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We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism Hardcover – September 29, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Derbyshire, a columnist and contributing editor for The National Review, confronts the "mendacity of hope" in this irreverent-sometimes-inflammatory screed. Appealing exclusively to American conservatives, Derbyshire impresses upon his audience the necessity of maintaining a pessimistic view of human nature; happy talk, he says, is for children, fools and leftists. Derbyshire, a Brit by birth, identifies himself as a "metrocon," a conservative city dweller, and his views embrace traditional American right wing beliefs (big government is bad; immigration is a threat) with a few notable aberrations (he's not religious) and a few universally off-putting stances (he's against female suffrage and approvingly quotes Hermann Goring on culture). Those who enjoy Derbyshire's work in The National Review will enjoy this harvest of provocations delivered with a witty, light touch, however heavy their implications.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Where will a more intelligent, hence pessimistic, yet sprightly conservatism come from? You are holding in your hands part of the answer."
—George F. Will, Pulitzer Prize—winning columnist and author of One Man's America
"John Derbyshire contends that a comprehensive pessimism is the natural home for realistic conservatives, a breed that understands human nature better than utopian liberals and 'happy talk conservatives.' His argument is wide-ranging, erudite, and invigorating, but, paradoxically, delivered with cheerful panache."
—Judge Robert H. Bork, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Tempting of America and Slouching Towards Gomorrah
"Just when you thought there was nothing to American conservatism but a bunch of blue-blazered fuddy-duddies who talk about global democracy, here comes John Derbyshire, who reminds us all of the place of pessimism and skepticism in the Western tradition. Not a moment too soon."
—Taki Theodoracopulos, cofounder of The American Conservative and editor and publisher of Taki's Magazine, takimag.com
"A funny and brilliant call to pessimism, Man's last, best hope for a tolerable life. Pessimists are not only the only realists; they have all the best jokes."
—Theodore Dalrymple, author of Not With a Bang But a Whimper and Our Culture, What's Left of It
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Unfortunately, JD argues, this positive and useful ‘pessimism’ has eroded. Conservatives have become too ‘optimistic’ (=soft, dreamy, utopian, liberal/progressive). They have succumbed to attitudes that are ultimately destructive to our society and, in the process, reduced our hope for our country’s future. The areas in which they have succumbed include the following (pp. 249-50): acceding to the ideology of ‘Diversity’; acceding to the growth, expansion and stagnation of federal power; accepting cultural decline; accepting feminization, writ-large; accepting absurd theories of education; accepting some of the conclusions of the human sciences and abandoning conservatives’ traditional metaphysic; abandoning religious conviction; accepting George Bush’s quixotic attempts at nation building through the spread of democracy; encouraging third world immigration; clinging to an improbable notion of national exceptionalism as a charm against unwelcome change, and being complicit in the policies of spending and debt that have crippled our economy.
The rhetoric is engaging. He will move from argument based on conservative journalism and conservative social science to discussions of our moribund popular culture (and offer specific examples); he will then turn and quote Dr. Johnson and the Roman satirist, Juvenal. He will offer exempla, crack jokes, exaggerate broadly and then quote Kipling or Orwell. The book covers a great deal of ground but it reads very, very quickly and is anchored in a good bit of cleverness. It sometimes indulges in off-the-cuff commentary with antinomian throwaways: 1 . . . ; 2 . . . ; I was unable to determine #3. It is a witty and enjoyable book, though it will probably encourage those who disagree with its points to want to throw it against the wall or dismiss it out of hand.
He eschews political correctness (thus further dividing the reading public into armed camps) and he can be so explicit with regard to sensitive, controversial subjects, that he is now being disinvited from speaking on college campuses (which, for some, will be seen as a badge of honor).
My only criticism of the book is that he did not explore some issues in greater detail (naturally, the issues that are closer to my own concerns), but I enjoyed the book and admire its author’s courage and forthrightness. For the record, he is an Englishman who is now an American citizen; he is also somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist. Both of these facts add interesting dimensions to his points of view.
Be warned: if you are an Evangelist or a frothing Sarah Palin fan, you probably won't like this book. Don't get me wrong, the author doesn't say anything at all about Mrs. Palin, but he does absolutely dessimate the myth that the GOP "owns" Religious People. And that "fact", in fact, has become a Deal With The Devil for the Reps. Mr. Derbyshire delves into this, and other party issues with intelligence, wit, and a unique perspective. So, right out of the gate, this isn't your usual "Republican" book. So be warned.
But I'm getting out of order here.
The main theme of the book is "Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism", which isn't exactly the central theme of the book. Sure, it's IN there, and the opening and closing certainly make a good case for "embracing pessimism". But if I were his publisher, I would've tweaked that tagline and perhaps renamed the book, having more to do with "confronting reality". Because that's what this book really is: an outright assault on the pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking and Good Intentions(tm) that have put the World in it's current precarious position.
And, aside form the setup and conclusion, this book is simply an uppercut to the millions of people in the world -many of whom are in power- who simply ignore reality, make up their own facts, and are steering our ship of humanity into a proverbial iceberg of ignorance.
Right away, Mr. Derbyshire takes on perhaps the biggest taboo in politics today: Multiculturalism, and the idea that a "melting pot" is always 100% awesome, 100% of the time. While even the most ardent Right Winger would wince at even discussing this topic (Racist!), he tackles the issue with aplomb, using careful research (from the UN, and proponents of Multiculturalism, no less), and makes a fascinating case against something that is more universally "accepted" as fact than Global Climate Change. Not to spoil the read, but his point here is not that we can't learn from other cultures, enjoy their influence, or even live together in relative harmony; rather that we're simply not being realistic about human nature. Again, the true central theme of this book.
You might not agree with everything in this book. In fact, you might not agree with MOST of it. But Mr. Derbyshire takes aim at the most Politically taboo subjects of our time -subjects that nobody else will even touch- and makes cogent, informative, and witty arguments about them.
Simply put, this book is simply a pleasure to read. And no matter where you land on the political spectrum, if you're an intelligent person, who enjoys a good debate, you will gobble up this book.