East Is East and West Is Wuss

If a civilized man, as it is sometimes said, can hold two ideas in his mind at the same time, post-civilized man goes one step farther and sees nothing wrong with maintaining contradictory opinions on any subject that comes up: We say simultaneously that the Russians are animalistic drunkards with no aptitude for the free-market or self-government—but a quickie course in democratic capitalism will solve all their woes. The contradiction does not bother us. We are post-rational as well as post-civilized.

Most people—whether they are pre-civilized primitives, like the American masses, or post-civilized degenerates, like the American elite—are perfectly capable of taking a stand on the practical matters of everyday life. They know that something either tastes good to them or does not (if they are post-civilized, they will concede that the difference between bistecca fiorentina and a Chicago hot dog is just a matter of style and preference). In matters outside their immediate experience, however, they display an enormous capacity for tolerating contradiction.

The bifurcation of the post-civilized mind is especially obvious in foreign affairs. Within a matter of weeks, newspapermen can be demanding intervention on behalf of the Muslims in Chechnya, Bosnia, or Kosovo, and then without pausing to make a transition as artificial as a Jay Leno segue, they will condemn the violent terrorism of...

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