The Long View 2008-03-24: Children of Men; Central Planning & Global Warming; The West Today; Mission to Islam


John J. Reilly was the guy who taught me that populism doesn’t have to be contrary to effective government:

Today we need to distinguish "central planning" from the maintenance and development of public institutions that are essential infrastructure for civil society.

Children of Men; Central Planning & Global Warming; The West Today; Mission to Islam

It was Alfanso Cuaron's privilege to turn P.D. James's novel, Children of Men, into a movie about the Iraq War. At any rate, I gather that's what he did with it; I have not seen the film. I have read the book, though, which is a profound allegory about sterility and modernity; and also, whether by accident or design, the best fictional treatment we have so far of the implications of the Birth Dearth. But look, the interpretive deficit may soon be made good:

Bionic Woman executive producer David Eick told SCI FI Wire that he's working on a pilot script for a proposed TV series based on Children of Men, P.D. James' SF novel, which also inspired Alfonso Cuaron's 2006 film of the same name.

"It's really taking root more in the origins of the novels in that it will focus on the cultural movement in which young people become the society's utter focus"...Eick added that Children of Men will question how society defines responsibility, freedom and a sense of values when it doesn't necessarily believe humans will survive as a species...."It's not really a war show like the movie was. It's more an exploration of that issue."

In treating the story for the screen, perhaps the place to start would be the film version of On the Beach. But more upbeat.

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On Central Planning and Global Warming, David Warren has these thoughts:

[T]he plausibility of “democratic” central planning on a gargantuan scale emerged, in the West, from the circumstances of a World War. After that war, the idea of the “mixed economy” replaced it, as a kind of compromise. Free enterprise became our engine of wealth, while state bureaucracies expanded alongside, their parasitical “sustainable growth” depending upon ever higher levels of taxation. The “new Western man” is half-free, with approximately half our earnings retained, and half surrendered to the Moloch, which tells us how to live with ever-growing self-confidence.

But to get beyond this half-measure, the central planners need a war. The “climate change” and “global warming” scares are intended to provide this war, and justify Moloch in seizing the rest of our earnings, property, and freedom.

Certainly the expansion of state intervention in social matters and economics was an aspect the of the long period of mobilization that the West experienced in the first half of the 20th century. So were antibiotics and heavier-than-air aviation. "War Socialism" is a slogan of the era of World War I, but it seems to me that the war was more responsible for creating the socialism rather than the other way around. Also, the process began much earlier, at least as early as the American Civil War.

Today we need to distinguish "central planning" from the maintenance and development of public institutions that are essential infrastructure for civil society. Both President Roosevelts, if you ask me, were chiefly interested in the latter, though FDR did have his Stalinist Five-Year Plan moods. Be that as it may, Warren is right about the political uses of Global Warming. Whatever you think about the warming itself, the people who are keenest to manage it are just bossy in a way that almost no one is about pure economics these days.

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Good News for the Federation of the West, though Daniel Drezner understandably does not recognize it as such, to judge from his piece in Newsweek, A Stupid Conversation. He was writing about the stupidity he found at the Brussels Forum, "an all-star confab orchestrated by the German Marshall Fund (GMF)," where he found the discussions backward-looking and irrelevant:

As the United States and Europe bicker, the Atlantic alliance is losing influence...America and Europe face political, economic and demographic challenges to their longstanding primacy...[R]elations between America and Europe have recovered significantly from the trough of 2002-2003...[however] it is far from clear whether Washington and Brussels are truly focused on external challenges and threats... any effort to present a common external front gets sidetracked by persistent questions about defining Europe's borders...The United States is just as incapable of action... [F]or state-building to proceed in Afghanistan, military efforts need to be augmented with civilian efforts...there was "a substantial gap" between military and civilian capacities for crisis management...In Afghanistan, NATO is paralyzed by the fact that only the Canadians are willing to send troops to the Kandahar region...If the United States and European Union cannot agree on reducing agricultural subsidies, how can they possibly agree on how to reduce global warming? Perhaps the magic is still there, but as [French Foreign Minister Bernard] Kouchner gloomily concluded, "I knew what was the West, and I don't know what the West is now."

The unity of the West was at greatest danger in the 1990s, when it seemed that the happy future was fool proof. Now there is a recognition of common interests, and that those interests are being badly served. So, everything is on track.

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And down the track comes an out-of-control train, or could that be Spengler, usually of Asia Times, but now perpetrating his latest enormity from the blog at First Things:

The world is now discussing Magdi Cristiano Allam’s baptism by Pope Benedict XVI during the Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s...Now Magdi Allam, the deputy editor of Italy’s newspaper of record and a bestselling author, tells us that he has found the true God and forsaken an Islam that he regards as inherently violent. Mr. Allam has a powerful voice. For years he was the exemplar of “moderate Islam” in Europe, and now he has decided that Islam cannot be “moderate.” His conversion shifts the agenda to the debate that Benedict opened at Regensburg in September 2006 over faith and reason, in opposition to arbitrary submission and violence. Before Benedict’s election, I summarized his stance as “I have a mustard seed and I’m not afraid to use it.” Now we are seeing what faith can accomplish.

Magdi Allam has long been in danger of his life; with this step, the danger becomes more acute. Actually, the same now seems to be true for Benedict also, to judge from recent stories about Vatican security.

I have been arguing for years for the active evangelization to Muslims. The horrified silence the suggestion usually elicited was strangely gratifying. Now that evangelization seems to be more than hypothetical, so does the bloodshed I knew would be a likely side effect.

Copyright © 2008 by John J. Reilly

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