Hollow Men

Relativism is fundamentally a belief in nothing; the modern equivalent of the conceit of those who live “without blame, and without praise,” on the shore of Acheron, where “above them mourn the choir of angels who neither rebelled nor were faithful to God, and who were chased from Heaven but refused by Hell.

Cultural relativism is therefore aptly named and so should be its modern proponents. Hollow Men.

T. S. Eliot did not specify any external threat that could be appeased by embracing it in the following poem. He was describing the loss of values of any sort; harbingers and practical examples of which we will examine momentarily. The point is, if everything is relative it does not matter what you embrace.

First, Eliot:

Mistah Kurtz-he dead.
………..A penny for the Old Guy

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rat’s feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without color,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.
Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer –
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

This is the dead land
This is the cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they recieve
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

Here we go ’round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go ’round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existance
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

Here is some evidence from current events that Eliot was merely before his time:

From Victor Davis Hanson: Traitors to the Enlightenment

…Europe boldly produces films about assassinating an American president, and routinely disparages the Church that gave the world the Sermon of the Mount, but it simply won’t stand up for an artist, a well-meaning Pope, or a ranting filmmaker when the mob closes in. The Europe that believes in everything turns out to believe in nothing.

…And what have we learned in the last five years from its boutique socialism, utopian pacifism, moral equivalence, and cultural relativism? That it was logical that Europe most readily would abandon the artist and give up the renegade in fear of religious extremists.

Those in an auto parts store in Fresno, or at a NASCAR race in southern Ohio, might appear to Europeans as primordials with their guns, “fundamentalist” religion, and flag-waving chauvinism. But it is they, and increasingly their kind alone, who prove the bulwarks of the West. Ultimately what keeps even the pope safe and the continent confident in its vain dialogues with Iranian lunatics is the United States military and the very un-Europeans who fight in it.

From Thomas Lifson, The Dark View of Islam and the American Street.

…But the other more complex tragedy lies closer to home, with the enforcers of PC orthodoxy. Their own hubris blinds them to the dangers of Islamism affecting them. For them, there can be no life and death struggle to the end, despite explicit Islamist rhetoric to the contrary. That is simply unthinkable. They take for granted their own power to manage the struggle. There is no war with a victory or a defeat. There is only a conflict resolution process to be managed. It is unhelpful, therefore, for us to aggravate matters by fighting the enemy. Bush’s War is the problem.

Political correctness has cut off a vital source of feedback to both the Islamists and the so-called progressives of the West. They are blind to the realities of the American Street. Gradually, more and more Americans are beginning to entertain the concept that drastic measures may well be necessary to ensure our survival. It is only a half-thought position, outside of the circle of passionate advocates who write on the web or occasionally break into media notice on talk radio or a cable news channel. But it is part of a growing acceptance that we might need to go a bit Roman, or at least contemplate the exact mechanisms which brought an end to World War II, our most recent war fought against an existential threat.

America is generally slow to awaken to danger, but once roused it is a fierce fighter. A few voices are warning our potential foes. But they are not listening.

Mark Steyn (TCS Daily Spotlight Interview with Mark Steyn (Audio)

…this whole awful, ghastly, cultural relativism… makes even having a discussion impossible…

…nothing has any more weight than anything else, and it basically strips you of the tools even to discuss these situations honestly…

… I think there is a real open question about whether that kind of society can survive in the long term…

And Steyn again: Doomsday Scenario: ‘America Alone’, interview with Paul Gigot:

GIGOT: In your book, you write that much of what we loosely call the “Western World will not survive the 21st Century. And much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many, if not most, European countries”, end quote. That sounds like a doomsday scenario.

It is. I tried to be cheerful. But it is hard to be cheerful about apocalyptic-type stuff. And this is what it is.

17 European countries have what demographers call lowest-load fertility, from which no society ever recovered. That means they are basically not having enough babies.

And the way Europe is set up, they have these unsustainable social programs and welfare. And they imported the babies that they didn’t have. They imported them essentially from the North Africa and the Middle East.
So we’re seeing one of the fastest population transformations in history, whereby an aging ethnic European population is being replaced by a Muslim population. And the Muslims understand that, in fact, Europe, as they see it, is the colony now.

GIGOT: Is the problem only demographics or is it somehow broader, a kind of lack of intellectual confidence, cultural confidence, in what we used to call, at least, the West?

STEYN: Yes, I think so. Basically, the lack of babies is only a symptom of the real problem. You know, American exceptionalism is a very practical term. We celebrated the birth the other day of the 300 millionth American. And God bless him.

That is great news. Because the most indispensable resource of all is human capital. And that’s what Europe is running out of. And even as they are in that situation, the newspapers, reacting to the birth of this 300 millionth American, regarded him as some sort of abomination who is simply going to add to the appalling U.S. consumption of the world’s resources. They said it is an unsustainable level of population.

In fact, the problem they have in Europe is they got an unsustainable lack of population. It is the complete opposite.

I remember during the Cold War, there was a strain of pessimism about whether the West would prevail in that conflict. James Burnham, the great strategist, wrote about the suicide of the West.

And some people, as late as the late 1980s, were still saying we’re going to lose the Cold War. Yet we won that because the West had a great — demonstrated a lot of resilience, democratic resilience.

Why is this conflict, in your view, different?

Well, I think we understood then, anyone who meet Czech or Hungarians or Poles or any of these people on the other side of the Iran Curtain during the Cold War, understood that they actually had no dog in the fight. They weren’t interested. They weren’t interested in conquering the world.

And I think it is different now. I think the average Muslim does, in some basic sense, when he immigrates to the Netherlands, when he immigrates to the United Kingdom, when he immigrates to Canada or Michigan, wants eventually to live in a Muslim society in those places. And he expects effectively — I am not saying he wants to fly planes into buildings or any of that nonsense — but his expectation is that the host society will assimilate with him rather than the other way around.

And that’s a profound challenge in a way that communism wasn’t.

Cultural statism has nearly destroyed Europe and cultural self-hatred has its sights on the United States. Steyn has the protaganist right only so long as someone with will, someone not hollow, is in charge. We are well beyond Eliot’s internal intellectual crisis, there is an existential threat. And the hollow men would rather not be bothered.