Lois Lerner: The Fifth Amendment–and the First Amendment

Relevant to todays ‘kneel’ news.

A Yearning for Publius

Bear with me as I travel back in time to make a connection between the 1’st and 5’th Amendments to the Constitution.

Years ago back in 1964, I was attending a Navy technical school, and I remember a discussion some of us young sailors were engaged in. The subject of the conversation escapes me, but the 1’st Amendment came up in such a prominent way that I distinctly remember making the following comment: “I may not agree with what you are saying, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it!”

The 1’st Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The 5’th Amendment states:

No…

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The Evil That Conquered Europe

Hal Lindsey wrote a book back in the 1970s – “Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth”. As the title states, Lindsey believes Satan is real — he is alive — and he is accomplishing much evil in the world. I also subscribe to this view.

Is there a better explanation for the evil that captured Europe and much of the world in those terrible years of the twentieth century? A better explanation for the Holocaust that brutally attempted to exterminate an entire kind of human being, to the tune of some 6,000,000 executed in the Nazi death camps?

Though viewing all this through very human eyes, it is not much of a stretch to attach a spiritual scenario as well. Satan surveys a scene of human failing, humiliation, suffering and tragedy as occurred in Germany following World War I. He also singles out individuals to exploit the situation — in this case Adolf Hitler and his all too willing followers.  

And what was the scope of such evil?

It is written in the many remembrances we saw in Paris and in Normandie. Remembrances such as the plaque in the Jewish section of Paris with the names and ages of just a fraction of the infants and children that were deported to the death camps of Hitler’s Nazi regime and ideology.

It is written in the remembrances of the 200,000+ French citizens deported to those death camps, many thousands of children.

It is written in the small ‘ghost’ town of Oradour-sur-Glane where Nazi soldiers murdered 642 civilians including 205 children. The men were separated out and sent to barns where they were executed. The women and children were locked in a church which was then burned down. This ‘ghost’ town has been left as it was after the atrocities committed there in 1944 — a remembrance of a great evil.

It is written in the many pictures and stories of the death camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald and elsewhere throughout much of captive Europe.

The map below shows the ‘deportees’ taken from all parts of France — many infants and children included.

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Explanations?

Insanity — mass hypnosis — drugs — brain washing — propaganda — racism — cult following — religion?

None of these rise to a level of a reasonable explanation.

Satanic evil does.

Communism – the Forgotten Evil

And while all this was happening in western Europe, death on a much larger scale was happening as deliberate governmental policy under the umbrella of communism.  Hear what Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a survivor has to say …

“Godlessness: the First Step to the Gulag”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

And who do you think steps in to fill this gap?

 

France: A Place of History and Remembrance of That History

My first and most prominent impression of France after spending 5 weeks in Paris, including two trips to Normandie, was one of history and remembrance of that history.

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And this remembrance goes back many years — to this statue of Julius Caesar.  Caesar invaded and conquered what is now France and added this territory to the Roman Empire.  Rome was a brutal empire, and most likely many of the defeated in this conquest were made slaves. And yet, here is this statue of a Roman general, soon to be Emperor/dictator in a prominent place in a garden just outside the old Royal Palace, now the Louvre, a world famous museum.

Very early in our stay in Paris, I began to see the many monuments and remembrances of the long standing relationship between France and America.

This monument and rue (street) honoring Benjamin Franklin is a short walk from our apartment. Also in this area is a plaque honoring the French soldiers killed while fighting at the battle of Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolution.

Further on we see this large statue of General George Washington, placed on Avenue President Wilson.

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And along the River Seine, we find Avenue President Kennedy and Avenue New York. We also saw this scene while on the river.

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And at the foot of one of the many bridges we find this statue of Thomas Jefferson.

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And here’s George Washington with Marquis_de_Lafayette Lafayette, , an important French ally —

A place that was bristling with French history is the Pantheon. As you can see from these few pictures below, it is a place that displays history in the form of large paintings and statuary, including the French Revolution which was quite brutal and savage. I wish I could have understood the French language so as to more fully appreciate  what was being said.

Returning to the modern times of World War II, we see many memorials of a different sort — not the elegant buildings, paintings and statuary, but nonetheless, gripping in their impact.

The small village of Sainte-Mère-Église was the first village liberated by the allied invasion of Normandy. It is here you find these memorials —

On the road to this village I looked up at the wall of a very old building and saw three small, old and tattered flags: French British and American —  not in a prominent place, but an important place of remembrance for some French citizens who remember with gratitude.

The welling up of emotion continues here with this small town which was the first liberated following the Normandy landings.  The emotions are those of pride … pride of those that came before me and who sacrificed so much for the cause of liberty, and the rejection of those forces that would snuff it out.
The sculpture below is what we saw as we entered the town square of this small French town so close to the liberating armies landing beaches. Looking closely we can see profound symbolism — the parachute descending from above … two hands reaching up to that parachute … broken chains falling away from the hands … the church … and a defunct and obsolete symbol of war – the machine gun. And at the base we see the cliffs which US Army Rangers scaled in order to silence the German heavy artillery positioned to shell the landing beaches and the ships offshore. Note also the rope ladder those Rangers used to scale the cliffs.

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Then there is the small ‘ghost’ town of Oradour-sur-Glane where Nazi soldiers murdered 642 civilians including 205 children. The men were separated out and sent to barns where they were executed. The women and children were locked in a church which was then burned down. This ‘ghost’ town has been left as it was after the atrocities committed there in 1944 — a remembrance of a great evil.

 

In conclusion, I would advise America to be wise  and careful in this season of unrest and the many attempts to cleanse American history from anything and anyone that might offend.  Can we learn from the French?

See more  of my remembrances of Normandie at: https://travelswithdonanddianaparis2017.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/normandie/ as well as other places we visited in Paris.

 

France: The Cost of Liberation

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
Ronald Reagan

The cost of regaining freedom was enormous. Paid for by thousands of American, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers, sailors and airman.

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The Liberation of France

Five weeks in Paris including two trips to Normandie provides much for reflection and thought.

One such thread is the liberation of France and Europe, beginning on the beaches of Normandie in 1944.

So being of the curious type and always looking to learn something new, I  found some pictures of those days and would like to share.

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And why the jubilation and gratefulness on the part of the French?

holocaustIn four years of German/Nazi occupation, 200,000+ French citizens, mostly Jews, and many thousands of children and infants, were ‘deported’ to the death camps never to be seen or hugged again.

 

Don Johnson — September 2017

 

The Myth of American Innocence–a review of drivel


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https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/08/unlearning-the-myth-of-american-innocence  (Read for yourself.)

I’ve had this Guardian article in my sights for some time now, but have been holding off until after our month long stay in Paris with a trip to Normandy and Omaha Beach.

The author punches all the buttons of self-hate/America-hate that many such as her have developed in their cloistered world.

She talks of her winning a writing fellowship that took her to Turkey where she apparently was able to validate her theme of “the myth of American innocence.”  Reading her article multiple times leads me to think she remains in her academic-journalism bubble, and this article has the flavor of yet another entry in a writing contest.

She writes of a view of America and Americans she claims is held by foreigners (non-Americans). But she offers no ticket stubs of travel to nations other than Turkey, where she apparently has taken up permanent residence —  although I see from her book that she has also traveled to other predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt and Iran.  Others of us who have traveled to many other nations and have friends and family in places such as; Norway, Hungary, France, Czech Republic, Croatia, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand and elsewhere perhaps have a different experience of how America and Americans are viewed.

Muslim nations have long held anti-Western animosities, often resulting in wars of  invasion to forcefully conquer and displace Christianity and Judaism – indeed Western civilization — with Islam.  So it’s not surprising that Ms. Hansen would find herself  indoctrinated with the world view of the Islamic nations she has chosen to reside in. What she has apparently deprived herself of is the rich heritage of Western Civilization that Islam would seek to displace. 

So in keeping with Ms. Hansen’s anti-American screed, let’s take a tour of how some other peoples view American and Americans — beginning with Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a long and hard fought war waged in support of an ally and an effort to stem the spread of communism in that part of the world. Ms. Hansen talks of communism, but has no grasp of what it really was (is) – she writes:   “I knew that communism had gone away, but never learned what communism had actually been (“bad” was enough).”   Not that she will ever read this review, but let me inform her and others – communism in the 20th century is credited with taking the lives of some 100 million people over a period of 70 some years. And it was aggressively on the move during the era of the Cold War and the very hot Vietnam campaign of that war.  I have a friend that grew up under communism in Hungary, and in fact was wounded in the 1956 rebellion against that tyranny.

It reflects a failure and a bias of American education that the author grew up with such an extremely shallow knowledge of a history that occurred so  close to her lifetime. But, being a journalist, shouldn’t she have felt an obligation to self educate herself on the facts of communism? The information is there in abundance, especially in this day of the internet.  Perhaps her journalistic career at the New York Times Magazine (left wing), Vogue (women’s issues), Bookforum (book reviews)  and the Baffler (left wing) haven’t afforded her the opportunity or motivation to research topics she pontificates in this article.

Continuing with Vietnam, the war was won militarily and politically in 1973 by the American and South Vietnamese forces, and a peace treaty was signed in Paris which divided the nations along the DMZ. The peace treaty also included provisions for American material support of the self defense of South Vietnam against future aggression for the North.   

However, in 1975 the Democrat controlled US congress reneged on US treaty obligations and cut off all funding for the South Vietnam. This was a huge green light, and within months the North Vietnamese rolled into the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon.  

The alleged anti-American view the author attributes to other nations is expressed in part in her words:

American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others. How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.”

This excerpt shows a lack of understanding and misdirection of what is meant by “American Exceptionalism.” American Exceptionalism can, and should, be summarized by a few simple words – liberty and opportunity. It is through these simple words, put into practical application throughout American history, that the United States of American has become the greatest civilization the world has ever seen. Dr. Walter Williams summarizes it thusly:

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I don’t think this view of Ms. Hansen reflects the view of the many thousands of Vietnamese refugees that fled tyranny and almost certain death at the hands of the communist North Vietnamese conquers. You can get a feel for them in watching the documentary The Lucky Few at https://youtu.be/S9svL4j9xCc. I’ve talked with the Skipper and the Chief Engineer of that small American ship – USS Kirk — that rescued  some 30,000+ refugees, and have seen the lifelong bond and love exchanged between the crew of that ship and the refugees they rescued.

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The picture above is the Captain of the small US Navy destroyer USS Kirk and two of the 33,000 Vietnamese refugees that ship is credited with saving. The one on the right was so grateful to America that she added  Kirk as the middle name of her daughter.
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The same is true of the many (40,000+) Hungarian refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution who have contributed so much to American life.   I have written much on this —  read my article “Immigration & Assimilation – A Hungarian Model” at https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/immigration-assimilation-a-hungarian-model-2/ to get the flavor of these people – and in particular the story of my friend Adam von Dioszeghy. I have written a book “Budapest at War“ at http://www.blurb.com/b/8107619-budapest-at-war where I document a portion this man’s life and experiences through three wars; as a child in World War II, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and as a US Naval officer with three combat tours to Vietnam.  This man, when called up in the draft in the early build up to Vietnam, served willingly and with gratitude to the nation that had provided him liberty and opportunity. This book is a culmination of a personal tour  Adam gave us through the streets of Budapest where these events took place in his life.

The picture below is of Adam von Dioszeghy standing beside the stature of President Ronald Reagan in the Freedom Plaza near the Hungarian Parliament. Hungarians give much credit  to President Reagan and the United States for the freedoms they gained when Communism was finally defeated.  Similar statues are in Warsaw and Gdansk Poland in recognition of Reagan’s and America’s bringing liberty to Poland.
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So tell me again how much America is disliked by foreign nations.

Spending a month in Paris recently, with a visit to Normandy, the American Cemetery  and the small village of Sainte Mere Eglise gave me a taste of the gratitude the French feel for America.
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The picture below is one of two stained glass windows in the church at Sainte Mere Eglise where you can see Paratroopers of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Division depicted.

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Then there is this sculpture seen as you enter the town square. Looking closely you see two hands reaching skywards toward the paratrooper. And you see the chains broken away from those outstretched hands.
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And on the church, some 73 years later, you see the parachute draped around the church steeple where it got tangled – and in effigy is the American soldier dangling precariously above the German soldiers below (he survived).  
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In the visitors center at the American Cemetery I heard testimonies from French citizens such as one which I paraphrase  “these soldiers came from thousands of kilometers away and died by the thousands for us, and they didn’t even know us.”   

So tell me again Ms. Hansen, how much America is disliked by foreign nations.

Ms. Hansen writes much of white American Christianity, and its detriment to humanity, blacks in particular.  She culls out author James Baldwin in particular as someone who has had a good deal of influence in her thinking and her world view. It’s good to have role models, and I also have read James Baldwin in years past. But here again it seems Hansen falls very short as a journalist.

In singling out one man’s experience as a black in America, she rightfully shows how he eloquently presents what the typical experience has been for most blacks in American history.  However, she very well could have developed a more balanced view on the opportunity that American liberty provides – even under the most unlikely circumstances of life.

I speak here of  Condoleezza Rice, a black woman raised in the harsh poverty of segregationist Alabama. Included in Rice’s resume: – accomplished concert pianist, National Security Adviser to President George W Bush,  Secretary of State under President Bush, author, Provost and professor at Stanford University.

I speak of Dr. Benjamin  Carson, raised in the slums of Detroit and Boston by a illiterate single mother. Carson became a world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins and is now the  Secretary of Housing and Urban Renewal.

I speak of Dr. Thomas Sewell, raised in the slums of New York City and on his own at 17 with no job, no money, no education and very little prospects for the future. Sewell became a prominent economist and a syndicated commentator  on economic, social, cultural and political issues. 

I speak of Charles Payne, a financial commentator at Fox Business News.   Payne grew up poor in Harlem in a single parent home. He founded  ‘Wall Street Strategies’ and is its chief executive officer and principal financial analyst.

And there’s many more …

Ms. Hansen should expand her knowledge of successful blacks beyond her selected few (actually she singles out only one). 

Hansen writes of American patriotism, actually mocking it  …

“ … Mostly what I remember of that war in Iraq was singing God Bless the USA on the school bus – I was 13 – wearing little yellow ribbons and becoming teary-eyed as I remembered the video of the song I had seen on MTV.

‘And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free’

That “at least” is funny. We were free – at the very least we were that. Everyone else was a chump, because they didn’t even have that obvious thing. Whatever it meant, it was the thing that we had, and no one else did. It was our God-given gift, our superpower.

At the risk of repeating myself (but repetition can be a good teacher) , perhaps our world savvy journalist should travel to the small French town of Sainte Mere Eglise, the first town liberated following the allied landings at Normandy during World War II. I just came from there, and can say with pride I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
  This little town bristles with memorabilia expressing gratitude and thanks to those American soldiers that brought back liberty to their Nazi (real Nazis) occupiers. The small church where a paratrooper had his Parachute hung up on the church steeple now has two stained glass windows depicting those soldiers.

On entry to the village square you see this sculpture pictured here:

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Looking closely we see profound symbolism — the parachute descending from above … two hands reaching up to that parachute … broken chains falling away from the hands … the church … and a defunct and obsolete symbol of war – the machine gun.

Travel beyond New Jersey and Turkey might lend a bit of realism to Ms. Hansen’s idea of how much of the world views American and Americans.

She writes of racism in America and the western nations, and quotes Baldwin:

“ … But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

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All of the western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the west has no moral authority.

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White Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any colour, to be found in the world today. … “

Again, Ms. Hansen shows an abysmal lake of knowledge of history, both world and American history.

Slavery was common throughout world history throughout the world, including in the wide spread British empire, and the British colonies in the American South. 

However, in the early 1800s, largely through the heroic lifelong struggle of William Wilberforce, a white Christian Englishman and member of Parliament, the slave trade,  slavery and the very philosophical and scientific rational for slavery was abolished in the British Empire – did you get that Suzy Hansen? A white Christian man.

Slavery was abolished in the United States much later, at the price of some 600,000+ lives lost, mostly young white Americans. And the motivation for the American anti-slavery abolitionist movement was – ready Ms. Hansen? White American Christian men and women who viewed slavery as a grave sin.

Predictably Ms. Hansen throws in the obligatory attack on capitalism with this … “No matter how well I knew the predatory aspects of capitalism … “  Yes, we know that capitalism has its flaws and excesses. Though not explicitly stated in this article, one could get the impression  that Ms. Hansen would prefer a state controlled economy. But all that would do would be to consolidate all of capitalism’s flaws  and failings under a single unaccountable and tyrannical government. That’s called socialism, of whatever strip. And it has been a failure, most often catastrophic,  wherever and whenever tried in history – Venezuela being the most recent and visible failure.

Ms. Hansen, as a journalist and historian,  also fails to recognize that the American style of free market capitalism has brought more liberty, prosperity and wealth to more people around the world than any other form of economic system. China, where there was widespread poverty and famine in recent decades has become an economic juggernaut in recent years by introducing a form of capitalism into its still autocratic communist political system.

I will conclude this review of drivel with another excerpt from Hansen’s article and a few concluding comments on American Exceptionalism.

“ … American exceptionalism had declared my country unique in the world, the one truly free and modern country, and instead of ever considering that that exceptionalism was no different from any other country’s nationalistic propaganda, I had internalised[sic] this belief. Wasn’t that indeed what successful propaganda was supposed to do? I had not questioned the institution of American journalism outside of the standards it set for itself – which, after all, was the only way I would discern its flaws and prejudices; instead, I accepted those standards as the best standards any country could possibly have. … “

Wow … quite an indictment, not only of American Exceptionalism, but American journalism as well, calling it ‘nationalistic propaganda’.  Journalism by its very nature is often biased and non-objective – witness the very biased anti-Trump reporting and commentary of the New York Times. But for the most part it has done a credible job in presenting news and opinion. But I would not use the very broad brush that Ms. Hansen uses here to slam American Journalism as a whole.

To supplement the daily dish of news and commentary we get from journalists, print or media, it is good to read good substantive and well researched history books. I wonder if Ms. Hansen delves much into this rich world.

One such book I would recommend is “The Miracle of Freedom – 7 Tipping Points the Saved the World” by Chris and Ted Stewart. I’ve read this book several times and have written a review of it at https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/the-miracle-of-freedom-the-american-baseline/

A major point this book makes is the rarity of freedom. The authors point out that in all of human history, in all places and at all times, a very small fraction of people have ever lived in what many of us know as freedom. And, of that small percentage (<4%) most have lived in the relatively recent lifespan of the United States of America with its constitution,  and nations who have adopted similar forms of representative governments. That coupled with the Condoleezza Rice book – Democracy – which I mentioned above give much credence to the claims of those who view the history of the United States as one of American Exceptionalism. 

Ms. Hansen’s view of America, American history and American Exceptionalism, I must say is very wrong — ignorant of history — much off target —  and very damaging.

Don Johnson – September 2017



Virtue and the Moral Fall of Civilization

I post this essay in full from Daniel Greenfield at http://sultanknish.blogspot.fr/2017/08/virtue-and-moral-fall-of-civilization.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

And include more of the John Adams quote:

“ … because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry,  would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. … “           John Adams.


Virtue and the Moral Fall of Civilization

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Benjamin Franklin
“Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.”  Thomas Paine
“It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.” Patrick Henry

Civilizations fall rapidly due to an inescapable catastrophe. Water sources dry up. A powerful empire invades.
Civilizations fall slowly due to a moral catastrophe. A moral catastrophe is not a failure of arms or food. It’s a failure of the sustaining virtues of the civilization. As the society tumbles slowly downward, it will encounter defeat in battle, collapse of its infrastructure and food shortages. But these are symptoms, not causes. The cause is the degeneration of the society and its people.
A civilization is not a mechanical endeavor, but a moral one. The virtues that uphold a civilization, the ability to reason, to work hard, to study how to solve a problem, to sacrifice now for future gain, to cooperate with those outside the tribe, to value truth, beauty and goodness for their own sake are individual, but they are also social. A society that cultivates these virtues in people can prosper. As society loses these virtues, it grows dysfunctional. It loses winnable wars, it squanders vast wealth, it loses its work ethics, its ability to cooperate and to plan for the long term. It slowly dies.
Barbarians are not savages because they wear loincloths or bones through their noses, or even because they lack the majority of these virtues, but because they lack the ability to appreciate them. A barbarian who appreciates civilizational virtues can become civilized, but a civilized barbarian may wear a suit and tie, but is still a savage because he cannot even appreciate the virtues of his ancestors.
As a civilization declines, it becomes barbaric. Before the savages invade it from the outside, its own people have become savages. They enthusiastically welcome the savages. They are drawn to the culture and norms of the savages because these echo their own descent into barbarism. The cult of the noble savage is simply civilized barbarians glamorizing their own descent down the moral ladder.
Civilized men and women have principles. Such principles are the intersection of ideals and interests. Ideals on their own easily fall into an abstract nobility that can manifest as anything from sainthood to self-destructive aspiration. Interests on their own leave selfish people incapable of maintaining anything greater than themselves. Virtue negotiates between interests and ideals. This negotiation is expressed as a principle. A principle realizes an ideal and localizes it in an interest.
Utopians kill and die for ideals. The Nazis, Communists and Islamists are Utopians. Civilized men live and fight for principles. Utopianism is a civilizational degeneracy. It usually precedes barbarism. Sensing the decline, men and women embrace some pure ideal, they idealize equality or race, and set off on a quest to construct a new civilization around it by destroying the existing civilization. They are convinced that their ideal will create a civilization that can live forever. When their ideal fails, they revert to their barbarian roots by worshiping the shamanic personality force of their leader. And these new barbarians murder, scream and cavort around the fire convinced that their new god can stave off the fall of night. And when the fires goes out, all that remains is ash, horror and rubble.
Civilized men and women understood that nothing mortal is immortal. That which is best in us, is virtue. It is that, which in our flawed and humble way, makes us closest to the God that made us. Our principles are how we aspire to keep that faith. When we lose our principles, we destroy whatever it was we sought to preserve, we become our own worst enemies and bring about our own destruction.
Principles are defined at their farthest end by what we must do and what we would never do. But their soul is self-awareness. The essence of virtue is to know thyself. Few are so innately good that they can always do the right thing without ever examining and questioning themselves. It is this self-examination through conscience that is the great moral labor of all religion and philosophy.
Everyone is naturally inclined to believe in their own goodness. But goodness comes from questioning one’s own worth and examining one’s own deeds. It comes from transcending our emotions, our anger and our pain, our self-pity, jealousy, resentment and vengefulness to become better than we are. The essence of virtue is not doing what comes naturally, but controlling the natural impulse and rising above it. That is how civilizations are built. We build civilizations by transcending ourselves. We destroy them by giving and taking permission to fall to our worst impulses.
Interests and ideals tend to opposite ends. In war, ideals may say that one should never kill and interests counsel one to survive by fleeing the battlefield. Virtues guide us to principles that overcome the extremes by finding our higher responsibility in the intersection of ideal and interest.
Civilizations depend on responsible people. It is the people who come to work every day and do their best who keep a country running. It is the soldiers who advance to the enemy and return fire, who win wars. It is leaders who do the difficult things who leave their country better than they found it. It is the men and women who search their souls, who leave this world better people than they entered it.
In a declining civilization, there are few responsible people. There are many who will want a title, but few who will do the job. There are many who will shout, but few who will reason. There are many who will wave a flag, but few who will fight for a cause. There are many who would destroy, but few who will build. There are many who will lecture, but few who will do.
In a civilization on the verge of a moral catastrophe, the invocation of virtues and principles is met with contemptuous laughter. It is widely understood that irresponsible behavior is better, that decency is for weaklings and fools, that anger is the only true virtue that suffices to achieve all ends. Manners vanish like autumn leaves in a breeze. Moral compasses show nothing. Intellectual consistency ceases to matter. Men believe contradictory things at different hours of the day. Illusory victories are always being achieved even as real defeats follow.
We wonder why great civilizations fall. Couldn’t the Romans see what was coming? The first thing that goes in a moral catastrophe is virtue, the second is reason, the third is foresight, the fourth is competence and the fifth is self-control. And by then you have barbarians in the midst of civilization.
When virtue goes, civilizations rationalize destructive behavior. When reason goes, they become unable to even think about a problem with any degree of consistency. When foresight goes, they no longer understand consequences. When all those are gone, competence is all but  impossible. When there is no self-control, nothing matters anymore.
Civilizations are built on virtue. Without virtue, there is no civilization.