"Freedom from Fear" (left) and "Freedom from Want" are two of Norman Rockwell's "The Four Freedoms" series inspired by FDR's rousing wartime State of the Union address in 1941. Reproduced in four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943, the original paintings by America's favorite illustrator toured the United States, raising over $130 million for the war effort. (Norman Rockwell Museum photos)
"The riot in French suburbs reveals the flaw in Fabian socialism. It does not take into account the psychology of people," writes Minh-Duc of State Of Flux in the most eloquent analysis of "why they hate us" we've seen anywhere:
It assumes that by providing the basic subsistence to people, that would be enough to keep them content. People are never content with bare subsistence -- especially if it comes in the form of hand out and charity. It degrades them and robs them of their self-esteem. It is a shameful existence. Men need pride from their own labor. Self-reliance brings personal honor and pride -- a sense of ownership over one's own life. This is why the free-market economy is not only an efficient and effective system -- it is also a humane and honorable one.
Just right. We wrote something similar in response to Jeff Jarvis's well-meaning but clueless reaction to the London bombings last summer. "Well what the hell do they have to be angry about?" Jeff had written. "They're fed. They're free. They're educated. They have health care. They can say and go where they want." As we wrote then:
It's true these folk are psychopaths who must be rooted out and brought to justice, but it's naive to believe they should be content to have physical comforts handed to them on a welfare platter. No man -- no creature worth its salt -- can bear the shame. Come to think of it, that's exactly what's wrong with the liberal project.
"Freedom of Speech" left and "Freedom to Worship" complete the series. We remember having reproductions of the illustrations hanging on the walls of our grade-school classrooms in the fifties and thinking even then they seemed quaintly old-fashioned. In today's world, again at war with those who would stomp on our freedoms, we see them with fresh eyes. Because Rockwell's subject matter was usually on the corny side, serious art critics tended to look down upon the artist's accomplishment, but beyond the anecdotal component -- much loved by the average American -- his compositional and painterly skills were quite remarkable.
Without an appreciation of human nature -- Minh-Duc's "psychology of people" -- FDR's "The Four Freedoms" are stillborn. The words of George Weigel come to mind in his powerful essay "Is Europe Dying? Notes on a Crisis of Civilizational Morale" [via Jack Yoest via Laura Lee Donoho of The Wide Awake Cafe]:
Europe began the twentieth century with bright expectations of new and unprecedented scientific, cultural, and political achievements. Yet within fifty years, Europe, the undisputed center of world civilization in 1900, produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, a Cold War that threatened global holocaust, oceans of blood, mountains of corpses, the Gulag, and Auschwitz. What happened?
Take, for example, the proposal made by a French Jesuit, Henri de Lubac, during World War II. De Lubac argued that Europe's torments in the 1940s were the "real world" results of defective ideas, which he summarized under the rubric "atheistic humanism" -- the deliberate rejection of the God of the Bible in the name of authentic human liberation.
The proponents of nineteenth-century European atheistic humanism turned this inside out and upside down. Human freedom, they argued, could not coexist with the God of Jews and Christians. Human greatness required rejecting the biblical God, according to such avatars of atheistic humanism as Auguste Comte, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche. And here, Father de Lubac argued, were ideas with consequences -- lethal consequences, as it turned out. For when you marry modern technology to the ideas of atheistic humanism, what you get are the great mid-twentieth century tyrannies -- communism, fascism, Nazism.
To deny that Christianity had anything to do with the evolution of free, law-governed, and prosperous European societies [as the European constitutional treaty does] is, to repeat, more than a question of falsifying the past; it is also a matter of creating a future in which moral truth has no role in governance, in the determination of public policy, in understandings of justice, and in the definition of that freedom which democracy is intended to embody.
Sadly, despite centuries of historical evidence to the contrary, the collectivist dream persists, as we were again most unpleasantly reminded when sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) from south of the border marched in hysterical protest at the Third Summit of the Peoples of America earlier this week.
Sissy Willis surveys the blogosphere (ranging from Minh-Duc to Excitable Andy Sullivan) on the Paris riots, pulls out some apposite quotations and excerpts, ties it all together with a long snippet from a column by theologian George Weigel and (believe it or not) Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" paintings, and just generally hits it out of the park.