Sipping tea and polite manners while the bombs go off: our necessary way forward
Jeffrey Taylor just wrote an article about our need to stand up the march of human progress. Here is a good sample of it, followed by my reply.
The relentless march of time generally affords humankind, which happens to include folks in the media, the chance to reflect on events and acquire wisdom. But the weeks passing since the massacre in Paris of the highly talented Charlie Hebdo cartoonists for their depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have only granted a good number of commentators the opportunity to bedork themselves time and again, as they pen columns and make on-air statements that both spread confusion and betray commitments to untenable, morally reprehensible extenuative positions concerning Islam. This is tragic, for, if anything, the slaughter of European artists exercising their lawful right to self-expression in the capital of their own country offered us all a “teachable moment” sans pareil about the nature of the threat lurking within – in fact, innate to — the “religion of peace.”
Rarely have murderers so clearly manifested their motive. With the exclamations they made as they carried out their atrocity — “Allahu Akbar!” and “On a vengé le prophète Mohamed, on a tué Charlie Hebdo!” (The prophet Muhammad has been avenged, we have killed Charlie Hebdo!) — the attackers explicitly told us they were killing for Islam, and imparted precisely the lesson they intended: Do not insult or ridicule our faith or you will pay the supreme price. They wrought violence against innocents who dared transgress the commandments of a religion they did not profess. What’s more, they de facto succeeded in imposing sharia tenets well beyond the confines of the Islamic world. How many major publications or networks dared even publish the anodyne drawing of a teary-eyed, forgiving Muhammad that graced the cover of the post-massacre issue of Charlie Hebdo, to say nothing of the other images satirizing the Prophet that presumably led to the fire-bombing of the magazine’s office in 2011? That so many Western media outlets shied away from doing so is more than scandalous. It unambiguously signals one thing: terrorism works. More lives are likely to be lost as a result.
What to make of Western leaders’ reluctance to indict Islam in the Charlie Hebdo massacre? Cowardice must be involved — better to deride a few bad apples “perverting a great religion” than risk angering large, and growing, Muslim communities at home, or inciting attacks against embassies abroad. And as a practical matter, convictions held as passionately as they are irrationally cannot be challenged without peril. That Obama and Hollande have gone to great lengths to avoid implicating Islam in the Charlie Hebdo massacre constitutes implicit recognition of the innate insolubility of religious conflicts – such beliefs cannot be disproven on an evidentiary basis, but only fought over, eye for eye. Once faith stands accused, the guns come out and the bombs go off, and death and mayhem ensue. Best to steer clear of all this.
Yet risks, to say nothing of honest discourse, are essential to true leadership. Faced with this, yet another crisis involving Islam and the violence it tends to beget, the only real options are unified defiance (as embodied in the Je Suis Charlie marches across France) or surrender, as exemplified in news outlets’ widespread reluctance to publish the eminently newsworthy Charlie Hebdo cartoons. By accepting the bald casuistry and specious analysis offered by religion’s apologists, or by denigrating, à la Zogby, the (wonderfully) muscular French version of secularism known as laïcité (no Islamic headscarves or Christian crosses allowed inside schools, no burqas to be worn outside), we are collectively opting for capitulation, and jettisoning our precious patrimony — freedom of expression, an essential element of any open society. If we do this, we should be ashamed of ourselves and do not deserve to be free.
We need to turn the tables and refuse to let the faith-based or their smooth-talking accomplices set the terms for debate; refuse to cower before the balderdash term Islamophobia; refuse to let faith-mongering fraudsters, from the Pope in the Vatican to the pastor down the street, educate our children or lecture us on morals or anything else. If we do not believe the Bible is true or the Quran inerrant, we need to say so, loudly, clearly and repeatedly, until the “sacred” sheen of these books wears off. And it will. Behaviors change as beliefs are adjusted. We no longer burn witches at the stake or use ghastly vises to crush the skulls of those suspected of being “secret Jews” (as was done in Spain and elsewhere during the Inquisition), and none but the insane among us would enact the gruesome penalties prescribed in Leviticus as retribution for trifling offenses. We have progressed, and we will progress again, if we, for starters, quit worrying about political correctness and cease according religion knee-jerk respect.
Some time ago, the meme “Islam – the religion of peace” began circulating, originating, apparently, in an erroneous translation of the Arabic name for the faith. Islam means “submission” (to the will of God). The brave cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo faced down threats and refused to submit — and paid with their lives. For their deaths to mean anything, we need to show similar guts.
We need, after all, to tell the truth. If we don’t start doing this now, our next question must be, who among us will be the next victims?
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We should not toss aside Ockham’s razor and concoct additional factors that supposedly commandeered their behavior. The Charlie Hebdo killers may have come from poor Parisian banlieues, they may have experienced racial discrimination, and they may have even been stung by disdain from “the dominant secular French culture,” yet they murdered not shouting about any of these things, but about “avenging the Prophet Muhammad.” They murdered for Islam.
I like this. But what drives them isn't a chance to be loved by "Islam," but by their mothers. They are committing themselves to destroying that which are avenues of progress—Charlie Hebdo's sanctioning the importance of critiquing anything which cows. What inspires this is a knowledge that when they inhibited their own self-growth and let themselves be passive vehicles for their mothers' pleasure, they received love from their mothers. When they instead strove and enjoyed Western freedoms, they came to feel hopelessly abandoned and bad.
Their childrearing was incredibly bad. Their mothers, abused so badly, re-inflicted the abuses upon their children, and absolutely required them to serve as stimulants/anti-depressants. When they instead focused on themselves, they were rejected ... and the children knew, then, that there was no greater evil in the world—one cows completely before "God" and thereby, maybe, you'll be graced by that gigantic world of heaven known as your mother's approval. You resist and enter the world of freedom and balking your parent's needs for your own, and very soon you won't be able to take the feeling of absolute rejection—the sense that your mother has absolutely had it with you!—and you'll go Jihad to slay true "bad children" and die on a field tended by your mother's soothing balm.
About how abused mother's raise their children, about the origins of terrorism, go here:
But, the thing is, there are a whole lot of people who are being bypassed by the kinds of freedoms society is increasingly allowing, the kinds of prejudices that are no longer enfranchised/allowed. Denied society as sort of an exoskeleton in which to work out inner psychic troubles—and thereby the living of a becalmed everyday life—they’re going to go berserk—kill people, berserk. The only thing that will stop this is if we all commit to a war where a gigantic number of "bad boys and girls" are slaughtered, surrendered as sacrifices into the angry maw, which we don't want.
So, we're going to have to get used to it. As much as possible, we need to maintain the temperament appropriate for progress-enjoying people, which is an advancement of the "polite and commercial" that ruled in the 18th-century, but along the same lines: it's not excited, heated, but playful, sifting, and calm. To do this while bombs are going on all around us is going to be difficult, but I understand that Jane Austen managed as much, however much some have disparaged her for it.
Our problem may not just be “extremes.” We need to remember that sometimes a whole people can decide they've had it with their progressing selves and suddenly turn provincial, crude and extreme: it's the story of what happened to the Weimar Germans, who went from participating in modernizing, cosmopolitan Germany — however insufficiently and nervously compared with German Jews—to eschewing it for some "truer" German folk past.
But even if suddenly all of Islam and great swaths of Christians and, even, a discouraging number of previously level-headed liberals, start seeing "bad children" everywhere and suit up for war, progressives need to remind themselves that these are all the victims of unloved childhoods and child abuse: as much as possible, they need to be stopped, but they certainly deserve no hate. What they're doing was inevitable owing to the fact of their cowing childhoods, and the fact that there is still in this world a will to make things better.
We need to keep up the temperament of a cosmopolitan populace, which this colourful and enjoyable article is still mostly ramped up against.