On Islamic Overreaction, and the Conflict with Modernityhttp://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/02/05/cartoon-controversy060205.html
I should state up-front that I have a tortured relationship with modernity (I take "modernity" in the Grantian sense ...) which has seen Western man evolve from a social and political being into a mere medium of exchange within a technologically-driven world. Liberalism and technology go hand-in-hand - as it is individualism, a market-orientation, and secular-humanism that has driven us to a mere "existence" in the technological age.
To a large extent, I accept Grant's thesis on modernity, and one of the reasons I do so, is the fact that as a beneficiary of the technological age I have derived benefit from it, and continue to do so - even whilst recognising its inherent and problematic contradictions, and sense of moral chaos. In other words, I come to accept it as it demonstrates a worth that I can live within, and perhaps even thrive in - all while maintaining deep reservations about the very system that provides me with such comfort.
I have long been on record as stating the post-Cold War conflict would be between the Western Democracies and the Islamic world. I first made this connection back in 1990, while still a Graduate Student. With the destruction of the old bi-polar world, I had a strong sense that much of the terrorism I had observed - via the News, since 1970 - was not without a discernible pattern. If one zeroes in on the post-1948 history of Israel, one will see that its history has been one of a people under siege. In 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 Israel was attacked by neighbouring Islamic states. Terrorism has been used against Israel in every year of its existence. Think about that for a moment ...
So in light of all this, I have developed a certain empathy for "both sides of the issue." Or at least I hope that I have. 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated by the Nazis, and 47,000 Canadians died fighting that odious regime. I sympathise with Israel, and although I cannot agree with all of its positions, I respect them as the only working democracy in the Middle-East.
I have tried to have some empathy for Islam, which is - in theory - a very benign and communally-oriented theology. I try to tell myself that Islamo-Fascism is relegated to a minority within the Islamic world, and that this world is not monolithic. I try to accept that - rightly or wrongly - some Islamic people are resentful of their colonisation. I then remind myself that Africa, as a whole, got an even worse deal out of the "scramble for colonies." Despotism in Africa there may be, but the people of that continent do not seem to want to make war on us (not that they could).
So I have spent the last week observing the wild overreaction by many Muslims to the Editorial Cartoons published in the Jutland Post last September; while I can understand the religious sensitivity as regards the public breaking of the tenet on idolatry, I cannot accept, nor can I empathise with, the people who are offended. Especially if one has been exposed to the virulently anti-Semitic cartoons that appear all across the Islamic world.
Be that as it may, there are many things about liberalism and modernity that I do not like. I also derive great benefit from liberal-democracy and modernity. The pact that we all make consciously or not, is simply this:If you live in a Western liberal democracy, you must subsume your passions in the name of individualism, and the market.
Liberal-democracies are based on Individual Rights and the primacy of the Individual. Constitutionalism and Market-Economics mandate that we place rationality and exchange on a higher level than spirituality and command.
Hirschman wrote extensively about this in The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph.
It is one of the best books that I read in Grad School.
for more see: http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/titles/5996.html
Orthodox Muslims and Islamo-Fascists are fooling themselves if they really think that the West will abide by Islamic mores, just because some of them may take offense. Just how unasimilated some of these groups are, is best indicated by the outrageous violence, property destruction, and ultimately the razing of the Danish Embassy today in the Lebanon.
Or are they fooling themselves?
There is an alternative tendency in the West with regard to the grievances of minority groups, and it has reared its head consistently over the last twenty years. On the one hand, many Western democracies limit the speech of racists, Nazis, Christian Fundamentalists and many other extremist groups, while at the same time placing the agenda of feminists, Homosexuals, atheists, and secularists into a protected status. We have come to label this tendency "political correctness."
Much of its intentions are noble - in the liberal sense - as they seek to subsume belief and replace it with rationality, in the name of social peace and order. However, one man's rationality is another man's apostasy.
It is the seeming one-sidedness of the PC approach that most angers its detractors. I see this one of the main contradictions of the liberal age.
So, how will the Western democracies respond to what is cleary an overreaction to what - after-all - are merely Political Cartoons? Will the West stand its ground and say that Freedom of Expression
is a higher good? Or will the Journalistic organs of the West begin to self-regulate their content, lest they become the target for mass protest and arson? Which West will we be living in - in the aftermath of all of this?
Will the West seek to appease its Islamic citizens, or will it stand on liberal values and demand that they relegate their passions to the private sphere? Upon this issue, believe it or not, may hang the future balance of liberal-democracy itself.
Are we a liberal-democratic or a multi-cultural society? The two are - eventually - mutually exclusive.