March 2, 2006
Children of the Idea
Well, here's a News For Real post you won't see picked up by Progressive sites like Alternet or TomPaine.com. Not a chance. This is a subject liberals won't touch with a 10-foot vaccinated crowbar.
Maybe I'm a fool to go near it myself. But sooner or later, those of us who like to believe we view the world with both open eyes and an open minds, must confront this one, because it is most certainly confronting us – and it's winning.
Before I dive in, let me say something about “political correctness,” because, at the bottom of it all, that's what this is all about. First, let's call political correctness by it's real name – censorship. In fact, it's the worst kind of censorship, it's self-censorship. The “genius” of political correctness is that it deftly replaces the heavy and obvious hand of state control with the insidious invisible muzzle of group-think. It begins by dictating what words we can say about what, where or whom. But, if maintained long enough it changes what we think and, then inevitably, how we view reality itself.
Don't get me wrong. I am not lobbying for the right to gatitutiously hurt people's feelings with racial slurs. Some great thinker once wrote, “Speak, that I may see thee.” People who use such slurs are seen for what they are, ignorant.
No, I am talking about something else here. Something much bigger.
So, buckle up. If fools rush in, here I go.
I've been mulling this problem for months. But it came to a head yesterday while I was reading story in the English version of Al Jazeera. The headline is what caught my eye:
“ Writers slam Islamic 'totalitarianism' “
In Al Jazeera? What the hell is this? So, I read on.
The recent violence surrounding the publication in the West of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad illustrate the danger of religious "totalitarianism," Salman Rushdie and a group of other writers have said in a statement.....Rushdie, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy and exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen were among those putting their names to the statement, to be published on Wednesday in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, one of several French newspapers which reprinted the controversial cartoons. (Full Story)
I was dumbstruck. Here I am, living in what we like to think is the most free, open and progressive nation on earth, yet nothing even close to this has happened here. In fact, just the opposite. Here almost every major media outlet has refused to reproduce those Muhammad cartoons. They reported the riots over them, but kept the actually cartoons from their readers. The cartoons, you see, were determined to be politically incorrect.
Who decided that? Well, there you go. It just happens now. We are well trained.
Here, in the “land of the free and he home of the brave,” not a single journalist from a major media company had stepped forward as Rushdie and other writers did this week in France and told the Islamic radicals to butt out. Not a single US news anchor has been willing to risk his/her position to stand up for the very freedoms that put Armani suits on their backs and matching Mercedes in their garages.
Shame. Shame. Shame. Shame.
But, you ask, do the French freedom writers have a case? Or are they just knee-jerk, westernized “racists?” Ah, there's the word. Racist. That's the charge most feared by the self-censored politically correct.
Well, let's see what Rushdie et al put their John Hancocks' too and see if you think they are racist, reactionaries, -- or right.
"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global threat: Islamism. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.
(The clashes over the caricatures) revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. The struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilizations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
"Like all totalitarianisms, Islamism is nurtured by fears and frustrations. But nothing justifies the hatred it engenders. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present."
Yes. That was reprinted in Al Jazeera. After reading the al Jazeera story I went to the New York Times and Washington Post web sites and did a search. Nope. It should have been a feature story... right up on the front page. Here was a guy, Salmand Rushdie, who just got out from under a death fatwah, but was willing to put his name to a document like that. Guts. But I couldn't find the story here. Why? Were American journalist embarrassed? Well, they should be.
The bravery and backbone shown by these French writers and journalists is a welcomed – but rare -- crack in the West's wall of denial and self-delusion about what Islam is, at its core, all about. What really drives the so-called “Arab street.” What Muslim masses, socially and intellectually stunted by the nexus of governance and unreconstructed Islam, really believe and are really prepared to do about what they believe.
The West risks all by refusing to confront this question with the same unblinking scrutiny that it treats non-religious/racial/cultural issues such as nuclear proliferation.
Earlier Europeans, who had not yet been befuddled by notions of political correctness, saw Islam more clearly. Of course, everything they learned about the Muslim east they learned the hard way. But, at least they learned.
So this is a good time to look back and read their thoughts on this timely subject. Sure some of their views can be dismissed as classic European ethnocentrism. Yet, their words are eerily similar to what the French freedom writers warned of this week. So, send your political correctness “Jimmie Cricket” out for coffee. Then read this and decide for yourself:
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property (either as a child, a wife, or a concubine) must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Muslims may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science‹the science against which it had vainly struggled‹the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."
Then there was T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia,) another Johnny Appleseed of empire who went to conquer the Islamic world for King and country, only to be left in awe of Islam's stubborn invincibility -- and equally stubborn flaws. Does any of this stike a familiar cord?
“Arabs could be swung on an idea as on a cord; for the unfledged allegiance of their minds made them obedient servants. None of them would escape the bond till success had come, and with it responsibility and duty and engagements. Then the idea was gone and work ended – in ruins. Without a creed they could be taken to the four corners of the world by being shown the riches of earth and the pleasure of it; but if on the road, led in this fashion, they met the Prophet of an idea, who had nowhere to lay his head and who depended for his food on charity, then they would all leave their wealth for his inspiration.
They were incorrigibly children of the idea, feckless and color-blind, to whom body and spirit were forever and inevitably opposed. Their mind was strange and dark, full of depressions and exaltations, lacking in rule, but with more of ardor and more fertile in belief than any other in the world. They were a people of starts, for whom the abstract was the strongest motive, the process of infinite courage and variety, and the end -- nothing.
They were as unstable as water, and like water would perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in successive waves they have been dashing themselves against the coasts of flesh. Each wave was broken, but, like the sea, it wore away ever so little of the granite on which it failed, and some day, ages yet, it may roll unchecked over the place where the material world had been and Allah would move upon the face of those waters.
One such wave I raised and rolled before the breath of an idea, till it reached its crest, and toppled over and fell at Damascus. The wash of that wave, thrown back by resistance of vested things, will provide the matter of the following wave, when in fullness of time the sea shall be raised once more.” (Revolt In The Desert, 1926)
I will leave it there. To quote Karl Rove, “I may have already said too much.”
But do keep your eyes wide open. Let me know if you see any of our own over-paid, over-exposed, over-blown-dried journalists taking a stand for freedom of thought and press against the successive waves of totalitarian-Islam that are slowly, but surely wearing them down.
I won't be holding my breath.