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Foreign Affairs

Secular-Socialist Societies Suck Out Your Soul

Dennis Prager writes another compelling essay today arguing that the secular socialism of most European nations is responsible, not only for the much discussed declining church attendance, birth rates and economies of Europe; it is also responsible for the general lack of creative vitality coming from Europe. Outside of politics (and other vulgar arts like entertainment) who are the great European minds or souls? What developments in literature, art, medicine, technology are emerging from Europe? If one can stretch his mind enough to name a few, this only heightens the point. Just a few generations ago, most--if not all--masters of the worlds of music, literature, science, philosophy, and other arts hailed from Europe. But, as Prager argues:
What has happened is that Europe, with a few exceptions, has lost its creativity, intellectual excitement, industrial innovation, and risk taking. Europe's creative energy has been sapped. There are many lovely Europeans; but there aren't many creative, dynamic, or entrepreneurial ones.

The issues that preoccupy most Europeans are overwhelmingly material ones: How many hours per week will I have to work? How much annual vacation time will I have? How many social benefits can I preserve (or increase)? How can my country avoid fighting against anyone or for anyone?

The intellectual war against perceived "bourgeois conformity" in Christianity and the perceived "materialist ethic" of capitalism appears now in the afterglow to have produced, what? I guess the answer is, not much. But the irony may be that the thing it has been particularly good at producing is another (and a much less interesting) kind of materialism and conformity. If there is no God to discover (or to defy) then where does one find the creative impulse within himself necessary to mount the effort for great things? Why bother to do anything other than simply exist . . . and, indeed, why bother with that except that it would require too much effort to cease existing? If history can be our guide, I suppose there will be other societies--those with more zeal animating their spirits--and they will be happy to step in the breach. And if European secular-socialists cannot then manage to see a quantitative and a qualitative difference between the zeal of that society and the zeal that once animated their ancestors, they are quite likely to discover a whole new kind of life-sucking conformity.
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Discussions - 11 Comments

With all due respect to Prager, I think that his contention that Europe has lost its "creativity" across the board is at least a bit overstated. In science, to take one example, I believe the Europeans are pulling their weight; the most cutting-edge physics research now takes place at the new cyclotron on the French/Swiss border, which is the largest and most powerful in the world (the US had the opportunity to build this device, but Al Gore, during the Clinton administration, thought it more worthwhile to put money into the space station).

I also wonder whether the US has retained its cultural vitality any more than Europe has. Are current American novels, for example, better than what the Europeans put out?

DJF, America is, without a doubt, the cultural epicenter of the world. You raise great points, but I think you are confusing vitality with quality. I would argue that America's culture is thriving, though the quality of said culture can arguably be dimishing; Europe is suffering from a loss of both vitality and quality, though this could just be an illusion caused by the waxing of American culture across the world.

Of course, this is dependent on how we are defining "culture".

It's not loss of faith, or church if those two are different(I think they are). Global Socialism really is neo feudalism. The dark ages happended, liberty is declining all over the west and this will be the result. Savage getting banned from England is no real concern of mine, listened to him some in the past but he's not that great. However, rather overt or subconsciously people are now being reigned in mentaly. PC jargon is all about getting people to self censor their words and eventually their thoughts. Western culture is in decline because certain people like the idea of fuedalism. It is a great myth that socialist thinking came from the tired workers, marx was funded by some of the wealthiest people in Europe. It has nothing to do with secularism, I think secularism does have something to do with a decline in morality, but the pure creative lag is due to the general sense of freedom going away. Here is a for instance, someone from one political side takes a stance contrary to the party platform and gets lampooned and called a traitor. Mabye their stance is wrong, but the demand for conforminity is troubling and really retards the growth of new ideas and opinions.

Trying to be more precise: What sells? A book by a pundit that basicly says what every cable news show or talk radio show says or something new. The promotion of conformity will lead people with talent to simply do what sells and write books about how liberals are destroying the country or that Limbaugh is a big fat idiot.

What developments in literature, art, medicine, technology are emerging from Europe? If one can stretch his mind enough to name a few, this only heightens the point.



Ummm . . . how about pretty much everything postmodern Lawler, Ivan K, & friends are attempting to deal with. Structuralism, Post-structuralism, deconstruction, and semiotics are just a few of the areas worth taking a look at should you doubt Europe's contemporary creativity. Just a few for you all to wiki - Zizek, Bourdieu, Baudrillard, Derrida, Barthes, Blanchot, Eco, Kristeva, Said, Lyotard, and those are the easy ones. In art, try the "new symbolist" school (particularly Anselm Kiefer - a favorite of mine). I'm no musicologist, but I'm sure they've got some pretty good stuff still going.



To claim that Europe has lost its creative zeal is ethnocentric at best, ignorant at worst. There is no left in America - the left is Europe and it's slowly moving the U.S. more left. If I were you, I'd stop pretending European creativity is dead and start dealing with (in such oddly entertaining ways as James Caesar, perhaps).

Really, You are going to argue by throwing semantics out there? I agree with the part about America, we share equally in Western decline. I think all the examples you gave are interesting, but they just seem like reductionism to me all with a slightly different focus.

they just seem like reductionism to me all with a slightly different focus.



Have you read any work by the above-mentioned figures? Or just their wikipedia pages? And I'm not trying to be cute. After all, I told you to "wiki" them . . .

There is no left in America

Thanks for providing tonights "entertainment", matty. Any other ignorant jackassery you'd like to share with us?

Matt is right, but I would like to add J.K. Rowling to the list, because when the title of a blog post includes the words "suck out your soul" it is only fitting to mention dementors.

I also want to agree with Julie, and think she is being a little cowardly and that she should examine how her post on childhood inocence was distorted by politics/ideology, she needs to focus on the idea of a moral intuition that compels independently of the spin that characterizes the speeches of the "leaders" who package and frame the moral issues.

I still maintain that the vast majority of those who are lumped into movements are so moved from a stirring in the soul, be it pro-green, pro-animal, pro-life, and that the need for a terribly sophisticated explanation of the actual causes that impel such personal decisions is itself tyrannical(because it forces dishonesty).

For those who actually might read First Things Mary Eberstadt In Pro-Animal, Pro-Life makes this point with devastating precision.

Just for the sake of being a dementor, since this is the actual nature of american politics, I would argue that right/left is nothing more than republican/democrat and that this in objective terms is nothing more than a Gallup poll and a question of standard deviation from the mean. It is thus perfectly consistent of Matt if he wishes to formulate a sophisticated and substantive philosophical view of "left" to state that there is no "left" in america. This means that by virtue of being philosophical he is an outlier and everything appears to his right, just as those on the "fringe" or the "right wing" occupy a small triangle part of the bell curve a vantage point from which everything appears "left". If there is a right there is a left, and thus John M is right to say that Matt is partaking in "ignorant jackassery" iff he is himself commited to a nominalist(?) statistical bell curve representation of politics which, entails that the right is on one side of the Cartesian cordinate and the left on the other.

If John M. on the other hand grants the possibility of a substantive philosophical definition of left(and if Matt agrees that the same is possible on the right) then it is possible to agree that from this particular vantage point it is not a contradiction to say that there is no "left" in America.

In any case, just to be a dementor and drag the dismal science into this I might note that the action on Wall Street seems to suggest the thesis: Sell in May and go away...the bad market breath and the rally in defensive sectors on a down day, along with some bad macro-news point lower...Watch the Wal-Mart earnings numbers and market reaction... In truth if you are timming this thing the time to press the Obama bubble burst/katriana moment(what a joke) is about now...Matt saying there is no "left" in america, is a foward indicator.

If Craig will go back in the archives and note that I said the Obama honeymoon doesn't end in the middle of market rally then I argued the market moves to 8500 then down to 7700(and even then probably not)...but then again this is from a Cartesian co-ordinate view of politics where right/left makes sense and Matt is guilty of "ignorant jackassery" by definition alone.

Bears make money(republicans), Bulls make money(democrats), Pigs(philosophers) get slaughtered.

But what is the point of being philosophical if you won't get killed for it? Or what does a politician gain if he wins votes and looses his soul?(trick question, he wins, and as Bart Simpson says it was just laying around anyways.)

I think there are too many "philosophers" and none willing to brave death...So I am selling short on the bullcrap...

When Ponzi asks what Europe has 'produced' she unwittingly re-produces the christo-capitalist mindset that to be anything at all is to produce a product, to make things. Her hatred of europe is itself euro-centric. When she says: If there is no God to discover (or to defy) then where does one find the creative impulse within himself necessary to mount the effort for great things? The poverty in needing the Christian God to even get up in the morning is hers, as Nietzsche diagnosed a century ago. Post Christian Europe's fatigue is as a result of its Christianity, not a call for a return to Christianity.

Any other ignorant jackassery you'd like to share with us?


Dude, John M. - of course. Here is the most recent attempt to establish a leftist movement in the U.S. (by the Republicans, no less!). I was being melodramatic with my "There is no Left in America." There is a Left, and his name is Bernie Sanders.

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