- Joshua Muravchik
“...an erudite account of where [the] vision [of individual liberty] comes from, why some ideologues set themselves against it, and how our contemporaries have ceased to treasure it.”
- Christopher Caldwell
“Bolkestein exposes today’s fashionable, yet dangerous ideas, doing a great service not only to Europe but indeed to the whole of Western civilization.”
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The dangers of intellectuals and their ideas in politics have rarely beenwritten about by politicians themselves. This is not surprising, for few politicians are up to the task. However, Frits Bolkestein is a notable exception, bringing rare if not unique qualifi cations to this examination. Not only has he held national and international offi ce in Europe, but he has also studied, read, taught and published broadly.
The thesis of The Intellectual Temptation is simple but penetrating: intellectuals’ ideas are problematic as political ideas because they are often neither derived from nor falsifiable by experience. These ideas are frequently dreams attempting to become reality through power politics. There is also a cultural problem. Intellectuals are pack animals, looking to one another for approval. This affects the quality of their ideas, as they are susceptible to fashionable ideology and group pressure—frequently attracted to ideas that are appealing rather than sound. Very few of them are brave enough to stand against the prevailing orthodoxy.
Beginning with a history of ideology, Bolkestein traces a nearly 300 year trend of bad ideas making worse politics, sometimes disastrously so. From his own experience he offers a vision of a politics of prudence, proper pragmatism and Classicism as a way out of the “intellectual temptation” that we have fallen under.
To find an answer, Belgian historian and journalist Jan De Volder sifted through Father Damien's personal correspondence as well as the Vatican archives. With careful and even-handed expertise, De Volder follows Father Damien's transformation from the stout, somewhat haughty missionary of his youth, bounding from Europe to Hawaii and straight into seemingly tireless priestly work, to the humble and loving shepherd of souls who eventually succumbed to the same disease that ravaged his flock.
De Volder finds that--as spiritual father, caretaker, teacher, and advocate--Father Damien accomplished many heroic feats for these poor outcasts. Yet the greatest gift he gave them was their transformation from a disordered, lawless throng exiled in desperate anarchy into a living community built on Jesus Christ, a community in which they learned to care for one another.
Every generation seems to have its own image of this world-famous priest. Already during his life on Molokai and at his death in 1889, many considered him a holy man. Even today, in the highly secularized Western world, he is widely admired. In 2005 his native Belgium honored him with the title "the greatest Belgian" in polling conducted by their public broadcasting service. Statues honor his memory in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and at the entrance to the Hawaiian State Capitol in Honolulu. In 1995, in the presence of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II beatified him in Brussels, Belgium; and in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI canonized him in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Today Father Damien is the unofficial patron of outcasts and those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
Illustrated with many photos. De Volder contends that the common thread running through the saint's life, the spirit of Father Damien that so speaks to the world, is at once uniquely Christian, fully human, and as important today as ever before.