ESR still at it July 19, 2006Posted by joemomma in Iraq, Middle East.
smiffy’s latest post reminded me of a classic “Suicide of the West” rant by Eric S. Raymond, who is best known for inspiring the open source software movement with his essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar. In “Suicidalism“, Raymond argues that not only is there a decadent strand of defeatism running through western society, but that this strand was in fact deliberately put there by the KGB during the Cold War. I don’t have much to add to my previous discussion of that post on politics.ie, but I did revisit ESR’s site today to see where he’s at at present.
Delightfully, his latest post is based around a quote from Caligula, “Let them hate, so long as they fear“. He has seized on the fact that a Palestinian group released a hostage when they discovered him to be American as proof that such people are now reluctant to mess with the US lest they end up like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
…having even bush-league terrorists fear harming Americans is a good start, and as neat a vindication of George Bush’s foreign policy and the war in Iraq as anyone could ask for. The war is not, after all, breeding terrorists; it’s killing the leaders and frightening the small fry into letting go their victims.
It’s a bit of flimsy vindication at best, but sadly for ESR, it turns out that the reason this particular hostage was released is that the hostage-takers were looking for an Israeli hostage to swap for Palestinian prisoners. As the gunmen were from the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade associated with Fatah, they are not particularly motivated to seek a confrontation with the US, on whose support they will certainly rely in the future. If anything, the episode demonstrates that those groups with whom you have an open dialogue are less likely to target your citizens than those you are simply bombing from a great height.
It feels a little unworthy to engage with a crazy like ESR, as I’m not aware of anyone who takes him seriously in this context. However I find his output compelling in a train crash sort of way. Also, I will use any excuse to quote the below comment from somebody called Adrian which was appended to his “Suicidalism” post. The quote from ESR in italics is supposed to be characteristic of the decadent western intelligentsia:
There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
There’s an oversimplification. Western culture (which you will doubtless wish to separate into decaying European and vital American branches so you can continue to relish the thought of France being laid waste by rioting groups of unemployed Algerians) is unquestionably more comfortable than the Afghan alternative – but excessive comfort *has* been known to breed decadence in one or two empires in the past which might have lessons for the attentive today.
One standard which could be used to judge cultures is whether they’re sustainable, and there are a few people around who suspect that Western culture isn’t, simply on the grounds of the energy it uses. Now I know you’re going to say that that’s pessimistic and defeatist, and if we’d just become cheerleaders for funky stuff like pebble bed reactors and solar power satellites and abiotic oil and accept that The Market Will Provide Everything If Only You Just Believe then there will be plenty of energy for the whole Third World to consume at First World standards and we can keep expanding our GNP until we’ve eaten the local group of galaxies and anyone who disagrees with you is stupid and precognitive and duped by Stalinists and lower than vole scrota and ought to be shot for objectively supporting our enemies etc. etc. etc. But really – the Caliphate is a hopeless fantasy of dreaming nutbars, unless you want to delineate how it comes about as I suggested earlier. Your heavily-armed ass is safe from shar’ia no matter how many latte-sipping quiche eaters in your suburb think Osama may have had a point about something or other. Whether it’s safe from Peak Oil is another matter, though hopefully that will turn out to be a fantasy as well, eh?
OTOH, everyone needs a hobby.
Lovely stuff, I hope you’ll agree.