Friday, July 4, 2008

Unlearning Courage: The Demise of Bravery in the West?

Cross posted from
Hat tip to "Non -intellectual" at The Conservative Voice

Does Patriotism Matter?
By Thomas Sowell

The Fourth of July is a patriotic holiday but patriotism has long been viewed with suspicion or disdain by many of the intelligentsia. As far back as 1793, prominent British writer William Godwin called patriotism "high-sounding nonsense."
Internationalism has long been a competitor with patriotism, especially among the intelligentsia. H.G. Wells advocated replacing the idea of duty to one's country with "the idea of cosmopolitan duty."

Perhaps nowhere was patriotism so downplayed or deplored than among intellectuals in the Western democracies in the two decades after the horrors of the First World War, fought under various nations' banners of patriotism.

In France, after the First World War, the teachers' unions launched a systematic purge of textbooks, in order to promote internationalism and pacifism.

Books that depicted the courage and self-sacrifice of soldiers who had defended France against the German invaders were called "bellicose" books to be banished from the schools.

Textbook publishers caved in to the power of the teachers' unions, rather than lose a large market for their books. History books were sharply revised to conform to internationalism and pacifism.

The once epic story of the French soldiers' heroic defense against the German invaders at Verdun, despite the massive casualties suffered by the French, was now transformed into a story of horrible suffering by all soldiers at Verdun— French and German alike.

In short, soldiers once depicted as national heroes were now depicted as victims— and just like victims in other nations' armies.

Children were bombarded with stories on the horrors of war. In some schools, children whose fathers had been killed during the war were asked to speak to the class and many of these children— as well as some of their classmates and teachers— broke down in tears.

In Britain, Winston Churchill warned that a country "cannot avoid war by dilating upon its horrors." In France, Marshal Philippe Petain, the victor at Verdun, warned in 1934 that teachers were trying to "raise our sons in ignorance of or in contempt of the fatherland."

But they were voices drowned out by the pacifist and internationalist rhetoric of the 1920s and 1930s.

Did it matter? Does patriotism matter?

France, where pacifism and internationalism were strongest, became a classic example of how much it can matter.

During the First World War, France fought on against the German invaders for four long years, despite having more of its soldiers killed than all the American soldiers killed in all the wars in the history of the United States, put together.
But during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany.

At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers' union was told, "You are partially responsible for the defeat."

Charles de Gaulle, Francois Mauriac, and other Frenchmen blamed a lack of national will or general moral decay, for the sudden and humiliating collapse of France in 1940.

At the outset of the invasion, both German and French generals assessed French military forces as more likely to gain victory, and virtually no one expected France to collapse like a house of cards — except Adolf Hitler, who had studied French society instead of French military forces.

Did patriotism matter? It mattered more than superior French tanks and planes.
Most Americans today are unaware of how much our schools have followed in the footsteps of the French schools of the 1920s and 1930s, or how much our intellectuals have become citizens of the world instead of American patriots.
Our media are busy verbally transforming American combat troops from heroes into victims, just as the French intelligentsia did— with the added twist of calling this "supporting the troops."

Will that matter? Time will tell.

To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is

A note from Radarsite: This is one of the finest, most prescient, most disturbing essays I have read in quite a while. Thomas Sowell is a deep thinker, and sometimes deep thinkers can discover patterns which are invisible to others. How I wish that he was somehow mistaken. How I wish that those perfect parallels he has so thoughtfully drawn were not so damned convincing.

How carefully we devise our own downfall. How purposeful and relentless is our rush to self-destruction, to cultural oblivion.

Dear God, are we really all this hopeless? Can we not learn from our past mistakes? Can we not see the repeated folly of our delusional pacifism? Must we remain fixed to this ignoble fate? Have we really unlearned courage?

If there is any hope for us at all, any hope for this great Western civilization of ours, it resides in the clear, uncompromising vision and forceful arguments of deep thinkers like Thomas Sowell and those of us who are brave enough to listen, those of us who have yet to unlearn courage. - rg


  1. It is a shame that for 2 generations now our schools have not been leaders in patriotism. They have neglected that aspect of education in order to promote self-esteem and cultural awareness.

    You find patriots come now from families that promote patriotism and love of nation. You find people like Code Pink coming from families who promote self and money giving little regard for their nation.

    Until our schools get back to the values of patriotism, there will be little hope for the next generation or for future generations after that.

  2. Of course patriotism matters. But American patriotism means alot of different things to different people.

    Patriotism comes to life in many forms

    About a week ago strong winds snapped my flag mount from my home. For a number of reasons, including lack of time due to my patriotic business activities, regrettably, I did not fly my flag yesterday.

  3. Thank you for posting this RG. Great cross post. I agree with findalis, well said!

    Unfortunately this is true. As not to repeat from findalis but in my own words..I feel it is up to the parents and families now to instill the values of patriotism for if it does not start at home, where can we hope our next generation to turn?

    If my daughter did not grow up around the military in our family and watch me Support the Troops all these years; I am afraid she would not know one thing about Patriotism or what it stands for and how important it is to carry this with us with all our hearts and soul. After all when she was old enough to understand, they had just removed saluting the flag in the mornings in school.

    RG - linking to my site, this should be shared. Thank you!

  4. I find it somewhat amusing that the obsessive progressive movement has degenerated into a ONE issue campaign of Forgetfullness... Here they are dressed in Faded Red colors left over fromthe 70's screaming about W's "lies" on WMD and totally forgetting that :
    1) Congress authorized the Iraq war after 5 months of dekiberatin.
    2) Harry the Weird Reid gave a " passionate " speech on the Senate floor listing 24 reasons why " We are in a fcatual state of war" and urging the Senate to authorize the action....

    Code pink must wean themselves off the pink kool aid and start getting the fcats correct.. or is it too late?

  5. Thanks everyone.

    Thank you Ana Rebecca, I'll check it out.

    Thank you Americaneocon, and welcome to Radarsite.