2007 September 16 Sunday
Jim Pinkerton: The Once & Future Christendom

Separationism keeps growing in popularity as the most reasonable response to Islam. Jim Pinkerton has written a highly excellent piece The Once & Future Christendom.

In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area—the homeland, which he calls the Shire—even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.

So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism—the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us—it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.

Jim's interpretation of Tolkien is great. I highly recommend reading this essay both for the Lord Of The Rings interpretation and for Jim's take on what we should do about our clash of civilizations with Islam.

I find Jim's use of the term "narcissistic view" as insightful. The universalists so love their own ideas that they can't imagine why the rest of the world won't eventually do so as well.

Why haven't we separated ourselves fully from the Muslims? The temptation of greater power. We have hubris to think that we can unite the entire world in our own universalist vision.

In addition to the innate differences, Tolkien added a layer of tragic complexity: the enticement of power. Some races in Middle Earth were given Rings of Power—19 in all, symbolizing technological might but also a metaphor for hubristic overreach: “Three Rings for Elven-kings under the sky / Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone / Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die.” One notes immediately that the Hobbits, along with other categories of being, have received no rings. Again, Tolkien’s world doesn’t pretend to be fair; we get what we are given, by the design (or maybe for the amusement) of greater powers. Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity—the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it

I'm surprised to learn that my lack of attraction to universalist ideology gives me something in common with Hobbits.

Enter Frodo, hero Hobbit. Tolkien, who served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the Great War, modeled Frodo, admiringly, after the Tommies—the grunt infantrymen—who fought alongside him. Neither a defeatist nor a militarist, Tolkien admired those men who were simultaneously stoic and heroic. In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.

Yes, the Hobbits aren't utopians. People who want to transform the world with militarily imposed democracy promote an unachievable utopian dream.

We have enemies within.

Nor can we ignore the painful reality of a genuine fifth column in the West. This summer, Gordon Brown’s government concluded that 1 in 11 British Muslims—almost 150,000 people living in the United Kingdom—“proactively” supports terrorism, with still more rated as passive supporters. And this spring, a Pew Center survey found that 13 percent of American Muslims, as well as 26 percent aged 18-29, were bold enough to tell a pollster that suicide bombing was “sometimes” justified. These Muslim infiltrators, of course, have potential access to weapons of mass destruction.

We can basically buy out the citizenship of our enemies within. This is a solvable problem. We just need to find the will to solve it.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 September 16 11:20 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

Stephen said at September 17, 2007 6:12 AM:

Geez Randall, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for material! Mr Pinkerton's comparison must rate as one of the most shamefully facile articles ever written on the alleged muslim problem. Its like some high school essay.

Probably marked somewhere well to the left of the bell curve as well.

Anyway, the Ring expedition was a stupid plan. Those Hobbits trudged across half a continent on a suicide mission that would almost certainly deliver the ring to the baddies, when all they needed to do was cadge a ride on one of those giant eagles, fly over to Mt Doom, drop in the ring, and then fly back to the Shire. They'd probably be home for supper. I never really understood why no one suggested that far simpler tactic.

Stephen said at September 17, 2007 6:18 AM:

In fact, the Ring expedition plan is so stupid its suspicious...its almost like the Counsel of Elrond was a bunch of defence contractors looking to start a nice war for their shareholders.

MI said at September 17, 2007 7:31 AM:

No comment on Pinkerton's take on Tolkien; I've read LOTR, but it's been a while. As to his policy recommendations however....

First, I was glad to see Pinkerton's nods towards separationism & energy independence. Although I doubt the Europeans would embrace separationism absent an actual Muslim rebellion; and I'm not sure energy "independence" consisting of the substitution of Russian & Venezuelan oil for Mideast oil would greatly enhance American energy security.

Second, Pinkerton is frustratingly vague on what he means by an "alliance". He calls this neo-Christendom a "political alliance". So would it be a talk shop, ala the UN General Assembly? Would it be an alliance of collective defense (ala NATO), necessitating American intervention in large swathes of the globe? Would it be an economic alliance, with free trade agreements & the occasional foreign aid subsidy (and the gradual export of American jobs)? This lack of details makes it difficult to evaluate the merit of Pinkerton's policy proposals.

Third, Pinkerton doesn't explain how one might meld the US, Europe, Israel, Russia, Africa, & Latin America into a common alliance: "political co-operation", a "Council of the West". This is the policy-prescription equivalent of hand-waving; he's basically admitting that he has absolutely no idea how to get these various countries & regions, with all their conflicting interests, to play off the same sheet of music. Absent such cooperation, however, his entire "new Christendom" concept falls apart.

Fourth, Pinkerton fails to explain why "the Shire" necessarily extends beyond the territorial boundaries of the United States. He simply assumes that "the Shire" necessarily includes all the nations & regions that he mentions. He doesn't even bother arguing that (say) American requirements for strategic minerals & resources, or American Christians' concern for overseas coreligionists, necessitate American concern for the territorial disputes of Eurasia. To Pinkerton, it appears that the most significant downsides of a possible Islamic conquest of Europe would be "a psychic wound that would never heal", and Muslim desecration of European cultural treasures; but is the defense of the Louve & the Sistine Chapel truly a vital American interest that justifies entangling alliances with Europe? Likewise, Pinkerton cites the potential exercise of the "Samson Option" to justify alliance with Israel; but he does not explain what American interest is served in preventing overseas genocides. Even granting Pinkerton the necessity of defending Europe & Israel, he still says nothing about why "the Shire" necessarily encompasses Russia, Africa, & Latin America as well.

Fifth, his "solution" for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute - a "summit of civilizations" - is almost laughable. Left to the imagination are A) even the broad outlines of a possible solution to this dispute; and B) why "all Muslims" would favor a pacific outcome to that dispute, in the absence of a crushing Judeo-Christian victory over Muslim forces. Instead we have more hand-waving about "stakeholders in a pacific outcome" and the blessings of peacemaking.

I give Pinkerton props for articulating an inspiring vision, but a few concrete details, in lieu of some of those inspirational turns of phrase, would've been rather welcome.

gcochran said at September 17, 2007 9:12 AM:

He strikes me as deranged. Evidently it's going around.

Rob said at September 17, 2007 11:32 AM:

Dr. Cochran,

I think your onto something. It probably is a crazy-virus. But who is patient zero?

My bet: Wolfowitz. But it could be some social-butterfly staffer at American Enterprise Institute.

Irish savant said at September 17, 2007 12:52 PM:

The real risk with the Muslim 5th column is not terrorism, in my view. It's the gradual imposition of their way of life on the rest of us, who have been emasculated by political correctness and multi-culturalism. See my post http://irishsavant.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html

Irish savant said at September 17, 2007 12:55 PM:

Sorry - wrong link in my post - should have been http://irishsavant.blogspot.com/2007/05/even-bbc-gets-it.html

Anon said at September 17, 2007 1:08 PM:

The airport in Indianapolis is going to build footbaths for these lunatics.


You are correct about this gradual imposition of islam and sharia, Irish, but don't worry, there will be plenty of terrorism too. Many muslims are so excited about islam that they can't help themselves. And the 5th Column is already here, they helped out with 9-11. I have no doubt that muslims knew about 9-11, but of course, nobody told the infidels a thing.


adrian said at September 17, 2007 1:47 PM:

Cochran is a genetic determinist, a right-wing richard dawkins, so naturally he is contemptuous of our Christian heritage. Nobody will die for sociobiology and an atheist universe, so Darwinian conservatives are functionally useless. If we make Darwin our god, as Cochran and Derbyshire seem to want, then the west will go under anyway because there is nothing worth fighting for.

Rob said at September 17, 2007 2:36 PM:


You know Tolkien is fantasy, right? Pretend. Orcs aren't real, so no one dies when you kill them in Warcraft. Keep your desire for epic conquest in pretend land, and no one gets hurt. Fighting isn't the point for some people who aren't addicted to fantasy games. Winning is what we care about.

btw I don't think Cochran is an atheist.

And people will die for atheism. Remember the Soviets? Nationalism and ethnic unity is plenty.

adrian said at September 17, 2007 2:47 PM:

Well stalin was forced to appeal to orthodoxy during wwii. mi - it is very important that russia be considered part of the west and christendom. pinkertons vision is simple, the solution to this problem is astonishingly simple.

adrian said at September 17, 2007 2:49 PM:

stephen - the great eye would see the eagle easily. but sauron should have just walled off the entrance to mt doom anyway.

gcochran said at September 17, 2007 3:37 PM:

Everything I do, I do for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.

Often that involves kicking fools.

Randall Parker said at September 17, 2007 5:06 PM:


Here's how I see it: Very few people have the intellectual capacity and training to run an accurate model of the universe. What you label craziness is mostly a mixture of ignorance and limits on cognitive processing capacity.

I think we can't just tell people their entire model is wrong. We have to accept that some of their assumptions and methods of reasoning are flawed and just try to push them along toward reality on some aspects of some issues.

You are brilliant. But you can't find a way to make people more numerate or more educated about history. People are going to argue about politics using stories.

As for Jim's essay: Yes, it has some serious flaws. But he makes an argument using a story. People who buy into his argument actually move in a general direction that is away from the current craziness. Less involvement in the internals of Muslim civilization. Less Muslims over here in our civilization. Seems like an improvement on both scores.

The Muslims aren't going to field massive armies. The need for a grand alliance against Muslim armies is ridiculous at this point. But people lack the capacity to appreciate a demographic threat that develops over decades. Muslims don't need to become a majority to cause serious problems. Look at England. Muslims make people afraid to express views. They forced a guy into hiding for years due to a novel he wrote. They plant bombs. They cost a huge amount in security services to watch them. They force women under covers. Muslims are a net negative for Western countries. We should keep them out.

John Smith said at September 17, 2007 5:14 PM:

I'm an atheist, and I hate Islam probably more than the average Christian. Once atheists overcome PC dogma, they'll attack Islam vigorously. Just check out "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris. Plenty against Islam in there.

Stephen said at September 17, 2007 7:54 PM:

Randall said: "I think we can't just tell people their entire model is wrong. We have to accept that some of their assumptions and methods of reasoning are flawed and just try to push them along toward reality on some aspects of some issues.

One of the things that got us into this appalling mess was the PC practice of not calling idiots, idiots. Instead, we nodded politely at their droolingly dumb claims and gave a counter argument as if they were men of goodwill who would modify a position if given a better set of information or a better analysis. We then compounded that error by presuming that viewers/readers had the skills to critically analyse what was being said and filter out the nonsense.

In reality, by not marking the guy as an idiot we were giving people the impression that the idiot's claims were actually respectable. Well, its become apparent that people cannot (or are unwilling to) pick out an idiot - especially if that idiot is spouting an easily digested answer over a more nuanced and carefully qualified answer.

Stephen said at September 17, 2007 8:06 PM:

John Smith said: "I'm an atheist, and I hate Islam probably more than the average Christian. Once atheists overcome PC dogma, they'll attack Islam vigorously."

If you were truly an atheist you wouldn't 'hate' a mere religious meme. You certainly wouldn't 'hate' one more than the average person infected by a competing religious meme. Contempt and/or pity maybe, but hate? no.

Randall Parker said at September 18, 2007 5:01 PM:


We have a problem: If we call someone an idiot the idiots lack the capacity to understand why the idiot is really an idiot. So how can we get the idiots to withdraw their support from an idiot?

American opinions on Iraq at this late date are still amazingly deluded.

Stephen said at September 18, 2007 6:57 PM:

I see where you're coming from Randall, and I honestly don't know the answer. Maybe its a case-by-case decision.

However, this does raise the bigger issue about good governance and civil society. Are you interested in writing an article on the topic in order to stir up some debate? Perhaps in two parts - first, diagnosing the structural problems that cause bad decision making; and second, suggesting structural changes that might prevent bad policy formation, or remedy it faster when mistakes happen (eg maybe a parliamentary system is better than a royal/presidential system). I emphasise 'structural' in the vain hope that debate doesn't come down to individual people or liberal/neocon etc diatribes.

Bob Badour said at September 18, 2007 7:30 PM:


I am an atheist. I don't hate Islam. Islam hates me.

Dave said at September 18, 2007 7:58 PM:

I don't think simply calling people you don't agree with or don't have a good grasp of the issue 'idiots' is any way forward at all, infact its that attitude that is the cause of the problem. Globalist Universalist Liberals think anyone who doesn't like their ideas obviously is a racist or an idiot and therefore they shouldn't take any notice.
The solution to this problem is a better Democratic system that gives more respect/a bigger voice to the ordinary citizen and less room for the elites to manipulate the whole process.
A "Single Transferable Vote" system would be good.

Stephen said at September 18, 2007 11:12 PM:

I live in an STV electorate which is over a century old. The citizens like the system because it allows each voter to rank all of the candidates by personal preference, and thereby allows voters to allocate some of their vote to smaller parties/individuals without worrying that a vote will be wasted entirely if their primary candidate isn't elected.

The net result is that we end up with a good distribution of elected opinion instead of a winner-takes-all monoculture. The major parties claim the system causes governmental instability, the people call it governmental accountability.

PS: I wanted to include an explanation of the actual vote-tallying mechanics of the system, but deleted it after realising that I didn't really know the finer points of how my vote preferences were redistributed among the candidates! I'll have to do some research.

adrian said at September 19, 2007 3:14 AM:

Randall on Gregory Cochran (otherwise known as 'God'), 'You are brilliant.' What is it with people and this arrogant dick. M Blowhard and Steve Sailer too. It's like one giant male orgy.

Simon Newman said at September 19, 2007 2:15 PM:

It was a good article. It both recognised the gravity of the threat to the West, ultimately as great as anything since 732 AD, and offered a realistic yet optimistic message, that we can survive, that we can get through this.

Randall Parker said at September 19, 2007 5:43 PM:


Greg has warned me in the past when I was taking wrong positions on an issue and events went on to show he was right and I was wrong. Not only was he right but he was right for correct reasons.

Also, he has a far better memory for history than I do. He retains more info.

Some arrogance is justified. Some not. His is. Would he get his message over better if he was not arrogant? Maybe. But I do not see him being inaccurate when he makes statements in ways that grate on others.

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