Better Than Them

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


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The more sophisticated a culture becomes the less it is concerned with survival. Bubbles grow in its centers of government and learning within which philosophies and ideas seem more real than reality. Opposing philosophies struggle to lobotomize the culture with revisionist histories and social philosophies that place their own ideal at the center of all human striving. But ideas are sterile without a culture to carry them forward. Kill the culture and the ideas become orphans that me adopted in an altered form by some other culture– if they are lucky.

Tolerance and civil rights are worthless unless the countries and cultures where they are expressed are also defended. Any form of tolerance which leads to its own destruction is not only poisonous to a host culture, but is also literally self-destructive. All healthy entities whether biological, organizational or intellectual contain the means for their own continuance and self-perpetuation. Any entity which does not is poisonous and must be treated as such, and to defend any idea or code above the survival of the culture that carries it is a homicidal act.

When conflict comes, two questions are asked. Is the threat real and is our culture worth fighting for. The latter question is most often asked by elites against whose bubble ideals no real culture can ever measure up to, and by outsiders who have the least invested in the survival of the culture.

“If we do this how are we any better than they are?” is the question of the bubble elite whose abstract ideals exist apart from flesh and blood people, who do not measure their ideals by the culture, but measure the culture by their ideals, and always find it wanting, who think that the culture with its millions of people and centuries of history exist to shepherd their ideals and die for them– and ought to be grateful for the privilege of dying so that no Muslim is ever profiled at an airport.

The bubble elites distrust nationalism and patriotism because they center not around ideas, but the people’s sense of solidarity. The only exceptionalism that they will accept is the exceptionalism of ideals, and if the nation does not represent its ideals then it does not deserve to live.

In the face of such reasoning it is important to remember that we are not better than our enemies because we represent ideals, but because we create ideals along with skyscrapers, paintings, high powered microscopes, novels, better mousetraps, systems of philosophy, muscle cars, musical styles, theorems, charities and sandwiches. We are makers and shapers, movers and thinkers, seers and doers. We reach for the stars and find ways to keep premature babies alive. We are imperfect, dynamic and changing– and the world would be a much poorer place without us in it.

Whatever we do to protect ourselves against outside enemies in thrall to a hostile ideology, regardless of where they were born is fully justified by our accomplishments, our past, our present and our future– and even if all these things were not present by our right to individual, national and cultural survival.

It is not by becoming pacifists that we will be better than them, but by fighting for what we have and who we are. And if we do not stand up for our countries, our peoples and our cultures then we will not inherit the moral high ground, but the low killing pits of the victims of the thousand year spree of terror. There is no moral high ground to be gained in refusing to struggle to your utmost for the things that you hold dear, only through the struggle to protect our individual and national exceptionalism, can we gain the high ground and justify the assertion that we are better than them.

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  • ziontruth

    Nice pic. That's the "That phrase will be written on our civilization's epitaph" I keep saying to the Marxists, graphically illustrated.

    Yes, we are better than them. However, even were we no better than them, still we would have the right to fight, and to resist those invaders by any means possible. We would have that right because one needs no moral justification whatsoever to defend his family and nation; the right of such defense is self-evident.

    Even if a complete moral equivalence between us and them could be shown, still there is an incontrovertible reason why we have the right of defense: Because we are we and they are they. Self-preservation needs no moral argument to justify it.

    In fact, it would have been better to begin this fight out of the self-preservation motive, rather than out of moral argumentation. Had the fight begun from that standpoint, all the men and material wasted on futile "nation-building" efforts in the Islamic world (effectively, installing Weimar Republics there, for the populace to vote Islamic theocrats to power) would have been rightly expended on de-Marxification and de-Islamification: The outlawing of Marxism as treason, and the deportation of all Muslim immigrant-invaders from one's soil. Under "We are better than them," moral sanctimony ensues; whereas, under the imperative of self-defense, there is no such debate.

    Moralism and "we are better than them" calls for the generosity of permitting a mosque on Ground Zero while Saudi Arabia still doesn't permit anything other than mosques; self-preservation prohibits a mosque on Ground Zero, and any other mosque, for being, as Turkey's would-be neo-Ottoman sultan said, the barracks from which the army of Islam launches its attacks. A different game, with different rules, and without the shackles of having to justify ourselves and every move of ours.

    • xnylady

      Why are we allowing Mr. Obama to commit us to Islam? He has proven himself to accept Islam. He has put 2 more Islamists in Our Government. Islamists have been taking over our Education facilities, now want to educate our kindergarten. Do the search: Professors. Hasn’t England been lesson enough?

  • Robert Pinkerton

    1. The beginning of decadence is the belief that survival is guaranteed. Not so, either by the Divine or by nature.

    2. When I was very young, before the Korean conflict(!), my Dad, a World War Two mustang Officer (despite being a college kick-out), told me that the exceptionalism of America lay in the fact that the privileges of the nobility in Europe were the ordinary civil rights of common equal citizens here.

    • ziontruth

      They're not called The Greatest Generation for nothing.

  • tagalog

    Thank you for that commentary. It is, of course, absolutely true. We are better because we developed a better way of perceiving and dealing with reality. We started with the ancient Greeks and putting emphasis on our reason, leaving the spiritual for spiritual thought and applying rationality to our thoughts about the material, and making the question "How shall we govern ourselves?" an important question. We also kicked off a new way of dealing with the world by asking philosophically, "What is nature of the universe?" and "How do we know what we think we know?" Then we adopted two religions as our main ones, Judaism and Christianity, religions that found ways to accommodate themselves to the use of reason in the mundane things of the world. Then we found a method to differentiate the mind (the spiritual) from the body (the material), and we concluded that it is pointless to torment the physical for the sake of forcing conversion to the spiritual, spelling the end of slavery, torture, and forced confession. Then, focusing on how man should govern himself, we developed the idea of individual liberty. Those things are what make us better despite our lapses. Nearly all of the critiques of the West as a force in the world focus on the old ways of the world, ways that have led to slavery and murder of millions upon millions of people. I hope the West never has an epitaph that says anything; I hope the rest of the ideas of how to govern people in the world have the epitaph, "We were so bad we had to go."

  • erp

    Please get an editor who knows the English language.

    We are better than they.

    If you think that's too stilted, phrase the sentence in a different way.

    Sheesh!

    • ziontruth

      Please inform that commenter we're not in the 1950s anymore.

      And more importantly, that this discussion is too serious to be derailed by grammatical pedantry, unless the meaning is affected by the error in question.

      This is the kind of thing up with which Winston Churchill would never put.

      • erp

        Wrong.

        Egregiously bad grammar colors a reader's first impressions and may actually cause many, like myself, to give it a pass thinking if the author doesn't know or care about basic grammar, why should I think he knows or cares anything about the topic.

        If you think your message is important, take the time have your editor check your copy or if you don't have an editor, at least, use the grammar check in the word processor.

        • ziontruth

          "Egregiously bad grammar colors a reader's first impressions…"

          I partly agree… SMS-speak like "plz rite bac 2 me now" sure is off-putting. Where I disagree is that "It is I" instead of "it's me" is egregiously bad grammar. It may have been, something like 70 years ago, but it isn't now.

          Save it for the its/it's, your/you're, their/there/they're confusions, which definitely are worthy of remarks. Even then, keep in mind that the spell-Czech app can't warn you of the mistake of spelling one word as another (like those pairs above)—it takes artificial intelligence for that, and AI has proved to be one of the great disappointments of the last century. Also remember that proofreading, unless done by someone else, requires that you leave your essay for at least a day before you go back to reading it for proofing.

          /schoolteacher mode off

          • erp

            Why worry about your/you're, they're/their/there, it's/its or any similar niceties. You know who your target reader is and it ain't moi.

            Too bad.

            You might have had something interesting to say, but I don't have to read childish papers because I'm not a school teacher and I sure hope you aren't one either if your philosophy is that it's okay to follow only the rules you like whether they be grammatical or in any other area of life.

          • ziontruth

            And I hope you aren't such a chest-thumping macho in real life as you are online. Your comments, from first to last, from start to finish, have a "Lookit me roar!" air about them. I'm not one to deny people their stupid pleasures, so I'm signing off for this discussion.

          • ziontruth

            Oh, and I'm a programmer by trade. It's the unforgiving nature of computers that compels me to show a little more leniency to human foibles.

  • StephenD

    Excellent article Mr. Greenfield. Good comments all. I would add only that the question of how and in what way we are “better than them” must be answered. It must be answered in our youth and confirmed in our lives. There is a place for honor, for personal pride of accomplishment, for noble enterprise like helping the unfortunate or those weaker than us. We ARE better than they in our ability to speak freely. We are better than they because we freely give and that more than ANY OTHER PEOPLE on earth. These are the things of life that make us better than them. These are the things worth dying for. If our children aren’t taught; if they aren’t instilled with the pride of being AN AMERICAN they’ll see no reason to stand to defend it. Our failure then is this: In this “Sweet land of Liberty” We have not carried the legacy of our forefathers; Our “Pilgrims Pride” and we must once again or perish from within.

  • tanstaafl

    What do we stand for? Freedom.

    What do our opponents stand for? Tyranny.

    If that's not enough reason to fight, I don't know what is.

    • ziontruth

      "What do we stand for? Freedom. What do our opponents stand for? Tyranny."

      So you say, and I agree with you. But the academic Left makes it their entire business to show that, if not the opposite, then at the very least there is an equivalence between us and our enemies. That's what's behind their perpetualization of the "colonial guilt" the West carries—moral equivalence for the purpose of destroying the West's will to survive.

      • tanstaafl

        There is no equivalence between the both of us and a "man" who butchers the women in his home because he "thinks" they have "dishonored" him. There is no equivalence between a our culture and one where his actions are mandated and celebrated.

        I recognize that leftists and our cultural elite push moral relativity, however, I disagree.

  • mrbean

    I am better than everyone. The rest of you exist only to serve my needs. When I walk on water I leave no ripples, and when I step on the shire, the earth becomes hallowed from the holy oils of my feet. When I die I want my Earthly body to be buried with my A$$ in the air so you can all have the privilege of kissing me goodbye.

    • Chiggles

      I am better than you.

    • tagalog

      I've heard it said many times that you're better than no one,
      And no one is better than you.
      If you really mean that then you know you have nothing to win and nothing to lose.
      But it grieves my heart, love, to see you trying to be a part of
      A world that just can't exist;
      They'll hype you and type you into making you feel that you've got to be just them.

  • DJJ

    We're better than them? That is arrogance personnified.
    Our 'system' is better than theirs, but we have people in our system who are no better than those we're 'told' we should hate.

    We 'kill' and are killed because of our beliefs. How is that better?
    We send people to kill in the name of a moral high ground? Say what?

    • Ronald W. Carnine

      Dear DJJ, there is a big difference about sending people to kill because those who we are killing are murdering the defenseless intentionally. There is such a thing as a just war. We desire to live in a free nation, we will have to fight to keep it so. Our forefathers understood this truth and gave of their property, their persons and "their sacred honor". The very first foreign war this nation ever fought was against Muslims stopping our ships and enslaving our people and demanding ransom or protection money to get them to stop. Our system of gov't is better than theirs. Our freedoms are superior to theirs. Our soldiers went to the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait. They fought and died to kick a murdering, raping, and stealing neighbor out of sovereign territory. That is morally superior to killing for fun as we saw in Kuwait after Iraq had conquered this tiny country. To fight and kill and to die to free the slaves during the civil war is morally superior to Hitler invading Poland as he began his war to conquer the world and set up a kingdom of white skinned, blue eyed people. There is a moral high ground, its where freedom lives

  • DJJ

    Has anyone here ever heard of "false flags"?
    The writer is a schill for what's referred to as neocon conservatives, who are in fact neoliberals, according to original defintions.

    How is it that "liberal" foreign policy(democrat Obama) = "conservative" foreign policy
    (Republican Bush)?
    Because we're better? Even our 'system' has been corrupted with redefinition and interpretation by people who go to school for 4 years to learn how to lie legally and legislate from the bench. We 'allow' that, yet we're better?

  • DJJ

    Like the writer said, the one thing he did get right, 'laws are made to keep people"….."the rule of law" is what made our 'system' exceptional to allow what the writer boasts about, but when you have the rule of law shunned and blatantly disregarded then we lose our exceptionalism.

    We never were 'better', just different, allegedly more sophisticated. Our "system" 'was' better, but that system has been dis-carded in favor of what? Certainly not exceptionalism, and certainly no better. A killing is a killing, regardless of the level of sophistication attached to it. Forcing one's will on another is what has caused ALL conflicts throughout history…and to 'claim' a "moral high ground" is the worst kind of arrogance, regardless of how sophisticated an argument a writer puts forth.

  • Hercules

    Our laws have become instrumentalities of suppression and violations of individual liberty. They are, in too many instances, unjust, reflections of multicultural nonsense, violations of our rights, and expressions of tyranny. Laws have become the means for oppression. Increasingly they do not deserve our allegiance or compliance. It is not the laws that we should die for but for the country which declared its independence in 1776 simultaneously defining the liberties which are the only cause worth dying for.

  • alexander

    when will Republicans open their mouths about constant anti-USA moves like this:
    "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks past a General Motors "Spark" while touring the GM Powertrain plant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan October 23, 2011"
    IN
    UZBEKISTAN??? TOO MANY JOBS IN USA????? WHO IS MENTALLY SICK THERE?????

  • erp

    Grammar makes communication clear. That's its intent and yes I expected my children to speak correctly as far as their ages allowed. By the time they started school, their spoken English was better than most of their teachers, especially the younger ones.

    People who aren't native English speakers are far more anxious than you might imagine to learn to speak correctly and of course I don't correct them, but I speak correctly to them and they catch on. Merely repeating what they've said as a question using the correct tense for instance works great. I've worked with folks from many different lands who spoke lots of different languages. It's amazing how fast they 'get' it.

    Written English is a lot harder because the words we use come from so many different languages, spelling rules don't work very well, so you just have to memorize your spelling words. Reading for pleasure helps people learn English usage and spelling, but if you accept misspellings and grammatical errors, it negates reading as a tool for learning English.

    Arrogance is a killer. The arrogance of the unschooled and ignorant who expect everyone else to understand what they're saying when they haven't the courtesy to learn how to communicate in the own language and expect us to decode their prattlings.

    To the computer programmer above. Garbage in/Garbage Out works the same way in writing sentences as in writing code.

  • StephenD

    Four posts on your part alone….
    Dude, may I suggest you go into a corner and snap off? You'll probably feel a whole lot better and be able to get over yourself long enough to see the importance of what was written before you take out your red pen to correct the grammar…just a thought.

  • erp

    It's a blue pencil and I'm a 77 year old grandmother not likely to solve any problems by snapping off, but you go right ahead if that's your MO.