Late December, especially the 25th day of that final month, has been an important time throughout history, especially in the Western world. To celebrate that auspicious Christmas day here in 2022, I’ve put together a list of some of the historic events from this time of year that have intrigued me in the course of my studies. These may not be the most important events which took place during the Christmas season, but they are all interesting and impactful in their own ways. So, without further ado, here are 12 remembrances of the history of yuletides past (in chronological order) – one for each day of Christmas.
Germany’s unserious and naïve foreign policy not only fails to appreciate the challenges of the 21st century, it risks the security of all Europe in the process.
Germany is the linchpin of modern Europe, dominating the Continent economically and politically. Since its unification in 1871 – and its reunification in 1990 – Berlin has been the region’s center of power. Territorially, it sits smack in the middle of Europe, straddling the Baltic and North Seas and incorporating several of the region’s major rivers, from the Rhine and the Oder to the Elbe and the Danube. It has major influence in the European Union, NATO, and the G7; oftentimes, this influence is enough to maneuver policy in a profoundly pro-German direction, as was seen after the 2009 financial crisis. Not counting nations on the European periphery (Russia and Turkey), Germany has the largest population in the region. It has the largest economy by far, exceeding its nearest competitor, France, by over a trillion dollars. Its major corporations export their goods across the globe, earning profits from every inhabited continent. In short, Germany is the most important nation on the European continent. Where it goes, Europe tends to follow – either by democratic choice or by bureaucratic fiat.
And that’s precisely why the Teutonic nation’s fundamentally flawed and foolish foreign policy is such a clear and present danger to the security and future prosperity of the West.
A brief polemic against widespread artifact repatriation.
Museums, especially large institutions in wealthy, stable Western countries, are bastions of cultural exploration, education, and fascination. They inspire awe in the minds of millions of visitors each year, transporting them back in time and across the full breadth of the world. These wonderful institutions hold a special place in my heart, as they are one of the factors that got me interested in history in the first place. I distinctly recall gazing in wonderment as a child at art and relics from the past, hoping to gain a glimpse into a far off time and place. Just by visiting a major museum, I could travel to ancient Rome, Ming China, Ptolemaic Egypt, and Medieval Europe. I could see cultural artifacts from regions as far afield as Africa and Southeast Asia, or explore the heritage of American Natives. I could view beautiful art from 2000 years ago, 200 years ago, or 20 years ago. All of this could be accomplished in an afternoon.
Now, there has been a major push to denude these museums of their globally-sourced artifacts in order to right supposed past wrongs. Activists and governments want Western museums to return foreign relics, regardless of whether those exhibits were acquired fairly. This is a profoundly wrongheaded move that will only hamper cultural exchange and knowledge, reduce the salience and usefulness of physical museums, and undermine the ability of people to understand our shared human past.
A broadside against the climate-fueled nihilism of Gen Z.
The kids aren’t alright.
Young Americans, especially those labeled as being part of ‘Gen Z’ (born between 1995 and 2010, give or take a year), are in the throes of a mental health crisis. Self-reported depression and anxiety have spiked, suicidality has increased significantly, and a larger portion of these young people, as compared to older generations, have had interactions with mental health practitioners. Both statistics and anecdotal evidence from clinicians prove this point. Causes have varied widely, from the easily understood to the more socially complex. On the former front, the government reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic have wreaked havoc on youth mental health. Lockdowns, remote schooling, social alienation, and masking have all interrupted the regular life cycle of the American adolescent and have caused serious, documented harm to vast portions of Gen Z (and many others). On the more complex side of the ledger, ubiquitous social media and smartphone technology have arguably made major negative impacts. The constant quest for social approval, ease of presenting a false portrait of perfection, and algorithmic manipulation of emotions all play a part in exerting a malign influence on American youth.
Another, more contentious, potential cause for Gen Z’s mental breakdown is a relatively new phenomenon: climate anxiety. A major survey conducted by Nature shows that nearly 60% of Gen Z across the world is either ‘extremely worried’ or ‘very worried’ about climate change; a full 45% of those surveyed said that this anxiety impacts their daily lives in a negative manner. This is highly concerning – and not only because the level of anxiety is not at all commensurate with the level of threat, regardless of what radical activists claim. It is primarily concerning because it is breeding a nihilistic attitude among young people, exacerbating their existing mental health issues. A puff piece supporting this nihilism was published recently in Fortune (archive link here), and reader, it made me mad.
Antisemitism has been in the news lately after the antics of Kanye West and Kyrie Irving pushed these hateful messages to massive audiences. We’ve heard these anti-Jewish sentiments condemned as awful and despicable, but a deeper examination is necessary. What really is antisemitism and why does it matter? How has it evolved and shifted throughout history? How does it operate as a conspiracy theory, and why has it been so prevalent for so long? Is anti-Zionism antisemitism? How do different communities espouse these similarly prejudiced beliefs? And, most importantly, what should we do to confront these noxious ideas?
All these questions and more will be answered in this episode of the Rational Policy podcast. If you want to understand antisemitism so as to best rebut it, this is the show for you.