Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pakistan killings are not about blasphemy

The difference between Islamism and the rest is that liberals are happy to denounce white extremists, while covering up militant Islam with the wet blanket of political correctness. They do not confine themselves to saying that, of course, society must protect people from being murdered for their religion, as Slobodan Milosevic murdered the Bosnian Muslims, and punish employers who refuse jobs to members of creeds they dislike, as Protestant employers in Northern Ireland once refused to hire Catholics. They maintain it is illicit to criticise religious ideas. Thus, along with the admittedly faint fear of violence, western writers who want to provide arguments against religious misogyny, homophobia, racism and censorship must also live with the fear that their contemporaries will accuse them of orientalism or Islamophobia.
The world may pay a price for the monumental blunder of treating religious ideologies – which are beliefs that men and women ought to be free to accept or reject – as if they were ethnicities, which no man or woman can change. Not the smallest reason why the Arab revolution is such an optimistic event is that al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood have been left as gawping bystanders. Their isolation cannot last. Eventually, if Arab states move towards democracy, there will be a confrontation with political Islam. Arab liberals, like Pakistani liberals, will search the net for guidance. They will discover that far from offering strategies that might help, timorous western liberals have convinced themselves that it is "racist" to criticise raging fanatics who no longer even bother to pretend that they are anything other than liberalism's mortal enemies.

Yes, we very well may pay that price sooner rather than later in the United States

Incoherent thinking and political impotency

My vote for the most condescending sentence in the English language would be “that’s true for you”. One can almost feel the pat on the head when someone says it. It’s a way of saying “well, I think what you’re saying is bloody silly but if you want to believe in such foolishness, more power to you”. Since we’ve decided--particularly on the American Left--that the key to civility is simply never to disagree with someone, we’ve adopted this stance that anything anyone believes to be true actually is true--for them. This is a deeply incoherent position. To see why one need look no further than the “Birther” conspiracy theory.

There are people who believe, with all sincerity, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Now, if we grant that this is 'true for them' then, for them, a person is in the White House who is NOT the legitimate POTUS. Not simply 'not the person I voted for' but someone whose very presence does violence to the Constitution of the United States. If it is 'true for them' the national priority should be to remove that person from office, by any means available up to and including a coup d'etat. However, Barack Obama wasn't born in Kenya he was born in the United States. It is simply incoherent to say "oh, you believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not the legitimate POTUS? Well, I guess that is true for you." If it is *actually* true, then we should treat Mr. Obama's Presidency the way we would if, at the height of the Cold War, Nikita Kruschev had declared himself the POTUS. Do you believe that it is possible for Barack Obama to have been born in more than one place? In other words, do you think it is possible that he was born in Hawaii AND in Kenya? If not, then how can it possibly be 'true' for someone to believe that he was? If he was born in Hawaii (and he was) then he can't have been born in Kenya. What would it even mean for it to 'be true' for someone that he was born some thousands of miles from his actual birthplace? As ridiculous as the 'Birther' conspiracy is, we cannot and should not dismiss it lightly. Almost a third of one of the two major parties believe something that is false--I'm sorry, I cannot dignify obviously false beliefs as being 'true for someone'.

This refusal to dignify false beliefs as being ‘true for someone’ puts me at odds on the Left. Many, perhaps even most, of my fellow liberals have completely swallowed a meme that there are different truths for different people. What is so deeply hypocritical about this is that they are entirely inconsistent about it. If a person is a political conservative--of almost any stripe, social or fiscal--then that’s person’s reality is not ‘true for them’. Global warming deniers don’t have a ‘truth’. Anti-gay activists don’t have a ‘truth’. Racists don’t get a ‘truth’. Those who harbor anti-Muslim sentiments don’t get a ‘truth’. Hell, those who believe that there are such a thing as standards (it used to be universal standards now it is standards period) don’t get a ‘truth’. Yet, many Liberals behave as if they behaved--if not believed--as if these boogeymen of the Left did get their own truth. The problem is that our inability to actually take a stand on the Left has made us completely ineffective.

Imagine two teams meeting on a soccer field. One team has a lean and hungry look. They want to win. The other team isn’t really into it. The minute that they realize they’re going to have to run up and down the field, half decide that’s too much work to be fun and head for the sideline. Would you place a bet against the lean and hungry players? This is where American Liberals find themselves. We, as a group, just don’t believe we’re right. We may know, at some abstract level, that the science is clear that anthropogenic climate change is happening. Not about to happen but is happening now. Yet, I think that if you were to ask a random conservative climate-change denier and a random Liberal that you would find that the conservative knows that climate-change isn’t happening and is willing to go to the mat over her beliefs while the liberal will be more likely to hem and haw.

If you only half-ass believe what you’re spouting you will lose to the person who believes with their whole and complete being. It is as certain as the tides or the changing of seasons. Yet this is where we are on the Left.