Mark Steyn spoke at Hillsdale College last night and I was lucky enough to be there.
Hillsdale was the first American college to prohibit in its charter all discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, but is probably most well known for its refusal of government funding. Steyn is a regular speaker at Hillsdale.
Steyn’s “text” as Mark Twain would say, arose from the poem Locksley Hall, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson wrote the poem when he was 26, in 1835. In it, he describes a utopian vision.
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.
Last night, Steyn spoke eloquently and humorously about the threat of such a “world federation of universal law based on the common sense of most.” Warning that pursuing Tennyson’s vision is the road to totalitarianism, he gave examples of the IAEA, the IPCC, the UN; and, paradoxically, Western democratic governments: “Watching China, India and Russia save the world from the economic disaster western nations intended to foist upon themselves at the recent Copenhagen conference, one can only be grateful.” (I paraphrase.)
Another example, Steyn says, is that it is no surprise that after 2 generations of Americans have marinated in educational institutions designed to emphasize cultural relativism that the Army Chief of Staff could say, “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well,” after 14 Americans died in the Fort Hood massacre: “When the Chief of Staff of your Army sounds like a San Francisco school superintendent, you’re in trouble.”
Steyn’s remarks will appear in Imprimis. Look for it.
In writing this I looked for a site to allow copy and paste of that portion of Tennyson’s poem Steyn quoted yesterday. As a result, I became aware that Tennyson revisited Locksley Hall in 1886 with the poem Locksley Hall Sixty Years After (1886).
There is a pessimism and disappointment evident in this poem; and what amounts to an extended rebuke to the young, perhaps even to the young Tennyson. The utopian longing remains, but it seems that lack of progress toward this goal has taken a toll on the older Tennyson.
Chaos, Cosmos! Cosmos, Chaos! once again the sickening game;
Freedom, free to slay herself, and dying while they shout her
Bring the old dark ages back without the faith, without the hope,
Break the State, the Church, the Throne, and roll their ruins down
Given the dire consequences we experience today from the politically correct poppycock Tennyson foreshadowed in 1835, perhaps it is fair to read these excerpts as second thoughts.
I would be remiss here if I did not thank Mike for a tour of the campus. Impressive. Especially the Mossey Library Heritage Room.
P.S. I sometimes think of Mark Steyn as a fusion of H. L. Mencken and P. J. O’Rourke. If you don’t already know his stuff, you should really check it out.
America Alone is essential reading.
Passing Parade is certainly the best compendium of obituaries ever written. No, that’s wrong, it’s a compendium of the best obituaries ever written – with humor and affection. Highly recommended.
There’s lots more Steyn at the opening link.
Update 13-March 11:50AM: Welcome to visitors from SteynOnline. And here is a podcast of Mark talking to Elliot Gaiser at Hillsdale.
The terms Instalanche and Slashdotted come to mind. If there is such a term for SteynOnline I don’t know it. Steynstampede?