.

    Through her friend Julien DeLattre, Hydie is introduced to a number of Paris intellectuals and and East European emigres. Members of the former group are mostly in denial about the danger of a Soviet attack…many of them have indeed convinced themselves that Communist rule wouldn’t be all that bad. For example, there’s Professor Pontieux (modeled on Sartre)…”He did not believe that the Commonwealth of Freedomloving People had solved all its problems and become an earthly paradise. But it was equally undeniable that it was an expression of History’s groping progress towards a new form of society, when it followed that those who opposed this progres were siding with the forces of reaction and preparing the way for conflict and war–the worst crime against Humanity.” Vardi, another intellectual, says that if he had to choose between the (American) juke box on one hand, and Pravda on another, he isn’t sure which he would pick.

    Madame Pontieux, modeled on Simone de Bouvoir (with whom Koestler had a brief affair) is less ambiguous about her choice among the alternatives. “You cannot enter a cafe or a restaurant without finding it full of Americans who behave as if the place belonged to them,” she complains to an American official. When the Russian emigre Leontiev suggests that France would not survive without American military support, pointing out that “nature abhors a vacuum,” she turns on him:

    “I am surprised at your moderation, Citizen Leontiev,” Madame Pontieux said sarcastically. “I thought you would tell us that without this young man’s protection the Commonwealth army would at once march to the Atlantic shore.”

    “It would,” said Leontiev. “I believed that everyone knew that.”

    “I refuse to believe it,” responds Madame Pontieux. “But if choose one must I would a hundred times rather dance to the music of a Balalaika than a juke box.”

    (The French intellectuals Koestler knew must have really hated juke boxes!)

    Julien is romantically interested in Hydie, but she is not attracted to him, despite the fact that he seems to have much to recommend him–a hero of the French Resistance, wounded in action, and a successful poet. On one occasion, she tells him that she could never sleep with him because they are too similar–”it would be like incest”..on another occasion, though, she tells him that “what I most dislike about you is your attitude of arrogant broken-heartedness.” Parallel to Hydie’s loss of religious faith is Julien’s loss of his secular faith in the creation of a new society. He does not now believe in utopia, or any approximation to same, but he does believe in the need to face reality, however unpleasant it may be. Hydie argues that the Leftists of their acquaintance may be silly, but at least they believe in something:

    “Perhaps they believe in a mirage–but isn’t it better to believe in a mirage than to believe in nothing?”

    Julien looked at her coldly, almost with contempt:

    “Definitely not. Mirages lead people astray. That’s why there are so many skeletons in the desert. Read more history. Its caravan-routes are strewn with the skeletons of people who were thirsting for faith–and their faith made them drink salt water and eat the sand, believing it was the Lord’s Supper.”

    At a diplomatic affair, Hydie meets Fedya, a committed Communist who works for the Soviet Embassy. She is powerfully attracted to him: things get physical very quickly and, from Hydie’s point of view, very satisfactorily. (Fedya is one of Koestler’s best-developed characters. His boyhood in Baku is vividly sketched, and Koestler–himself a former Communist–does a good job in showing how a political faith can become core to an individual’s whole personality.)


    The affair blows up when Fedya humiliates Hydie sexually in a way that could only have occurred to a Dialectical Materialist–and, indeed, humiliation was not Fedya’s intent, he was “only” attempting the demonstrate to her the truth of Pavlovian conditioning as an explanation for human behavior. Hurt and furious, she pours out her heart to Julien…who now feels free to tell her the truth about Fedya, a truth he felt unable to divulge while Fedya was Hydie’s lover.

    Fedya’s real job, underneath his diplomatic cover, is to collect lists of names–the names of the key people to be killed or imprisoned immediately after the Soviet invasion. Hydie is, of course, horrified, and is particularly appalled that so many people already knew about Fedya’s activities–and did nothing to stop them–while she was blissfully unaware.

    Julien tells her, as does her father the Colonel, that nothing can be done about Fedya because of diplomatic immunity and because the French government does not want to create an international incident by deporting him. Refusing to believe this, Hydie arranges a meeting with a senior French security official. The improbably-named Jules Commanche (who, like Julien, is a hero of the French Resistance) also tells Hydie that nothing can be done, and that if she attempts to make an issue of it, the Soviets and their fellow-travelers will simply paint her as nothing more than a hysterical jilted lover. Hydie remains unwilling to accept the conclusion that Fedya must be left alone to continue his activities:

    “How can you, a Frenchman, say that it is not a crime when a man walks around marking down your compatriots with a pencil–like a man branding cattle for the slaughter-house? Don’t you see–don’t you see what is waiting for you?”

    Commanche, who had half risen, let himself slump back into the chair. He no longer tried to conceal his exasperation.

    “Are you really so naive, Mademoiselle, as to imagine that we know less about these things than you do? Do you think that we were unaware of Monsieur Nikitin’s activities, of of your affair with him, if it comes to that? And as for your somewhat patronising remark about what ‘waiting for us’–myself, my family, my friends, in short, the French people–allow me to refuse to discuss it, in order to avoid embarrassing you.”

    “Me? I don’t understand?…”

    “Well, we both know what is waiting for you. A comfortable airliner, when things get hot–and some nostalgic regrets for the sunny cafes on the Champs-Elysees…”

    For his own part, Commanche plans a heroic but militarily-futile death in resisting the coming Soviet invasion: he does not wish to survive what he sees as the inevitable destruction of European civilization. After sharing his own sense of hopelessness with Hydie, he asks her for a date, which she rejects.

    In an anguish of anger and despair, Hydie buys a gun and goes to Fedya’s apartment. After asking him for a drink, she draws the weapon and tells him why he must die.

    He summoned all his patience and self-discipline for a last attempt to bring her back to reason. He forced himself to make his voice patient and gentle; and, after the first few words, its sound made him indeed regain his calm–and even feel a kindly pity for the unhappy fat-legged girl.

    “Listen, please,” he said. “We have talked about these matters often before. You don’t like that we make scientific studies of human nature like Professor Pavlov. You don’t like revolutionary vigilance and lists on the social reliability of people, and discipline and re-education camps. You think I am brutal and ridiculous and uncultured. Then why did you like making love with me? I will tell you why and you will understand…”

    “I am not a tall and handsome man…There are no tall and handsome men who come from the Black Town in Baku, because there were few vitamins in the food around the oilfields. So it was not for this that you liked to make love with me…It was because I believe in the future and am not afraid of it, and because to know what he lives for makes a man strong…Of course many ugly things are happening in my country. Do you think I do not know about them?…And what difference will it make in a hundred years that there is a little ugliness now? It always existed. In a hundred years there will be no ugliness–only a classless world state of free people. There will be no more wars and no more children born in Black Towns with big bellies and flies crawling in their eyes. And also no more children of the bourgeoisie with crippled characters because they grew up in a decadent society…I am not handsome, but you have felt attracted to me because you know that we will win and that we are only at the beginning–and that you will lose because you are at the end…That is why I was not afraid of your little revolver, because you can’t have the courage to shoot me. To kill, one must believe in something.”

    Nevertheless, Hydie pulls the trigger…

    One one level, this book is sort of a romance novel, with the theme “chicks like self-confident guys.” This is no doubt true, but emphasizing this point wasn’t Koestler’s main reason for writing Age of Longing. Koestler’s deeper theme is that the decline in religious belief in the West (and Koestler himself was certainly no traditional religious believer) has created a hunger for faith which will likely be filled by those who carry their convictions with great certainty. As Jules Commanche explains to Hydie:

    “You cannot cure aberrations of the political libido by arguments…Now the source of all political libido is faith, and its object is the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Lost Paradise, Utopia, what have you. Therefore each time a god dies there is trouble in History. People feel that they have been cheated by his promises, left with a dud check in their pocket. The last time a god died was on July 14, 1789, the day when the Bastille was stormed. On that day the Holy Trinity was replaced by the three-word slogan which you find written over our town halls and post offices. Europe has not yet recovered from that operation, and all our troubles today are secondary complications. The People–and when I use that word, Mademoiselle, I always refer to people who have no bank accounts–the people have been deprived of their only asset: the knowledge, or the illusion, whichever you like, of having an immortal soul. Their faith is dead, their kingdom is dead, only the longing remains. And this longing, Mademoiselle, can express itself in beautiful or murderous forms, just like the frustrated sex instinct…Only the longing remains–a dumb, inarticulate longing of the instinct, without knowledge of its source and object. So the people, the masses, mill around with that irksome feeling of having an uncashed check in their pockets and whoever tells them ‘Oyez, oyez, the Kingdom is just round the corner, in the second street to the left,’ can do with them what he likes.”

    A few thoughts on Commanche’s speech and its applicability to our times…

    First, I think I disagree with Commanche/Koestler that loss of belief in personal immortality is of the essence here. Indeed, Fedya is an atheist, but his faith is strong. What matters more (from a societal standpoint) is the belief in the society’s moral authority, in its future, in its system of symbols. And it is specifically these things that have been systematically undermined by so many forces in our society and especially in academia. (When people with PhD’s are willing to accept the idea that gravity is a “social construct”–see The Sokal Hoax–is it any wonder that many ordinary people feel disoriented?)

    Second, I think that while our present problem does involve people chasing new gods and promulgators of new faiths–Gaia-worship, Obama-worship…our more serious problem involves those who are no longer seeking and have abandoned themselves to cynicism. I find Hydie, as drawn by Koestler, to be a fairly appealing person, despite her naivete and self-centeredness. I suspect that a present-day Hydie would be much less likeable. I’m reminded of some lines from Kipling, in which he describes the fall of a soul into Hell:

    The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell
    Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell.
    The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain,
    But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again.

    There are probably more people now at the clinkered sin that cannot burn again stage than there were when Koestler wrote.

    Julien, in explaining to Hydie why he cannot write anymore, says:

    Fallen angels don’t write poems. There is lyric poetry, and sacred poetry, and a poetry of love and a poetry of rebelling; the poets of apostasy do not exist.

    The book ends on a note of almost unredeemed darkness:

    Her thoughts travelled back to Sister Boutillot standing in the alley which led to the pond…Oh, if she could only go back to the infinite comfort of father confessors and mother superiors, of a well-ordered hierarchy which promised punishment and reward, and furnished the world with justice and meaning. If only one could go back! But she was under the curse of reason, which rejected whatever might quench her thirst without abolishing the gnawing of the urge; which rejected the answer without abolishing the question. For the place of God had become vacant and there was a draught blowing through the world as in an empty flat before the new tenants have arrived.

    Sixty years later, I think we now begin to see who the New Tenants might be, and it is not comforting knowledge.

    Hydie’s (pre-Fedya) sexual frustration is, of course, symbolic: it reflects the West’s loss of self-confidence, but it can be interpreted at a more literal level as well. Does a societal loss of self-confidence also play out at the individual level of attraction or lack of same?

    A commenter at this blog reported that a significant number of female British medical students have been converting to Islam. This writer, herself a Muslim, says that “Since 9/11, vast numbers of educated, privileged middle-class white women have converted to Islam”…she identifies these converts as including women at “investment banks, TV stations, universities and in the NHS.” Her concern is not that they are converting to Islam…something I’d presume she would applaud…but that they are converting to “the most restricted forms” of the religion. (And it is, of course, among the believers in the most absolute form of any religion or political system that one is likely to find the most obviously self-confident believers.)

    David Yeagley, the American Indian who blogs under the traditional name Bad Eagle, has quoted a Commanche saying: “A nation is never conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.” The link from the preceding paragraph suggests that in Europe, at least, there are more than a few female hearts on the ground concerning the future of Western civilization.

    I don’t think Koestler’s protagonist would have been attracted to a fundamentalist Muslim in the way that she was drawn to the communist Fedya. The gap in values would have been far wider: while Communism is a bastard child of the Enlightenment, radical Islam is counter-Enlightenment, and does not make the kind of universalist, humanitarian, and secular promises that the Communists made–the cruelty is closer to the surface.But the loss of Western self-confidence has greatly accelerated since Koestler wrote, and today’s Hydies are unlikely to share the educational and religious depth of the woman Koestler imagined.

    I said earlier that the book ends on a note of almost unredeemed darkness…Koestler does permit his readers a small glimpse of hope. One of the book’s characters is the British nuclear physicist Lord Edwards, known as “Hercules the Atom-Smasher” because of his powerful physique. Edwards/Hercules is a Communist sympathizer and fellow-traveller who has repeatedly modified his views on the expanding-universe question to conform to the latest “politically correct” edicts from Moscow.

    In this passage, Lord Edwards is talking with the French poet Navarin. It has now become clear that the Soviet invasion is imminent.

    “So what are you going to do?”

    As Navarin looked at him with an uncomprehending smile, he added in a grunt:

    “I mean if you are invaded.”

    The poet arched his eyebrows in surprise at the Englishman’s awkward manner of formulating the question, and answered in a tone of explaining to a child that the earth is round:

    “In the case of conflict, which could only be caused by Imperialist provocation, the duty of every democratic-minded person is to support unreservedly, unhesitatingly and unconditionally the Commonwealth of Freedomloving People.”

    “Hmm,” said Hercules. He said nothing for a while…then unexpectedly he wagged a finger in front of Navarin’s face and grunted:

    “I call that treason.”

    Navarin thought he had misunderstood Edwards, whose French accent was abominable.

    “I beg your pardon?” he asked, with his ravaged cherub’s smile.

    “I call that treason,” Hercules the Atom-Smasher shouted over the rattle of the wheels; then with a deep contented sign that seemed to release his chest from some long-standing oppression, he settled back into his corner, and decided then and there to go once more into that wretched question of the expanding universe; but this time in the light of purely mathematical evidence.

    Original CB comment thread here

    A discussion of the book and this post at Shrinkwrapped

     

    30 Responses to “RERUN–Sleeping with the Enemy”

    1. PenGun Says:

      Ya know anyone who has been paying attention has noticed the American domination of the middle east and other Muslim areas. The attack on Iraq which had no justification and the rain of predator strikes across the whole area has not created a friendly situation. The manipulation of the Arab Spring has created more enemies. Israel imposed on the area by the west has not made many friends either.

      They hate you with good reason. Iran threatened by the west and Israel would be crazy not to acquire a deterrent.

      How would you feel in their situation? I would bet about the same.

    2. Dan from Madison Says:

      PenGun – what did you think of The Age of Longing review and associated discussion linked above?

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      PenGun,

      Yeah, its always something we did, always everywhere. Everybody has a legitamite reason to hate us…

      … either that or you drowning in confirmation bias like all idiot leftist.

      This is how a leftists rationalize that everyone who hates America or the West is rational to do so.

      Step 1: This is the most important step. Reduce all non-Westerners everywhere into cartoon cutout puppets who do not have their own their own history beliefs or motivations but simply mill around waiting for Westerns to do something they can react against. It’s vitally important that you see non-westerns as real human beings capable of making their own decisions, good or bad, for reasons that have nothing to with the West.

      Step 2: Ignore utterly the history, culture or politics of the target region which does not in some way touch upon the West.

      Step 3: Ignore any times in history in which the target region had the upper hand and behaved badly e.g. Islams 600+ years of conquest and assimilation of Christian lands.

      Step 4: Implicitly adopt the Fascist and Communist critiques that interventions everywhere by Western libral democracies are purely for the sake of making money for evil capitalist.

      Step 4.1: If arguing about something happened in the Cold War, pretend Stalin and Mao were lovable little fuzz-balls who could always be safely ignored.
      Step 4.2: Ignore any times when leaders with the region allied with the Soviets. If this can’t be done, make the recursive argument that the alliance was caused by the West.

      Step 5: Completely ignore anytimes that the West tried to help the target region e.g.The US opposing the creation of Israel, The US refusing to sell weapons to Israel for over a decade. The US siding with Egypt against Israel, France and England during the Suez canel crisis. The US providing 5 billion dollars a year in aid to Egypt, most of food. The US protecting Sunni states from attack from Iran. U.S. aiding the Pashtun against the Soviets. The US, Israel and Europe killing Christian Serbs to protect Muslim Bosnians.

      Step 6: Randomly pick some interaction or intervention in the past, however distant in time and space and then declare with complete confidence that the act caused all subsequent problems.

      Of course the real point of this little exercise isn’t to understand the situation, its to run EVERY foreign policy event into a little parable about how if the Left had been in power all along, they would never made all these mistakes, the problem wouldn’t now exist and, hey, we can prevent all future problems by Leftists in charge now.

      It selfish and cynical to the point of evil.

      You don’t actual give a crap about anybody. You don’t know anything about Iraq or the people there that isn’t useful for you as an immediate political weapon. Once Iraq is no longer useful, you will forget about regardless of how well off or desperate the people might be (anyone remember South Africa?)

      People like you have aid the greatest murders of the 20th century merely because you were so self-absorbed you could never see beyond your own immediate political completion. You could never admit that anyone in the world was more active evil and dangerous than the Western non-Left because that would mean that something was happening in the world that wasn’t ultimately all about you and like minded friends.

      It was smug pseudo-intellectuals who abandoned the people of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge and the greatest proportional democide of the 20th century merely because the Leftists’ selfish focus on internal American politics caused them totally ignore the Khmer Rouge’s long published plans to depopulate the cities and “cleanse” the culture of those “contaminated” with a Western education.

      That’s just one example. That pattern has repeated itself over and over again since at least the end of WWII. The left only cares about what the West, especially America did wrong and they are completely blind and indifferent to the wrongs of others.

      You think your knowledgable and wise but most of your supposed knowledge is just empty gibberish. 95% of all Leftism is just complaints with only the remaining 5% devoted to even the barest attempt at creating an alternative (see Marxism.) Your nothing but a self-interested, vain, pseudo-intellectual who thinks he so smart and moral because he’s anointed himself the perpetual backseat bitcher for Wester society. You feel so smug and always correct because of your conformational biases. You retroactively rationalize everything to prove you were right all along even though you have no means of EVER testing it. Frankly, you don’t want to.

      You can’t see yourself for the monster you are. You’r just psychologically incapable of self-reflection. For, what, two years now you have repeatedly signed on and commented that America was a society of “greed” and I have repeatedly ask, “What other choice is there?” and you have never answered because the only alternative to a society based on voluntary trade is a society based on violence coercion no matter how prettily it is rhetorically wrapped up

      In the end, you’re not intelligent, knowledgeable, altruistic or compassionate. Everything you do is selfish and self-centered. You bend every event into a narrative about how wonderful you are and how bad your internal competition is. You use helpless people in the 3rd world as stage props and then discard them when they’re no longer useful. Your internal politics are all about injecting violent coercion into every single choice in life not directly related to sex. Violence that you imagine you will control. You seek to create a state in which every citizen makes choices from fear of being hurt instead of what they think best.

      You are a little monster and the struggle of the 20th century has been the struggle against people like you. It looks like the 21st will be as well. It’s true, I guess, that evil never sleeps.

    4. Jonathan Says:

      Let me interrupt this lovefest for a moment to mention that one may buy the Koestler book easily and inexpensively by clicking on the Amazon link that I’ve inserted into David’s post.

    5. Shannon Love Says:

      Sorry I was writing fast, Step 1, last sentance should be: “It’s vitally important that you NOT see non-westerns as real human beings capable of making their own decisions, good or bad, for reasons that have nothing to with the West.

    6. Joe Citizen Says:

      “Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism?”

      Sorry, but this is just bizarre delusion.
      Maybe I could understand, ten years ago, when Bush decided that the war against radical islamic terrorism could be backburnered because dealing with Saddam was more important – maybe some could argue that was a loss of will. I personally see it as some other pathology, but in any case, under the present administration the focus is clarified and we have expended a very great deal of effort on a daily basis successfully taking the fight to them.

      I have felt compelled to ask this before – what planet are you living on David? Is it just some ODS? Are you completely blind to what is actually going on in the military efforts of your own country? What the hell do you think we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on?

    7. Joe Citizen Says:

      “Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for dictatorships…”

      How prevalent, and from what political corners does one find sentiments of regret that people like Mubarak and Quaddafi have fallen?

    8. Ken Hoop Says:

      Much of Shannon Love’s argument is vitiated by the fact that the United States has been post-Christian for some time.
      In truth the “late Soviet” was little more than Great Russian imperialism using Marxism as a prop. And thus, all in all, more conservative than
      runaway materialist-capitalist America.

    9. Dan from Madison Says:

      Joe – what did you think of The Age of Longing review and associated discussion linked above?

    10. Dan from Madison Says:

      Ken – what did you think of The Age of Longing review and associated discussion linked above?

    11. Joe Citizen Says:

      Dan,

      As you can tell, I was stopped by the absurdities in the frame that was drawn around the review – it raises timely and substantive issues that are relevant to many other discussions on this site, indeed the whole tenor of the site.

      I find that extremely worthy of discussion, and certainly relevant, given that it is presented as the premise beneath the arguments to be advanced in the review.

      I did read of the review rather quickly and found it to be filled with many ideas that are worthy of discussion. I would need to spend some quality time with it in order to make a useful contribution, and I may do that if I have the time.

      I see you are unusually interested in eliciting comments from other people here (except Shannon – and I can certainly understand that) – so, what about you? What do you think about the review?

    12. David Foster Says:

      PenGun…You don’t appear to think there is a serious threat from Islamic terrorism, other than the one you think the U.S. (and Israel) have brought on themselves. (Which, even if it were true, wouldn’t explain acts of Islamic terrorism in, say, India)…but consider for a moment the time frame of Koestler’s book.

      Would you agree with Madame Pontieux and her friends that a Soviet threat to Western Europe was a myth, and that NATO preparations were a reaction to a nonexistent danger?

    13. David Foster Says:

      JC…of course I’m aware of US military operations since 9/11 and the costs (human and financial) thereof. I’m also aware that for more than 2 decades prior to 9/11, there were many academics, writers, and entertainers who excused Palestinian terrorism and sometimes even romanticized it. I’m also aware of schools that, right after 9/11, forbid the flying of the American flag because they thought it was intolerant, or provocative, or disrespectful of the enemy, or some such. I’m also aware of professors who immediately after 9/11 organized demonstrations denouncing what they saw as the coming U.S. “genocide” in Afghanistan. And I’m aware of labor leaders, academics, and entertainers, in Britain as well as in the U.S., organizing “boycott, divest, sanction” movements against Israel, the main crime of which seems to be being a basically Western country. (The overlap between people who despise Israel and people who spell “America” with a “k” is pretty high.)

      And I’m aware that we have a President who spent 20 years in a church whose minister said “God DAMN America,” and whose wife referred to America as a “plain mean country.”

      So yes, I think we have a loss of civilizational self-confidence in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world. How bad it is, and whether or not it is recoverable, remains to be seen.

    14. Dan from Madison Says:

      Joe Citizen:
      “I did read of the review rather quickly and found it to be filled with many ideas that are worthy of discussion. I would need to spend some quality time with it in order to make a useful contribution, and I may do that if I have the time.”

      Outstanding. Looking forward to it.

    15. ErisGuy Says:

      Terrible to have one’s thread hijacked by PenGun, isn’t it?

      I recall your original review. It’s a good review which makes the book sound vital and exciting. I haven’t read the book, partly because I’m tired of reading about Soviet collaborators*–my undergraduate degree is in Soviet and East European studies–and partly because I’ve found it chore to read Koestler’s prose, which exhausted me in “The Root of Coincidence,” “Drinkers of Infinity,” “Sleepwalkers,” “The 13th Tribe,” etc.

      “The attack on Iraq which had no justification”

      Hilarious. No justification to overthrow a mass-murdering, war-making, socialist, anti-Semitic dictatorship which owned and used chemical weapons? Those attributes alone are justification, though I think Lindberg put the case better for isolationism when referring to similar dictatorship in the 1930s.

      * Really, if I want to see nonfictional varieties of Sartre, de Beauvoir, and whole zoo of anti-Western, anti-human types. all I need do is recall my years in academia.

    16. Joe Citizen Says:

      “I’m also aware that for more than 2 decades prior to 9/11, there were many academics, writers, and entertainers who excused Palestinian terrorism and sometimes even romanticized it.”

      Well, that is obviously a very different matter. The Palestinians are a people under military occupation whose land is systematically and illegally being stolen from them. They are not coming to America to invade us or take over our brains – they simply want the same thing all people want – to be able to live in peace in their own land. I certainly wish that they had produced a Gandhi or an MLK, and I certainly wish that the Likudniks were far less of a political force in Israel, but that is not how it has worked out.

      Its bizarre that you cannot see the difference. The principle is blindingly obvious – you can find it stated so eloquently in our own Declaraton of Independence – governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The Israelis may have every right to militarily occupy Palestine until such time as their own security can be guaranteed, but they have no right to settle the land and incorporate it into their state. People will resist such tyranny with violence if necessary – lord knows we Americans would do so if our land were being taken from us.

      “I’m also aware of schools that, right after 9/11, forbid the flying of the American flag because they thought it was intolerant, or provocative, or disrespectful of the enemy, or some such.”

      I ask you a third time – what planet are you writing to us from? I saw an America awash in flags and every other symbol of patriotism in the years after 9/11.

      “I’m also aware of professors who immediately after 9/11 organized demonstrations denouncing what they saw as the coming U.S. “genocide” in Afghanistan:

      So? Obviously this is not a case of apologizing for a dictator, or romanticizing terrorists. It is a cry for the adherence to moral standards by our government. Now, maybe you think that Americans ALWAYS do the right thing in the best way, and no one ever need remind us to do so – maybe you think we are a very special class of humans. But I certainly remember, in my lifetime, that we caused the death of 2-3 million Vietnamese because we insisted on seeing their war of independence as nothing but a chapter in our proxy war against the Soviet Union. Just for example. What on earth is wrong with professors pleading with their fellow citizens to not commit genocide?

      “I’m aware of labor leaders, academics, and entertainers, in Britain as well as in the U.S., organizing “boycott, divest, sanction” movements against Israel, the main crime of which seems to be being a basically Western country. ”

      Now I am sorry, but that is downright….ok, I wont go there.
      Are you seriously incapable of understanding the nature of the objection to Israeli actions in Palestine????? You REALLY think it is simply a case of “being a Western country”?

      Ok, I will go there…..that is downright dishonest. How can anyone be alive these past decades and not understand the Palestinian side of this dispute? I have never met a single Westerner who ignores the Israeli point of view – who does not readily admit that the Israelis are a legitimate need for security in a hostile neighborhood.

      But the opposition to Israeli action has nothing to with its status as a Western nation – it has to do with the 40 year policy – in direct contradiction to the rules of war and occupation – and in direct opposition to the espoused policy of the United States government from LBJ through Clinton – to colonize the occupied territories, and to do everything possible to forestall any peaceful conclusion to the situation until such time as a sufficient number of “facts on the ground” have been established such that the occupation becomes permanent.

      “And I’m aware that we have a President who spent 20 years in a church whose minister said “God DAMN America,” ”

      yeah, one time.
      And that is somehow worse than,,,,gee, lets see,,,,hey on THIS BLOG, just a couple days ago, you had a post by a regular who equated some California sheriffs with Nazi storm troopers.
      People say all kinds of nonsense when they get worked up. In fact, mindless ranting has become something of an art form in this culture.

      “So yes, I think we have a loss of civilizational self-confidence in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world. ”

      Sorry, but I think your explanations are pretty lame. Supporting the right of the Palestinians to self-rule on their own land is an AMERICAN value. For Israel to rule over them indefinitely, or to force them out is old school – it is the way things were done before American revolutionary values spread throughout the Western world.

      And criticism of America, even an occasional damning, is a sign of health. Not only is it an expression of our freedom, it is a necessary element to our improvement.

      No, America and our values are strong. It is the people who attack anyone who tries to make America better who are the problem.

    17. Vetrani su sua Circuli Says:

      The elites of the West have lost their self confidence, which being marinated in Pen Gun academies of Leftism and Sarte for decades will tend to do..

      Our problem across the board are our elites. When their not running down their own society, it’s because they’re busy robbing it blind. The only thing they still believe in is lining their own nests.

      The people in America are fine, just bereft of leadership and preyed upon by their elites.

      Palestine is the Foreign Policy equivalent for the Left of Jim Crow at home, it justifies undermining everything we do, every excess of the Left, every love affair with monsters. Ignoring the fact that at the time both were established the Left supported both full throatedly.

      For the record the Palestinians keep putting their cause to the test of Arms and losing. They’ve lost their right to exist, which was tendentious anyway. Someday* they will finally miss their last opportunity and we will hear of them no more. The Left will have to find new pet monsters, and they will.

      *someday is when UNRWA has no funding, hopefully neither will the UN.

    18. VSSC Says:

      Israel wasn’t imposed, the Jews made it happen themselves. And BRAVO. And I’m not sure the Zionists – who were nearly ALL COMMUNISTS and mostly from Eastern Europe can be called “Western” in any particular sense.

    19. Jonathan Says:

      VSSC,

      Of course you are right in most of your points. I would quibble only that not all of the early Zionists were leftists. The Jabotinsky wing of the Zionist movement, in particular, was not leftist, and its ideas are now mainstream among the Israeli public if not the elites.

    20. Death 6 Says:

      Wright said that one time? You were there every time he got up to proclaim his black liberation theology?

      Do you remember any of these?

      “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye.”
      “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” (Sep 2001)
      “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.” (2003)
      “In the 21st century, white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.” (magazine article)
      “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!…We [in the U.S.] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”

      Wright is a racist as revealed by his own words:

      “Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”
      “Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”

      Read more: http://bumpshack.com/2008/03/18/pastor-jeremiah-wright-controversy-quotes/#ixzz274XsvApQ

      But he’s just trying to make America better. Right (no pun intended), we don’t need that kind of help.

      You really need to figure out how lame it is to pedal this half baked revisionist pap. I’ve heard better at free speech night at the student center by undergrads getting extra credit from their sociology lecturer.

      The Palestinians rule themselves? They can’t even feed, clothe or in any other way support themselves. Pretty handy at rock throwing, IED’s and free flight rockets. Not much else. I venture to guess that they are completely unimpressed by any American values, but they do like our money. I also assert that their unifying characteristic is that they want to kill infidels and the biggest group they are close to happen to be the Israelis. Any attempt to project your progressive ideals on them is ludicrous (being as non judgmental as possible under the circumstances). I really don’t think Israel is dumb enough to go back to the 1967 borders and give them another shot at running them into the sea. At least somebody is putting that land into productive use, The “Palestinians” in Gaza and the other areas outside of Israeli held territory haven’t done much of that. You don’t have to be very bright to notice the difference in values and results between the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and those controlled by Israel any more than to tell the difference between East and West Germany of 40 years ago. You express concern for Israel’s security but you imply that they should not develop and should cede back the very terrain required for viable defense. Wow, brilliant. They fought for it, they won it and any reasonable security assessment would hold that they need it for strategic reasons. Palestinian demands for return of this land is primarily strategic, not primarily economic, political or nationalistic.

      I suppose you are prepared to argue that Texas should be returned to Mexico because we built settlements there and then defended those settlements when Santa Ana decided to bring his Army of Liberation across the Rio Grande. The mother of the mayor of San Antonio believes that and we don’t need her help either.

      One final comment, since I’m tired of responding to the string of vacuous assertions and tortured (pun intended) perspectives you feel free to grace this site with- instead of contributing to the highjacking of threads like this one discussing a 1950′s novel, start your own threads and we’ll see how much interest you can generate. Scotus has already suggested you need to return tosome place else, perhaps what planet you came from (borrowing you favorite rational argument).

      Mike

    21. Joe Citizen Says:

      Wow Mike, talk about mindless rants….

      “They can’t even feed, clothe or in any other way support themselves.”

      Absurd, bigoted nonsense.

      “I venture to guess that they are completely unimpressed by any American values,”

      The right of people to govern themselves, the specific value I was discussing? I think they appreciate that.

      “I also assert that their unifying characteristic is that they want to kill infidels”

      How ignorant can you possibly be? You seem to be confusing Palestinian nationalists with jihadists. Are you aware that the current mayor of Ramallah is a Christian – that Yassir Arafat’s mother in law was a Christian? As was Edward Said – the most prominent academic supporter of the Palestinian cause in the US? And a whole host of prominent people in many fields.

      “I really don’t think Israel is dumb enough to go back to the 1967 borders and give them another shot at running them into the sea.”

      The Palestinians never invaded Israel – that was the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. And no one proposes that Israel go back to the exact borders – there are a set of compromised borders, negotiated at the Geneva Accords, that everyone accepts as realistic, feasible and fair.

      “You don’t have to be very bright to notice the difference in values…”

      Aside from the comparative performance of the two peoples, (which is affected somewhat by the fact that one of them is living under an oppressive occupation) – you need to realize that people have a right to live on their own land, and to govern themselves even if they fail to be prosperous. It is a human value, endowed by the creator, so to speak – a core American value – not something you can be denied simply because you are poor.

      “You express concern for Israel’s security but you imply that they should not develop and should cede back the very terrain required for viable defense.”

      Horse manure. No country can make itself more secure by occupying and ruling over a population of several million people. What would you do if you were born into a situation where a neighboring country occupied your land, and denied you the right to participate in your own governance. You would fight them, as would I, as would just about every American.

      “I suppose you are prepared to argue that Texas should be returned to Mexico because we built settlements there ”

      Are you really so dense as to not understand the basic principle here? Does it need to be repeated ten times for you to get it? Self-governance. Got it? If the population of Texas were made up of ethnic Mexicans and we in the rest of the US kept them in a second, or third class citizenship status, with no vote, or no citizenship actually, then yeah, in that case we should return it to Mexico.

    22. Mike Doughty Says:

      Threads can’t be hijacked if you refuse to respond to these idiots. Give them the response they deserve…..none.

    23. Joe Citizen Says:

      “instead of contributing to the highjacking of threads like this one”

      Mike, I guess you hadn’t noticed, but I responded directly to what David wrote in his post. In fact, my issues with him revolved around the central premise of his post. How on earth is that a “hijacking”? Yeah, it was a book review, but the book and the review were presented as support for his premise.

      You, on the other hand barged into this conversation by focusing on Rev. Wright and the Palestinians. That can properly be considered hijacking a thread.

      Perhaps I should apologize to others for responding to you.

    24. Death 6 Says:

      I’ll accept your apology (on their behalf if you like) since you actually can’t provide anything vaguely amounting to a meaningful response. True repentence requires that you turn away from that of which you repent. An apology without repentence is no apology. So do you really want to apologize? I hope so do “others”.

      Mike

    25. veryretired Says:

      Thank you Shannon, it’s about time someone told the toad off, and you said it so much better than I could, mostly because I can’t be bothered any more.

      My grandfather told me long ago never to bother with fools—they were fools before they met you, and they’ll still be fools afterwards, regardless of anything you say or do.

      Some of his better advice.

    26. PenGun Says:

      “PenGun – what did you think of The Age of Longing review and associated discussion linked above?”

      I think that’s a good review with the caveat that I have not read the book. So my opinion is only really formed by what David has written above.

      As for the somewhat simple metaphor it invokes … I dunno.

      I will point out it’s more like Islam is defending it’s self from you radical American Exceptionalists.

    27. grey eagle Says:

      1950. An iron curtain has just fallen across Europe, dividing it in half. But the central planners who run the Soviet Union have an economic model that states that communism cannot work unless the entire world uses the same central plan. One World, One Plan. Forward!

      As everyone knows Capitalists are the enemy of Central Planning and they must be hunted down and re-educated/killed.

      The heroine of the story is shocked that a member of the resistance has no problem with a enemies list. Comanche is a central planner (as were most in the resistance) and his enemies list has many of the same names as the Soviet list.

      Several of your commenters are central planners, either in real life or in their dreams. These guys are going to take over the world. They will end free markets (except for the occassional fair) and bring back the world where all but the rulers lived in harmony with nature and could not ignore it; a world intimate with the 4 horsemen.

      One day medicines will no longer work and the new ones will not be developed according to plan; one day crops will fail and the new seeds will not be developed according to plan. One day the power plants will run out of fuel because fuel deliveries did not arrive as planned. One day clean water will no longer flow from the faucet.

      We have lived with central planning for 5000 miserable years. For 200 years the US has enjoyed free markets and helped lift the rest of the world out of misery. But still most of the world lives in misery and misery loves company.

    28. David Foster Says:

      Grey Eagle…”The heroine of the story is shocked that a member of the resistance has no problem with a enemies list. Comanche is a central planner (as were most in the resistance) and his enemies list has many of the same names as the Soviet list.”

      Commanche thinks Hydie is silly for being shocked at the existence of the enemies list, since he has long been aware of the overwhelming truth that Hydie and her intellectual friends have refused to see–the malign intent of the Commonwealth (aka the Soviet Union) toward Western Europe. I don’t see any warrant in the book for assuming that Commanche himself has totalitarian instincts.

      You are correct that advocates of central planning generally wind up excusing their failures by arguing that the planning simply needs to be more comprehensive and to cover a broader–even worldwide–geographical scope.

    29. Anacaona Says:

      I also think is easy to romanticize what you had never lived in specially if an excess of freedom has lead to many bad outcomes, they are imagining a hybrid were only the “bad freedoms” are eliminated while the good ones remain, not at all how it works…

      Had you read The Golden Notebook? Is less military but I consider it a book about regret specially of feminism the tone reminds me of this book.

      Great review!

    30. David Foster Says:

      Anacaona..”.I also think is easy to romanticize what you had never lived in specially if an excess of freedom has lead to many bad outcomes, they are imagining a hybrid were only the “bad freedoms” are eliminated while the good ones remain, not at all how it works…”

      Very true, I think. People tend to assume that someone like them will be running things in the dictatorship…and even if they are, for a while, someone else and very different will be at some later time.

      Thanks for stopping by!