Monday, April 20, 2009

Self-Flagellation is Mightier than the Sword

By Barry Rubin

Many years ago I read a fascinating science fiction story that haunts me today because it’s the most accurate rendition of our contemporary condition. You’ll see why in a moment.

The main character is a future customs’ official dealing with inter-planetary trade. He is given a tough assignment. Another planet wants to export three items to earth. The problem is that the government is very suspicious of this other society and certain that it wants to subvert human civilization. His job, then, is to investigate the three things and decide which one is dangerous.
Briefly, the three things are:

--A set of toy soldiers who attack a castle, sneaking up on it until they can get inside and capture it.

--A virtual reality set for kids, which allows the child to put on a mask and experience the Wild West before his eyes and play cowboy.

--A board game like monopoly.

Most of the story is engaged with his testing out the three items and, naturally, he becomes most concerned about the soldiers and castle. Does it become some kind of bomb or other dangerous device? After careful consideration, he decides that this is the dangerous object. Its importation is banned and earth accepts the other two products.

The last scene is set a few months later. The board game has become a huge success. Everyone is playing it, including his own family. The problem, though, is that the object of the game is to become bankrupt. The worse the trades you make with others, the better you do.

And so the reader realizes that it was the board game that was the real threat. It would create a mentality so that young people would be trained to wreck the earth’s economy and, eventually, would be taken over by the other planet.

Of course, the story is a parable but it is one that has come all too true. The direct military threat to American, or Western or democratic, societies, is secondary. The real danger is the ideological, psychological one. Through media, universities, intellectual life, simply what’s fashionable, and even in many cases government officials, Western democratic societies are being re-taught that their great history is one of shame and that their true task is to give everything away.

As one watches unfold the concepts of Western guilt, the paralysis brought by Political Correctness against criticizing other societies or states, the increasingly bizarre apologetics for terrorism and dictatorship, this suicidal exaltation of weakness is the plague that is the biggest threat to Western civilization.

America’s president claims that one policy after another has failed. He says that America must jettison the arrogance of taking the lead decisively. We must show we are weak to make up for past sins, to show the world that we mean them no harm.

Iran’s president responds, “You yourselves know that you are today in a position of weakness. Your hands are empty, and you can no longer promote your affairs from a position of strength." How does he know that? Because the president of the United States told him so. And he and the others like him mean us all plenty of harm.

If Western leaders won’t teach us about this, we will just have to learn—with far more pain—from the actions of the radicals who are confident and ready to act aggressively. As happened in previous generations with German fascism and Soviet communism, the West will only wake up from being struck by their blows and seeing how their behavior constantly disproves its false view of the world.

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