Sunday, December 02, 2007

“A loss for civilization”

That’s what Mark Steyn calls the recent election defeat of Australia’s John Howard, for ten years his country’s Prime Minister and always a staunch ally of those fighting terrorists.

Excerpts from Steyn’s column in The Australian follow after which I add a few comments below the star line:

What mattered to the world was the strategic clarity Howard's ministry demonstrated on the critical issues facing (if you'll forgive the expression) Western civilisation.

First, the prime minister grasped the particular challenge posed by Islam. "I've heard those very silly remarks made about immigrants to this country since I was a child," said the Democrats' Lyn Allison. "If it wasn't the Greeks, it was the Italians ... or it was the Vietnamese."

But those are races and nationalities. Islam is a religion, and a political project, and a globalised ideology. Unlike the birthplace of your grandfather, it's not something you leave behind in the old country.

Indeed, the pan-Islamic identity embraced by many second and third-generation Muslims in the West has very little to do with where their mums and dads happen to hail from.

"You can't find any equivalent in Italian or Greek or Lebanese or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad," said Howard, stating the obvious in a way most of his fellow Western leaders could never quite bring themselves to do.

"Raving on about jihad" is a splendid line which meets what English law used to regard as the reasonable-man test. If you're a reasonable bloke slumped in front of the telly watching jihadists threatening to behead the Pope or Muslim members of Britain's National Health Service ploughing a blazing automobile through the check-in desk at Glasgow airport, "raving on about jihad" fits in a way that President George W. Bush's religion-of-peace pabulum doesn't.

Bush and Tony Blair can be accused of the very opposite of the traditional politician's failing: they walked the walk but they didn't talk the talk. That's to say neither leader found a rhetoric for the present struggle that resonated.
Howard did.

Likewise, [another Australian political leader,] Peter Costello. Sympathising with Muslims who wish to live under sharia law, he mused: "There are countries that apply religious or sharia law: Saudi Arabia and Iran come to mind. If a person wants to live under sharia law these are countries where they might feel at ease. But not Australia."

It's a glum reflection on the times that such an observation should be controversial.

Yet it stands in marked contrast to, say, the Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, who remarked that if the electors voted to bring in sharia he'd be OK with that, or the Swedish politician who said that Swedes should be "nice to Muslims while we are in the majority so that when they are in the majority they will be nice to us". …

And that brings us to the [Howard] Coalition's next great strand of strategic clarity. At his 2006 education summit, Howard called for "a root and branch renewal of Australian history in our schools, with a restoration of narrative instead of what I labelled the 'fragmented stew of themes and issues"'.

As he explained at the Quadrant 50th anniversary celebration: "This is about ensuring children are actually taught their national inheritance."

The absence of a "narrative" and an "inheritance" is a big part of the reason that British subjects born and bred blow up the London Tube, why young Canadian Muslims with no memory of living in any other society plot to behead their own prime minister.

You can't assimilate immigrants and minorities unless you give them something to assimilate to. It's one thing to teach children their history "warts and all", quite another to obsess on the warts at the expense of all else. The West's demographic weakness is merely the physical embodiment of a broader loss of civilisational confidence.

Australia should never have had a "department of immigration and multicultural affairs", but, given that it did, Howard was right to rename it the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Government should promote citizenship, not multiculturalism.

The Coalition was all but unique in understanding the three great challenges of the age - Islamism, demography, civilisational will - that in other parts of the West are combining to form the perfect storm.
Steyn’s entire column’s here.

It’s both a tribute to Howard and a warning to those who take Western civilization for granted.

I’ll post again on the column in the next day or two.


Anonymous said...

Marxists have always attacked Western Civilization.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

It's a national disgrace that thinking as clear and well articulated as Mark Steyn's is not given a significant exposure to the American public in our daily press. Despite the miniscule number of papers who do carry him occasionally, it seems that the liberal MSM, from the NYT on down, are agreed that their token op-eds from non-lefties shall not include any from Mark Steyn.

I suppose he might convince someone with that clarity of expression and purpose, and a Wrong Policy (by 'progressive' standards) might some day be adopted.