A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

An E-mail From Down Under

Last night I got an e-mail, not from a reader of The Zoo but from someone who lifted my address from BookTalk (Chris O’Connor’s book discussion web site). "John Forth" is an Australian who appears to dwell on the far philosophical left, and as such he wrote to both condemn Lee Harris’ Civilization and It’s Enemies and to promote a short list of web sites he believes are of superior reason and methodology.

Dear Sandor,

My name is John Forth from Melbourne Australia. I got your e-address via the booktalk forum on Civilisation and Its Enemies. What a crappy book. Talk about ignorantly blind hubris.

Please find five other appreciations/understandings of the state of the world and the role of the USA.

Forth then lists his five sources, linked here (each link is followed by a rebuttal from yours truly):

The Peace Law

This site is essentially a plea for pacifism from an eastern religious leader I’ve never heard of. It gives the usual reasons for wanting peace: Peace is good, peace is kind, peace is gentle, peace is right. As always, I agree that peace is all of those things and more. The Peace Law, however, also makes precisely the same mistake that all other pacifist manifestos do: It fails to realize that pacifism only works if everyone is a pacifist. As long as there are no bullies, no tyrants, and no genocidal madmen, pacifism works fine.

But as soon as you thrown in a single thug who wants the next village’s silver mine or one religious zealot who dreams of making the rest of us choose between death and conversion, pacifism goes out the window. And there is always a thug or a zealot (or a barbarian, or a tyrant, or whatever) that needs to be dealt with. That is simply the way of the world; we live in an imperfect universe where evil exists, and free people must be willing to fight to defend what they have. Any society that refuses to steadfastly protect itself is doomed to failure.

The Peace Law gets even worse as it pushes for the UN to be the source and enforcer of this pacifism. Getting into the reasons why that is such a monumentally destructive and evil idea is something I’ve already done here and here. For anyone who doesn’t feel like reading those essays (both are a bit long), suffice it to say that the US will surrender its sovereignty to the UN over my bullet-riddled corpse (and those of several hundred million other Americans).

The Idea of a Local Economy

Sigh. What is it with Greens and their desire to live in a thatch hut and die of the flu before they turn 40?

The Idea of a Local Economy is an article about how heavy industrialization, central production of goods, and wide disbursement of product is evil, evil, evil. It’s the same socialist nonsense we’ve all heard a thousand times, but with the twist thrown in that only small local economies are truly manageable while any national or global economy is inherently wasteful and exploitive. I’m not going to argue capitalism vs. socialism here, except to say that one need only compare the real-world results of each system to see which works better in practice. Neither is perfect, of course, but where would you rather live: America or Cuba? As Bill Whittle says, "which way are the rafts headed?"

Like pacifists, the anti-globalization knuckleheads suffer from severe philosophical myopia; they can’t see beyond their pet theories to the real world of necessity that lies beyond. Take, for example, the production of an important drug like AZT (part of the cocktail of medicines that successfully treat HIV). No small local economy – nor a series of them – could support the various industries it takes to produce such a miracle: Universities to train scientists, labs for the scientists to work in and equipment with which they can make discoveries, people and facilities to acquire and transport the necessary resources, manufacturers to create the finished medicine, etc... It goes on and on.

Everything that The Idea of a Local Economy complains about is necessary to live in a modern technological society. Are there costs? Sure. But problems like pollution will be solved by better technological know-how, not by retreating back into the huts of an agrarian society. If you would like to live in such a world, Mr. Forte, you are welcome to do so; there are plenty of places in Africa which still have almost purely local economies. Perhaps the first time you catch typhoid from dirty river water or get a bellyfull of parasites from tainted meat you’ll start to appreciate the benefits of an advanced global economy.

Columbus and Other Cannibals

This one is out there, even though the basic metaphor behind the concept is somewhat appropriate. All I really have to say is the same thing I say to everyone who brings up the admittedly unfair treatment the Native Americans got: If everyone, everywhere, were to suddenly attempt to go back "where they belong" the entire Earth would be nothing but a confusion of moving peoples.

Less advanced cultures have always been replaced by more advanced cultures. Is it fair? Not really. But survival isn’t interested in "fair". It’s interested in "successful". Every society on the planet today was at one time living somewhere else, at least in part. But Anglo and Latin and Chinese and Arab culture was stronger than Iroquois and Inca and Nubian and Mongolian, and thusly those weaker societies have been at least partially supplanted by their more able neighbors.

Personally I think the Native Americans should have been treated better; more land and wealth should have been set aside for them. But nowadays they’re adapting to the Anglo culture (America) that has become dominant, learning to work within it and derive success from it. More power to them; America, as a concept and as a nation, has room for fantastic diversity.


This one is Bush-bashing, plain and simple. Bush stole the election, went to war for oil, and one day dreams of conquering Gondor and getting his ring back. Half the posts in my archives are refutations of one idea or another found in Götterdämmerung, so those who are interested may peruse them at their leisure.

The fifth site doesn’t have anything to do with politics or policy at all, but is instead full of links about travel and advertisements for large international corporations like McDonalds and Nike. I’m not sure where Forth was headed with that one; perhaps it was meant to be a testament to the exploitation of third-world populations in the name of first-world corporate greed. Perhaps he was trying to get me to buy airline tickets. In either case I decided the link wasn’t worth posting … no reason to send hits to what is essentially a collection of "Spend your money here, rich American!" links. Especially seeing as how the person who sent the link had just finished giving me two barrels of socialist buckshot for being a rich American.

I have, however, responded to my new leftist Australian friend:

Dear John,

I disagree wholeheartedly. "Civilization and Its Enemies" is one of
the best books I've read in the last decade. That we are fighting a
completely new kind of war against an enemy that desires nothing less than our complete subjugation - or complete destruction - should by now be obvious to even the most casual observer (many of us knew this as far back as the late 1980s, but it took the events of September 11th to prove it to the world at large). Harris' book shows how alien and irrational Radical Islam's ideology is and that they have, by their actions, brought about an "us-or-them" situation that can only be solved through military force.

However, in the interest of broad-mindedness I will look over some of the sites you included in your (unsolicited) e-mail. I expect - also in the interest of broad-mindedness - that you will read the following essays:

Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States

Why Arabs Lose Wars

The Ideological War Within the West

If you would like to further discuss the reasons for and implications of the present war, I maintain my own web log at http://the-zoo.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to comment on any post I make (at least half of them are about politics and/or The War on Terror).



So, there you have this morning’s exciting e-mail exchange between sandor and a representative of the outbacker left. Will he write back? Will he read the essays I sent? Will any of the wisdom contained therein penetrate through the haze of Marxism and vegemite?

Don’t touch that dial!