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Of parasites and a truth not spoken

For myself, I have nothing significant to add to the thoughts and comments floating around the blogosphere on this day.  But Robert Sibley in the Ottawa Citizen does (via Small Dead Animals):

…With all these terror plots in the works, how can anyone not believe there is a war between radical Islam and the West?

But many, it seems, still do. Former Liberal party leadership candidate Sheila Copps, for example, was recently quoted as suggesting the terrorist roundup in Britain is a conspiracy. “Could it be that this whole thing was an orchestrated overreaction to steer public attention away from the difficulties facing the Bush-Tony Blair fight on terrorism?” she asked.
Lenin had a label for people who think in such an unreal fashion. He called them “useful idiots.” We heard a lot from such people during the Cold War. High-minded, well-intentioned they may have been, but in their naivete and ignorance they served as apologists for Soviet totalitarianism with their ill-thought criticism of all things western. A great many were academics and journalists. We’re hearing similar appeasement psychology regarding Islamism. I can think of no better example than the reaction to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s remark that western civilization is superior to Islamic culture.

“We should be confident of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it, and guarantees respect for human rights and religion,” Mr. Berlusconi said in late September of 2001. “This respect certainly does not exist in Islamic countries. … We must be conscious of the strength and force of our civilization.”

Not surprisingly, Muslims denounced him. “I consider his remarks racist, and by such remarks he has crossed the limits of reason and decency,” said Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League. In Turkey, the Islamist newspaper Akit described Berlusconi as “a new Mussolini.” But the denunciations of western politicians and commentators were equally vitriolic. Amos Luzzatto, spokesman for the Italian Jewish Organizations, told La Repubblica newspaper: “In my opinion, one can not speak of the superiority of one culture over another.” (You have to wonder what he would say about Nazi culture in Germany 70 years earlier.) The Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, thought Mr. Berlusconi’s remarks could have dangerous consequences. “I can hardly believe that the Italian prime minister made such statements.”

It was, indeed, a surprising thing to say, considering the climate of opinion that prevails in western societies, particularly among the intelligentsia. As historian Keith Windschuttle says, “The statement was extraordinary because, although western superiority in every major area of human endeavour, especially in political and individual liberty, is patently obvious to everyone, it has become a truth that must not be spoken.”

To say one civilization or culture is better than another is one of the Great Taboos nowadays, at least if you subscribe to the postmodern shibboleths of multiculturalism, multi-racialism, egalitarianism, relativism, post-structuralism, etc. There is one exception, of course. If the civilization you love to hate has its roots in European Christian culture, well, that’s all right, then. You can have a nice career as a professor or a newspaper columnist denouncing the traditions and values of western civilization, even as you enjoy the best that civilization has to offer.

Nevertheless, Berlusconi was right — assuming you think societies that allow religious freedom, free speech, human rights, etc. are “superior” to those that forbid the open practise of all religions, denounce non-believers as less that human and impose death sentences of those who dare criticize the faith. If you don’t assume the former is better than the latter — if you disagree with Berlusconi — then you really need to ask yourself why you live in the West. To partake of its material benefits while denouncing its fundamental values is the life of a parasite. This isn’t to say you’re obliged to worship all things western. To the contrary, one of the secrets of the West’s vitality is its openness to rational self-criticism (at least until recent decades). But to be “anti-western” while partaking of the benefits of western society is, to say the least, to live with a false and hypocritical consciousness. But that perhaps describes the zeitgeist for many contemporary intellectuals in these early years of the Age of Terror.

I don’t have anything else to say.

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