by Robert Gear (May 2018)
Burn and Release, Paul Martin, 2000
n an essay published in November, 1753, in The Adventurer, Samuel Johnson argues that,
As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied, not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part: each comparing what he observes with a different criterion and each referring it to a different purpose.
The words somehow imply that most of us are people of good will and form opinions based purely on being “furnished with different kinds of knowledge.” But later in the same essay, Johnson signals a more critical stance. “If we inquire of those who have gone before us, we receive small satisfaction; some have travelled life without observation, and some willingly mislead us (italics added).” Likewise, we might favor Edmund Burke’s excellent sentiment that it is only those who listen to the dead who are the fit guardians of the unborn. True enough, but surely with the proviso that it all depends on which of the dead we listen to.
Many among the dead have been responsible for tragedy and destruction with which only the vagaries of unfeeling nature itself can contend. Those who have willingly misled or still mislead could perhaps be further separated by a kind of Wildian formulation; there are two kinds of misleaders: those who have observed little and mislead, and those who have observed much and mislead.
The well-worn socialist path to ruin encompasses both categories of misleaders. For example, the Leninist revolutionary vanguard party which wished to mislead, and the befuddled useful idiots who may have observed little – in other words “the masses” that revolutionaries and their ilk have always liked to foment in order to buttress their nefarious agendas.
To what extent are we being willingly misled by those who have gone before us, or by those who are still with us? Human nature being what it is (whatever it is), some of us (perhaps most) are misled because we are per impossibile nowhere near “taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects,” as Johnson so exactly puts it.
The question of cause and effect often turns out to be more like a geologically messy conglomerate of dissimilar rocks. Or perhaps a better simile is an ancient mosaic decoration; each of the numerous tesserae contributing to the overall image. The missing pieces have to be guessed at; we understand perhaps the basic picture but frustratingly can’t fully reconstruct it. And so often the media driven “narrative” gives us such an oversimplified view of cause and effect about “current events” that the fakery becomes transparent. Think, for example, of the attempt to positively link the number of guns with the number of homicides in the US—the elision of human agency being a necessary component of the authoritarian project. A moment’s reflection, and hard statistical evidence, shows this to be near nonsense. Or think of the ongoing effort to show that disparity of educational and earnings outcomes, at least in benighted Western nations, is caused by racial or “gender” discrimination. Many more such linkages suffuse the daily output of our betters in the media-academic complex. Of such, Johnson might have contended that they display a perverse dispensation to avoid concatenation!
This distorted use of reasoning to promote wrongful ideas has not quite yet devolved into the bizarre thinking that pervades much of the Muslim world. As Robert R. Reilly in The Closing of the Muslim Mind says of the still-living progeny of Al-Ghazali and the Asherite sect:
Freed from cause and effect, the Islamic world reverts to a pre-philosophical, magical realm where things happen unaccountably due to mysterious, supernatural forces. In the place of reasonable explanations or of explanations subject to reason—conspiracy theories reign, along with superstition. The daily Islamic press is rife with them.
But there is more here than just ignorance, bias and apathy. Take, for example, the remorseless scraping away at our civil society by the easily offended, and by “viewpoints” originating in antique lands. The extreme leftist visionaries and the radical proponents of the religion of peace are bedmates, and for the time being, at least, seemingly joined at the hip. The champions and followers of these temporary confederates are both deceiving and deceived.
Let us examine a small, but perhaps vital part of the duplicity. This is the ongoing attempt to marinate school pupils in the “correct” view about the religion of peace. Such inroads into school syllabi throughout much of the Western world have been engineered for a generation or two, or at least, to gloss Larkin, since the end of the Chatterley ban (and the Beatles’ first LP); the blossoming of the “sexual revolution” being approximately coeval with the advent of modern political correctness, although engendering different forms of disease.
It is a truism, perhaps, that included among the freedoms available to those of us living in what have been called “Law and Liberty” societies, is the freedom to forget what once threatened our existence. Apparently, research into the opinions and knowledge base of the young (even of those attending top-ranked universities) sadly confirms that many are as good as ignorant about, for example, the rise and ravages of Nazism and the horrors inflicted by Communism and attendant ideologies. And so too, we have the freedom not to know what threatens our existence now.
From where does this ignorance arise? Much of it stems from the near monopoly of schooling in the upbringing of the young. Although, to be fair, multiple causes must exist here too; the programming of school pupils through the messages insinuated into high school Social Studies/History textbooks must be cause for concern.
My own experience of this sticky intrusion is limited, and so I recently attempted to uncover what was on offer for 16 to 18 year olds in a rural Midwestern town. I mention the general location only to underline that not even in regions inhabited by “deplorables” can we escape from the insidious gnawing of the rodentocracy. I was granted an informal discussion with the Principal and Head Teacher of the Social Studies department of a mid-sized high school. These two individuals, despite an initial reluctance when told that I was interested in how their textbooks presented the rise of Islam, did not rebuff me, as I had feared, and were civil enough to provide photocopies of the relevant pages from TCI History Alive: World Connections (2013).
You will not be surprised to learn that the three sub-sections of this child-targeted volume, labeled Islam: Origins and Development, The Beliefs of Islam and The Spread and Influence of Islam, were of a piece in deploying standard methods of obfuscation. Much of the propaganda piece must have been vetted by Islamic “scholars.” How else could such anodyne and wrongful descriptions as those I cite below be smuggled into a widely used textbook?
Our school seniors learn, for example, that in Mecca “many local leaders saw Islam as a threat to their power and prestige, and began to persecute the Muslims.” Is that so? In fact, Horses-Mouths’ Muslim sources show there was a context to this so-called persecution. Furthermore, the threats their Mr. Big showered on the Pagan Meccans were dire and provocative.
For example, according to Islamic sources (Ibn-Ishaq’s Sirat Rasulullah, and Muhammad al-Tabari’s, The History of al-Tabari), it wasn’t the Meccans who first persecuted and attacked Muhammed and his few followers. On the contrary, the man who sat in a cave and submitted to peculiar visions provoked the Meccans. He did this by insulting their gods, deriding their traditional values, and threatening them physically and with the threat of hell fire if they refused to accept his revelations.
Here is some more twisted history:
Muhammad died in 632. But the Muslim leaders who followed continued to win converts and expand the religion. By 750, Islam had moved beyond Arabia to become the main religion of the Middle East and North Africa. It also spread to Spain, Central Asia, and India. (p. 38)
So, it just happened. Just like that! Again, no context is forthcoming. If we had space and strong stomach enough, those four sentences could be illustrated with some explanation that “would freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,” as the ghost on the battlements put it. Of course, history is tragedy, anywhere and anytime. But the phrasing is morally tantamount to describing a more recent “expansion” thus:
Many of the ruling class saw this trend as a threat to their power and prestige, and began to persecute this dedicated group. Their leader was even imprisoned for a short time. Eventually, he was released and gathered a group around him of like-minded idealists. Finally, he was able to take over the reins of government. By 1940, his ideas had moved beyond his close associates to influence the main forms of government for most of continental Europe . . . Oh, and by the way, the leaders of this group were very fond of their wives, children, horses and household pets, and they revered classical music. Also, many were keen environmentalists, favored the welfare state, despised smoking and encouraged vegetarianism.
To examine Potemkin Islam is to search for the skull beneath the skin. For example, throughout this school text, the use of the word “God,” in place of what they really mean, “Allah,” is a way of misleading the innocent. A comparison of what Jews or Christians mean by “God” with what Muslims mean by “Allah,” demonstrates that they are talking about very different entities. So why use “God” when they really mean “Allah?” Perhaps, they mean all religions worship the same Supreme Being, and we are all buddy buddies together. My own experience tells me that an unfortunate number of decent people fall for this wheeze. That’s the idea, of course.
More than that, the whole tenor of the chapter is one of reverence towards Islam. Nothing can disturb the superficial explanation of this war-like sociopathology stretching through the long centuries since the early 600s.
Islam was a missionary religion, seeking to win converts, particularly in areas where polytheism prevailed. Muslims sometimes waged “holy war,” clashing with the followers of other religions, including Christians. But they also respected Christians and Jews as people of faith and often lived alongside them in peace. (P. 39)
Oh, please! Holy War, or Jihad was the modus operandi of “expansion,” and it still is. Plunder, forced conversion, brutal destruction of indigenous cultures, etc. And, yes, of course, Muslims are not the only peoples to have perpetrated mayhem. But might it be that barbarism performed by non-Muslims (especially of the West) is not skimmed over so lightly in school textbooks? I think we know the answer.
Yes, there were times and places in which Muslims lived alongside infidels in peace. But the clause “But they also respected Christians and Jews as people of faith” needs so much unpacking as to be completely useless for those trying to learn about the mega land-grab and the horrors enacted in the name of the religion of peace. The passage neglects to mention that this state of affairs was possible as long as the dhimmi status was adhered to.
The most thorough-going analysis of dhimmitude was set out, of course, by Bat Ye’or in her invaluable Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. Daniel Pipes’ review succinctly sums up her findings:
Bat Ye’or shows the debilitating consequence of the Muslim sense of superiority towards peoples of other religions. In the author’s words, this is a ‘painful history of hatred, suffering, death, heroism, betrayal, and cowardice,’ it is also a history that is very much alive even today and needs squarely to be confronted if Muslims are truly to live in harmony with non-Muslims.
No doubt, the propagandistic “overview” of the Islamic world articulated in the aforementioned school textbook, and probably many similar works aimed at secondary schoolers, is part and parcel of the unholy-alliance’s infiltration of school systems throughout much of the Western World. Clearly, our teenage children and their chums are getting a somewhat blinkered view of this, uhmm, religious movement.
Of course, today we think of ourselves as much too enlightened to burn books, but perhaps David Hume was onto something when he declared about the uninformed content of a particular kind of volume, “Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” Instead might I suggest discarding such published products into the city dump? While we’re about it, we could throw any physically remaining traces of the rap-music industry and related vulgarities. Such an action could be one of the wild joys of living.
I have not yet been able to assess pages from any school Social Studies/History text devoted to the history of non-Islamic peoples. Are some of the pages subtly allotted to Politically Correct History and Sociological Silliness? I wonder. One suspects that High School graduates having imbibed (if they have imbibed anything) sophistry and illusion are nicely prepared to make a smooth segue to the academic archipelago of unawareness, cant, and even higher levels of idiocy, thereby adding to our very own epoch of credulity. As Johnson said, “some willingly mislead us.”