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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Victor Davis Hanson calls it The Western Disease

the strange syndrome of our guilt and their shame
Hanson describes it as a "pathology" explained by "beneficence." Lileks (see below) thinks it stems from "non-continguous information streams." In my response to Chernut (also below, only more so) I talk about it as having to do with "worldview." Some have labelled it a prelude to civil war.

There is an ideological schism, fast hardening, between people, that is maddening to experience and frustrating to describe. It is New. It hasn't happened before in our lives, and as we dance around it, and taste it, spit it out and look at it, we still don't . . . yet . . . know what it means.

My husband, who is a mighty mensch, thinks it's just Bush-hatred, that if Clinton had done what Bush had done, the complainers we now try to dissect would be simply joyous, crying out about his great accomplishments. Along these lines, it's nothing more than sour grapes. I agree with his observation that rather than allowing events to inform one's ideology, these people are maintaining their ideology, at all costs, by interpreting events to fit. I'm just not satisfied that that's the whole gestalt of it. And it seems crucial to understand because whatever it is, it's bad for Israel.

It's not just lack of PR -or funds for PR- that lies at the root of current global disdain of Israel, and it's not just antisemitism, nor information streams, nor worldview. It's all these things, yet there's a glue that holds it all together that I can't quite figure out.

Whoops, almost forgot what I was up to. This is what Hanson says about it:
There is something terribly wrong, something terribly amoral with the Western intelligentsia, most prominently in academia, the media, and politics. We don’t need Osama bin Laden’s preschool jabbering about “the weak horse” to be worried about the causes of this Western disease: thousands of the richest, most leisured people in the history of civilization have become self-absorbed, ungracious, and completely divorced from the natural world — the age-old horrific realities of death, plague, hunger, rapine, or conquest.

Indeed, it is even worse than that: a Paul Krugman or French barrister neither knows anything of how life is lived beyond his artificial cocoon nor of the rather different men and women whose unacknowledged work in the shadows ensures his own bounty in such a pampered landscape — toil that allows our anointed to rage at those purportedly culpable for allowing the world to function differently from an Ivy League lounge or the newsroom of the New York Times. Neither knows what it is like to be in a village gassed by Saddam Hussein or how hard it is to go across the world to Tikrit and chain such a monster.

Our Western intellectuals are sheltered orchids who are naïve about the world beyond their upscale hothouses. The Western disease of deductive fury at everything the West does provides a sort of psychological relief (without costs) for apparent guilt over privileged circumstances. It is such a strange mixture of faux-populism and aristocratic snobbery. They believe only a blessed few such as themselves have the requisite education or breeding to understand the “real” world of Western pathologies and its victims.
This is an important argument, well thought and well written. Take the time to read it all.