Niagara Gazette

June 30, 2013

SINGER: The lure of moderation

By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Wouldn’t it be nice, as the Beach Boys might sing, if we could all be moderate in today’s world–part of the decent, irreproachable, safe middle? But can one always be so? This problem taps into — excuse an unsought pun — the current debate now raging over phone records spying, which has certainly led authorities to some menacing, unsavory types, if not all. “Moderation,” it seems to me, also won’t work when it comes to the massive fiscal problems of places like Detroit, where despite a marvelous mayor, former basketball star, Dave Bing, the city has now been delivered to an appointed pension slasher et al. And boy, does he want to slash! The immoderate pill is difficult to swallow, but such problems — also evident nearer to home, and thankfully alleviated by the recent casino settlement — don’t go away by themselves, nor via tepid measures.

Looking to a wider world, and first, the Syrian civil war, terrible, barbaric atrocities have occurred there on both sides, and you don’t know which–Sunni rebels or Shia-Alawite-Hezbollah supporters of Assad–represents the comparatively more innocent aggregation.

One video apparently shows a Sunni triumphantly holding the heart of a slain enemy and tasting it in the bargain. But if you think such extreme behavior is confined only to that region, you must be living in some protected bubble. Heart-eating was common during Mao Zedong’s killing frenzy of the late ‘60s that knocked off over 50 million Chinese (the period given a misleadingly sugarcoated name of “The Cultural Revolution”).

In Cambodia of the ‘70s — another civil war situation in a country like Syria which had been better off under French imperial protection — the Khmer Rouge liked to remove livers of innocent civilians and see how long it took them to die. And yet, we keep hearing the mantra of moderation, as if it will magically repel such barbarity. Unfortunately, with certain types moderation simply won’t work.

Politicians fearing that amnesty for over 10 million illegals will alter the U.S. irrevocably, not least politically, and that lavish promises of border security won’t be kept, making another huge influx possible, have been derided by such as Sen. Schumer. But these caveats and warnings are partly based on the fact that many of these incomers have known barbarism up close, suffered from it, and in certain cases (who knows how many?) been barbaric themselves.

Yet people who point out such things get vilified amidst this silly, corrosive, outmoded right-left divide on our hands–as outmoded as it became on the eve of Hitler’s triumph in 1933. There neither conservatives like Hindenburg nor social-democrats, not to mention German Communists on the far Left, could stop Herr Hitler, partly because they were busy sniping at each other. So-called “moderation” didn’t work against the Nazis then, anymore than it did later in 1936, when Hitler’s forces illegally militarized the Rhineland and could have been stopped (to the applause of many German generals) by Churchillian boldness.

Instead, “moderates” like Chamberlain and France’s prime minister Léon Blum appeased, and to the tune of millions of innocent lives, both civilian and military, drawn from many nations, what a price was later paid! That price was nothing less than World War II in Europe.

Or look at history’s revolutions ... In every true revolution (America’s fight to separate from England excluded), moderates were eventually kicked to the curb and slain in great numbers, whether we’re talking of the French Revolution that brought forth a Reign of Terror, or the Russian Revolution leading to the excesses of Lenin and the far worse ones of Stalin.

Of course moderation can work well when you’re in some arcadian, protected set of circumstances. American presidents like Coolidge in the Roaring ‘20s and Eisenhower in the ‘50s were right for their basically stable, economically prosperous times. Moderation can work in what one of Voltaire’s optimistic characters called the best of all possible worlds. But unfortunately this ain’t that place, and especially not today!

B. B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.