Yesterday, I spent Memorial Day in what I consider an entirely appropriate manner — at the home of a friend of mine who is a Navy vet, honoring his wishes — having a cookout and a solid four-player tabletop war game. (Blitzkrieg Commander, if you must know.) I only recently started playing, and I seem to have a decent knack at it.
(For the terminally curious, it was a battle based on the Battle of Stalingrad. Which means that there were no “good guys” to win, but I am pleased to report that the Rodina was saved from the Fascists.)
Anyway, while driving to the gathering, I heard a bit of a special on the radio, recounting the turbulent days of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The highlight was the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of militant Islam.
Hearing the two discussed in that context — the shifting of the West’s greatest threat and foe — brought a thought to mind, one that probably should have occurred to me sooner. And that was how, in one very important way, Communism and militant Islam are very similar.
Yeah, I’m talking about Godless Commies and Militant Religious Fanatics here. Bear with me here.
Communism is not just a political philosophy. It’s also an economic system and a social system, as well as the “replacement” for religous systems. It’s “one-stop shopping” for the totalitarian-minded who want to seem like they care about the masses. And if you dare question it, OFF TO THE GULAG!
Likewise, to the fanatics, Islam is not just a religion. It’s a social system, an economic system, a political system, and a judicial. It literally has all the answers to all of life’s problems, if you just look hard enough (and turn off your brain). And if you dare question it, OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!
Likewise, Nazism. It was a political and social system, with tentacles into the judicial, economic, and “religious” spheres. And it failed utterly.
One of the hidden strengths of America is we don’t buy into “one size fits all” when it comes to such things. We have our political system (democratic republic), our economic system (capitalism), religious system (whatever), and social system (again, whatever). We don’t invest too much faith in any one belief system that we want to apply it in more areas of our lives.
And that seems to be what works around the world. The only exception I can think off off the top of my head is Judaism, which — depending on context — is a religion, a culture, or a race — or any combinations thereof. But I think that it gets away with it because Judaism is hardly monolithic — it doesn’t lend itself to collecting large numbers behind a single interpretation. Further, it’s tremendously insular — it’s very hard to impossible to convert to any form of Judaism. “Jewish Evangelist” remains one of my favorite oxymorons.
And if you dare to challenge Judaism, OFF WITH YOU! Or, brace yourself for a most enthusiastic argument.
That may be why socialism has “succeeded” (to some very specific and limited meanings of “success” — it’s Communism stripped down to just the economic aspects. Those are pretty bad in and of itself, but without the other elements, it’s not as dangerous.
In a way, it’s symbolic of the essential American nature. We pick and choose what we accept, rejecting that which we think doesn’t make sense. We don’t have any overarching ideology that we must force everything else, Procrustes-like, to fit into. Or, as P. J. O’Rourke put it so elegantly,
America is not a wily, sneaky nation. We don’t think that way. We don’t
think at all, thank God. Start thinking and pretty soon you get ideas,
and then you get idealism, and the next thing you know you’ve got
ideology, with millions dead in concentration camps and gulags. A
fundamental American question is “What’s the big idea?”
We don’t like big ideas. We don’t trust big ideas. We don’t need big ideas.
And it’s certainly worked out pretty damned well for us so far. Certainly a lot better than other nations and societies, who have tried to push some “Big Idea” or other.