Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Britain's declaration of war on Germany, a long day of somber observances starting at dawn way out in Wellington, New Zealand. We marked the occasion more modestly at SteynOnline, with a centenary reflection on Sir Edward Grey's mordant eve-of-war aside, and with the favorite wartime ballad of British Tommies.
~The big Commonwealth ceremony yesterday was at Glasgow Cathedral in Scotland, with representatives of 71 countries and territories in attendance. Among the viceregal eminences present, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of Australia, gave one of the simplest and most moving readings, the Soldier's Prayer of Commitment:
Make me to be considerate of those with whom I live and work, and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted to me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the tradition of the Army in which I serve.
As much as any army, a nation, a society, a civilization needs a "tradition", too. And in that sense the Great War was devastating. As I put it on Sunday:
Five years later, the German, Russian, Austrian and Turkish empires lay shattered, and in their ruins incubated Communism, Fascism and a hardcore post-Ottoman Islam. And in a more oblique sense the horrors of the trenches caused the Great Powers to lose their civilizational confidence - and across a century they have never recovered it.
The ruling classes of the Great Powers believed they had lost their moral authority in the slaughter of the Somme, and, although they rallied sufficiently to defeat Nazism and Fascism and eventually Communism, they never truly recovered that civilizational confidence. These days an institutional counter-tribalism is so deeply ingrained throughout the west we barely notice it. As I wrote a decade ago:
There's always been a market for self-loathing in free societies: after all, the most effectively anti-western idea of all was itself an invention of the West, cooked up by Karl Marx while sitting in the Reading Room of the British Library. The obvious defect in communism is that it's decrepit and joyless and therefore of limited appeal. Fascism, likewise, had many takers in those parts of the cultural West that were politically deficient--i.e., continental Europe--but it had minimal support in the heart of the political West--i.e., the English-speaking world. So the counter-tribalists came up with something subtler and suppler than communism and fascism--the slipperiest ism of all. The great strength of "multiculturalism" is not that it's an argument against the West but that it short-circuits the possibility of argument. If there's no difference between English Common Law and native healing circles and Tamil Tiger fundraisers and gay marriage and sharia, then what's to discuss? Even to want to debate the merits is to find oneself on the wrong side--for, if the core belief of multiculturalism is that there's nothing to discuss and everything's equally nice and fluffy, then to favour honest argument puts you, by definition, on the extremist side.
~The long shadows of the Somme stretch even unto the Middle East, and our reactions to what's going on in Israel and Gaza: In Australia, a rabbi is set upon at a Perth shopping mall. In Canada, pro-Palestinian "humanitarians" shout "Heil Hitler!", but Calgary Herald "reporter" Erika Stark does her duty and sticks to the script:
Pro-Palestinian supporters are here across the street... They're shouting things I shouldn't tweet.
Not only doesn't she Tweet them, she declines to mention them in her newspaper, preferring the usual sob-sister stuff:
'Stop killing our kids. Give us food, give us water, give us shelter. Put religion and politics to the side. Kids are dying. That's the main thing why we're here.'
Because nothing says "put religion and politics to the side" like chanting "Heil Hitler!"
Erika Stark has enough of a residual nose for news to know that, even in the multiculti Canada of 2014, hearing hit catchphrases of the Third Reich on the streets of Calgary is kind of unusual - or, as her predecessors might have put it, "newsworthy". And yet she can't bring herself to complicate the simple heartwarming storyline of helpless peace-loving Gazans under the Zionist blitzkrieg of the new Nazis.
And then there's Europe:
Renowned Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo declares, "I'd like to shoot those bastard Zionists.: A German teen firebombs a synagogue. French anti-Israel protestors attack synagogues full of worshippers. An Irish Sinn Fein city councilman urges the shelling of Israel.
Benjamin Weinthal puts it in context:
A 2012 survey of Norwegians showed 38% of respondents deem Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to be the equivalent of Nazi policies toward Jews. Studies over the last decade of German attitudes toward Israel consistently reveal that nearly half (at times more than 50%) of Germans view Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to be comparable to the Nazis obliteration of Jews.
Put simply, the obscene parallel likening Israel to Nazi Germany has gained traction across Europe.
It's a comparison that allows many Europeans to cleanse their guilt about the Holocaust. The equation serves as an emotional catharsis for a guilt-ridden continental Europe.
There had always been a degree of Jew-hatred in Europe, for hundreds of years, mostly at a low-level simmer - denial of full property rights, etc. But it only turned genocidal in the Third Reich. Just to walk that back very calmly to the anniversary we mark this week, the Great War destroyed the German Empire, the most cultured society on the Continent and the one in which Jews were most assimilated, and with a high degree of inter-marriage. What followed the German Empire was the Weimar Republic - ie, going to the grocer's with a wheelbarrow full of worthless marks. By 1930, millions of Germans were in the market for a scapegoat. Who to blame for the ruination of a great nation? "International bankers"? We all know who that means...
Half the country's Jews wound up leaving for Britain, Mandatory Palestine and America before the Second World War began, and that suited Germans just fine: All they wanted was for Jews to be ...elsewhere, just as today Palestine's supporters in the west increasingly want Jews to be ...elsewhere. Not many people circa 1933 thought they were signing on for enforced population displacement, trains to the east, concentration camps, gas ovens... The idea of a "final solution" was in that sense unimaginable.
But our generation doesn't have that excuse. Today's Jew-hate is worse than 1930s Jew-hate precisely because, unlike 80 years ago, it's déjà vu all over again. We can't plead ignorance. Hitler felt obliged to be somewhat coy about just how final the final solution was. As Eichmann testified at his trial, when typing up the minutes of the Wannsee conference, "How shall I put it? Certain over-plain talk and jargon expressions had to be rendered into office language by me." Even the Nazis were reluctant to spell it out.
But Hamas spells it out, in giant-size neon lettering: Its charter pledges that Islam will "obliterate" Israel, with Article 22 blaming the Jews for the French Revolution, both world wars, the League of Nations ...oh, and the Lions and the Rotary Club. Hamas specifies the end, but their patrons in Teheran are happy to specify the means. As I wrote eight years ago:
What's the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is "the most hideous occurrence in history," which the Muslim world "will vomit out from its midst" in one blast, because "a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world." Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we're just arguing over the details.
Not a lot of Eichmannesque "office language" there.
Yet large numbers of western progressives are prepared to support a movement that makes no secret of its "final solution". As the song says, hate is hate-iier the second time around.
Just to consider this purely in psychological terms: Large numbers of German people genuinely believed "Jewish financiers" were behind the Great War. They wanted to live under Hitler because they thought the Nazis would govern better than the other parties; they offered the best possibility for a German rebirth. Many other Continentals felt the same, and started looking around for a Hitler of their own. Their Jew-hate arose from their calculation of their own self-interest, however deformed and contemptible that might be.
But no western progressive wants to live under Hamas. His Jew-hate arises only from a dismal reflexive multiculti empathy. So, in the most perverse testimony to the persistence of post-1918 counter-tribalism, he hates Jews not out of perceived self-interest in the ruins of a devastating war but merely as a function of his support for the exotic other. As I said, just to keep it in psychological terms, this strikes me as far weirder than old-school Jew-hate, and makes its virulence even more unsettling. You're at a protest with people shouting "Heil Hitler!" and "Hitler was right!" and "Death to the Jews!" and waving placards of Ayatollah Khomeini merely as a form of socially attitudinal accessorizing. There's a decadence to that, and it will not end well.
~As you may have noticed, re the upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century, there's been a flickering of life in the dank toilet of District of Columbia justice. My three co-defendants have filed briefs to the DC Court of Appeals: You can read National Review's here, and the CEI/Rand Simberg brief here. I'll have more to say about this shortly, but in the meantime thanks for your continued support for my pushback against the climate mullahs.