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France and Germany recently agreed in principle to create a €500 billion three-year fund to relaunch the European economy after the coronavirus crisis. This would be funded by the EU raising funds on financial markets and then using these to invest in those countries and sectors worst-hit by the crisis.

This represents a great leap forward in European integration. In effect, the new recovery fund amounts to an overnight doubling of the EU budget, which normally cannot get into debt, from 1% to 2% of GDP.

This has been achieved thanks to French President Emmanuel Macron’s persistence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s . . . desire for a legacy? This is a big about-turn for Merkel, who up to now had always opposed the idea of joint EU debt and had always linked financial support to southern Europe with the most stringent conditions.

For over a decade Merkel had always been tight-fisted with the southern Europeans, even as she wasted hundreds of billions of euros by destroying the German nuclear industry, subsidizing renewable energy boondoggles, and tearing up the EU’s migration rules to welcome 1 million Afro-Islamic migrants into Germany. The latter predictably led to a spike in rape, terrorism, and simple murder against the German people, for which the Chancellor has never been held to account.

Merkel has often claimed she was held back from a more muscular European policy because of the reticence of her “conservative” ruling party, the Christian [sic] Democratic Union. I find that hard to believe given that the CDU has readily accepted Merkel’s destructive atomophobic and oikophobic policies. Actually, I don’t know what goes through the mind of the average CDU apparatchik (from my limited experience: not much).

In practice, this means southern European countries – and potentially others with shaky finances – get to benefit from the EU’s triple AAA debt rating and be able to engage in counter-cyclical spending without facing usurious interest rates. Thus the EU would be delivering on its purported benefits: using scale and north-European credibility for the benefit of all Europeans.

Mind you, the plan needs to be approved by unanimity and for now the “frugal four” – Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden – are still opposed. Still, if France and Germany agree, it is likely only a matter of time before something materializes.

As ever, the EU is in a delicate economic position. With the lockdowns, the European economy is going into nosedive. The EU Commission predicts that the eurozone economy will shrink 7.7% in 2020, with Italy, Spain, and Greece all shrinking by almost 10%. The eurozone’s average government debt, which had been painstakingly brought down in recent years, will explode from 86% of GDP in 2019 to 102.7% in 2020.

And consider the debt-to-GDP ratio by country expected for 2020: France and Spain 116%, Portugal 132%, Italy 159%, Greece 196% . . . we note that France is now, macroeconomically, effectively part of southern Europe. By contrast, the Germanic nations of Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria will all have less than 80% debt-to-GDP. The north-south divide in Europe is then more severe than ever, which will make it even more difficult to come to common policies in the eurozone acceptable to all.

The unelected European Central Bank had already injected €750 billion euros into the EU economy (over 6% of GDP). However, the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) recently demanded that the ECB justify its actions within three months, in effect rejecting the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice, which had validated the ECB’s legally highly “creative” policies since 2010.

If the German Court finds the ECB’s policies to be illegal, it could demand that the German central bank, the Bundesbank, ceases to participate in eurozone policies, which would certainly cause the collapse of Europe’s financial house of cards.

This led to an outcry from the usual suspects who consider that the construction of the European Superstate should take precedence over quibblings over the rule of law. The arch-federalist Libération journalist Jean Quatremer excoriated the German Court for “promoting a nationalist and imperial vision of Germany.”

Personally, I cannot be too critical of the Germans in such matters. How many hundreds of thousands of Germans did the Allies incinerate or rape in order to teach them the importance of the rule of law? We can hardly now reproach the Germans for being too attached to this concept.

Legally, this raises the awkward question of Kompetenz-Kompetenz: which court is ultimately competent for deciding competence, the national or the European? While in practice the legal creativity of the European Court has prevailed in the name of the unity of EU law, the fact is that the EU has no constitution as such and hence, in principle, EU actions could be found unconstitutional under national constitutions.

In other news, former EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini has been appointed head of the College of Europe. The College’s alumni and professors complain that she is academically unqualified and that her candidacy, which violates the usual rules of the institutions, is an example of euro-cronyism. If you are ever confused by your authority figures’ empty promises and incomprehensible blather, consider that there is usually a nice big fat paycheck behind it.

What’s more, while remaining implacably hostile to indigenous European nationalisms, the EU has also recently seen fit to tell Iran that it “reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel.”

It’s cliques and paychecks all the way up.

A majority of my most excellent followers believe that the United States of America will collapse by the year 2050. This is quite possible, though I think later in the twenty-first century is more likely.

In the meantime, the EU is the more rickety construct. A year after losing Great Britain, the bloc’s second-largest economy, the EU will shortly face a new populist wave: “rally-round-the-flag” support for governments is already fraying, the economic devastation will be tremendous and long-lasting, and citizens will demand answers for the coronavirus disaster.

In Italy, to cite perhaps the most important case, support for the national Lega Nord has fallen significantly . . . to the benefit of the even more right-wing Brothers of Italy! – who are now on the verge of overtaking the emasculated faux-populist Five-Star Movement.

We can expect this rickety confederacy of belly-chasing democracies to continue stumbling from one crisis to the next . . .

Hold on to your hats!

 
• Category: Economics, Foreign Policy • Tags: Coronavirus, EU, Merkel 
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Alain Peyrefitte, a former minister and close collaborator of Charles de Gaulle, meticulously maintained notebooks in which he recorded his many meetings with the great French president. The recordings are gathered in his monumental memoirs, C’était de Gaulle (“That Was De Gaulle”), stretching out to over 1800 pages of sayings and discussions.

The work thus presents a massive sample of De Gaulle’s private “table talk” with his closest collaborators. Besides hearing much of the man’s wit and wisdom, we gain great insight into the thinking behind his policy decisions.

I have previously written on the Algerian War and De Gaulle’s reasons for rejecting the partition of Algeria which would have created a majority-European “French Israel” in North Africa, presumably surrounded by hostile Arab states.

On October 20, 1959, De Gaulle spoke with Peyrefitte on the reasons for granting independence to France’s African colonies and why this was more difficult than it had been for the British:

It’s true that the natives are not yet ready to govern themselves. But . . . the world exists around us and has changed. The colonized peoples are less and less able to put up with their colonizers. The day will come when they will no longer be able to put up with themselves. In the meantime, we must take realities into account. The most urgent thing we need to do is transform our colonial empire, by replacing domination with consent [le contrat]. There are great advantages for us in passing the baton to local leaders, before they rip off our hand to take it from us.

We founded our colonization from the beginning on the principle of assimilation. We claimed to be turning the Negroes into good Frenchman. We made them recite: “Our ancestors the Gaulish”[1]; this was not very clever.

That is why decolonization is so much more difficult for us than for the English. They always recognized differences of race and culture. They organized self-government.[2] They only had to loosen ties for it to work. We on the other hand denied these differences. We wanted to be a Republic of 100 million identical and interchangeable Frenchman. That is why decolonization is heartbreaking for the French. . . .

It’s beautiful, equality, but it is beyond our grasp. To make all of the overseas populations enjoy the same social rights as those of metropolitan France [les métropolitains], at the same standard of living, would mean that ours would be cut in half. Are we ready for this? Well, if we cannot give them equality, better to give them liberty! Bye, bye,[3] you are too expensive for us![4]

Elsewhere, De Gaulle despairs at the fact that previous French regimes had allowed 1 million European immigrants to settle in Algeria amidst the Arabs. He argues that France’s most enlightened policy was in Morocco, where the king was kept in place as a local ruler. In fact the Moroccan monarchy to this rules over one of the more stable and orderly Arab states.

De Gaulle was skeptical of the idea of France “assimilating” tens of millions of Africans and Muslims both as colonial subjects and as immigrants to France proper.

In 1982, King Hassan II of Morocco expressed similar thoughts to the Jewish journalist Anne Sinclair (then-wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn):

Sinclair: Would you like [Moroccan immigrants] to be integrated in France? Are you for or against the very principle of integration?

Hassan II: I would not even call this integration. I would not at all want them to be the object of an attempt, because they will never be integrated.

Sinclair: You think that they don’t want it or that the French reject them?

Hassan II: Will they express the fact that they can’t do it? It’s possible among Europeans. They have the same basic foundation [la trame est la même]. The movements within European history have been east-west, human movements, religion, many things. But here, we’re talking about another continent. And there’s nothing you can do it about it: they will be bad Frenchmen.

Sinclair: So you are discouraging us from trying to integrate them.

Hassan II: I am discouraging you concerning my people, the Moroccans, from any attempt to turn them away from their nationality [détournement de nationalité] because they will never be 100% French. I can guarantee you that!

Notes

[1] A slogan French schoolboys were taught during the Third Republic (1870-1940), emphasizing France’s indigenous Celtic roots, and ignoring her Germanic ones, at a time of bitter tension with Germany.

[2] In English in the original.

[3] In English in the original.

[4] Quoted in Alain Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle (Paris: Gallimard, 2002), pp. 68-69.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Assimilation, France 
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I recently had the pleasure of participating in a podcast with Fróði Midjord discussing the classic 1966 film by Italian director Gillo Pentecorvo, The Battle of Algiers. This was part of Guide to Kulchur’s excellent “Decameron Film Festival,” which is taking advantage of confinement to interview a range of prestigious speakers, from Jared Taylor to Alexander Dugin.

I will not repeat what I say in the show, except to say that I strongly recommend you watch the film if want to get a sense of how cruel and brutal race war in a multiethnic country can be.

The film’s message is ultimately pro-Arab, but Pentecorvo’s dedication to newsreel-style realism – what he called la dittatura della verità (the dictatorship of truth) – keeps the film straight, balanced, and brutally honest in its portrayal of Arab nationalist terrorism, intimidation, and abuse of trust. (Unlike say, Tom Cruise’s quite trite and saccharine The Last of the Samurai, though having a similar anti-Western nationalist message.)

The violence of the Algerian War belongs to our recent past: 1 million European settlers, supported for a time by the French State, faced off against 10 million Muslims led by the ruthless nationalist fighters of Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN). After eight years of struggle, and despite total military victory, France left Algeria and virtually all of those 1 million Europeans, who had been born and raised in Algeria, were forced to abandon everything and flee abroad.

This outcome was due to President Charles de Gaulle, who had made a strategic decision: France must cut her losses in Algeria rather than face perpetual conflict. In particular, De Gaulle did not believe that France could “integrate” as full French citizens Algeria’s Muslims, who in addition to numbering 10 million had a high fertility rate. He privately told an adviser:

It is very good that there are yellow French, black French, brown French. They show that France is open to all races and has a universal vocation. But on the condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France. We are still primarily a European people of white race, Greek and Latin culture, and Christian religion.

Let’s not be under any illusions! Have you been to see the Muslims? Have you looked at them with their turbans and djellabas? You can see that they are not French! Those who advocate integration have the brain of a hummingbird, even if they are very knowledgeable. Try to mix oil and vinegar. Shake the bottle. After a while, they separate again.

The Arabs are Arabs, the French are French. Do you think the French body politic can absorb 10 million Muslims, who tomorrow will be 20 million, after tomorrow 40? If we integrated, if all the Arabs and Berbers of Algeria were considered French, would you prevent them from settling in France, where the standard of living is so much higher? My village would no longer be called Colombey-the-Two-Churches but Colombey-the-Two-Mosques!1

It’s striking how divided the Europeans were throughout the Algerian War, particularly between the settlers and the various actors of mainland France. The Europeans had a bad conscience. They quite naturally dominated Algeria, but their egalitarian ideology – stemming from the French Revolution – demanded that they in theory say that the 10 million Muslims, who faced systematic discrimination, would one day be fully-fledged French.

When De Gaulle had consolidated his position in power after 1958, he decided to allow Algeria to become independent through a referendum. The result was absolute chaos as the officers who had fought in the war launched a failed coup to prevent this. Then, military officers and numerous regular soldiers and settlers created the Secret Army Organization (OAS), launching a massive terrorism campaign to prevent the referendum against the Arabs and the French State (with numerous assassination attempts against De Gaulle himself).

The Muslims too were divided by ethnicity (Arabs, Berbers, Tuaregs . . .) and political clan. The FLN ruthlessly destroyed rival groups, settled scores within their organization through murder, and brutalized wavering villagers to side with them.

If I have one caveat about the film, it is the very Marxist/Third-World epilogue. In addition to being rather confused and brusque, it seems rather historically inaccurate. The film suggests that though the Arabs’ terrorist uprising in Algiers failed, the Algerian people spontaneously rose up as a kind of irresistible force, which the French had no choice but to bow to. In fact, the decision to leave was very much De Gaulle’s, even if we recognize the long-term pressures and costs of keeping Algeria French.

While De Gaulle may have left Algeria in part to keep France a racially and religiously homogeneous nation, this did not prevent mass migration of blacks and North Africans in the ensuing decades. During the War on Terrorism, The Battle of Algiers was screened by the Pentagon as an educational film on counter-insurgency. More recently, the numerous Muslim terrorists that have inflicted carnage and mayhem across Europe recall, by their social and psychological profile and their protection within the Muslim community, the characteristics of the FLN terrorists.

I invite you to watch The Battle of Algiers: I fear this film is not only about France and Algeria’s past, but also Europe’s future.

Recommended viewing:

For Francophones:

  • Debate between Colonel Roger Trinquier and Yacef Saadi (1970): fascinating discussion between a French military officer and an Algerian rebel leader who had both fought in the war (Saadi was also one of the actors and producers of The Battle of Algiers).
  • Peter Batty, La guerre d’Algérie (1985): detailed and fascinating five-part documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 with numerous interviews with participants and archival footage. I cannot find the original English version. This version was adapted into French by Belgium’s public broadcaster RTBF.

Notes

[1] Quoted in Alain Peyrefitte, C’était de Gaulle, (Paris: Gallimard, 2002), p. 66.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Algeria, Arabs, France, Muslims 
Hitler should have recorded everything
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I have a distinct dislike for the journalistic class as a whole. They do not so much report news as collectively make the news, according to a peculiar pack mentality, which combines commonly-agreed designated good guys and bad guys, but also sometimes brutal and erratic shifts collective opinion, not according to the whims of an official chief, but a strange and disturbing hive mind.

For this reason among others, I tend to prefer historians, who have the luxury of specialization and the leisure to actually take their time to try to determine what actually happened before setting their pen to paper. But the historians have hardly been perfect themselves.

Any historian’s work is only as good as his criteria for accepting documents and other data as valid, his criteria for highlighting or accepting this or that fact from the huge mass of historical data, and his inferences.

If you want a laugh, try reading any alleged “Jesus biography,” especially the parts on the historians’ very sophisticated criteria for deciding whether this or that saying or happening in the Gospels is historical or not. Reza Aslan has an enjoyable, plausible, and typically speculative book in this genre. The independent historian Richard Carrier has enjoyed a successful career on the Internet and the atheist speech circuit by running circles around the establishment historians’ more-or-less unjustifiable traditional suppositions.

That’s why I’ve come to prefer to read the documents directly rather than just the historians’ selective syntheses. Admittedly, the documents are edited and translated so you are scarcely free of falsehood unless you can go into the archives yourself. However, this at least gives you a good feel for what exactly the historians are actually working from.

In this respect, the Oxford World Classics series is excellent, providing readers of English with a translation of major primary documents along with ample introductions and endnotes with the latest on the interpretations of academic experts and explications of obscurities.

Similarly, I am enormously impressed with Jeremy Noakes Nazism series, which does much the same with carefully selected translations of German documents which really give you a sense of debates and decision-making within the Third Reich.

It’s a great joy, after becoming familiar with the raw material, to read a historian who has produced a plausible harmony from the often vast, patchy, disparate, and apparently-contradictory data that we possess on a given subject.

In this genre, I am quite fond of William Merit Sale’s cogent exposition of the mythical “government of Troy” as described in the Iliad. The nineteenth-century French historian Fustel de Coulanges reconstructs the origins and evolution of “Aryan civilization” – think Conan the Barbarian – based on an in-depth comparative analysis of surviving Greek, Roman, and Indian ancient texts.

Brigitte Hamman’s Hitler’s Vienna, which focuses on the future German dictator’s desultory youth, manages to wonderfully bring together fin-de-siècle Viennese culture, contemporary newspapers, the German-Austrian nationalist subculture, the few documents from Hitler’s youth, Mein Kampf, and even the wartime Table Talk. One gets a sense of Hitler the irresponsible Bohemian, an unteachable slave to his Muse, his overpoweringly vivid imagination and already-emerging inflexible will.

It’s striking that a whole generation of postwar Hitler historians got into the habit of using fraudulent or unreliable documents.

The jury is still out on Hitler’s wartime Table Talk, private conversations allegedly recorded by his aides. The current consensus is that while these documents are not a fake, there’s no telling if the stenographers made mistakes or if later editors manipulated the document, namely Hitler’s secretary Martin Bormann and the man who later brought the document to light, the Swiss businessman and Nazi sympathizer François Genoud. There’s every possibility, then, that there are interpolations or softenings of Hitler’s words to suit any of these parties’ political agenda.

Still, it’s striking how frankly brutal the Table Talk is: Moscow and Leningrad are to be razed, the inhabitants of the Crimea are to be expulsed to make way for German settlers, and the Slavs – at best – are to be forcibly kept in a permanent state of backwardness and neglect in the countryside. Given that none of the parties involved appear to have had an incentive to harden Hitler’s message, this suggests authenticity. But it only suggests.

Shockingly, the English version of the Table Talk was apparently partially translated from Genoud’s French with the blessing of the British historian who edited the book for the English-speaking world: Hugh-Trevor Roper.

Some say that Hitler couldn’t possibly expound endlessly on all the subjects in the Table Talk. Surely his interlocutors would have butt in. I say: have you ever listened to Adolf Hitler? This is a man who lived and prospered by his ability to give speech after speech after speech, reaching out to millions of Germans over his career even before he became Chancellor. Mein Kampf was not written but dictated to his disciples in jail or, when he was free, during the time he had a restraining order against giving speeches.

In the one private recording of Hitler that we have, absolutely fascinating listening, he reduces the old Finnish gentleman Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim to silence for 10 minutes as he expounds, in a feverish stream, on the travails of his war with the Soviet on Union. Hitler goes into great and meandering detail on the background to his decision-making. He delayed his attack on the Soviets to avoid a two-front war, to avoid bad weather, and because of the Italian weaknesses in North Africa and Greece. He had to attack the Soviets because of threats to Finland and, especially, Romania, which Germany sorely-needed as an ally for its oil.

All this is classic Hitler, quite similar to what we find in Mein Kampf or the Table Talk: meandering, emphatic, and repetitive, as Hitler relentlessly drives his points home. We also observe Hitler’s remarkable imagination and evocative style:

[The Soviet Union had] Thirty-find thousand tanks! . . . If one of my generals had said that a country had 35,000 tanks, I’d have said: “You, my good sir, see everything twice or ten times over. You are crazy. You see ghosts.” . . .

Today [we found] a tank plant where during the first shift just over 30,000 workers and round the clock sixty-thousand workers would have labored. A single tank plant, a gigantic factory! [With] working masses who certainly lived like animals . . .

Hitler’s speeches are quite different, being generally more structured and disciplined while still remarkably creative and emotional, as grand political choreography.

 
• Category: History • Tags: American Media, Hitler, Nazi Germany, World War II 
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Responding to my previous post on Jean-Luc Picard, commenter Divine Right has given us a very interesting and detailed essay on the degeneration of Star Trek. The destiny of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises is instructive. Whatever one thinks, and beyond politics, there used to be some heart and even philosophical or mythical elements in these shows/films. Today, one has superb special effects and technical prowess, absolutely no substance, considerable vulgarity, and utterly empty melodrama and hyperemotionality over nothing. This is a good mirror to our civilization as a whole today.

My take on modern Star Trek compared to the old:

Star Trek very much embodied what liberal American white males of the 1980s and 1990s thought the future would (or should) look like: secular, sexually liberated, humanistic, meritocratic, equitable, and technological – a man’s world, basically. In this world, religion plays practically no role in public life. Problems are solved with diplomacy instead of violence. Money doesn’t exist, so there is no capitalism, greed, or want. People spend their lives bettering humanity and doing other such noble things like negotiating peace with aliens or exploring the universe in one of Starfleet’s advanced starships, each equipped with a plethora of miraculous technologies. In their leisure time, the crews of these starships visit a holographic room, the holodeck, which can conjure any fantasy into a photorealistic facsimile of the real thing.

Probably the only place in the Western world where this mentality can still be found is California’s Silicon Valley. As in the fictional world of Star Trek, men do most of the work; they advance through meritocracy; and there is something akin to a fraternal culture, irrespective of the prevailing progressive ideology. Silicon Valley is also still largely free of the odious diversity requirements imposed on the rest of society.

That was also once true of Hollywood itself, and it showed in the television they produced — Star Trek, for example. That franchise, spanning hundreds of television hours and a number of theatrical releases, was mostly helmed by men who got their jobs through merit – actors, writers, ship designers, show runners. The main characters of each of the television series were also men. The Original Series (TOS) featured a lead triangle of male actors – Kelley, Shatner, and Nemoy. The sequel, The Next Generation (TNG), featured mostly male characters, certainly all the most popular ones. These characters often featured something educated men are interested in: the second officer is an android; the chief engineer has a technology-supplemented vision; the executive officer is a ladies man and a master strategist who plays games of skill underpinned by mathematical rules; the captain is a wise and cultured authority figure who reads Shakespeare; the security chief is a noble warrior from an alien species whose culture is based around rules of honor.

Spinoffs like Deep Space Nine (DS9) and Voyager were more diverse, but still roughly comported to what the male audience desired. DS9 featured a male captain, and the most popular characters were all men. Voyager had a female captain who mostly avoided gender politics outside of a few instances in the earlier seasons (written by a woman) – a rarity these days. In that show, one of the two most popular characters was a male and the other was a sexy Borg chick, Seven of Nine.

The high point of the franchise, The Next Generation, featured a mostly white liberal cast and various things white liberals liked at the time – sex appeal, food, pseudointellectualism (although handled capably by talented male writers), cutting edge tech, meritocracy, optimism, exploration, and the white man’s moralism.

Starfleet, the Federation’s military and scientific branch, was a rigorous meritocracy, just as Silicon Valley is today. Members were admitted only through a combination of senior officer recommendations, high scholastic achievement, and phenomenally high standardized test scores. Character was also paramount. Crew evaluations feature prominently in several episodes of TNG, and it was made clear to underperforming members that the starship Enterprise cuts a standard above the rest; perform or hit the road.

In the diverse world of Star Trek, the white writers imagined meritocracy would ensure whites like themselves would still have a position at the top of society (just as in Hollywood then and Silicon Valley now) despite soon becoming a minority in real life America. You’ll notice progressive humans are at the center of the Federation in Star Trek despite being a small minority in that fictional universe as well. That’s by design, conscious or not.

You can tell the creators desperately wanted to believe this sweet little lie about diverse societies. I’m sure they imagined their tolerance would be reciprocated when they were on the receiving end; we now know that’s not true, unfortunately. Remember, this was the generation that famously cheered President Bill Clinton’s college commencement speech where he lauded the idea of America soon becoming majority minority. The primarily white crowd roared in approval.

White Male Star Trek Alum Denied Directing Job on Discovery Because He’s . . . White Male

Source 1

Source 2

In this imagined future, white liberals would still get to feel morally superior to contemporary white conservatives, just as they often strive to in today’s world. In TNG, this is accomplished through various means – cooperation with hostile aliens (demonstrating philosophical supremacy, superiority of intellect and temperament), bravery, tolerance of differences in others, multiculturalism (the show almost never celebrates an earth holiday like Christmas but often supports alien cultures, including breaking Starfleet’s rules of dress for aliens), standing up to corrupt superiors (usually white conservative caricatures).

In the TNG episode The Drumhead, Picard faces down a witch hunting admiral — a woman, no less. The plot revolves around an incident that occurred on the starship Enterprise. Sabotage is suspected, and the situation is tense. The initial evidence points to a low ranking crewman who is later discovered to be of mixed race, one-quarter of the Federation’s most feared enemy. This all but convicts him in the eyes of the admiral’s tribunal. The admiral mercilessly presses her case, threatening to destroy anyone who gets in her way. She’s meant to be a caricature of conservative jingoists of the era – always scared of the Russians, racist against minorities, emotional. In Hollywood’s view of history, those were the people behind the McCarthy hearings, which this episode obviously pulls from.

 
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In an address to the nation and the wider francophone world on Thursday (April 16), the Franco-Cameroonian[1] comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala called for peace and reconciliation in these anxious times of confinement and coronavirus.

Opening his video with his customary “may peace be with you and with your spirit,” Dieudonné recalled the many world leaders who have compared the current coronavirus crisis with the darkest events of the Twentieth Century. French President Emmanuel Macron has told his countrymen that “we are at war,” while U.S. Vice Admirable Jerome Adams has warned that coronavirus is “our Pearl Harbor.”

Dieudonné warned that such talk was increasing fear among the people:

What could be more traumatizing for the descendants of the great defeat of 1940 [turns to framed photo of Marshal Philippe Pétain on his wall] than to find themselves plunged today in the horrors of barbarism and butchery. Don’t you realize? Hitler and the coronavirus: the same struggle! What an extravagant analogy.

He added that such historical comparison led to the risk of inappropriate comparisons and to relativizing the events of the Second World War.

The fêted Dieudonné fell from grace from the French politico-media system in 2003, when he performed a comedy sketch on national television comparing Israeli settlers to Nazis. This was considered “anti-Semitic” and led to his blacklisting, as well as legal harassment by the Jewish-Zionist organizations.

Dieudonné went on to explain:

The conclusions of [the] Nuremberg [Military Tribunal] were supposed to have definitively closed the door to any kind of metaphor on the events between 1939 and 1945. In France, a law has even been passed which imposes this total submission on everyone – not a total submission to the official history, but to the legal history . . . an obligatory version of history. . . .

Adolf Hitler, who is also served up to us loosey-goosey [à toutes les sauces] right up to the present day continues to embody absolute evil. Though it’s true that some consider he had real skill in the area of economic recovery, he got Germany back on its feet in a few years.

Urging “open-mindedness,” he added:

Hitler should no longer have to carry the burden of infamy on his shoulders alone. No more than Judas Iskariot, for that matter. Jesus has forgiven them. Yes, Jesus has forgiven them! And he invites us to do the same. And why not consider that Hitler was a man who thought he was doing good, but was simply mistaken? And he also paid for this with his life. He also made others pay, but has the time not come for the great reconciliation? Or will we, after this confinement, enter a new cycle of conflict? With once again: “The Nazis! Hitler! Hitler willy-nilly! Hitler-Ben Laden! Hitler-Le Pen! Hitler-Saddam! Hitler-Putin! Hitler-Mahmoud [Ahmadinejad]!” Could we not, on the contrary, rehabilitate Hitler? Yes, in order to look ourselves in the face. In order to look humanity in the face. Yes, he belongs to humanity whether you like it or not.

Dieudonné concluded: “Let us leave this [mental] confinement, light, free. How? Through forgiveness.”

The comedian went on to poke fun at Manuel Valls – a Socialist and Zionist Franco-Spanish politician who persecuted Dieudonné in 2013 as Minister of Justice, banning one of his sketches. Since losing office in France, Valls has attempted to penetrate Spanish politics and failed.

Dieudonné also made light of climate change: “Do you remember the ozone layer?” He urged his viewers to put their savings into crypto, notably Dieudonné’s own digital currency, the Sestrel, and to buy face masks from LeeImpex, a company which may or may not be owned by Dieudonné and/or his associates.

Notes

[1] This of course refers to political citizenship. Ethnically, Dieudonné is a Breton-Ewondo hybrid.

 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: France, Hitler 
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The posters and trailers for today’s films and TV series generally look awful to me. I occasionally give them a chance, against my better judgment, and find I have wasted my time. All these pope dramas and even Emir Kusturica’s documentary with Uruguayan President Peje Mujica: meh.[1]

So I look to the past. I’ve recently indulged in watching some Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now there is a homey show. It’s remarkable in a number of ways. Two striking ones for me: the decidedly optimistic cosmopolitan setting, which represents a kind of idealized fruition of the whole liberal-internationalist outlook, and the personality of Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the starship Enterprise, as a rare TV portrayal of a wise commander.

Star Trek is fundamentally a projection of contemporary liberal-internationalist assumptions 300 years into the future. As such, it’s an interesting show to analyze to understand the liberal idealism, for there is such a thing, which has underpinned the world’s basic evolution since the Second World War.

Star Trek portrays humanity the way the writers feel we should be if we could get passed our pettiness and bickering. The technological level is simply fabulous: effortless interstellar travel, materialization of objects from nothing, teleportation, a “holodeck” where any fantastical setting can be realized . . . The travels of a military starship through space work very well as a pretext for an adventure-a-week. The Enterprise encounters mysterious happenings, hostile aliens, and surprisingly common (invariably passionate and unenlightened) demi-gods.

The show’s basic idealism and optimism is, significantly, reflected in the crew’s personalities. Everyone is just so good.

As usual, each member of the diverse crew reflects different aspects of the human personality: the android Data is emotionless and childlike, the Klingon Worf is an impulsive hot-head steeled by discipline, the telepathic psychologist Troi is full of empathy, and so on. However, the crew always fundamentally collaborates as a community under the leadership of Picard.

Picard is a model of philosophical leadership. When there is a problem, he takes his time, hears out every opinion, and remains dispassionate and prudent. When a decision is finally made however, he is firm and decisive.

A typical TNG episode works as a morality play. The antagonist (there are rarely enemies) is not usually destroyed an epic battle of laser blasts in all directions. Rather, he is usually misguided, and can be brought back to reason through dialogue and moral example. This is where Picard excels: Socratic dialectic, explication, compassion, and moral self-control are his weapons of choice.

And you know what? It works. While there is often a soppy element to TNG, Picard’s wise leadership comes across as convincing and plausible. It’s not often we see a wise man in command: a few cameos of Marcus Aurelius here and there, the Gandhi biopic starring Ben Kingsley . . . hard to think of much else. Ned Stark provides an interesting contrast with a fundamentally good, too good, man in a Machiavellian world.

Star Trek’s social organization and politics are rather telling. Inevitably, every series’ idealized setting says a great deal about the social assumptions of the people who made it at the time.

In The Original Series produced in the 1960s, the cast is strikingly multiracial, including a black woman, an East Asian man, as well as a Russian (not to mention the famously ultra-rational Spock, a half-Vulcan). The show is often comically macho and women are basically absent, with Uhura (the black woman) coming across as a sexy secretary.

In TNG, produced in the late 80s and 90s, the cast is much whiter and, as so often in liberal shows, demographically resembles 1950s America, the only minorities in the main cast being two black men (one of them being a non-human Klingon). What’s more, the men are still in charge. After the female chief of security is killed off in the first season (a rarity for a main cast member, the actress wanted out), women star as the ship’s psychologist, doctor, bartender, and love interests.

The Enterprise serves the Federation, a kind of interplanetary United Nations/United States which actually works, with humans making up the core. Again, the Federation is good, working for the harmonious development of all species.

Picard is wholly committed to the Federation and its generous and cosmopolitan guiding philosophy. He affirms “the right of all life to exist” and the ability of “intelligent beings of good will” to get along. The latter is Stoicism 101 (all “rational and social beings” should get along). Picard’s own ship and personal example are a testament to the truth of these claims.

While having a basically “humanitarian” mission, the Enterprise’s crew are animated by a decidedly heroic and even Promethean ethos. The crew are more than willing to risk their lives to, as Picard famously puts it in the intro, explore “Space . . . the final frontier . . . and boldly go where no one has gone before!”

TNG works as a kind of Stoic-cosmopolitan idealization of what humanity could be. There’s something charmingly innocent and elevated to all this and, as I say, it works.

That isn’t to say this is particularly plausible or is the whole story. The cracks and omittances of TNG are quite suggestive of underlying darkness.

Today, we rightly worry about human obsolescence as a result of automation. In TNG, there’s a whole space ship of people busy each working in their little sphere. Scarcely is anything ever said of the Federation’s (presumably democratic) politics and we only know the authoritarian hierarchy of a military vessel under a wise commander (a setting in which, by the way, multiculturalism can indeed work).

Despite the total lack of scarcity, the humans are still motivated to do things. The men are still interested in tactfully courting the womenfolk rather than being addicted to sexing virtual babes on the holodeck.

In terms of international politics and war, Star Trek rejects the suggestion of fundamental differences in outlook and competition between species. We can all get along and coexist. This is true, if each species lacks any great difference in their fundamental drive, if no species is basically . . . anti-social . . .

This is particularly striking in the case of one of Stark Trek’s most original principles: the so-called “Prime Directive” under which the Federation is not supposed to interfere with the development of more primitive forms of life. In one episode, a bronze-age race which has come to believe Picard is a god is told the truth and then, despite their equal cognitive abilities, left to flounder on their own.

In another, nanites self-reproduce as a collective intelligence and threaten to turn the ship into gray good. The problem is solved when the exponentionally-developing “nanite civilization” is dropped off on a planet. Everyone can have their safe space, it is implied, and there is no reason even a fundamentally distinct life-form might have a drive, an impulse, a way of life, which could fundamentally clash with that of others.

Liberal-internationalism and multiculturalism work much the same today. Human differences can be manageable if these are reduced to sterile folklore and we all become united by the shopping cart.

 
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In the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Hellenistic culture each ethnic community was self-conscious of its historical traditions and of the way in which these traditions related to those of other groups. . . . The work of most of these historians exists now only in quotations and extracts in the writings of later Christian writers . . . In second century Palestine B.C.E. Palestine a bilingual, upper class Jew named Eupolemus wrote a history entitled Concerning the Kings in Judea, though its scope was actually much broader. Eupolemus, a friend of Judah the Maccabee, was concerned with glorifying Israelite history and he elaborated the biblical narrative with additional legendary details. He presents Moses as a culture-bringer, specifically as the inventor of the alphabet, which was later borrowed by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. The influence and splendor of the Israelite kingdom under David and Solomon was a particular theme of Eupolemus. He describes the lavishness and superb construction of the temple, along with the contributions made by Hiram, king of Tyre, and Vaphres, king of Egypt. According to Eupolemus, Solomon responded to these contributions with extravagant gifts of his own, including a gold pillar for the temple of Zeus in Tyre. . . .

An anonymous writer, probably a Samaritan, wrote a highly legendary history in which various details of Greek and Babylonian mythology are harmonized with biblical traditions. . . . Abraham is presented as the discoverer of astrology, which he taught to the Egyptians during his sojourn there. The correlation of biblical figures with pagan mythological and heroic figures is characteristic of several of these Hellenistic Jewish historians, most notably Artapanus. More a writer of historical romances than a historian, Artapanus recounts the stories of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. Moses is presented as an inventor of basic technologies, a philosopher, a general in the Egyptian army, the organizer of Egyptian religion (!), and a man regarded as a virtual god by the Egyptians, who identified him with Hermes (the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian god Thoth). . . .

Against Apion [by the Jewish historian Josephus] is a book devoted to refuting slander leveled against Jews by gentile writers. It testifies to the competitive environment in which various ethnic groups interpreted their history and traditions in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. . . .

As early as the second century B.C.E., Alexandria produced a Jewish philosopher in the person of Aristobulus. Although his work survives only in quotations, he apparently wrote an extensive philosophical commentary on the Pentateuch. Aristobulus claimed that the law of Moses already contained what Greek philosophy later expounded. Indeed, he argued that Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato derived their ideas from Jewish law.

Whether or not there was a tradition of Hellenistic Jewish philosophers, the Egyptian Diaspora produced a truly significant intellectual figure in Philo of Alexandria, who flourished around the turn of the era. . . . Throughout his writings . . . philosophy and biblical interpretation are always closely intertwined as Philo attempts to show that true philosophy is nothing other than the understanding of the Law of Moses.[1]

Given our level of technological innovation and global interconnection, there are no previous historical periods really analogous to our own. The one that comes closest however may be the Alexandrian age, when the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East were intermingled under a common Hellenistic culture in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests.

This was an age of great cultural syncretism and scholarship. The Library of Alexandria gathered hundreds of thousands of books and undertook biological, chemical, and astronomical research. There were considerable scientific discoveries: the circumference of the Earth, the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, blood circulation . . .

These cosmopolitan periods harness the latent potential of scattered human intellect through interconnection. However, as Emil Cioran endlessly laments, these are also periods of biological decline and relative cultural sterility, the main achievements being compilations of existing cultures. Cosmopolitan eras sustain themselves by inertia and, worse, a kind of vampirism: living at the expense of centuries or even millennia of accumulated cultural and biological capital.

These are not periods of ethnic harmony. As Carol Newsom suggests, the common culture of the Hellenistic world was an ethnic battlefield, in which each tribe and religion sought to narcissistically rationalize and distort “reality” in their favor. This tendency is particularly striking concerning the Jews.

Nietzsche muses that much of the Old Testament was “falsified” history. Russel E. Gmirkin claims that the Torah, the Law attributed to Moses, was in fact inspired by Plato’s Laws and is a kind of implementation of Plato’s ambition of setting an eternal law and constitution for a people. The biblical scholar Denis MacDonald has written numerous works similarly arguing that much of the Gospels and early Christian apocrypha are imitations and parodies of Homer.

The Romans, who ruled and had assimilated all sorts of peoples, considered the ancient Jews to be a minor tribe, remarkable for its fanaticism and ethnocentrism. As such, Jews are rarely mentioned in Roman literature, but when they are – as by the philosopher-statesmen Cicero and Seneca – the comments are very negative and voice complaints which would become widespread in later epochs.

The Jewish historians by contrast attempted to attribute many the great and prestigious accomplishments of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Greeks to their own ancestors. Similarly, the leaders of rabbinical Judaism sought to reinterpret their sacred texts according to their own doctrines:

The Talmuds do seek in varying degrees to link Mishnaic [early Jewish legal] teaching to Scripture, but again not in a systematic fashion and not with any sense that rabbinic teaching depends on the Bible for its own validities. This central corpus of rabbinic literature thus makes clear that rabbinic Judaism in its own formative period assigned the sacred canon of Scripture an essentially marginal role in Jewish religious life. . . .

Substantial portions of the Talmud take the form of attempts to associate with Scripture rabbinical teachings about all sorts of topics that have at first glance no particular connection to the passages adduced. . . . Through skillful midrashic [ancient Jewish biblical interpretation] elaboration, virtually all of rabbinic teaching could be presented as interpretation of Scripture and all of Scripture could be understood as conforming to rabbinic teaching. . . .

Midrash was unconcerned in principle with the plausibility of its exegesis or with the original context of its biblical raw materials; any meaning which any interpreter could derive from any detail in the biblical text could at least in theory be offered as midrash on that text.[2]

 
• Category: History • Tags: Ancient Jews, Jews 
Coronavirus Brings Back the Spirit of the Polis
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The coronavirus epidemic has been highly instructive. In the face of a looming early death for millions of citizens, Western States have entered a genuine crisis in which the Schmittian sovereign – who was always there lying in waiting – has reemerged into the open and taken all the measures deemed necessary, liberty and law be damned.

The nations making up the European Union are highly illustrative in this respect. For starters, there was no unified European response. Each nation having its own police and media/consciousness, each one adopted their measures in a haphazard and uncoordinated manner, although all tended towards a gradual escalation.

Jean Quatremer, Libération’s euro-federalist correspondent in Brussels, lamented: “Up to now, it has been every man for himself. Italy, the epicenter of the European epidemic, was abandoned; Germany and France even went so far as to forbid the export of medical equipment, with no regard for solidarity.”

Admittedly that was two weeks ago and since then the Europeans have made some progress in getting their act together.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is perhaps the EU’s only truly federal and sovereign entity, in some respects more powerful that the U.S. Federal Reserve, because there is no pan-European political counterpart to counterbalance it. A few days after making the faux pas of declaring that the Bank’s job did not involve policing interest rate spreads,[1] ECB President Christine Lagarde reversed her position and declared her institution would lend €750 billion to stabilize the European economy.

I am always left in awe of this spectacle: while European officials and lobbyists are locked in a perpetual struggle of niggardly Kuhhandel in Brussels over the pork-laden EU budget, Lagarde can summon up five times the annual budget with a snap of her fingers.

Corona really does work miracles. Things that were declared “impossible” have become the norm. The parks of Western European cities are finally being cleared of migrants, now that these have been declared a sanitary hazard (being a criminal one was apparently not enough).

The European Parliament’s meetings in Strasbourg – a traveling circus which costs taxpayers €100 million per years – have been suspended. The EU’s balanced-budget rulebook, which the Germans fought so hard to impose over the last decades, has been thrown out the window. Each State is to borrow as it pleases to bail out businesses and provide welfare, at least for the duration of the national lockdowns. Individual liberty has been put indefinitely on hold.

In Italy, the number of cases and dead continues to steadily rise. As of 27 March, over 9,000 have died, including almost 1,000 just in the past day. Overwhelmed medical professionals have been forced to institute the grim practice of triage, choosing to concentrate on those individuals who have the best chance of survival and leaving many of the elderly to die.

Mankind only learns the hard way: one funeral at a time. A month ago, the mayor of Florence urged his fellow citizens to “huge a Chinese” in order to fight racism and xenophobia. Now Italian mayors are verbally abusing their residents to stay indoors in classic national style.

European States have adopted genuinely totalitarian levels of social control, affecting all citizens’ daily lives. In France, you cannot go into the street without a written declaration of your particular reason for being outside. Our countries have adopted a basically Mussolinian notion of collection liberty. As the Duce himself argued in his Doctrine of Fascism:

[Fascism] is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. [. . .] And if liberty is to be the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State.

And, in truth, Western Europeans have by and large embraced the new measures. Huge majorities of over 85% support the national lockdowns in Spain, Italy, France, and Britain. With a typical “rally-around-the-flag” effect, leading politicians have also regained in popularity. French President Emmanuel Macron now has a 44% approval rating, a figure not seen since July 2017, while confidence in Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe has jumped by over 10 points since the start of the crisis, reaching 51%.

Our liberal democracies found their legitimacy on the sacrosanct equality and liberty of the individual, that is to say. Such doctrines and practices certainly thrive in peacetime but as soon as there is a real threat of death – an early death for millions of elderly Westerners, in this case – these notions melt away like snow in the morning sun.

In the face of genuine danger, the natural social condition effortlessly reasserts itself. Liberty, equality, and the “rights of man” naturally give way to the imperative of collective survival: Every man at his post!

In truth, collective organization in the face of imminent danger has been the norm throughout human history. Social prescription went far beyond mere politics to being part of something much deeper: custom.

There is a curious contradiction running across Western societies today. Over the last two-and-a-half centuries, we have seen the individual rebel more and more forcefully against the formal strictures of the group, against formal inequalities and restrictions on “private” liberty (for instance, buggery, harlotry, and spinsterdom). Any attempt to take action to reverse Western nations’ decline and save their ethnic and genetic identity is considered a “human rights violation.” At the same time, in practice, our citizens tolerate and often outright expect massive curtailment of their liberties, usually in the name of security.

The fascist critique of liberal-democratic ethics basically boiled down to a denunciation of selfishness and hypocrisy. As Ezra Pound complained in 1938: “In our time the liberal has asked for almost no freedom save freedom to commit acts contrary to the general good.”[2] Indeed, Pound noted that as people had only known “the loose waftiness of demoliberal ideology,” one needed “sharp speech” to open minds.[3]

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: Coronavirus, Disease, EU, Fascism, Nationalism 
The Christian Knight’s Ethos according to Geoffroi de Charny
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Geoffroi de Charny (trans. Elspeth Kennedy), A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press), 2005.

Geoffroi de Charny was a widely respected French lord of the fourteenth century. A bearer of the royal standard (the Oriflamme) and the first recorded owner of the Turin Shroud, he spent his life fighting in various wars before dying fighting the English and Gascons at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, in his late forties.

Charny was also a writer, producing a number of books, including the Livre de Chevalerie (The Book of Chivalry), one of the few non-fiction descriptions of the knightly ethos that we possess. This book is an exhortation to martial prowess, a spirited defense of the military way life, and a guide to how one should act as a knight.

Charny is unique in combining a downright Homeric competitiveness and spiritedness with a very Christian piety and humility before divine providence. He urges single-minded determination, if necessary unto death:

And no one should give up performing great exploits. For when the body can do no more, the heart and determination should take over; and there are many people who have been more fortunate in the end than they had hoped for at the beginning in relation to the nature of their enterprise. I therefore say: whoever does best is worth most. (10.5-10[1])

One never has an excuse to give up. As in many sections, Charny concludes saying: “qui plus fait, mieux vault” (he who does more is worth more). He says this again and again throughout the work, recurring like a mantra, a kind of final existential statement.

At the same time, Charny is thoroughly imbued with Christian piety. “Ah God!” he often says, thinking gratefully of the natural qualities and opportunity to be a knight granted to him by the Lord. Man has a duty to exploit the natural gifts granted to him by God. One must be humble, for uncertainty is the lot of humanity, our fates determined by an inscrutable divine providence. Hence, Charny urges us to not be arrogant in success, nor despairing in failure, but to be detached and reverent in the face of ever-uncertain events. A lifetime’s work and amassed wealth can be lost in an instant, only the honor of good deeds is eternal.[2] Greed, he says, is the enemy of honor and often leads to self-destruction.

Charny is empowered by his closeness to God:

Now he is indeed a poor wretch who leaves this sweet spring at which everyone can quench his thirst and satisfy all his good desires, for he can only find there a good beginning, a better middle, and a very good end. (44.27)

Interestingly, Charny is not particularly pro-clerical however, seemingly leaping over the priests in his martial piety.

We find again that Homeric wisdom which so often resurfaces in Western literature throughout the ages: that it is better to live well and gloriously, however briefly, than long in servility. The Christian Charny writes:

[A] man is happy to die when he finds life pleasing, for God is gracious toward those who find their life of such quality that death is honorable; for the said men of worth teach you that it is better to die than live basely. (22.50)

He urges the soldier, on a philosophical note, to “live with the constant thought of facing death at any hour on any day” (42.85).

In short, much like the Song of Roland in the eleventh century, Charny’s Book of Chivalry represents a fusion of Christian piety and selflessness with native European spiritedness and martial culture.

The French Hagakure

Charny’s Book of Chivalry can be interestingly compared with Jōchō Yamamoto’s samurai handbook, Hagakure (later studied by Yukio Mishima). The two works are very different in terms of form. Jōchō presents a disordered set of fragmentary memoirs, historical anecdotes, and life advice, collected by an acolyte. Charny by contrast apparently dictated his work in a great burst, as a steady and single-minded torrent of exhortation.

In terms of values, Jōchō and Charny perhaps differ mostly in emphasis. Both are warriors relentlessly convinced of the excellence of their profession, of the need to be the best one can be, and to be unshakably determined unto death. While Charny notes the importance of hierarchy, loyalty and speaking well, Jōchō absolutely stresses the need for selflessness and tact in the service of one’s lord.

The biggest difference is perhaps related to piety. Jōchō, apparently retired as a Zen monk, was basically impious: the samurai’s conscience should not be troubled by what gods or Buddha might want, noting as an afterthought that such selfless service could only be pleasing to deities. Charny by contrast has mind only for war and God.

The Glory of Prowess

Charny is unwaveringly proud of his profession. For him, martial pursuits are inherently worthwhile, insofar as these entail expensive investments (weapons, armor, steed, travel), risk to oneself (fighting, travel), hardship, determination, and skill. Thus, simple tournaments as well as wars for honor, for one’s inheritance and land, for one’s rightful lord, for self-defense, for helpless orphans and damsels, and for true religion are all impressive and honorable, though not equally so.

Charny recognizes that arms can be misused: robbery, plunder, or stealing from churches bring only “dishonorable ill fame” (41.98). Whereas monastics like Saint Bernard tended to condemn knights in general, praising only the honorable exception of warrior-monks like the knights-templar, Charny inverses the pattern. For him, warriors in general are worthy of praise, whether rich or poor.

Charny’s treatment of wealth and aristocracy is somewhat nuanced. In a striking passage, he argues that, in ancient times, the nobility were chosen because of their powerful physique and capacity to endure, thus earning the right to rule for the benefit of others. Charny asks: “Were they chosen in order to take pleasure in listening to dissolute conversation or in watching worthless pastimes? Indeed no!” (24.108). He notes that the poor have to invest more of their little wealth to go on military adventures, but ultimately considers the rich more honorable, because they have no need to go on such expeditions, but do so purely for “personal honor” (17.80). He urges us however to recognize the merit of each individual whatever his class: “Be sure that you do not despise poor men or those lesser in rank than you, for there are many poor men who are of greater worth than the rich” (23.32).

Natural gifts and humility before God

Charny is among those writers sensitive to the reality of in-born human nature determining differing qualities among individuals. For him, an individual will be blessed by God with different “natural good qualities,” which will make him more or less suited to being a knight. One must build upon these qualities:

 
• Category: History • Tags: Knighthood, Middle Ages 
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