Saturday, August 11, 2007
Army of Davids
When I was studying Polish at UCLA, I had to give a presentation on a topical journal article in Polish. The professor was a Polish native, but intellectually an exile from the political/religious mainstream there. The article I picked happened to push just about every one of his buttons. I didn't pick it to spite him, but by the time I figured out what the article said, I had put in too much work in it to change.
In any case, the subject of the article was the proposed EU constitution, and the author's point was that the refusal of the constitution's writers to acknowledge the Christian heritage of Europe in the preamble was discrimination against Poland as an EU member state. But more importantly, it was also an act of willful amnesia. Ie, without the historical significance of Christianity, the continent has no real basis for cultural unity. Furthermore, the Euro-elites were too afraid of Christianity as a challenge to their authority to allow even an insignificant mention of it in the preamble to the EU Constitution.
At the time, a classmate asked me if I agreed with the substance of the article. I said no, but I couldn't exactly say why, since my brain was frazzled from a whole weekend's worth of translation work. But now, in the middle of a lazy summer, it's easier to explain.
The Euro-elites establishment are empatically not afraid of a resurgence of Christianity as a threat to their power. What they are scared to death of is real popular sovereignty. The people are reactionary and fickle. That is why there are significant extra-governmental institutions (supranational courts, social charters, NGOs, etc.) that backstop the elected governments against real change or debate in the issues that can't be let out of the attic: immigration, anything dealing with homosexuality, anything dealing with race, anything dealing with the "right" to welfare, anything dealing with Islam.
Here in the United States we have, just barely, real popular sovereignty. Even when the establishment is united upon some course of action, the popular will can veto it, if it's willing to get off the couch long enough to mobilize. The failure of the most recent immigration bill is a prime example.
This is a substantial part of the reason why Europe (especially Old Europe), is fading into cultural insignificance relative to the United States, for at least two reasons. First of all, the message to the people living in these countries is, that when push comes to shove, they don't count. This message is internalized, and the citizenry of these countries are less prepared to handle the challenges that come up.
Second (and predicted by Hayek), the Euro-"elites" don't have enough information or talent to handle the dynamic modern world. In the United States, anybody can have a business, a blog, a cultural movement, or an independent net worth. These things exist largely outside of the control of the government or any other central authority for that matter. Therefore the American people have resources to adapt to problems as they occur, resources that aren't available in the rest of the world, especially to the governing classes.
I personally get defensive when I hear people trashing the American lumpenproletariat and its various nicknames (flyover country, Religious Right, red states, etc) even when the criticism is largely on point. The alternatives are much worse.