The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


A lot of people, especially those on the political right in America, are talking about a clash of civilizations. Not enough attention is paid to Steven Den Beste's essay, written in January 2004, in which he points out that there are three, not two, sides to this clash of civilizations. I intend to do Mr. Den Beste a slight disservice here, by calling the three sides God, State and Man, based on where they would place the center of public affairs, and where the final burden of responsibility falls:
If equality is one way to tell these three apart, responsibility is another. The Islamists believe that Allah is responsible for it all; the duty of believers is to follow His will, and leave all else in His hands. For the idealists, responsibility lies with the state. Citizens should rely on the state for all things, and let the state be responsible for taking care of it all. For the realists, everyone has primary responsibility for their own fate, and though they may rely to some extent on others, or on the state, or on God, ultimately each person should look out for themself as much as they can.

Mr. Den Beste was pointing out the common error of conflating State and Man into a generic "West"; this post seems to round up several essays on the subject. There is another conflation now at work, for example in Bat Ye'or's Eurabia (introduction here), showing the current alliance of State and God in Europe. We must keep in mind that Ms. Ye'or's work is meant to illuminate one phase of an ongoing struggle; it arose largely because State found itself the weakest of the participants (odd how that keeps happening) and needed an ally, even on unfavorable terms.

God and State both envision a world government, and both place minimal value on the common man's right to reject the wisdom of his betters. Even if world government is not a sure recipe for world tyranny (and I believe that it is), the world governments being advanced would start out halfway down the slope.

The sciences that can change our lives today are those of exploration; either away from Earth, or away from the bonds of fragile and imperfect flesh. How can such exploration survive under a world government? What God-fearing or equality-loving bureaucrat would fund, or even permit, attempts to augment a select few? What world government would oversee the creation of an unearthly society? Those with dreams of what this world may offer should be very clear on what is at stake, as summarized by Jerry Pournelle:
I always knew I'd see the first man on the Moon. I never dreamed I'd see the last.