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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Martin Jacques and the Temple of Gold

Image Source: Yahoo/AP, thanks to Michelle Malkin for finding and posting this on her site.

This image should be a sobering one for any Muslim who views it. Even were not a single person to have been caught in the blast that left us with these before and after shots, Islam would still have lost one of its holy places and Mankind have lost a piece of its cultural heritage, something that had stood for well over a thousand years, a little bit of wonder forever gone from the world. And so it has, with loss of life as well? This was not done by a West intent on breaking the spirit of Islam, but by other Muslims, and now retaliatory bombings are taking place across Iraq by (who else) Muslims. At the moment, the greatest enemy the Islamic world would seem to have is itself.

No, I'm not laughing at that thought. I am somewhat saddened by the observation that nobody in Iraq seems to be having it. Where I do find some mild amusement is in the excellent rebuttal it offers to some of the fear mongering being encouraged by one Martin Jacques, who I understand used to run something called "Marxism Today", in response to the cartoon riots. Quoth Jacques:

A continent that inflicted colonial brutality all over the globe for 200 years has little claim to the superiority of its values

As opposed to the love and kisses some of the Arabian caliphates were blowing across the straits of Gibraltar during the Middle Ages, or the kind caring compassion the Chinese have bestowed upon the Tibetans, or the gentle touch of the Aztec priesthood as they'd slice the heart out of a prisoner's chest (done with love, I'm sure) and let's not forget the gentleness the Hutus and Tutsis have long shown to each other in Rwanda or ... ad infinitim. Our Earth is not a gentle world, and non-Westerners in general have often obliterated each other's cities with gleeful abandon, in some cases millenia before the Europeans played much of a role on the World's stage. I wonder if somebody ever heard of the Assyrians, perhaps had gotten word of that whole mass impalement of the conquered business? If not, then I would urge them to read and be amazed. Without defending such moments as the destruction of the indigenous population of Tasmania, one is left with the sad reality that as dark as some times have been in the West, the Europeans do not come even vaguely close to being the most brutal civilization in history.

But let's continue, and note just how Orwellian some of the writing will get:

Europe has never had to worry too much about context or effect because for around 200 years it dominated and colonised most of the world. Such was Europe's omnipotence that it never needed to take into account the sensibilities, beliefs and attitudes of those that it colonised, however sacred and sensitive they might have been. On the contrary, European countries imposed their rulers, religion, beliefs, language, racial hierarchy and customs on those to whom they were entirely alien. There is a profound hypocrisy - and deep historical ignorance - when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world. With one crucial difference, of course:

To be sure. The Western misdeeds Jacques speaks of are the misdeeds of some of the upper class ancestors of some of the Europeans, carried out at a time when few if any of us were even born yet; indeed, in many cases, one's greatgrandparents hadn't even met at the time. The attempt by the rioters to deny freedom through the use of intimidation is happening right now. There is certainly no comparison at all, and more than a little shamelessness in a double standard that shines a spotlight on Western mistreatment of non-Westerners, while casually overlooking the brutality often inflicted by non-Western powers, many times on Europeans - the Ottomans in Greece and the Mongols in Russia come to mind.

But it is no longer possible for Europe to ignore the sensibilities of peoples with very different values, cultures and religions. First, western Europe now has sizeable minorities whose origins are very different from the host population and who are connected with their former homelands in diverse ways. If European societies want to live in some kind of domestic peace and harmony - rather than in a state of Balkanisation and repression - then they must find ways of integrating these minorities on rather more equal terms than, for the most part, they have so far achieved. That must mean, among other things, respect for their values.

In case the reader doesn't see what's coming next, Jacques is speaking about the values of the rioters. Yes, he's going to seriously argue that the Europeans are oppressing the Muslim world by refusing to let themselves be bullied into submission. But that they could bully others in such a manner more often, these days, but let's read on.

Second, it is patently clear that, globally speaking, Europe matters far less than it used to - and in the future will count for less and less.

In other words, "give in or else", sidestepping the entire issue of whether or not the demands made by the rioters have any legitimacy by using fear as an argument - "give in, because your defeat and the defeat of your values and notions of freedom are inevitable, no matter what your arguments may be". Hmmm, where have we heard that before? Could the answer perhaps be found in the standard Marxist argument for Socialism (or Communism, if you prefer), which sweeps aside questioning of the Marxist vision of the future of World Society by claiming that the Socialist revolution is an inevitable outcome of historical forces? Causes may crumble, but old habits die hard, I suppose, especially when there's always a new brand of totalitarianism to be an apologist for.

Europe has little experience of this, and what experience it has is mainly confined to less than half a century. Old attitudes of superiority and disdain - dressed up in terms of free speech, progress or whatever - are still very powerful. Nor - as many liberals like to think - are they necessarily in decline. On the contrary, racial bigotry is on the rise, even in countries that have previously been regarded as tolerant. The Danish government depends for its rule on a racist, far-right party that gained 13% of the seats in the last election.

So, let's see - we supposedly have Europe being destroyed by non-Western immigrant rioters in the street if it doesn't become meekly submissive enough to instantly yield on any matter which any one group of nonwesterners wants to throw a tantrum about, but having assumed that, we should then go on to agree that only a racist could be opposed to immigration into Europe? Should we conclude, then, that a desire to not be burned out of one's own home and eventually murdered if one doesn't surrender one's civil liberties is a form of racism? Intriguing - and such are the implications of the man's own stated assumptions. One might say something about the racism and outright paranoia of assuming that nonwesterners are acting in monolithic collusion to bring down the freedoms of Europeans, but then one would be oppressing Jacques by saying something he doesn't want to hear, and we dare not do that.

The decision of Jyllands-Posten to publish the cartoons - and papers in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere to reprint them - lay not so much in the tradition of free speech but in European contempt for other cultures and religions: it was a deliberate, calculated insult to the beliefs of others, in this case Muslims.

This kind of mentality - combining Eurocentrism, old colonial attitudes of supremacism, racism, provincialism and sheer ignorance - will serve our continent ill in the future. Europe must learn to live in and with the world, not to dominate it, nor to assume it is superior or more virtuous.

There you have it - Jacques equating the concept of Europeans not letting themselves be dominated by a Middle Eastern street rabble's fanaticism - apparently a fanaticism that some among the Islamic clergy have been futily trying to defuse among a misbehaving segment of the laity - with an alleged European attempt to dominate the Islamic World. As I wrote in Pagan Conservatives, this strikes me as being a very Marxist failing, a failure to see where the self begins and the other leaves off. Peter having the imagined right to steal from Paul, because Paul's not letting Peter forcibly take something from him has been equated with Paul forcibly taking it from Peter, this fallacious equation being rationalised by failing to recognize that some things are Peter's and some are Paul's. As with property rights, so with freedom of expression - as Jacques illustrates so well, the old naive defense of Marxism that holds that it is "just an economic theory" does not hold up under inspection of the behavior of Marxists, in practice. Jacques goes on to write:

This attitude of disdain, of assumed superiority, will be increasingly difficult to sustain. We are moving into a world in which the west will no longer be able to call the tune as it once did. China and India will become major global players alongside the US, the EU and Japan. For the first time in modern history the west will no longer be overwhelmingly dominant. By the end of this century Europe is likely to pale into insignificance alongside China and India. In such a world, Europe will be forced to observe and respect the sensibilities of others. ...

For 200 years the dominant powers have also been the colonial powers: the European countries, the US and Japan. They have never been required to pay their dues for what they did to those whom they possessed and treated with contempt. Europeans have treated this chapter in their history by choosing to forget.

In other words, "they're entitled to oppress us because our ancestors oppressed their ancestors hundreds of years ago, and if you're Jewish or Polish or Greek or Welsh or a member of some other group of Westerners who were themselves being oppressed in centuries past - ssshhh! Stop being so divisively provincial". And don't bother asking just how much Colonialism the US has actually been guilty of. Some people call that being progressive. I'll call it being masochistic. Jacques continues the self-flagellation, writing

So has Japan, except that in its case its neighbours have not only refused to forget but are also increasingly powerful. As a consequence, Japan's present and future is constantly stalked by its history. This future could also lie in wait for Europe. We might think the opium wars are "simply history"; the Chinese (rightly) do not. We might think the Bengal famine belongs in the last century, but Indians do not.

Europe is moving into a very different world. How will it react? If something like the attitude of the Danes prevails - a combination of defensiveness, fear, provincialism and arrogance - then one must fear for Europe's ability to learn to live in this new world.

bringing us to what lies at the root of the left wing's ethic of appeasement - a paranoid and ironic fear that all the rest of the world will unite and go after us if we are not properly submissive. Ironic because such timidity only encourages aggression, thus increasing the likelihood of a destructive coalition of hostile powers, because to put this in quasi-Skinnerian terms, one is reinforcing the both the aggressive stance and the expectation that it will be rewarded with compliance, and thus the misplaced sense of aggrievement when some hear the word "no". As they must, sooner or later, because otherwise demands will simply escalate without limit until the one appeasing has nothing left to yield - and even after that.

This time, however, one need only ponder that very sad image this post opened on, that of the destruction of the historic golden domed mosque of Samarra. All of the world will unite together in this jihad against the publishers of a cartoon? A call for real repression based on the assertion of an unreal scenario. How unreal? Take a good long look at that shattered dome. All of the rest of the world is a monolithic front? Hardly. When one can't even count on the followers of another denomination of one's own religion among one's own countrymen to not blow up a place of worship, one clearly isn't even seeing monolithic support in one's own backyard, much less globally. To expect the latter would to to sink into the realm of fantasy.

But then fantacising about monolithic rebellions is what Socialists love to do best, isn't it? Jacques may be enjoying the opportunity to indulge in a nostalgic return to a past, back before his revolution of choice ended up on history's scrap heap, but should any of the rest of us begin to respond to his fear-mongering with actual fear, I hope that they will take the time to consider the source.

And then maybe wash their worries down with a bottle of Tuborg.