September 20, 2005


Velvet Revolutions and the Logic of Terrorism (Frederick Turner, 9/20/05, Tech Central Station)

Though one can at a stretch describe the Taliban as traditionalists opposing the corruptions of global market capitalism, al Qaeda is a quintessentially cosmopolitan, big-business financed, historicist, international intellectual movement, as globalist in its own way as Microsoft. [...]

Why did suicide terror metastasize from Israel to the world? What is the basic political enemy of the global terrorist movement? What is it designed to attack? Though it would be tempting to say that the target is the democratic state, the evidence does not quite support it. Many existing democratic states were left alone, and coexisted with, for years before suicide terror emerged, and are so still.

I believe that the evidence points clearly to one target. Thirty years ago it looked as if the totalitarian state was solidly established, successful and immortal. Democratic capitalism had been stopped in its tracks. The nuclear-armed socialist dictatorship could not be attacked or defeated; it could at best be contained, and none of its incremental marginal conquests could be rolled back. Marvelously, however, a new strategy emerged, invented by the world's middle-class populations, that could bring down the totalitarian state: the velvet revolution. Totalitarian governments rely on elites to govern and control the people and defend themselves against outside ideas. Those elites must reproduce themselves, creating a property-owning educated class with great power but without the revolutionary ideology of their parents; and to remain economically viable the state must produce a skilled artisan class, like the shipbuilders of Gdansk, with the capacity to unionize. Out of these materials, generated by totalitarianism itself, comes the velvet revolution.

The velvet revolution (also named the orange revolution, the purple finger, the rose revolution, the cedar revolution) has swept the world. In different ways, nonviolent, non-ideological middle-class and skilled-worker mass movements have unseated tyrants and established democracies in an amazing range of countries: Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Bangladesh, South Korea, Indonesia, the Baltic states, Mexico, Serbia, Albania, Georgia, the Ukraine, the Philippines, Lebanon, even Palestine, all fell to the regimes of popular sovereignty. China nearly fell in 1989, with the Tiananmen protest, and will become a democracy some time in the next twenty years. If there is one defining event that characterizes the end of twentieth century political modernism, it is this one.

The suicide bomb, with the mass terrorism it epitomizes, is the weapon of choice against the velvet revolution. The target is not, as well-meaning critics of terrorism say, indiscriminate: it is exact and precise. The target is any population that might organize a velvet revolution, the potential sovereigns of a democratic state. It is people who are not ideological, who are willing to let others believe what they want, who want to make a living and be independent, and who want a say in their government.

Seen from this perspective, the Islamicists are the last of the True Believer movements. This angle also allows us to see why the Left and far Right, still wedded to the previously defeated movements, would hate George Bush and Tony Blair more than they do Osama and company.

No kids please, we're selfish (Lionel Shriver, September 17, 2005, The Guardian)

To be almost ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our private devising. We are less concerned with leading a good life than the good life. We are less likely than our predecessors to ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask if we are happy. We shun values such as self-sacrifice and duty as the pitfalls of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and don't especially care what happens once we're dead. As we age - oh, so reluctantly! - we are apt to look back on our pasts and ask not 'Did I serve family, God and country?' but 'Did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat?' We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.

If that package sounds like one big moral step backwards, the Be Here Now mentality that has converted from 60s catchphrase to entrenched gestalt has its upside. There has to be some value to living for today, since at any given time today is all you've got. We justly cherish characters capable of fully inhabiting "the moment", of living, as a drummer might say, "in the pocket". We admire go-getters determined to pack their lives with as much various experience as time and money provide, who never stop learning, engaging, and savouring what every day offers - in contrast to dour killjoys who are resentful and begrudging as they bitterly do their duty. For the role of humble server, helpmate and facilitator no longer to constitute the sole model of womanhood surely represents progress for which I am personally grateful. Furthermore, prosperity may naturally lead any well-off citizenry to the final frontier: the self, whose borders are as narrow or infinite as we make them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2005 2:17 PM

Each month, my wife leads a group of young home-schooled girls to visit old women that have been warehoused in a local nursing home. Most of these helpless old women spent their youth investing in self. Today they are collecting the dividends from that investment. The grandchildren of these girls will most likely be surrounded by a loving supportive family when those grandchildren ‘turn’ ninety-five.

Posted by: tgn at September 20, 2005 3:10 PM

Islamism is "...the last of the True Believer movements"? Maybe, let's hope so, but it's probably just the latest.

Posted by: Brandon at September 20, 2005 4:44 PM

oj wrote: "This angle also allows us to see why the Left and far Right, still wedded to the previously defeated movements, would hate George Bush and Tony Blair more than they do Osama and company"

To many of us, you are the "far Right", oj! You must mean the ultra far, incredibly extreme, far, far, far, far Right.

Posted by: Bret at September 20, 2005 7:56 PM

Bret: OJ is not a conservative. He is a self-confessed admirer of the "third way", a euphemism for socialism. He is a self-confessed admirer of Tony Blair, a socialist. Down below, he suggests that President Bush is indistinguishable from Blair and Kofi Annan. He rejects nationalism but believes that the state must be used to shape the culture. He sees democracy and freedom as merely means to the ultimate end, which is the spiritual health of society, as he defines it. Lots of people are fooled by OJ, because he is outspoken about a couple of reactionary social positions and because he's decided that the Republican Party is a better bet to take him where he wants to go than the Democrats. There is, though, nothing particularly conservative about his politics.

As for the post, it's a useful way to think about these issues. However, it is a little goody-goody about the collapse of communism. It wasn't entirely because the dictators suddenly saw the light or because the power of the people, united, can never be defeated. It's also because the US, against the odds and only by the skin of our nose, executed a 50 year plan to win WWII.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 20, 2005 8:40 PM

David's is a pluperfect summary of what separates compassionate conservatism from conservatism:

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society, The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture to save it from itself.
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The Third Way just recognizes the central truths of the First (conservative) and Second (liberal) Ways and uses politics to aid society rather than the state.

Posted by: oj at September 20, 2005 8:49 PM

Orrin is, without a shred of doubt, a conservative.

Some confuse his authoritarian ideas and ideals with socialism, but they're really theocratic.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 21, 2005 12:00 AM


I didn't say oj was a conservative - I said he was far Right, as I consider anyone who is a member of the religious right. As Michael Herdegen points out, oj's views (at least from my perspective) are "theocratic."

Now, keep in mind that I've been very impressed with the rationality, logic, and consistency of oj's views (as expressed on this blog). If one accepts his basic premises, nearly everything else follows logically (except, perhaps his anti-evolution stance is on somewhat shaky ground, in my opinion).

Posted by: Bret at September 21, 2005 1:30 AM

Like most of us, OJ is a mass of contradictions. But that's not quite right. Rather, he's got a take on everything, and on some of those things he's on the Right, and on many he's not.

But that's as it should be.

If somebody just takes the orthodox Right or Left or Third Way view on everything, that usually means he hasn't really thought about anything.

Posted by: Brit at September 21, 2005 4:49 AM

Theocracy is an odd charge to lodge against someone as heterodox as OJ. As Harry Eagar has noted, OJ's religious beliefs would have gotten him burned at the stake as a heretic back when the theocrats were last in power. Although I'm no expert, I wonder whether OJ even counts as a Christian, for any church more rigorous about its theology then the Unitarians, who would bounce him anyway for homophobia.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 21, 2005 8:22 AM

I'm with Ike:

“[O]ur form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept but it must be a religion that all men are created equal.”

So long as a man believes in the God of Abraham there's room for him in a decent society.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 9:32 AM

The Church of England would have him. They'll let anybody in.

Though they might frown upon his anti-darwinism.

Posted by: Brit at September 21, 2005 9:42 AM

So long as a man believes in the God of Abraham there's room for him in a decent society. I assume you mean objectively, rather than subjectively.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 21, 2005 10:10 AM

One needn't have a personal experience of God in order to believe in Him.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 10:43 AM

A decent society wouldn't have that kind of test.

See (iirc) US Constitution, Article 6.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2005 11:37 AM

Okay, if not a theocrat, a neopseudotheocrat, or a neotheo for short.

Posted by: Bret at September 21, 2005 11:44 AM

You can't exclude the irreligious without imposing theocracy. Democracy and theocracy cannot coexist.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 21, 2005 11:45 AM

Robert: Why do you think OJ loves Iran?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 21, 2005 12:24 PM

I'll put my question to OJ a little differently: I assume you mean "lives his life in accordance with Judeo-Christian morality, even if he derived his ethics himself using rigorous logic starting from universally accepted first principles without reference to outmoded superstition"?

Posted by: David Cohen at September 21, 2005 12:26 PM


Yes, folks like Robert who think they've coincidentally arrived at strict Judeo-Christian values by the operations of their own reason are tolerable freeloaders.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 1:18 PM


Yes, the clause is on point. It matters not what sect you are, so a test is inappropriate. It suffices that fealty to the Constitution requires that one be a follower of the God of Abraham.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 1:19 PM

We can likewise tolerate Judeo-Christians who believe that all standards of human morality originated with the Ten Commandments. Of course, according to OJ if we truly followed those standards we would be a thoroughly dysfunctional society, as morality is not functional.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 21, 2005 2:29 PM

Unless tempered by compassion.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 2:49 PM


Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 21, 2005 3:02 PM

It suffices that fealty to the Constitution requires that one be a follower of the God of Abraham.

It suffices? Suffices what?

The only thing fealty to the Constitution requires is fealty to the Constitution.

It sure as heck doesn't require any, as in nada, nil, zilch, religious test.

Presuming of course, you obey the Constitution.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2005 9:48 PM

Yes, a religious test would be inappropriate because it doesn't matter what form your belief in the Creator takes so long as you accept that the rights the constitution preserves derive from Him. All of the Abrahamic sects are equal.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2005 10:59 PM

No wonder you threw the toys out of the pram over that whole God-given morality thing.

Posted by: Brit at September 22, 2005 4:23 AM


Yes, it's the only questioon that matters in human affairs.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2005 7:36 AM

Belief in some Creator, be he hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin, is completely irrelevant to finding the Constitution worthy of profound respect.

In fact, believing none of us are born to any position of superiority is essential, and foreign to any monotheistic theology.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2005 7:46 AM

No Creator, no Constitution. Your secondary faith is sufficient though, even if you can't arrive at its justification via Reason.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2005 8:23 AM

No Creator, same constitution minus a few words.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2005 12:06 PM



Posted by: oj at September 22, 2005 1:25 PM