When I was a teenager people were fond of saying that love is what makes the world go round, evoking Cleopatra's nose. Not long after that, an Egyptian scholar by the name of Qutb spent a couple of years in the U.S. and complained, in fiery writings, that in the land of machines and materialism, sex was a disgrace. It took another several decades for our national fate to be decisively influenced by the dress of a White House intern: President Clinton's caper condemned Al Gore's candidacy, and we got the zealot George Bush - who, according to his wife, goes to bed at nine o'clock - to sleep.
It's suprising how similar are the views of morality held by Bush and Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. For these two zealots, all that's missing is a suit of armor. Both tell us we're engaged in a what will be a long battle for civilization. The difference is this: George thinks that somehow unbridled capitalism plays no role in loose mores and Mahmoud thinks religion plays a bigger role than it does in restraining sexual license.
Personally, I think that the battle about decadence is about reasonably egalitarian development that does not worship Mamon. Today's news is all about a congressman who while representing the convictions of the moral majority, was writing dirty notes to teen-age pages. But as the ever-astute comedian Bill Maher made clear to (of all people) Wolf Blitzer, the important story is the war.
Alas, for the media, the UN General Assembly annual meeting was about Chavez calling Bush the devil. As for the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations that took place just before, they paid it no attention whatsoever. Had they done so, they would not have had to disgrace themselves by failing, for the most part, to mention that Chavez broke the UN applause-0-meter for his speech: they would have been able to link the delegates' reception to the Havana meeeting. There, the leaders of the majority of the world's people - who hold the majority of the world's oil - decided to put mores at the back of a common front against a giant that has gotten to big for its boots.