Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s Inability to Get Angry - Part Two

In my previous post, I asked whether the European opinion leaders had lost the capacity for anger when Europeans are under attack.

Obviously, there are still plenty of people in Europe who are capable of anger. These are the politically incorrect. They are the rednecks. They are the equivalent of what Jerry Falwell used to call the “silent majority.” They represent the political RIGHT. Many of them support very unsympathetic characters, some of them with fascistoid tendencies. They are “populists,” often nativists, and racists. They follow demagogues such as Geert Wilders in Holland and his equivalents elsewhere. France has Marine Le Pen, fretting about the Arabization of her country. Hungary has its Jobbik movement, a sinister fascist group that has lynched gypsies. There are the people who recently attacked, damaged and burned mosques in Sweden. There are the people who have been marching  to kick immigrants out of Germany. It is noteworthy that xenophobia is strongest in the EASTERN part of Germany, precisely where there are the fewest immigrants. These groups are the equivalent of America’s Tea Party and its Republican Party.

I strongly oppose such groups, which range over a spectrum from mildly conservative to outright fascist. Their retrograde views offer no solution whatsoever.

However, there are inescapable similarities between what is going on in the world today and the Roman world two thousand years ago. Will history repeat itself? Ancient Rome was under similar external pressure, a pressure which was demographic, cultural and violent. Then too, the fundamental challenge for civilized society was: how to respond to those pressures, in the long run? Christianity became an essential part of that response. That was a catastrophe. Those lofty moral values were no match for the destructive violence descending upon the civilized world at that time.

“Liberty;” “equality;” “democracy;” “tolerance;” “diversity;” lofty words all. Add to that “western guilt feelings.” But how do these concepts help, when what you have on the other side is seething, self-righteous and empowering rage and hatred?

Yes, there are also American drones and aircraft carriers. Killing is done by all, no question about it.

But is it true, as the Western intellectual elites keep telling us, that “the problem is not with Islam or with the Muslim people” ? We are constantly reminded that 99% of Muslims are not terrorists. (Actually, this is faint comfort, as 1% of a billion and a half Muslims would be 15 million terrorists....Let’s hope not. Furthermore, while most Muslims may not be terrorists, most terrorists today are, alas, Muslims).

So is there a problem with Islam, or not? For a discussion of this question, see Madeleine’s excellent January 17 post, “Muslims Urged to Condemn Terrorists: What Madness!

It is also clear that anti-Semitism is on the rise. Jews are being attacked, killed and they are fleeing from France, Belgium and elsewhere, where they live in fear. Radical Islam manifests itself from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Uyghurs in Western China, and of course groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, which try to outdo each other in barbarism. There are the radicalized youngsters who go from the West to the Middle East for training and indoctrination, and then return to Europe to slaughter innocents in the streets of Paris and Brussels. Some are merely misguided, some are psychopaths. The most monstrous players in this theater are the Imams and the mullahs, cowardly and despicable old men who, from the safety of their mosques, brainwash and send children as young as ten years old to their gruesome deaths and mass murders, strapped with explosives, used as flesh-and-blood suicide bombs. Is there any punishment commensurate with the evil of these old men?

Are the western elites making a mistake? Does the man in the street perceive the threat more clearly? Christianity did not save Rome or Europe. In time, a new world emerged, one better than the one left in shambles.

I have no doubt that the world will some day be a better place than it is today. The West will be a very different place, both culturally and demographically. It will be diverse, heterogeneous and colorful. It will be an amalgam of the West and the East. The identity of entire continents - Europe among them - will be different. Change is inevitable, but it is accompanied by strife. Societies’ identities change, but this involves conflict, power struggle and violence. The old resists the new. This is normal.

I reject American jingoism and the glorification of war, as in “American Sniper.” To suggest that the US will have to go to war against Iran if that country acquires nuclear weapons, as Republicans like  McCain desire, borders on insanity. To advocate American “boots on the ground” in places like Syria and Yemen is absurd.

I have a problem with BOTH American saber rattling AND European pacifism. Both are very dangerous. To his great credit, Obama’s middle-of-the-road approach has so far kept us safe without plunging us into new catastrophic military adventures.

Today, there are on both sides of the Atlantic masses of people who, in reaction to the violence, perceive a threat, and there are those who choose not to see things that way. It is widely said that many of the former are uneducated, nativist, knee-jerk xenophobes. As to the latter, they are the West’s liberal elite, the equivalent of the Christians in ancient Rome. The speeches and articles of professors and liberal politicians and columnists urging all to embrace each other rather than to get angry are admirable, but are they also imbecile?

© Tom Kando 2015

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