observations and opinion
We can bear the suffering and danger of preparation, or learn the suffering and danger of submission.
We have recently in North America witnessed small outbreaks of contagious conditions – measles in particular – attributable not to the failure of vaccines but to the failure of public education in the face of innate human stupidity. There is no medicine to cure idiocy, unfortunately. And the idiots have decided to pretend that what is true is not true, which is a problem – not so much for them, but for the rest of us.
“Denial” as someone wise once said, “ain’t just a river in Egypt.” In Egypt today of course, any denial or delusions about what’s happening have been washed away in the blood of beheaded Coptic Christians. Egypt has begun a campaign to obliterate the Libyan murderers and it is satisfying to think that the ISIS/ISIL axis, as it emerges pox –like in the Mideast and Africa, will soon taste vengeance. It is too late for justice.
ISIS – like measles – is an opportunistic bug which finds vulnerable hosts where it lurks before bursting out, puss-oozingly evil, ready to kill the innocent and the guilty. Unfortunately an outbreak seems necessary to get our attention. We here, in the coddled West, have seen such isolated and small explosions of ISIS-measles that we are quite ready to deny that the contagion has hatched. In Canada, the murder of two soldiers in one week by classic ISIS losers, has been dismissed by many as examples of “mental illness” (in the same way that the Americans navel-gaze about mental health every time there’s a gun massacre, never examining the actual mental illness: the sacredness of guns). People just don’t want to believe there’s a germ at large and are ready to blame the doctors for what’s wrong.
The similarity of the anti-vax crowd to the anti-war crowd is so marked, it’s a wonder we aren’t hearing songs about it already. Both groups, never having experienced the measles, have trouble believing the disease is real. Both groups have no trouble, however, believing the worst about their governments which must – must – be up to no good when pointing out the danger. And that’s because both groups are welded to a fierce, stupid anti-institutional bigotry that prefers anecdote to epidemiology, voodoo to science, prejudice to proof.
I am not a slave to government propaganda, and neither are you. The twisted post- 9/11 mythology about Saddam Hussein has made trust in the U.S. military establishment almost impossible, and that’s fine – better to doubt them every time, at least at the outset. But what we cannot do is ignore the evidence exploding all over the world, about what hyper-radical Jihadists want and are doing.
In Africa, Boko Haram pitilessly wars against the weak, all in the name of a version of Islam which is dedicated to the proposition that people should stay ignorant; ISIS/ISIL does its gruesome “performance art” murders on the internet, but that’s just a sideshow concealing their daily, gangland-style criminal seizure of land and people for oil and money; in communities around the world, most notably Pakistan and Afghanistan, girls put their lives on the line every time they walk to school. Everywhere, aggrieved losers tell themselves they’re Muslim as justification for killing sprees. London, Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, Copenhagen. Maybe they’re Muslims, maybe they’re not. What they are for sure is Nazis. What they are for sure, is measles.
No decent or peace-loving person wants to believe we are at risk, or wants to see war waged anywhere. But sadly, it is true: there is a disease within us and a terrible outbreak has erupted. We must take our medicine – take our shots – before the disease claims us, maims us, weakens us and then kills us.
What those “shots” amount to will be determined entirely by how quickly we act. The sooner we move, the less awful the treatment has to be. If we recognize that western civilization is worth protecting, and decide to protect it, we will begin by celebrating that heritage in every school. We will respect all faiths but remind citizens not only what they owe to God, but of what they owe to Caesar. We will stonily martial our military and take out “the measles men”, one by one and in crowds, on the ground they’ve seized so far and not on the ground they will take tomorrow. We will arm the people of the Middle East and Africa, who are no less in love with peace than we are, so that they can defend themselves now, before we are defending ourselves tomorrow. We will stop pretending that we are not at risk. And if we are wise and swift, this terrible thing which has erupted will be scraped away, and the people most vulnerable to it – ironically enough, Muslims – will both overseas and at home be most to thank for, and most thankful for, the victory.
This isn’t just a matter of personal preference: it is duty. We are heirs to a civilization and we have no moral right to squander what has been handed down to us. Villains have organized against the values which inform our culture, whether we be progressive, liberal or conservative. This is something we all share and must all see and agree upon. We have no right to pretend otherwise, to dump on our children a far worse world than the one we inherited. To leave them a war, one perhaps they cannot win at far greater cost than we can win it now.
The world doesn’t need a crusade, or an anti-Jihad Jihad. It needs a recognition that there is something worth saving, that it is at risk, that we are all deeply inter-connected and so threatened by the globalization which makes us rich. We have created a webbed planet, one where the better angels of our nature can flourish or the worst demons of our world can do evil. Which shall it be?
Surely hope can keep us blind to the truth, but for how long and at what cost? In such times as these Winston Churchill, lonely Delphi of the gathering storm, told us. These words, excerpted from a speech in November 1934, ring more true today than almost anything much of our political class (or our “anti-vaxxer” crowd) tells us:
As we go to and fro in this peaceful country with its decent, orderly people going about their business under free institutions and with so much tolerance and fair play in their laws and customs, it is startling and fearful to realize that we are no longer safe in our island home…
It is indeed with a pang of stabbing pain that we see all this in mortal danger. A thousand years has served to form a state; an hour may lay it in dust.
What shall we do? Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horrors and to imprint them vividly upon the minds of the younger generation. They flaunt the grisly photograph before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals. They denounce the crime as insensate folly of human strife. Now, all this teaching ought to be very useful in preventing us from attacking or invading any other country, if anyone outside a madhouse wished to do so, but how would it help us if we were attacked or invaded ourselves that is the question we have to ask.
After all, my friends, only a few hours away by air there dwell a nation of nearly seventy millions of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.
There is a nation which has abandoned all its liberties in order to augment its collective strength. There is a nation which, with all its strength and virtue, is in the grip of a group of ruthless men, preaching a gospel of intolerance and racial pride, unrestrained by law, by parliament, or by public opinion. In that country all pacifist speeches, all morbid war books are forbidden or suppressed, and their authors rigorously imprisoned. From their new table of commandments they have omitted “thou shall not kill.”
… Now, these are facts, hard, grim, indisputable facts, and in the face of these facts, I ask again, what are we to do?
There are those who say, “Let us ignore the continent of Europe. Let us leave it with its hatreds and its armaments, to stew in its own juice, to fight out its own quarrels, and decree its own doom. Let us turn our backs to this melancholy and alarmist view. Let us fix our gaze across the ocean and see our own life in our own dominions and empires.”
There would be very much to this plan if only we could unfasten the British islands from their rock foundations, and could tow them three thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, and anchor them safely upon the smiling coasts of Canada; but I have not yet heard of any way in which this could be done…. For my part, I have come to the conclusion, reluctantly I admit, that we cannot get away. Here we are and we must make the best of it, but do not, I beg you, underrate the risks, the grievous risks we have to run…Preparation involves statesmanship, expense, and exertion, and neither submission nor preparation are free from suffering and danger.
“Neither submission nor preparation are free from suffering and danger” Churchill said.
And so it remains today, 80 years after that speech: there is no single shot of vaccine that will deter the measles spreading across the middle of our world, but there are treatments. If we are not fools, we will use them. We can bear the suffering and danger of preparation, or learn the suffering and danger of submission.
The first vaccine is to stop lying to ourselves.