Today, many in Europe are decrying Americans for a great ambivalence, in what they perceive is the wholesale surrendering of our rights. The Patriot Act, listening programs, and the right to hold enemy combatants without a trial are all at the forefront of this debate. They claim that Americans are turning their collective backs on the very freedoms that made this nation such a model to emulate and admire, by not challenging these policies. But in Europe, there is a different kind of wholesale surrender going on.
Victor Davis Hanson has written a compelling essay that examines this very phenomenon and it can be found at NRO. It's called Traitors To The Enlightenment and in it, he both chronicles some of the events, as well as, analyzes the meanings (of those same events) of the classical Greek and 18th century enlightenment periods.
Now let me be the first to say, I am not a prophet by any stretch of the imagination. But I can see serious problems looming on the horizon for the entire world, if Europe loses its grip on freedom of speech (and the freedom of expression). I can see patterns developing (and some are already well-developed). You may not be able to assign a quantitiative value to what I see, there are some things you cannot place a number on and this is one of them.
We all know that Europe has had its troubles with these things in the past. And now, under a different banner comes some of the same anxieties and the some of the same fears that brought about those moments of turmoil; whereby, going along with the flow meant giving up some of the very core principles and ideals that were developed, back when freedom of thought was but a hope and a dream. However, the question always has been and still remains, what will we do about it this time?
A while back I made a comment on a blog. The subject was how many young people today make the argument that they would recognize a Hitler if they were to see one (if one were to rise up again). I said something along the line of this: It's easy to recognize one if a European dictator rose up, began rounding up Jews to be exterminated, and began suppressing people's rights in a wholesale fashion. That would be easy. But what if that Hitler came in another form? What if he would mutate like a virus and come in another form that would not be so easy to notice?
Well you know what? He has. But Hitler is not a man anymore. The spirit that possessed Hitler has diffused into a scattered existence and has taken on a new look, one that is not so easily recognized.
The European and American freedoms (that were carved out as a result of the enlightenment period) are now under attack by those that follow radical Islam. Freedom of speech is under attack, Jews are under attack, and the threat of a true world war is forever growing on the horizon. And yet, very few people even realize it. It starts slowly and gradually rocks us to sleep, because many of us just do not want to believe that it exists. Yet, it is the same manifestation of evil, the same force is behind it, and it is as real today, as it was then.
The bottom line in all of this is, while Europeans are worrying about Americans losing their civil liberties, some of them are failing to see they are missing a subtle yet sure return, to the days when superstition reigned supreme. They are witnessing a fanatical religious ideology influencing the lifestyle of an entire civilization by openly advocating censorship and creating a climate of fear and intimidation, to do it.
America and Europe must be free to exercise any religion we choose, we must be free to enjoy any decent activity we choose, and we must not be bound to any one specific belief system, because someone gets offended. Our rights should not be curbed to appease those that disagree with our culture and our value systems. To do so would mean that we (as enlightened societies) have surrendered that which so many have fought and died for over the centuries, and would mean the certain death of western ideals and principles.
(I know I have an argument, when my friend Super Frenchie and I are pretty much on the same sheet of music. Read his post on one specific example of this manifestation here. Then, be sure to read VDH's essay in its entirety. You won't be sorry.)
This op-ed piece by Anne Applebaum from WaPo is certainly relevent to this post. Check it out.