Thursday, July 29, 2010

Missing Old Enemies

My birthday's coming up (and my brother just hit the Big 4-0) so I've been listening to a lot of 70s and 80s music. Just now, hearing "Burning Heart" by Journey Foreigner Survivor, reminds me of a point about our old enemies, the Commies, and our new ones, the Sicko Mooslims. If you recall from the song, and the accompanying movie (Rocky IV), the Russians were a technocratic menace able to create chemical-mechanical monsters to dominate the world. While the reality was sad (Russia seemed to be a third world country with a first world reputation, hence their designation of the 'Second World' in that particular triad), there's an essential fact here: the Commies were totalitarian, fascist, brutal, atheist, racist, and implacable. Their core idea, Marxism, is seductive - especially for the third world, and the Soviets were undeniably trying to take over the world. We must remember these facts. Yet, I miss one key aspect of having them as enemies: their denial of God came with a veneration of science and the arts. This enemy insisted on having high education, music, dance, and critically: science and technology. And because our enemies were trying to dominate these fields, we needed to keep up.

Why did JFK's famous Boston accented boast "putting a man on the moon at the end of the decade" actually happen? I ask this because many pundits like bloviating that if a president makes such a boast then we can accomplish it (Bush tried this, so did His Honor Jed Bartlett). The reason we got to the moon wasn't because of JFK's boast, it was because we were in a death race in tech and science with the Rooskies. The moon was just Vietnam in space.

I miss this part of my old enemy - their primacy of science and technology meant we needed to do that too. It made us invest seriously in education (e.g. my mother was sent to grad school on a Defense scholarship to learn Spanish - because Commies were everywhere, we needed to know what they knew... nowadays we discharge linguists from the military if they're gay). The commies converted the isolationists and anti-intellectuals - who now vocally dominate the GOP - to celebrate American international achievement in every endeavor. *

Our new enemies, radical Muslims, are similar in some respects, and worse in many others, than the Soviets. Ironically, one of the main crimes of Communism - atheism - turns out to have been a mixed blessing. If you had asked a normal American back in the Cold War 50s, why we were fighting the Commies, they're respond "atheism!" This is why we made "In God We Trust" our national motto, and put God in (badly) the Pledge of Allegiance. That's even what I recall reading in the words of the Rav. Yet the radical Muslim enemy is quite theistic, and it's their theism that makes them much worse than the Commies could ever hope to be.

The God Fearing radical Muslims, because they fear a god, hate science, technology and art. Six months before 9/11, the Taliban dynamited famous, and 1500 year old, statues of Buddha - the violence driven by righteous religious belief.

As a child of the 80s, I lived in fear of the Commies, especially with Reagan and Thatcher rattling their geriatric sabres, but my antagonism of the Soviets wasn't about their atheism as much as their desire to turn the whole world into a totalitarian hell-hole. People argued that their cruelty came from atheism, yet not many people become suicide bombers if they don't believe in an afterlife.

The god the radical Muslims trust in, the one they are under, is what motivates their very worst behavior. Suicide bombing? Slaughtering children? All because of theism. And like with the old rock Buddha, these God-fearers hate science and art. In fact, universities are as much a target for these God-fearers as idol worshiping Hebrews and Nazarenes.

And this leads to the crux of the matter: because our current enemy is animated by religion and hates science, our counter-response is one of beliefs and not of science. The growth of American power in the Twentieth Century came from our choice of enemy. Our new enemy is going to help us go down the dismal road of religious fervor (to combat theirs) with full throated anti-intellectualism - because that's not the perceived battleground.

The further sick irony is that it's precisely in science, tech and art that we can beat the Radical Muslims. Not only does the rest of the world treasure the Western World's dominance in science and art (just ask the billions or so heathens out there, a.k.a. Chinese, Indians, Japanese) but it is only through a desperate push to replace oil as fuel that we will defeat our enemies. George W Bush and cronies thought we could beat the Mooslims by conquering them (hence the Iraq War) but the only way to truly conquer them is to destroy their power from within - eliminate our dependency on oil. Just as we conquered Communism by impoverishing them in the arms and space race, so we can impoverish our enemies now in a more direct fashion. If we invent easy solar power, for example, the terrorist funding will turn into thick black mud.**

This is why I miss the commies: they were good enemies not only because they allowed us to create decent James Bond films, but because they brought out the best of the West: science, tech, and art; and because they turned our idiot religious thugs to at least accept all religious people - even Jews - and to reject isolationism. Our current enemies are bringing the worst in us: religious intolerance, rejection of science, fighting over belief and not excellence. We were cursed in 2001 to have the worst kind of president to respond to the current enemy (ironically his father was pretty bad in his response to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but like in everything Bush Jr. made Bush Sr. look like Abe Lincoln). I hope that Obama is able to convince America that we need to take the science-tech response to our current enemies... it's the only thing that can save us from a pretty bad next decade.


* We can still see vestiges of the Kommie Kompetition with our fear of the Chinese - and there's potential there for the old Cold War rivalry to be renewed. Except that the Chinese don't seem to care about taking over the world, unlike the USSR, and while they are a brutal threat to key allies (ask South Korea and Japan how much they like China), common Americans may not fear the Chinese like the way we did the Soviets, and the fear is what drove our country to excel in science, tech, and art.

** Note, they still have drug money, but one problem at a time.

Top pic from here. Second and third pics from the Wiki. According to the Wiki, the second pic is of kids pledging allegiance with the "Bellamy Salute" - invented by the Pledge's author - yet was adopted by the Italian Fascists and later the Nazis. Wow, life is ironic.

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