Peter Kreeft (hear audio of this lecture at this link)
1. We Are at War
To win any war and any kind of war, I think the three most necessary things we must know are:
1. that we are at war;
2. who our enemy is; and
3. what weapons or strategies can defeat him.
We cannot win a war: first, if we are blissfully sewing peace banners on the battlefield; or second, if we are too busy fighting civil wars against our allies; or, third, if we are using the wrong weapons. For instance, we must fight fire with water—not fire.
So this talk is a very basic, elementary three-point checklist to be sure we all know this minimum at least.
I assume you wouldn’t be coming to a talk entitled “How to Win the Culture War” if you thought all was well. If you are surprised to be told that our entire civilization is in crisis, I welcome you back from your nice vacation on the moon.
Many minds do seem moonstruck, puttering happily around the Titanic, blandly arranging the deck chairs—especially the intellectuals, who are supposed to have their eyes more open, not less. But in fact, they are often the bland leading the bland. I have verified over and over again the principle that there is only one thing needed for you to believe any of the 100 most absurd ideas possible for any human being to conceive: You must have a Ph.D.
For instance, take Time magazine—please do. Henry Thoreau said, “Read not the times, read the eternities.” Two Aprils ago, their lead article was devoted to the question, “Why is everything getting better?” Why is life so good in America today? Why does everyone feel so satisfied and optimistic about the quality of life in the future? I read the article very carefully and found that not once did they even question their assumption. They just wondered, “Why?” And you thought Enlightenment optimist and the dogma of progress [were] dead?
It turned out upon reading the article that every single aspect of life they mentioned, every reason why everything was getting better and better, was economic. People have more money. Period. End of discussion. Except the poor, of course, who are poorer. But they don’t count because they don’t write Time. They don’t even read it.
I suspect that Time is merely Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great bit whorehouse. For another, it’s one great big piggy bank. For both kinds of playboy, things are getting better and better. Just ask the 75 percent of Americans who love Bill Clinton, the perfect synthesis of the two.
They love him for the same reasons the Germans loved Hitler at first when they elected him: economic efficiency. Autobahns and Volkswagens. Jobs and housing. Hitler wrought the greatest economic miracle of the century in the 30s. What else matters as long as the emperor gives you bread and circuses? People are pigs, not saints, after all. They love slops more than honor.