Juneteenth

Click to enlarge

Robert Maranto, writing in Frontpage magazine reminds us of one of the holidays that we don’t celebrate much (but maybe should). It’s called Juneteenth, as fits neatly between Memorial Day and Independence Day, both of which it is related to. It’s the day the last slave in America was freed, in Texas, on 16 June 1865. It only cost more than 300,000 American casualties (Union only) and 4 years of total war on ourselves.

A nation with substantial economic ties with the U.S., Saudi Arabia, only got around to ending slavery in 1962. Yet I would never define Saudi Arabia by its history of slavery, and I bristle when people define America that way. Virtually all peoples have histories of enslaving and brutalizing others, so obsessing over America’s sins while ignoring everyone else’s is anti-American in the purest sense. Alas, such views proliferate in the media, academia, and politics.

Remember that, the next time some fool starts denigrating America.

For that reason, I commemorate Juneteenth by re-reading Thomas Sowell’s classic essay, “The Real History of Slavery,” written in part to debunk popular misconceptions spread by the likes of Alex Haley’s Roots. A part of his collection of mainly original essays in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Sowell’s essay teaches politically incorrect lessons no longer taught in higher education or pop culture.

First, slavery impoverished rather than built societies, by stigmatizing work and thrift while exalting as role models a slave-owning leisure class. In some respects, slave owners were like Hollywood stars, widely envied, and notorious for their conspicuous consumption and reckless disregard of others. Within places as distinct as China, Brazil, the Middle East, and America, locales with high concentrations of slaves were the poorest and most backward.

More important was the evolution and spread of Western ideas about individual worth and self-determination. As Sowell writes, slavery pitted “Western civilization against the world” at a time when the West had the power to prevail. Non-Western people generally did not end slavery on their own; indeed, most fiercely resisted abolition. Great Britain played the indispensable role in ending slavery, choosing ideals over interests in the process.

18th century Britain was the world’s largest slave trader, with powerful interests profiting from human trafficking. Yet under religious pressure, 19th Century British parliaments abolished slavery and increasingly employed the Royal Navy and colonial governance to erode the global slave trade, at enormous cost in blood and treasure.

In Sudan, for example, British General G.C. Gordon fought slavery, imposing the death penalty on those convicted of castrating enslaved men to market them as eunuchs. After Mohammad Mahad defeated Gordon at Khartoum, human trafficking again went untroubled until British soldiers returned, among them a young Winston Churchill. Under British pressure, Sudan eventually formally abolished slavery, though informally it exists there to this day.

Sowell attacks the hypocrisy of criticizing the 19th century West for falling short of modern standards, while far more culpable non-Western societies get a free pass. Today, universities rebrand buildings named after long dead slave owners, while courting wealthy sheiks who may have owned people in their youths. President Obama, who removed a bust (in fairness, one of two) of Winston Churchill from the White House, probably never learned at Harvard that Churchill fought slavery in traditional Sudan, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.

Always remember that there are two countries in the world that paid most of the price for ending slavery in the west, they are Great Britain and the United States. Britain mostly but not completely in Gold, and the US mostly but not completely in (its own) blood. Does that carry a lesson about why the US and UK are still hated all over the world?

Yes, yes it does.

Simple really, Evil always has and always will hate good.

Sunday Funnies: Into the Silly Season

Summer has always been the silly season. Looks like little has changed. But we are still paying attention.

And yep, I hear this quite a lot from my British friends.

Only the Turks know for sure!

Good on AOC with this one, but she’s off message

And, of course

A Very British Protest

Americans are likely the foremost proponents of individual freedom in the world. We have been as long as there have been Americans. There sits John Winthrop’s “Shining Citte on a hill’. Over there is the Declaration that fueled both the French and Russian Revolutions, although they both let it get out of hand, which we didn’t. There is a Constitution that almost uniquely has been honored for over 200 years more in its use than its breach.  But that is our heritage, above all that is what makes Americans, Americans. But it didn’t spring forth like Pallas Athena from Zeus’s brow on 4 July 1776, where did it come from? Edmund Burke knew and put it as well as anyone ever has when he said…

First, the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation, which still I hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favourite point, which by way of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness. It happened, you know, Sir, that the great contests for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing. Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates; or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was otherwise. On this point of taxes the ablest pens, and most eloquent tongues, have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered. In order to give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the English constitution, to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry point of fact, and to prove, that the right had been acknowledged in ancient parchments, and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called a House of Commons. [emphasis mine]

But we are not, and never have been alone. This is the heritage of Britain, seen undiluted in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and some others, and imperfectly in others such as India. But it is the most powerful drive in the world. Take another look at the picture that leads this article. That is not London, nor any other great British city. That is a picture of the protests last weekend in Hong Kong. The former crown colony, now belonging to China, but with guarantees till mid-century about its English style justice system which is now being threatened by mainland China.

A good write up in The Federalist.

Last Sunday, more than 1 million Hong Kong residents, despite brazing heat, took to the streets to protest the government’s controversial extradition bill. Should this bill become law, Beijing will be able to demand Hong Kong authorities extradite anyone, including pro-democracy dissidents and human rights activists.

The Sunday protest is the largest since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to Beijing in 1997. The protest was peaceful until midnight, when a small group of protestors clashed with local police. For an event involving 1 million people, a mostly pacifist protest is a no small accomplishment.

In some way, Sunday’s protest feels like Hong Kongers’ Alamo moment. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive appointed by Beijing, vowed the day after the massive protest that she would push ahead with the extradition bill in spite of dissent. She probably doesn’t have much choice, because Beijing won’t allow her to back down. Since 1989, Beijing has always suppresed any dissent immediately and ruthlessly.

Hong Kongers Want to Keep Their Freedoms

But Hong Kongers won’t back down either. More protests are taking place this week. What’s amazing is that, unlike 2014’s “umbrella movement,” which demanded universal suffrage, there is no single visible leader like Joshua Wong who is in charge of this week’s protests. Instead, ordinary Hong Kongers—students, airline crews, office workers, labor union organizers, Catholic Church workers, business people, and even some legislators—are taking part in these protests of their own initiative.

Teachers’ unions called for closing schools on Wednesday so teachers and students could participate in the protest. Art galleries, restaurants, and many other businesses gave their employees a day off so they could join. These grassroots efforts demonstrate that the protest isn’t only about opposing the extradition bill. Hong Kongers are fed up by the constant economic and political squeeze by Beijing. They feel that Beijing has broken its promise of respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy. They are also deeply disappointed in Hong Kong authorities’ submissive attitude. Now, ordinary Hong Kongers are showing they won’t go down without a fight.

Protesters have surrounded Hong Kong’s legislative building since Tuesday, which forced the pro-Beijing legislature to temporarily delay the second round of debate of the bill. However, the Hong Kong government’s responses to the peaceful protests have become more hawkish.

The legislature resumed the debate of the extradition bill on Wednesday. Lam called the protests “riots,” which reminded people of the language Beijing used against the 1989 pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square. The latest video shows Hong Kong police are firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. According to a government report, more than 70 people, including both police and protesters, were injured during the clash.

The most likely outcome of this extraordinary event in Hong Kong is that the legislature will pass some version of the extradition bill. So are Hong Kongers’ efforts futile? I don’t think so.

Helen in her article thinks President Trump should make a statement supporting the protestors. I want to agree, I admire them greatly. But like Hungary in 1956, we cannot effectively support them, so do we risk increasing their casualties by encouraging them, or do we sadly remain silent, recognizing that there are things even the United States cannot do. I don’t know that answer.

But I do that the Hong Kong protestors are in the best tradition of Anglo-American freedom, and I’m cheering for them.

But think of that, it was twenty years ago that Britain gave up control of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and now like a phoenix, its flag again flies, carried by the former colonists. Takes a special sort of empire for that to happen.

Why Are the Western Middle Classes So Angry?

On American Greatness, Victor Davis Hanson asks this question. It’s a good one, I think. Because almost all of us of the middling sort are pretty angry about things. So let’s have a look.

What is going on with the unending Brexit drama, the aftershocks of Donald Trump’s election and the “yellow vests” protests in France? What drives the growing estrangement of southern and eastern Europe from the European Union establishment? What fuels the anti-EU themes of recent European elections and the stunning recent Australian re-election of conservatives?

Put simply, the middle classes are revolting against Western managerial elites. The latter group includes professional politicians, entrenched bureaucrats, condescending academics, corporate phonies and propagandistic journalists.

What are the popular gripes against them?

One, illegal immigration and open borders have led to chaos. Lax immigration policies have taxed social services and fueled multicultural identity politics, often to the benefit of boutique leftist political agendas.

Two, globalization enriched the cosmopolitan elites who found worldwide markets for their various services. […]

He gives us six, in all. All are, as one would expect, cogent and accurate. So go and read them.

One common gripe framed all these diverse issues: The wealthy had the means and influence not to be bothered by higher taxes and fees or to avoid them altogether. Not so much the middle classes, who lacked the clout of the virtue-signaling rich and the romance of the distant poor.

In other words, elites never suffered the firsthand consequences of their own ideological fiats.

That’s a huge part of it in my estimation. It’s one thing if all these things are good for us, or necessary for the world to survive, or something. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish if you’re telling me how important this trash is, but it doesn’t apply to you and your friends. “Do as I say not as I do” doesn’t work any better leading a company, group, country, civilization, or anything else than it does trying to raise a kid. Never has, never will.

What it does is bring rebels. It did when my high school said we couldn’t wear blue jeans. Suddenly my entire class showed up in them. What are you going to do now, Mr. Principal? Give a quarter of the school detention? Makes you look sort of bad, doesn’t it, that your leadership is so bad?

The same principle applies when you and a few hundred of your closest friends fly their private jets into Davos for a party disguised (badly) as a conference.

Elites masked their hypocrisy by virtue-signaling their disdain for the supposedly xenophobic, racist or nativist middle classes. Yet the non-elite have experienced firsthand the impact on social programs, schools and safety from sudden, massive and often illegal immigration from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia into their communities.

As for trade, few still believe in “free” trade when it remains so unfair. Why didn’t elites extend to China their same tough-love lectures about global warming, or about breaking the rules of trade, copyrights and patents?

Do you know anybody who believes any of this tosh, unless, perhaps, their livelihood depends on it, or the indoctrination they received in school hasn’t been rubbed off yet? I can’t think of one that I do. I know a few trolls who say they do, but I’d bet they’re paid to say that. I do know one person who believes in Global Warming, but he also believes it is beyond the tipping point, so we may as well ‘Rock on’.

If Western nations were really so bad, and so flawed at their founding, why were millions of non-Westerners risking their lives to reach Western soil?

How was it that elites themselves had made so much money, had gained so much influence, and had enjoyed such material bounty and leisure from such a supposedly toxic system—benefits that they were unwilling to give up despite their tired moralizing about selfishness and privilege?

So where does it end?

Because elites have no answers to popular furor, the anger directed at them will only increase until they give up—or finally succeed in their grand agenda of a non-democratic, all-powerful Orwellian state.

Or in an armed revolt, which I discount less each month. The people are not going to go quietly into the night.

 

Dawning of the Pelagian Age

Senator Josh Hawley

The other day, in trying to sort out the various types of conservatives, here, we mentioned Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, as one of the rising stars of conservatism, in the Post Liberal group. I’m not the only one who noticed his article in Christianity Today So did Gene Veith over at Cranach, my favorite Lutheran blog. Here’s some of what he said.

That we are unused to hearing this level of analysis from an election official is itself telling, but Sen. Hawley, the youngest member of the Senate at 39, is being hailed as a rising star of the conservative movement and the Republican party for his ability to bring together conservatism and populism, as in the way he is leading the charge to apply anti-trust law to Google, FaceBook, Apple, and Amazon.

At any rate, consider what he says:

Pelagius held that the individual possessed a powerful capacity for achievement. In fact, Pelagius believed individuals could achieve their own salvation. It was just a matter of them living up to the perfection of which they were inherently capable. As Pelagius himself put it, “Since perfection is possible for man, it is obligatory.” The key was will and effort. If individuals worked hard enough and deployed their talents wisely enough, they could indeed be perfect.

This idea famously drew the ire of Augustine of Hippo, better known as Saint Augustine, who responded that we humans are not achievement machines. We are fragile. We are fallible. We suffer weakness and need. And we all stand in need of God’s grace.

But Pelagius was not satisfied. He took his stand on an idea of human freedom. He responded that God gave individuals free choice. And he insisted that this free choice was more powerful than any limitation Augustine identified. . . .Pelagius said that individuals could use their free choice to adopt their own purposes, to fix their own destinies—to create themselves, if you like. That’s why a disciple of Pelagius named Julian of Eclanum said freedom of choice is that by which man is “emancipated from God.”. . . .

Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.

The Pelagian view says the individual is most free when he is most alone, able to choose his own way without interference. Family and tradition, neighborhood and church—these things get in the way of uninhibited free choice. And this Pelagian idea of freedom is one our cultural leaders have embraced for decades now.

But here’s the paradox. For all the big talk about individual freedom, Pelagian philosophy has made American society more hierarchical, and it has made it more elitist.

This is no accident. Pelagius himself was most popular with the old senatorial families of Rome—the wealthy, the well-connected. The aristocrats. They were his patrons. And why? He validated their privilege and their power.

Because if freedom means choice among options, then the people with the most choices are the most free. And that means the rich. And if salvation is about achievement, then those with the most accolades are righteous, and that means the elite and the strong. A Pelagian society is one that celebrates the wealthy, prioritizes the powerful, rewards the privileged. And for too long now, that has described modern America.

[Keep reading. . .]

Sen. Hawley goes on to explore the political and economic implications of Pelagianism.  Let’s think some more about the moral and cultural issues.

A question presents itself:  If we reject Pelagianism, doesn’t that mean we reject freedom?  Not at all!  Freedom is a good thing.  It is a moral necessity, since there can be no virtue if a person is forced to do the right thing.  An action must be taken freely if it is to have moral significance.  The will is a crucial faculty of the mind and the personality.

But for all of their importance, freedom and the will are not determinative.  They do not save us.  They do not determine what we should do.  They do not determine what is real.

But this is exactly what we are seeing in the Age of Pelagius.

As I have often pointed out, postmodernist ethics are built around the will.  Advocates of abortion call themselves “pro-choice.”  Whatever the woman chooses in regards to her pregnancy and her child is right for her.  If she is forced to have a child she does not want (another “will” term), that would be evil (which is why those who seem to be moral relativists can still demonize pro-lifers).  What determines the rightness or wrongness of an action is the presence of a willful choice.  This applies also in other issues, such as euthanasia (“if the patient chooses to die, who are we to say ‘no’?”).

Indeed, Keep Reading, including the comments

Sometimes with an article like this, I feel like I’m cheating, giving you someone else’s views rather than my own. That could be true, but it is not, because I completely agree with Dr. Veith (as I usually do, and do here) and he is a better writer than I am, so why hurt the message by trying to rephrase it. It’s the classical case for reblogging, of course, which I, like most of us, occasionally do. I dislike reblogging though because it is not particularly fair to the article you are reblogging because the snippet used is usually not enough to make sense of the author’s point

What Senator Hawley says (or what I say comparatively quietly) doesn’t do much of anything about solving the problem, of course, except that to solve a problem, first you need to figure out the basics of what the problem is. This moves along that course.

The other thing about this is that it is analysis by an elected official of a type not seen in the US in at least 150 years, since the heirs of the Founders, the generation of Clay, Calhoun, and Webster, culminating in Lincoln. It’s been sorely missed.

Tribes of American Conservatives

So, yesterday we took a quick look at making sense of American conservatism. If you haven’t read it, you probably should, but today’s will stand on its own, as well. Again we are basing on Matthew Continetti’s Making Sense of the New American Right. Today we’ll take a quick look at some of the types of American conservatism, which is far from unitary. That is both a strength and a weakness, I think. It gives us many strains in house, as well as some pretty loud debates, but it also can fragment us when we differ on issues. So let’s start:

The Jacksonians

Some conservatives—myself included—see Donald Trump through the lens of Jacksonian politics. They look to Walter Russell Mead’s landmark essay in the Winter 1999 / 2000 National Interest, “The Jacksonian Tradition in American Foreign Policy,” as not only a description of the swing vote that brought us Trump, but also as a possible guide to incorporating populism and conservatism.

The Jacksonians, Mead said, are individualist, suspicious of federal power, distrustful of foreign entanglement, opposed to taxation but supportive of government spending on the middle class, devoted to the Second Amendment, desire recognition, valorize military service, and believe in the hero who shapes his own destiny. Jacksonians are anti-monopolistic. They oppose special privileges and offices. “There are no necessary evils in government,” Jackson wrote in his veto message in 1832. “Its evils exist only in its abuses.”

This is a deep strain in American culture and politics. Jacksonians are neither partisans nor ideologues. The sentiments they express are older than postwar conservatism and in some ways more intrinsically American. (They do not look toward Burke or Hayek or Strauss, for example.) The Jacksonians have been behind populist rebellions since the Founding. They are part of a tradition, for good and ill, that runs through William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Jim Webb, Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump. The Jacksonians believe in what their forebears called “The Democracy.” They are the people who remind us that America is not ruled from above but driven from below. Irving Kristol captured some of Jacksonianism’s contradictions when he described the movement as “an upsurge of revolt against the moneyed interests, an upsurge led by real estate speculators, investors, and mercantile adventurers, which spoke as the voice of the People while never getting much more than half the vote, and which gave a sharp momentum to the development of capitalism, urbanism, and industrialism while celebrating the glories of the backwoodsman.”

This, in essence, is what I am as well, although, at least in my case, I think Mathew underestimates the role of some of the classic writers. I find Burke important, but not paramount. In fact, I think Locke is at least equal in importance, not least because of his influence on Jefferson. Jefferson was also influenced (perhaps more than he knew) by some combination of Cranmer and Luther. A deal of their thinking runs through his writing especially the Declaration.

As Mathew says, this is a very deep strain in American conservatism, quite possibly the basis of the others, going back all the way to before the Revolution. Jackson epitomized it, but it could likely be the strain of Americanism that caused the Revolution itself. The linked article says the Jacksonian in the Senate is Tom Cotton. I daresay he’ correct on that.

The Reformocons

Reform conservatism began toward the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, with the publication of Yuval Levin’s “Putting Parents First” in The Weekly Standard in 2006 and of Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s Grand New Party in 2008. In 2009, Levin founded National Affairs, a quarterly devoted to serious examinations of public policy and political philosophy. Its aim is to nudge the Republican Party to adapt to changing social and economic conditions.

In 2014, working with the YG Network and with National Reviewsenior editor Ramesh Ponnuru, Levin edited “Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.” The report was the occasion for a lot of publicity, including a Sam Tanenhaus article in the New York Times Magazine asking, “Can the GOP Be a Party of Ideas?

Much as I try, I can’t quite see the world through these guys eyes. I recognize a lot of what they are trying to do as good, especially their outreach to the uneducated/ uncredentialled of our society who often get shunted out of view. I’ve lived my life amongst them, and they’re at least as wise as any other group. But to me, these guys are a bit too willing to have the government (especially the federal government) do things that would be better done by a local association or at most local government. But they have a lot of ideas, and many are good.

The Paleos

Where the paleoconservatives distinguish themselves from the other camps is foreign policy. The paleos are noninterventionists who, all things being equal, would prefer that America radically reduce her overseas commitments. Though it’s probably not how he’d describe himself, the foremost paleo is Tucker Carlson, who offers a mix of traditional social values, suspicion of globalization, and noninterventionism every weekday on cable television.

Carlson touched off an important debate with his January 3 opening monologue on markets. “Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined,” Carlson said. “Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two.”

I like these guys quite a bit. When you read me rant about short-termism in American business (a regular occurrence), I’m often drawing on paleo sources (and experience). But their noninterventionism comes perilously near to isolationism, and their horror of tariffs is misplaced. America is above all a trading nation, and that carries with it almost automatically the Mahanian necessity to control the seas. That can, of course, spill over into ill-advised adventures, so it is a balancing act. Matthew picked Mike Lee as the Senator who most represents the Paleo view, I have no disagreement with that.

And finally,

The Post-liberals

Here is a group that I did not see coming. The Trump era has coincided with the formation of a coterie of writers who say that liberal modernity has become (or perhaps always was) inimical to human flourishing. One way to tell if you are reading a post-liberal is to see what they say about John Locke. If Locke is treated as an important and positive influence on the American founding, then you are dealing with just another American conservative. If Locke is identified as the font of the trans movement and same-sex marriage, then you may have encountered a post-liberal.

The post-liberals say that freedom has become a destructive end-in-itself. Economic freedom has brought about a global system of trade and finance that has outsourced jobs, shifted resources to the metropolitan coasts, and obscured its self-seeking under the veneer of social justice. Personal freedom has ended up in the mainstreaming of pornography, alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction, abortion, single-parent families, and the repression of orthodox religious practice and conscience. “When an ideological liberalism seeks to dictate our foreign policy and dominate our religious and charitable institutions, tyranny is the result, at home and abroad,” wrote the signatories to “Against the Dead Consensus,” a post-liberal manifesto of sorts published in First Things in March.

This is the Josh Hawley group, and if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ll know I’m sympathetic. The author notes that this group seems to be dominated by traditionalist Catholics, and there are truly a lot of them here.

And in a little noticed commencement address to King’s College, he inveighed against the fact that

For decades now our politics and culture have been dominated by a particular philosophy of freedom. It is a philosophy of liberation from family and tradition; of escape from God and community; a philosophy of self-creation and unrestricted, unfettered free choice.

This “Pelagian vision”—Pelagius was a monk condemned by the Church fathers as a heretic—”celebrates the individual,” Hawley went on. But “it leads to hierarchy. Though it preaches merit, it produces elitism. Though it proclaims liberty, it destroys the life that makes liberty possible. Replacing it and repairing the profound harm it has caused is one of the great challenges of our day.”

The post-liberals say that the distinction between state and society is illusory.

There is truth in all that, quite a lot of it, in fact. I hear this more, I think, in British conservatives, who are much less likely to recognize a gap between church and state. And, in truth, it is much narrower there. This is where the “Liberty is not libertinism” argument comes from, and it is a valid observation.

That’s close to a triple post today, and that’s enough. I will try to see if I can come up with some valid real-world thinking about how we work together and against each other. That may well take more than overnight, so we’ll see if I can get it done. Do read the linked article, long as this is, I skipped a lot as well.

%d bloggers like this: