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August 31, 2004

Murder and the Middle-Aged Ladies in Cambridge

Via The Right Coast, The
reports on the London Review of Books's sympathy for the 9-11 terrorists:...


In the aftermath of September 11, the magazine ran a series of essays,
Reflections on the Present Crisis, from 29 leading writers - or the "usual
suspects", depending on your point of view. One contributor, Mary Beard, a
Cambridge classics don, provoked much complaint with her view that the World
Trade Centre bombers had committed "an extraordinary act of bravery", and
suggested that "however tactfully you dress it up, the United States had it
coming". She concluded: "World bullies, even if their heart is in the right
place, will in the end pay the price."

This provoked an outraged response - even a boycott, ....

All this in a magazine that, on its website, meekly devotes itself to "carrying
on the tradition of the English essay". Its editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, is still
somewhat bemused. (One gets the impression that she lives in a permanent state of bemusement, but then, that's bookish types for you.) "I'm amazed. Only a psychopathic lunatic would think that a middle-aged woman sitting in Cambridge would think that 5,000 people deserved to die.

No-- that is precisely the lesson of this magazine issue. The middle-aged
woman sitting in Cambridge, in a carefully crafted essay, did say she thought
the 5,000 people deserved to die. I think she said it because she believed it.
We usually underestimate the viciousness of the Culture War, just as we
underestimated the viciousness of the Cold War-- or, more generally the Struggle
Against Communism from 1870 to the present. It's hard to believe it, but there
are nice, middle-aged people with advanced degrees who want to take away all my
property and kill me, because they think I am a bad person. This was quite
clearly the Communist line, and it is, less overtly, still the line of many on
the left today. My weblog-on-homosexuality episode in Fall 2003 showed a bit of
this feeling, but most of us don't get attacked personally, so it is hard for us
to believe. Yet it follows logically from commonly held positions. Is inequality
evil? Then you who own more property than average are evil and the government
should take away your property-- as, indeed, it does to a small extent with the
progressive income tax. Is it evil to say that homosexuality is a sin? Then
those who say such evil things ought to be punished. Is it evil that Israelis
live where only Arabs once did? Then Israel ought to be eliminated.

Americans are so bourgeois, ethnocentric, and ignorant of history that they
have a hard time grasping that respect for human life and property in general
(as opposed to the life and property of one's comrades) is not the norm in human
morality. Communism and Nazism had the courage to break away from bourgeois
Christian morality, and thus we had Stalin and Hitler killing millions of
people. I don't know if Hitler had middle-aged women from Cambridge supporting
him in this endeavor, but Stalin certainly had numerous genteel Cambridge grads
who hoped that the Soviet Union would conquer Britain and murder its leaders,
and they put themselves in great personal danger to betray their country to him.
We must remember that sincerity, courage, and charm are evils, not goods, if put
to bad use, and just because somebody smiles nicely does not mean he does not
wish you to die.

Posted by erasmuse at August 31, 2004 10:13 PM

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