Monday, August 13, 2012


A character flaw can be as much a flaw as blindness in an eye or paralysis in a limb. And as debilitating. Some can be remediated, or palliated, or moderated. Some seem impervious to improvement. Character is fate, and that can be both opportunity and trap.


A people can change, and rapidly, for better or worse. Take the Jews. Who would have thought that Europe's pale unathletic and bookish Jews would one day provide the material for the fearsome Israeli Defense Force? Who would have thought that the people whom Churchill led through World War II would one day cringe, and punish one another, at the idea of displeasing the hordes of Muslims or Blacks who backwashed into their island? And although it took longer, the Vikings' descendants now seriously entertain the possibility that men should not pee standing up because it offends a certain female sensibility. And for the same reason, their soldiers remove the phallus from a lion rampant on a regimental shield. China: from the backward hidebound impotence of the late Empire, to the madness of Mao, to the bizarre spectacle now of a Communist country out-capitalisting the Capitalists.

Although I see little to no indication that America will stop dismantling itself culturally and demographically, I am reminded of what the great James Burnham's blind side was, a belief that what is happening now will always happen. He was a brilliant diagnostician but not an accurate prognosticator. Who could ever have imagined in the 50s and 60s that the Soviet Union would implode in the space of a few years? Back then there was every reason to believe that the Communist world would last indefinitely. It's usually only in hindsight that history's drift seems inevitable.


James Hillman once criticized me for using the phrase Judeo-Christian. His reason was that it sounded imperialist, a revisionist appropriation of Judaism into Christianity. My reason for using it was the opposite, that Jews did not want to be erased from their religion's role as the root of Christianity.

It is commonly used now, especially by conservatives, as a kind of inclusive honorific for the sake of Jews, who are so prominent in our country. But until quite recently, with few exceptions, the Christian religion which built the West saw itself as completely superceding Judaism. Jews played very little direct role in shaping the culture of Christian countries until after their 19th century emancipation. And their ascendancy coincided with the decline of Christianity in Europe in the 18th century.

It makes as much sense to speak of a Christo-Islamic or Judeo-Islamic tradition. It makes even more sense to speak of Helleno-Christian tradition. It may be oddly PC to call the West Judeo-Christian, but it is more accurate to say that it was built on Christianity. It was, after all, called Christendom. And who knew that better than the Jews?


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