American conservatives on the Internet are abuzz with the recent interview given to Glenn Beck by Richard Dreyfuss, star of Jaws, Mr Holland's Opus, American Graffiti and many more. Mr Dreyfuss has given up acting to save his country:
[email protected] tells me he gave up acting "ONLY for something I loved as much, which was saving my country...It infuriates me that people don't understand what this place means."
SteynOnline regulars will not be surprised by this development. Mark and Mr Dreyfuss have met only once, very briefly, two decades back at the memorial tribute in Montreal to their mutual friend Mordecai Richler. But seven years ago it emerged that the actor was one of many who had read Steyn's bestselling book. As Mr Dreyfuss put it in a three-part theopolitical dialogue with Susannah Black:
Mark Steyn, a writer with an irritating case of the smart-alecs, has written a book I urge you read called America Alone. Just the first few chapters are a geo-political wake-up call, and he is not someone I agree with very much. But he quotes bin Laden: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." And he quotes Donald Rumsfeld: "If we know anything it is that weakness is provocative."
We are on a clock we don't see or comprehend. We will not survive this century unless civic virtue is revived. We can discuss its origins all day—if we have the right to speak at all, and aren't dead under jihad.
Seven years after that observation, "the right to speak at all" is increasingly imperiled, in ever more areas - even for those as celebrated as J K Rowling, and even in Richard Dreyfuss's own field, the arts. As Mark mentioned on his first post-heart-attack appearance, he ran into an actress friend, a lifelong leftie, who nevertheless has grasped the essential fact of our time - that western civilization is sliding off a cliff. And, as Steyn put it, once that is seen it cannot be unseen.
Mark's book was never Harry Potter boffo, but it kept selling year on year, and picking up new fans en route, including from Hollywood. For a tome by an irritating smart alec, America Alone proved somewhat prescient, but its warnings went unheeded by the presidents and prime ministers in a position to do something about them.
On Richard Dreyfuss's wish to "save my country", some half of his fellow Americans prefer to transform it beyond recognition, and those who agree with him do so either passively or ineffectually. The lack of cultural confidence that doomed the war on terror has now come home. Here is a much cited passage from America Alone:
Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude (1870)
This book isn't an argument for more war, more bombing, more killing, but for more will. In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.
India today is better off without suttee. If you don't agree with that, if you think that's just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don't think you really do believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis. After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched tribal dirge for the school "holiday" concert instead of getting to sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It's a quintessential piece of progressive humbug. Yet, if you think you genuinely believe that suttee is just an example of the rich vibrant tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 30, 48 per cent of the people around you really believed in it, too. Multiculturalism was conceived by the western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.
The rest of us – the ones who think you can make judgments about competing cultures, on liberty, religious freedom, the rule of law – need to recover the cultural cool that General Napier demonstrated.
Instead, as his first reaction to the controversy over those Danish cartoons, the EU's Justice and Security Commissioner, Franco Frattini, said that Europe would set up a "media code" to encourage "prudence" in the way they cover, ah, certain sensitive subjects. As Signor Frattini explained it to The Daily Telegraph:
The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression... We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right.
"Prudence"? "Self-regulate our free expression"? No, I'm afraid that's just giving the Muslim world the message: You've won, I surrender, please stop kicking me.
But they never do. Because, to use the Arabic proverb with which Robert Ferrigno opens his novel Prayers for the Assassin, "A falling camel attracts many knives..."
Or as Simeon Howard said in a sermon preached to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston in 1773:
An incautious people may submit to these demands, one after another, till its liberty is irrecoverably gone, before they saw the danger. Injuries small in themselves, may in their consequences be fatal to those who submit to them; especially if they are persisted in. And, with respect to such injuries, we should ever act upon that ancient maxim of prudence; obsta principiis. The first unjust demands of an encroaching power should be firmly withstood, when there appears a disposition to repeat and encrease such demands.
The custodians of the western inheritance began by making concessions to jihadists, and then moved on to making them to everyone else.
~The above is excerpted from Mark's international bestseller America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. If you haven't read the book during its first seventeen years, well, you're missing a treat. It's still in print in hardback and paperback, and personally autographed copies are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore.
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