Friday, February 16, 2007
  Beck: "Money trumps peace."

Glenn Beck did a neat little riff yesterday on "Money trumps peace." It's an important point, and one rarely voiced by conservatives because it sounds too much like a leftist argument. It is, however, a point that Reagan understood deeply.

Here's a deep and long parable on the same subject, produced back in 1954 by Family Theater, famously the source of "The family that prays together stays together."

Family Theater ran on radio from '47 to '56, essentially sponsored by God through the earthly agency of a semi-official group of Catholics. Because God doesn't need to worry about ratings, the show could present a wide variety of stories, from classics to medieval legends to obscure American short stories to fresh and topical pieces, always with a moral point. Nothing in radio or TV since then has matched Family Theater for variety, literary quality and depth.

Monsieur Payen falls into the topical-piece category. It's a story of France's abandonment of Vietnam to the Communists, which was still unraveling at the time when the show was aired. Payen is a French businessman in Haiphong who decides to let money trump everything. He thinks, "Eh bien, Communists are no different from anyone else. They need fabric, and the workers need work. So I'll keep my factory running and make whatever adjustments are needed."

Along the way, Payen sees the consequences of fighting a half-hearted and compromising war against an unyielding ideology.

The author foresees that the same defeat will happen again and again until we realize several important things.

First: if you're in such a war, FIGHT. Seems like an obvious lesson, but not learned by the Americans in Korea in 1954 (who may have been the immediate target of the parable); not learned by Americans in the very same Vietnam twenty years later; still not learned by Americans in Iraq today.

Second: to prevent such a war from happening, be sure you're not giving the enemy an easy handle on the people. Payen is forced to realize that he had treated his workers badly, making the Marxist propaganda about capitalist slavedrivers just a bit too resonant. In modern terms: pick your alliances carefully, not letting money trump everything. If we are seen as aiding the slavedrivers (such as the Saudi government or the Mexican maquilladoras) we are handing the revolutionary enemy a propaganda gift. If we are seen as supporting the slaves, even if only on a moral basis, we subtract one advantage from the enemy.

Third, perhaps the most original point: If there's a risk of being defeated, don't leave the enemy a physical legacy. Payen ends up by burning his fabric mill and escaping with his life. In modern terms: don't build schools, sewage treatment plants and oil pipelines that the enemy can take over. You may do those things after you've completely defeated, eliminated, destroyed, abolished and killed every vestige of the enemy's tribe or ideology. If you do them while the barbarian is still alive, you're only leaving gifts that he will use for his own advantage.

We need to remember one basic difference: Civilized people build things, while barbarians only use and destroy. If we sell or give pipelines, nuclear plants, or even fuel oil, we are simply confusing the picture. The barbarian can then offer the fruits of civilization as if they were his own idea, without gaining any of the qualities of a builder. If we leave the barbarian to his own devices, the people will see the difference clearly, and will be more likely to support a civilized force when it emerges.

Fourth: if you're on the side of civilization, God will be there also. Ask him. [I suspect this wasn't in the original story; probably added by Family Theater. But it turns out to have been uncannily prophetic, since Reagan finally defeated the Commies with the physical, social, and spiritual aid of the Roman Church.]

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Later edit: I had the audio of the 'Monsieur Payen' program here, but it appears that the Family Theater outfit (still very active) has done a thorough combing of the web. The clip was deleted from my website, and the entire series is no longer available through the store where I bought it on CD. No point in putting it back up; it will just get deleted again later. Apologies to searchers who were looking for it.

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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