Mark Steyn

Steyn on the World

Imagine There's No ...Imagination

My friend Ezra Levant reports from Paris:

France has developed a tolerance for terrorism. They accept terrorist violence as the new normal. They're numb to it now.

Here's proof. In January of this year, Muslim terrorists launched a series of five attacks that killed 17 people across Paris, including 12 at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. That led to a massive solidarity march through Paris, with millions of people — including many foreign leaders — swearing it would never happen again.

But it did happen again, ten times worse...

But there's no massive march this time, no stream of foreign leaders coming to pay their respects. And even at the actual site of the massacre, the mood was subdued. As you can see in my video reports, there were a few hundred people milling around, but there was no resolve, no conviction, no purpose. Outside Bataclan, a street performer set up to entertain the crowd — and no-one seemed to find it inappropriate.

I hope Ezra's wrong, but as I wrote four months ago:

So the cowardly and evasive "support" the world showed after January's bloodbath was a very clear lesson to the survivors in the limits of global solidarity - and how it will go next time: We'll be sad when you die, too! (Although probably not quite as sad and not in as many numbers, because, like, been there, done that.)

(I believe I said something similar in my speech in the Danish Parliament a few weeks back.)

Our world seems atrophied. Kathy Shaidle describes the scene at top right as "why Paris is doomed, in one image": a man drags his piano, decorated by a "peace" symbol, by bicycle to the Bataclan theatre, and proceeds to play John Lennon's "Imagine".

What kind of parochial solipsist would think that an appropriate response a day after mass murder?

Answer: Apparently everyone in the western world, because, of course, it "went viral".

It is somewhat reassuring that most of those standing around him are media hacks desperate for something to photograph. One would like to think that, were a crowd of survivors and grieving relatives present, they would smash the piano into kindling, save for the peace-symbol lid, which they would thwack the pianist over the head with.

John Lennon wrote "Imagine" in 1970. From the look of him, the pianist was only in short pants back then, or perhaps not even born. Yet his response to a very 21st century atrocity is to assure the world that the ancient peacenik bromides still apply. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, did everyone coo because somebody dragged along a piano to the naval base and played a hit song from 1896? Probably not "All Coons Look Alike To Me", but maybe "There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight"? "(Casey Would Waltz With The Strawberry Blonde) And The Band Played On"?

But what else is there? The hippie peace symbol with the Eiffel Tower added? One can take an indulgent and forgiving view of "youthful idealism", but does our youthful idealism have to be so utterly geriatric?

The European Union doesn't need to imagine John Lennon's "Imagine" because it lives in it. As I wrote nine years ago in my book America Alone:

"Imagine there's no heaven." No problem. Large majorities of Scandinavians and Dutchmen and Belgians are among the first peoples in human history to be unable to imagine there's any possibility of heaven: no free people have ever been so voluntarily secular.

"Imagine all the people/Living for today." Check.

"Imagine there's no countries." Check. The EU is a post-nationalist pseudo-state.

"Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too." You got it.

And yet somehow "all the people/Living life in peace" doesn't seem to be working out.

Nothing is a more reliable indicator of a lack of imagination than singing "Imagine". We sing the same crappy songs but we do not live in John Lennon's 1970. For example, what has changed since the year Lennon wrote his apparently indestructible talisman? Also from America Alone:

Here's what did happen between 1970 and 2000:

In that period, the developed world declined from just under 30 per cent of the global population to just over 20 per cent, and the Muslim nations increased from about 15 per cent to 20 per cent...

Just to recap those bald statistics: In 1970, the developed nations had twice as big a share of the global population as the Muslim world: 30 per cent to 15 per cent. By 2000, they were at parity: each had about 20 per cent.

And by 2020...?

Well, you can't really measure those distinctions anymore. "Imagine there's no countries"? It isn't hard to do: "Citizens" of some 11 "nations" were supposedly involved in the Paris slaughter - native-born Belgians, immigrant Frenchmen, "refugee" Syrians. It makes no difference. Because the Islamic State has come up with something greater than their nominal citizenship, something that commands fierce allegiance and provides them with a real identity.

While we were "living for today", Islam was playing for tomorrow. When you sing "Imagine", you're saying you can't imagine anything beyond the torpor of the moment. You can't imagine that there are people who don't think as you do, and who regard the cobwebbed boomer-pop solidarity as confirmation of nothing more than your flaccid passivity.

Our enemies understand how myopic we are. They attack a concert by Eagles of Death Metal, which is not without a certain blood-soaked irony: In our world, "death metal" is a genre at iTunes. [UPDATE: Those who know these things tell me Eagles of Death Metal is not a "death metal" band, which I suppose makes the name an ironic commentary upon a genre at iTunes.] In our enemies' world, the term is literal: They bring real death metal to our "death metal" concerts, and pile high the corpses. In our world, it's all pose and attitude. In theirs, these words still have meaning.

Speaking of which, I see a Canadian "journalism instructor", whatever that is, doesn't care for my attitude:

U know what I'm sick of Mark Steyn, "tough" guys like u hiding behind a keypad while others do the fighting, killing & dying.

I'm not sure what point Mr Mitrovica is making here. I have not called for more bombing raids, more boots on the ground, more war. Because, I regret to say, it's not worth brave soldiers "fighting, killing & dying" for a home front as enervated as ours. As I said a few hours ago, war is merely the sharpest tool of national strategy, and so, if you have no national strategy, there's no point going to war. It's a complete waste of time bombing some guy in the Iraqi desert when Angela Merkel is forcing a German village with 120 people to take 750 "refugees". The overseas and home fronts have to be in sync.

What I have called for, for 14 years now, is more civilizational confidence - as opposed to incremental surrender, of free speech, of women's rights, and much else. And the absence of that civilizational confidence is why we're reduced to waving obsolescent talismans like "Imagine". Am I a "tough guy"? No. I was nervous, to put it very mildly, when I landed in Copenhagen a month ago to speak on the tenth anniversary of the Motoons - in part because four of the five people who'd appeared on stage with me on the fifth anniversary had been shot at, firebombed or forced into hiding and I had no wish to be added to their number; in part because both the US State Department and the UK Foreign Office had issued travel advisories warning their citizens that it was dangerous to be anywhere near our event; and in part because the same kind of social-media types who gloried in the Paris attack were promising to attack Copenhagen. But I was humbled and honored to join genuinely brave friends like Katrine Winkel Holm and Douglas Murray in a European capital where free-speech events are shot up and their speakers forced from public life. And I note that you never see the likes of Andrew Mitrovica standing up for freedom of expression in Copenhagen, or Paris, or during Maclean's battles over Section 13 in Canada, or anywhere else. Which is a shame - because right now the freedom to use the "keypad" is in danger. So I'll take lessons in toughness from Lars Vilks, Charb, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Lars Hedegaard, Oriana Fallaci and others - but not from "journalism instructors" who won't even defend their own "keypad".

I hope Ezra is wrong about Paris, but, as I said, for all our shiny electronic trinkets, our world seems atrophied. Imagine that.

~I'll be joining Sean Hannity on Fox News Tuesday night US time, and Alan Jones on the radio on Wednesday morning Oz time, which in fact is before Tuesday night US time. So catch me tomorrow in Sydney and then yesterday in New York, or whatever.

from Steyn on the World, November 17, 2015


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~ On Tuesday Mark heads north of the border to join Brian Lilley on Ottawa's 580 CFRA at 1:30pm Eastern Time. 














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