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These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 17, 2011.
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
A Musical Interlude: Your Mother's Son-In-Law (Billie Holiday)

LIsten here.

Posted on 08/17/2011 11:42 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Sloppy Riot Thinking

No interpretation of events is final, so it is not surprising that a war of words has begun over the meaning of the riots in London and elsewhere. What is perhaps more surprising is that even conservative commentators, for example in the Daily Mail and the Spectator, have drawn a parallel that might have been expected from members of student socialist societies in the 1960s, comparing the looters who have terrorized Britain to the bankers who were involved in the financial crisis of 2008. For these pundits, the looters only did retail what the bankers did wholesale.

The comparison is alarming for several reasons. First, it disregards the distinction between the legal and the illegal. No doubt some bankers broke the law and should be held to account for it, but not all did. To conflate those bankers who behaved badly but not illegally with looters is, in effect, to encourage either the impunity of the latter or the punishment of the former, who have broken no law. In either case, the rule of law would be subverted, and it is not encouraging that journalists—important members of the intelligentsia—should have so little regard for it.

Second, the comparison disregards the fact that the bankers’ main fault was to have lent too much, a fault in which the population was joyfully complicit. You can lead a man to a loan, but you can’t make him borrow. In Britain, furthermore, the government benefited mightily from this coining of fool’s gold. Not only did the process impart to the electorate a pleasant sensation of prosperity; it allowed the government to increase the scope of its own operations and therefore of its own patronage. If the bankers are guilty, so are the people and, even more, the government. To single out the bankers to blame for the general orgy of improvidence is to indulge in that most pleasant of all political pastimes—scapegoating. But improvidence, however undesirable, and however much some people may have profited by it, is not a crime. It is punished only by reality.

Third, the comparison fails to recognize the rawness of the injury that looting and arson inflict upon their victims and their surrounding communities. Like almost everyone, I suffer if the stock market declines and a recession occurs. But if you were to ask me which I should prefer—to live through a recession whose human cause was diffuse and imperfectly clear, or to have my house looted or burned down by a mob of young people—I know what I would answer.

Most important of all, however, is the cultural effect of the commentators’ comparison. The looters, already possessed of a deep if unjustified sense of grievance, will find in it a post facto justification for what they did and also a moral and political justification for their future depredations. It is a great mistake to suppose that, just because they are badly educated, they are not shrewd enough to turn such arguments to the service of what they conceive of as their own advantage.

The combination of loose thinking and indifference to the likely effects of its expression may, indeed, have been a major cause of many of our current problems. Let us, as Pascal said, labor to think clearly: for such is the beginning of morality. And, one might add, of sound policy.

First published at City Journal.

Posted on 08/17/2011 12:44 PM by Theodore Dalrymple
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Liberal intellectuals are frightened of confronting Islam's honour-shame culture

Richard Landes in The Telegraph:

A recent series of polls indicate that European public opinion is substantially concerned by the increasingly aggressive Islam that their substantial immigrant populations have taken to expressing

[...]

The disconnect referred to in the article constitutes one of the most worrying developments in Western culture over the last decade: between a elite that controls much of the discussion in the public sphere (journalists, academics, talking heads, mainstream politicians) and who fear being called Islamophobes and racists more than they fear Islamist racists, and a population of people who, whenever they voice concern about the behavior of the Muslim neighbors, are told not to be Islamophobic racists. The problems are knotty and painful to disentangle. Here’s my outline of an approach.

In an honour culture, it is legitimate, expected, even required to shed blood for the sake of honour, to save face, to redeem the dishonoured face. Public criticism is an assault on the very “face” of the person criticised. Thus, people in such cultures are careful to be “polite”; and a genuinely free press is impossible, no matter what the laws proclaim.

Modernity, however, is based on a free public discussion, on civility rather than politeness, but the benefits of this public self-criticism – sharp learning curves, advances in science and technology, economic development, democracy – make that pain worthwhile.

But such a system represents a crucible of humiliation for alpha males, especially those who believe that the social order depends on the honour of ruling elite, like the anti-Dreyfusards around 1900, ready to sacrifice a single man for the honour of Army and Church.

This is particularly true for Islamic religious culture. In Dar al Islam, a Muslim’s contradiction/criticism of Islam was punishable by death, a fortiori did this hold true for infidels. Modernity has been a Nakba (psychological catastrophe) for Islam, and Islam in all its variegated currents has yet to successfully negotiate these demands of modernity.

On the contrary, the loudest voices in contemporary Islam reject vehemently the kind of self-criticism modernity requires. Criticism constitutes an unbearable assault on the manhood of Muslims.

Indeed, global Jihad and the apocalyptic prophets who nourish it with genocidal rhetoric, represent a particularly virulent form of abreactive modernity, in which the powers of modern society (especially technology) are turned to the task of destroying a modern culture of public, free debate about what is fair.

Secularism demands more maturity, it requires that religions be civil, that they not use force (the state) to impose their beliefs on others. Religious communities have to give up their need to be visibly superior as a sign of being right/true. This involves high levels of both self-confidence and tolerance for public contradiction.

For Islam this is a particularly difficult challenge. For Islam’s formative period, it dominated. Dhimma laws spelled out the principles: infidels were “protected” from violence and death at the hands of Muslims as long as they accepted a visibly humiliating, inferiority. And among the key demands made on dhimmis, was that they not challenge, criticise, or in any way “insult” Islam or Muslims.

Contemporary manifestations of Islamic revival tend to handle the infidel “other” poorly. The peril to contemporary Christians and Jews in Muslim majority nations is mirrored in the behavior of Muslims in the expanding European enclaves, those zones urbaines sensibles, or Sharia zones, where the state’s writ no longer runs.

Thus, Islam’s – Muslims – relationship with the “other” (kufr, infidel, lit. one who covers [the truth]), is the great problem to resolve in this coming generation, and at the heart of that problem lies the ability of Muslims to tolerate criticism from outsiders.

We in the modern (and post-modern) West, who first forged these remarkable rules of self-restraint and created so rich, so variegated, so tolerant a culture, have a right to demand that Islam adopt these rules, certainly those who live in and benefit from the civil polities we have created. Indeed, if we treasure these values of tolerance, and freedom, and generosity towards the “other,” we owe it to ourselves and to the Muslims in our midst, to make this demand. Anything else, including the fantasy that this is not a problem, is cultural suicide.

And yet, so far, we are doing very badly, mostly because we avoid dealing with the problem. The “thin skin” of Muslims is proverbial, and much public, diplomatic, and even academic discourse tacitly acknowledges and placates that cultural reality. When Western positive-sum principles (we do everything we can to “get to yes,” win-win) meets Arab zero-sum principles (they can only win, if we lose), we most often lose (Oslo “Peace” Process).

In the last decade this has gotten much worse. The behaviour of the self-identified “progressive” “left” – traditionally the bastion of stinging public criticism of abuse of power, misogyny and belligerence – has been overwhelmingly placatory towards touchy Muslims. Repeatedly, as in the case of Pope Benedict, they step in to prevent anyone (fellow infidels), whom they smear as Islamophobes, from saying something that might bruise Muslims feelings. Indeed, they seem more worried about “us” provoking Muslim violence than about exploring the sources of Muslim violence. And often they attack those defending democratic principles with a shrill and contemptuous tone that they would never dream of using with Muslims.

Which brings us back to the “disconnect.” Our journalist and academic talking heads are subject to a different kind of Islamophobia: an inordinate fear of criticising Islam. And as a result they betray their own real constituencies, those of us committed to the rules civil polities. We cannot defend modern, tolerant, liberal political culture with such fearful people dominating the public sphere.

Posted on 08/17/2011 2:40 PM by Mary Jackson

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