Reviewed in the United States on May 20, 2019
This was an incredibly intelligent retrospective on the last thirty years of cultural decline.
This is a book well-worth reading by a serious man who has pondered serious issues. David Horowitz is particularly engaging because he follows the logic of his arguments, rather than being compelled by his ideological allegiances. For example, although Horowitz states simply that he is an agnostic, he recognizes the importance of religion, particularly Christianity for the American liberal culture that he wants to survive. His chief argument in the book is that Progressive Leftism's particularly project is to destroy Christianity as a competing worldview. Given Horowitz's non-partisan status, from a religious standpoint at least, the reader would be well-advised to give weight to these arguments.
"Do not mistake this as a parochial issue, affecting only a persecuted religious community. In America, the war against Christians is not merely a war against an embattled religion. It is a war against an imperiled nation—a war against this nation and its founding principles: the equality of individuals and individual freedom. For these principles are indisputably Christian in origin. They are under siege because they are insurmountable obstacles to radicals’ totalitarian ambition to create a new world in their image. I know this in my bones because I was born into a family of political radicals. We were a community of atheist Jews who described ourselves as “progressives” and identified our tribe as a persecuted people. The religious holidays we observed were Chanukah and Passover, whose texts were drawn from the history of that people and whose lessons, as we interpreted them, were about freedom from oppression. We purposely did not attend religious services on the High Holy Days—the Days of Awe. These holidays were about individual guilt and repentance. They were about making amends for misdeeds toward one’s fellow human beings and settling accounts with the Hebrew God.
In short, the Days of Awe were about the state of individual souls. As progressives and world-changers, we were not interested in the fate of individual souls. Our cause was the salvation of mankind. We wanted justice for oppressed classes and races, and we looked at synagogues as reactionary institutions—houses of superstition whose prayers and preaching served to keep the oppressed in line. I eventually came to understand that my parents and their friends referred to themselves as “progressives” to hide their true faith, which was Communism. For them, Communism was the vision of a future in which the long history of social injustice would finally come to an end. When I eventually rejected this illusion, I realized that their atheistic creed was itself a form of religious faith. Their God was History, which they viewed as an inexorable march to a promised land."
These observations are in line with observations made by sociologists about the historical results of the Communist project of eradicating religion in order to create an atheist utopia. The problem, of course, with utopias set in this world is that the Utopia never arises, but rather draws farther and farther away as they find themselves creating their own particular Hell. Horowitz isn't the first former Communist to note this fact, but his kind of convert seems to be far rarer than was the case in earlier times.
For me, Horowitz's discussion about the history of Leftist enablement of the AIDS epidemic was particularly informative. I've been amazed at how much hard-earned knowledge we've tossed away about hygiene. My grandparents dealt with children dying of Scarlet Fever and Whooping Cough. When I was growing up those diseases were deemed to have been eradicated from America.
But today they are back.
Well, the arrival of old diseases with new illegal immigration is an obvious cause, but so is the tearing down of common-sense hygiene in the name of ...progress? civil rights? I'm not sure. Nonetheless, in city after city we are hear about the epidemic of human defecation on the streets and how needs are left lying around. It took civilization thousands of years to get people to stop spitting in the streets, but today in the name of compassion we can't wash down the streets without fear that some leftist will compare that to Bull Connor turning the hoses on Civil Rights protesters. (True story, by the way.)
Horowitz reminds us of the AIDS epidemic and how it was largely contained to the homosexual community in three cities. Application of the normal policies of public hygiene would have nipped the crisis in the bud, but our elites found themselves without the will to protect gays from themselves (because despite what was said, AIDS was never going to be a heterosexual problem.) Rather than treat AIDS as a disease, it was treated as a civil rights issue.
The result was deadly.
In fact, though, curbing the disease would have required backing away from the ideology that facilitated its existence. Horowitt explains:
"The gay radicals kept the bathhouses open as “symbols of the revolution.” They shut down the testing and contact-tracing programs, which would have exposed the path of the epidemic, allowing health officials to warn those in its path. The radicals did, however, agree on one prophylactic measure to save lives: the use of condoms to practice “safe sex.” The gay community leaders turned it into a campaign with posters proclaiming “Safe Sex Is Hot Sex.”23 Unlike other measures to prevent the spread of disease, condom use was not viewed as “homophobic” by the gay community and wouldn’t interfere with the liberated lifestyle. Using condoms was prudent advice, but it relied on the responsible behavior of individuals. Responsibility, on the other hand, was precisely the moral characteristic that gay liberation had thrown to the winds. Condom use also brought the activists up against the moral positions of their Christian nemesis, the Catholic Church. The church advocated sexual abstinence and opposed prophylactic measures, even though condoms didn’t serve a contraceptive purpose in gay sex. In a statement titled, “Call to Compassion,” the Catholic bishops warned against the notion of safe sex because it “compromises human sexuality and can lead to promiscuous behavior.” Promiscuous behavior was, of course, the rallying cry of the liberationists—and the root cause of the epidemic."
I am currently reading a lot on World War I. I am reminded of the fact that virulence of the Spanish Flu was created by the conditions of the war, which put a lot of soldiers in close proximity, where virulent diseases could spread quickly before burning out, and by the conditions of the home front where millions starved. Without those conditions there probably would not have been a pandemic that killed more people than were killed in combat.
The gay culture prior to AIDS offered a similar favorable environment. Horowitz explains:
"Callen later founded People With AIDS, and, in a courageously candid reflection, wrote: Unfortunately, as a function of a microbiological . . . certainty, this level of sexual activity resulted in concurrent epidemics of syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, amoebiasis, venereal warts and, we discovered too late, other pathogens. Unwittingly, and with the best of revolutionary intentions, a small subset of gay men managed to create disease settings equivalent to those of poor third-world nations in one of the richest nations on earth.8 Nor did the diseases remain stable. The enteric diseases—amebiasis, gay bowel syndrome, giardiasis, and shigellosis—were followed by an epidemic of hepatitis B, which Randy Shilts called “a disease that had transformed itself, via the popularity of anal intercourse, from a blood-borne scourge into a venereal disease.”9 The hepatitis B virus was transmitted in exactly the same way as the newly identified AIDS virus."
It seems clear that the medical elites must have known that something like AIDS was going to show up, but no Progressive has ever apologized to many who died as a result of such obvious violations of basic hygiene. Sexual permissiveness was too valuable a good to compromise for mere lives.
And now we are constructing a similar environment on the streets of Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco.
There is much of value in this book. It should be widely read.