Idiot Bumper Stickers, Part 2

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Or: Ideas Matter

In this, the second installment of an occasional feature of my blog, I'll let others do most of the talking for me.

Mark Steyn will do the honor of kicking off since he decimates, perfectly, a bumper sticker I see from time to time in the loonier parts of town. Here's a version even nuttier than what he describes or that I have seen to date.

I would add that, to a vendor with a name like "", I guess all intellectual traditions, including the rational -- symbolized by Einstein's famous equation -- would "look the same" since they would each involve an attempt to reach some coherent understanding of the world. (And since leftists equate reason with socialism anyway, they have a point, by accident, in that very delimited sense.) But that is neither here nor there. Steyn comes up with this jewel!

I found myself behind a car in Vermont, in the US, the other day; it had a one-word bumper sticker with the injunction "COEXIST". It's one of those sentiments beloved of Western progressives, one designed principally to flatter their sense of moral superiority. The C was the Islamic crescent, the O was the hippie peace sign, the X was the Star of David and the T was the Christian cross. Very nice, hard to argue with. But the reality is, it's the first of those symbols that has a problem with coexistence. Take the crescent out of the equation and you wouldn't need a bumper sticker at all. [bold added] Indeed, coexistence is what the Islamists are at war with; or, if you prefer, pluralism, the idea that different groups can rub along together within the same general neighbourhood. There are many trouble spots across the world but, as a general rule, even if one gives no more than a cursory glance at the foreign pages, it's easy to guess at least one of the sides: Muslims v Jews in Palestine, Muslims v Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims v Christians in Nigeria, Muslims v Buddhists in southern Thailand, Muslims v (your team here). Whatever one's views of the merits on a case by case basis, the ubiquitousness of one team is a fact.
Brilliant, quote there in the boldface. The whole essay is good, of course, and his larger point is right on target: "That's why they blew up Bali in 2002, and last weekend, and why they'll keep blowing it up. It's not about Bush or Blair or Iraq or Palestine. It's about a world where everything other than Islamism lies in ruins."

In other words, ideas matter.

This theme crops up in two other excellent pieces today, as well. In one of these, Christopher Hitchens echoes Steyn's point that it is the motivating ideology of the enemy that animates it and not -- as moral relativists or blame-the-West-firsters would have it -- anything the West (or any other group of kaffirs) has actually done.

Taken together with Steyn's observation that it's frequently the Moslems fighting some other group around the world, Hitchens's observation that what the Indonesian terrorists are doing in Bali hurts Indonesians -- and aids no other supposed terrorist cause hypothesized by the left -- is especially devastating.

Consider this, look again at the awful carnage in Bali, and shudder if you ever said, or thought, that the bombs in London in July, or the bombs in Baghdad every day, or the bombs in Bali last Friday, are caused by any "policy" but that of the bombers themselves. Note the following:

1) East Timor was for many years, and quite rightly, a signature cause of the Noam Chomsky "left." The near-genocide of its people is an eternal stain on Indonesia and on the Western states that were complicit or silent. Yet Bin Ladenism wants not less of this killing and repression but more. Its demand to re-establish the caliphate is a pro-imperialist demand, not an anti-imperialist one.

2) Random bombings are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of poverty and unemployment and of wider economic dislocation.

3) Hinduism is considered by Bin Ladenists to be a worse heresy even than Christianity or Judaism or Shiism, and its adherents, whether in Bali or Kashmir, are fit only for the edge of the sword. So, it is absurd to think of jihadism -- which murders the poor and the brown without compunction -- as a movement against the rich and the "white."

So, what did Indonesia do to deserve this, or bring it on itself? How will the slaughter in Bali improve the lot of the Palestinians? Those who look for the connection will be doomed to ask increasingly stupid questions and to be content with increasingly wicked answers.

Once again, the left's excuses for terrorism are shown to be wrong and again, we have not merely the induction that radical Islamists are motivated by their beliefs, but further evidence.

For the last article, we depart from Islamists and look in our own back yard, which Bush is allowing to become trashy and weed-choked: Venezuela.

The raid on private property in Venezuela has begun.

The excuse is the elimination of factories and large land tracts that are supposedly unproductive. Because these enterprises do not generate wealth or jobs with the zeal that President Hugo Chavez might desire, the government will expropriate them.

Once they are held by the state, Chavez, always generous with the income derived from oil or the taxes paid by Venezuelans, will inject the properties with capital and with thousands of workers who will earn lavish salaries.

Those enterprises will lose huge amounts of money, naturally, but to the revolutionary mind this is an insignificant fact. The losses will be washed down with abundant swigs of public money, creating a multitude of grateful stomachs that presumably will join the revolutionary bandwagon. That is precisely the essence of populism.

The economic consequence of such stupidity is the collective impoverishment of society. The more public enterprises lose money, the poorer becomes the society that needs to sustain them.

How does Chavez explain the fact that the communist countries were abysmally poor? Their thousands of enterprises -- crammed with unnecessary workers, directed by apathetic bureaucrats who parroted political slogans and inflexibly ruled by controlled prices -- inevitably slid into generalized disaster.

That was explained to Lenin -- patiently and futilely -- by Ludwig von Mises in a book titled Socialism, published in 1922, when the Bolshevik revolution had just begun.

The communists paid him no heed. Not because they didn't understand the impeccable reasoning of the Austrian economist, but because the decision to seize property was ideological, not economic [bold added].
And so we have the left presenting Westerners with the injunction: "Coexist!" They tell us to do so with the wolves who would devour us, and whose very actions hurt even their coreligionists to boot. They sympathize with someone who is meddling with Latin America and ruining the economy of his own nation in the name of helping "the poor", despite ample theoretical arguments and historical evidence that his policies will lead to ruin.

In short, the leftists urge us to ignore the fact that Islamists act on their beliefs to kill us and other Moslems. They admire a man who is demonstrably ruining his country, and does so by acting on his beliefs. Might they, acting on their beliefs, be giving us bad advice, and attempting to shame us into following it?

I know the answer to that question, but knowing this answer is not necessary. One needs only follow the advice of Ayn Rand when encountering such drivel. She advises us, through the mouth of Ellsworth Toohey, the villain of The Fountainhead: "Don't bother to examine a folly -- ask yourself only what it accomplishes."

What would happen if we took their advice? This is a question more people should be in the habit of asking everyone else all the time. Might it be foolhardy for us to act on the professed belief of the "Coexist" crowd that we should ignore the actions and repeated admissions of the likes of bin Laden and Chavez? Do you think? That's what the peaceniks stopped doing long ago and wish you'd stop doing, too.

To coexist, one must exist in the first place, and to do that, one must think, at least if one is to do so for very long. Hmmm. What is that bumper sticker really saying, again?

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

The bumper sticker is a very clever example of mechanical thought devoid of critical thinking. It demonstrates the current status of the U.S. education establishment: de-emphasis of factual history, and separation of religious philosophy from education. Result: inability to discriminate. Nice post, CAV, but tragic in its implications.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks. I agree with most of what you say, although you probably know by now that while I would favor a strong philosophical background in the education of my own children, I would include religion mainly for historical reasons. But I also am in favor of your freedom to educate your own children as you see fit.

I favor a wholly private educational system whereby parents could more actively determine what their children are taught.

Certainly, most parents in such a system would demand better of the schools they sent their children to than they're getting now as they'd be paying for them directly. Competition would ensure that better schools would exist. Both of these quality-enhancing aspects of capitalism are largely absent from our current system of socialized education.

Even a modest improvement in our educational system would make such blatantly absurd ideas as pacifism have much less traction than they currently do.


Resident Egoist said...

"To coexist, one must exist in the first place ..."

If it weren't night time, I would have that that has made my day. Great post.

P.S: You might be interested in this story.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the compliment and for pointing that story out!