Friday, April 21, 2006

Hook's Wisdom

The Moose reflects on the wisdom of a great thinker.

The late Sidney Hook was one of the Moose's favorite political philosophers/activists. During the Cold War, he linked the struggle of social justice at home with promotion of American ideals abroad. A self declared secular humanist and an unreconstructed social democrat, Hook understood that totalitarianism was the primary threat to progressivism.

Moreover, Hook comprehended that, whatever differences that exist among democrats of the right and the left, they pale in significance with the divide between a free people and their totalitarian enemies of fascism and communism. That was a controversial view during the Cold War as it is today.

Indeed, in the eighties, many on the left(with the exception of a hardy breed of Scoop types) thought the greatest threat to peace was Ronald Reagan and his deployment of missiles in Europe. The nuclear freeze was the rage and the international left was in a rage against the "madman" Reagan. However, we now know that Reagan's show of strength contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire.

In our current political environment, some have largely lost sight of the nature of our enemy. Perhaps we will be reminded by the upcoming movie dramatizing the resistance to terrorist evil on United Flight 93. We are a nation that is at war with ourselves and more and more free people are in denial about our true adversaries.

There is a whiff of appeasement once again in the air. Our modern Chamberlains declare that the President of Iran is terribly misunderstood when he denies the Holocaust and speaks of the annihilation of an ally while the President of the United States is a clear and unmistakable menace to civilization.

Given this environment, it is worth contemplating this observation from Sidney Hook (hat-tip Winds of Change) in an address entitled 'A Critique of Conservatism' to a conference of Social Democrats USA in 1976,

"The differences between conservatives and liberals [in the American sense], when the terms are reasonably construed, are family differences among adherents of a free society, defined as one whose institutions ultimately rest on the consent of those affected by their operations. When the security of a free society is threatened by aggressive totalitarianism, these differences must be temporarily subordinated to the common interest in its survival. There is always the danger that in the ever-present and sometimes heated struggles between liberals and conservatives, each group may come to fear the other more than their common enemy. If and when that happens, the darkness of what Marx called 'Asiatic despotism', in modern dress to be sure, will descend upon the world."

Substitute "Jihadist terrorism" for "Asiatic despotism" and this observation is as relevant today as it was back three decades ago. Who are the leaders who can unite America against our common foe?
-- Posted at 8:25 AM | Link to this post | Email this post