Rebirth of Reason


Civilisation under siege
by Peter Cresswell

If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere, It's up to you, New York, New York!

This was a declaration of war - but a declaration by whom, and against what?

2,500 people were killed in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in 1942. Today, in mainland USA, many many more have been killed in appalling scenes as America was left defenceless. Airline security was exposed. The Pentagon was breached. The glory of the New York skyline was rent asunder; the twin towers of the World Trade Centre - shining spires of capitalism and twin symbols for man's achievement - are no more. With their destruction, that skyline now stands like a mouthful of broken teeth, and many of capitalism's best and brightest - who moments before had been going about their daily business - have been destroyed, their lives snuffed out in those formerly gleaming spires.

Manhattan and Washington were in chaos. The whole world was in shock. Almost the whole world - for this disaster was no accident. It was the result of careful and calculated cunning on the part of someone.

But whoever committed this outrage, and whatever they claim to stand for, it is clear enough what they are against: As former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said soon after the disaster, this was an attack against civilisation itself.

The New York skyline represents one of man's highest achievements - the World Trade Center towers represented that skyline's financial district - the very engine of capitalism - those working in downtown New York are capitalism's best. Today, instead of buying, selling and investing, the world's best and brightest were burnt alive, crushed, or were jumping to their deaths.

What caused this was an act of piracy by everything that slithers against everything that stands - or stood - erect; by the very lowest, against the very highest that civilisation has to offer. And, as in the days of piracy on the high seas, this modern savagery must be stamped out by a fierce uncompromising commitment to the protection and sanctity of innocent human lives.

Civilisation has today been attacked by savages armed only with carpet knives, and it must learn how to defend itself against such an enemy. It has not yet armed itself with the weapons to do so - either philosophically, or militarily. Unfortunately, it must.

The point is often made that the best defence against terrorism is a steely resolve, and an excellent intelligence service. In the last few decades both have been absent, but the lack of steely resolve is the hardest to remedy for such resolve will only come from an uncompromising commitment to the very values that uphold civilisation, and to an unswerving defence of those values - and commitment on the level required necessitates the philosophical weapons to understand and defend and those values.

For what makes someone hijack a jumbo jet and then fly it suicidally into a 110 storey skyscraper above teeming city streets if not their commitment to horrific ideas? What makes them want to kill on this scale? And to kill themselves in the process? Only the power of ideas can fuel such evil - evil ideas. Evil ideas can only be fought with better ones, which means you must have better ideas with which to defend yourself. In the long term, only the philosophy of Objectivism can provide the necessary philosophical weapons.

But America isn't armed. America has lost its way. America is not sure of itself or of its founding values, and instead it thrashes around on the world stage, posturing as the world's policeman and becoming instead a world pariah. In part, much world anger against America comes about through righteous disgust at such unprincipled American actions as the bombing of Belgrade, or of Kosovo, or of Sudanese pharmaceutical factories.

But that said, it is clear that much disgust with America springs also from anti-capitalist, mystic, barbaric, stone-age savagery, and it is crucial that whatever action is taken distinguishes itself by being an uncompromisingly principled action against all such forms of barbarism.

That action must be both internal and external, and there are supreme dangers with both. For nothing is surer than that this barbarism was an attack on civilisation itself, and civilisation must needs survive the barbarism.

It will not survive if civilisation itself resorts to barbarism.

Internally, there is no choice but to increase internal security. Britain has been under terrorist siege for three decades, often struggling to remain on the right side of rights protection, but it offers a good model for resisting an internal terrorist threat - a stiff upper lip, a business-as-usual attitude to disaster, and a swift response to barbarity. But with regard to its internal policies (as Gayle Dean points out), the US might reflect that its government "would do well to stop wasting time, money, and resources trying to control its citizens lives domestically --it should cease financing statist welfare programs, suits against Microsoft, and ridiculous wars on drugs-- and turn its focus back to the proper functions of government, i.e., protecting its citizens from foreign aggression and terrorism" - something at which it has signally failed.

America must protect itself against foreign aggressors. As Ehud Barak said, other member countries of today's civilisation must join with America in wiping out this modern-day piracy, as our forefathers once joined together to wipe out piracy on the high seas. America must wield a righteous sword against all aggressors, and all those threatening aggression against it, but it risks barbarism when it talks about nuking so-called "terrorist states" back to the stone age. The stone age is where that idea comes from.

America must know who it is attacking, and it must know why. Retributive action should not be an angry, directionless thrashing around. It must not be the very thing that America is itself fighting - and, fortunately, this President Bush - unlike his father, and Clinton - seems to understand that point. As Barbara Branden points out, "Bush said something very important during his talk: he said that we will go after the terrorists and also *those who harbor them.* This has never been said before; always, we have targeted only the terrorists themselves. This time, it not enough that we put a few terrorists in prison; we must go after the source and destroy it and thereby send a warning to terrorists all over the world."

It is clear enough that nothing in America will ever be the same again. And not just America - nothing in the world will ever be the same. Civilisation is under threat, and each of us must ask ourselves: where do I stand with respect to the values that underpin civilisation, and that civilisation represents? What have I done to support those values - or to smear them? What have I done to uphold those values, or to spit on them?

In that context and after this outrage, the upcoming WalkforCapitalism becomes even more important. It is now a time to stand up for the values that underpin our civilisation, and that support our own lives. We must stand up for those values, and be seen to do so - and the WalkforCapitalism offers a timely opportunity to do so.

For, as SOLO contributor Bill Grazier said: "Although those bastards can kill our citizens, they'll never kill the human spirit, never extinguish joy or love or friendship... as long as we maintain our strength and dignity, then these bastards will never defeat us."

Let us resolve that they won't. See you on the Walk!

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