Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Common Criticism

The West’s Eternal Decline [Mike Potemra]

It is a commonplace of culture criticism that the American people are fat, lazy, self-satisfied, and lacking in toughness — and the conclusion that usually follows from this comment is that our days as a superpower are drawing to a close. But the next time you hear someone launch this attack on our national character, here’s a quote you can pull out:

We are not anything like as tough as we were. . . . There has been far too much luxury, Safety First, etc. in this country. Our one idea is to look after our comforts and avoid being hurt in any way.
These words were written by Britain’s Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, to Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell — in 1940. Yes, you read that right: Battle of Britain 1940. Standing-alone-in-turning-back-Hitler-and-saving-Western-civilization 1940.

So the next time some op-ed writer says the American people aren’t tough enough, and that the West has therefore had it — remember that it was ever thus. But, to end on a significantly more chastening note: The doomsayers may well be wrong on this issue every time . . . except the very last.

(Thanks, for the quote, to the renowned conservative philosopher Kenneth Minogue. It’s from his fascinating forthcoming book The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life.)