Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

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Friday, December 02, 2005
 
"...The difference between us and the Romans was that they regarded weakness as a vice and what we would call cruelty as a virtue."

Discuss.

Brian Micklethwait and Samizdata commenters did.

Mr Micklethwait is, as he never tires of saying, a convinced atheist. However he is sometimes insightful on Christianity. After lamenting the empty-headed niceness of the current Western zeitgeist, he writes:

Niceness was, I suspect, a Roman fact but also a Roman secret. (How else could Christianity have ever caught on?) And then our nice Roman fixer would be back to the Senate to make blood-curdling speeches about the need to suppress with the utmost brutality whatever little challenge Rome faced that week.

I said above that "we" aspire to the virtue of kindness. Maybe that is a rather European view. Americans may be wondering quite where they fit into this dichotomy. In particular, they may be noting that it is precisely in the Christian bits of the USA that the semi-Roman virtue of cruel-to-be-kind foreign policy precision is still aspired to, and in the non- or anti-Christian bits of the USA where the kind of incompetent niceness I have been complaining about is most popular. Maybe Christianity has its own built-in safeguards against Christian and especially post-Christian feeblemindedness and sentimentality.

Among the generally fascinating comments, those by Paul Marks stood out. He argued against Brian Micklethwait, but I think they are both partly right. Trust me to say something like that. It's because I'm so nice.