Tuesday, July 07, 2009

And Spengler is ...

A brief excerpt only, from the Asia Times Online, Front Page, Apr 18, 2009, by Spengler*:

During the too-brief run of the Asia Times print edition in the 1990s, the newspaper asked me to write a humor column, and I chose the name "Spengler" as a joke - a columnist for an Asian daily using the name of the author of The Decline of the West....

... I argued [that]...The old and angry cultures of the world, fighting for room to breath against the onset of globalization, would not go quietly into the homogenizer. Many of them would fight to survive, but fight in vain, for the tide of modernity could not be rolled back.

As in the great extinction of the tribes in late antiquity, individuals might save themselves from the incurable necrosis of their own ethnicity through adoption into the eternal people, that is, Israel....

The end of the old ethnicities, I believed, would dominate the cultural and strategic agenda of the next several decades. ...The 300 or so essays that I have published in this space since 1999 all proceeded from the theme formulated by Rosenzweig: the mortality of nations and its causes, Western secularism, Asian anomie, and unadaptable Islam.

Why raise these issues under a pseudonym? There is a simple answer, and a less simple one. To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers.

I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.

I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance.

I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

In this world of accelerated mortality, in which the prospect of national extinction hung visibly over most of the peoples of the world, Jew-hatred was stripped of its mask, and revealed as the jealousy of the merely undead toward living Israel. And it was not hard to show that the remnants of the tribal world lurking under the cover of Islam were not living, but only undead, incapable of withstanding the onslaught of modernity, throwing a tantrum against their inevitable end.

...G K Chesterton said that if you don't believe in God, you'll believe in anything, and I was living proof of that as a young man, wandering in the fever-swamps of left-wing politics. I found my way thanks to the first Ronald Reagan administration. The righting of America after it nearly capsized during the dark years of Jimmy Carter was a defining experience for me. I owe much to several mentors, starting with Dr Norman A. Bailey, special assistant to President Reagan and director of plans at the National Security Council from 1981-1984. My political education began in his lair at the old Executive Office Building in 1981, when he explained to me that the US would destroy the Soviet Empire by the end of the 1980s. I thought him a dangerous lunatic, and immediately signed on...

...My commitment to Judaism came relatively late in life, in my mid-thirties, but was all the more passionate for its tardiness. The things I had been raised to love were disappearing from the world, or changing beyond recognition.....

...Europe's high culture and its capacity to train universal minds had deteriorated beyond repair...

...Renewal could not come from music, nor literature, nor the social sciences. The wells of culture had run dry, because they derived from faith to begin with. I was raised in the Enlightenment pseudo-religion of art and beauty....

...The high culture of the West had its own Achilles' heel. Even its greatest cultivators often suffered from the sin of pride, and worshiped their own powers rather than the source of their powers. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the classic Jewish sources. My guide back to Judaism was the great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig, and my first essay on these subjects was published by the Jewish-Christian Relations website in 1999 under the title, "Has Franz Rosenzweig's Time Come?"

...As a returning religious Jew, I had less and less to discuss with the secular Zionists who shared my passion and partisanship for Israel, but could not see a divine dimension in Jewish nationhood. So-called cultural Judaism repelled me; most of what passes for Jewish culture comes down to the mud that stuck to our boots as we fled one country after another. The Hebrew Bible and its commentaries over the centuries are the core of Jewish culture...

...As First Things editor Joseph Bottum observed to me, "Spengler's" voice freed my style. Why not openly identify myself? Because my readers then would have jammed my thinking into the Procrustean bed of their prejudice.

In 2000, there was nothing to do but to cast my thoughts upon the waters. When the first of these essays appeared I had no expectation that they might interest a wide public. To my astonishment, they were read, and read extensively. Then came 9/11, and my tale of the existential angst of nations was borne up by the Zeitgeist. The Spengler forum at Asia Times Online grew to nearly five thousand registered members. The essays often reached a million readers a month.

*"Spengler" is channeled by David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things

Read the full article here, and other articles in The Asia Times by Spengler here.

See Goldman's biography in Wikipedia here.
Post a Comment