Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Case of Civilisational Malaise

I phoned an old friend yesterday evening to catch up after a long gap in communication. The friend in question is a Quaker of 81 years of age. In my youth, this friend helped me immensely to regain a foothold on the ladder of life and for that I am eternally grateful. The virtue of not giving up on anyone is very well exemplified in this person.

The conversation we had on the phone covered a lot of ground and it reminded me of how ingrained certain attitudes are in a broad spectrum of western society; that which can be loosely defined as liberal/left/Christian.

I asked her opinion on the underlying motivation behind the Barcelona ramming attack and received the standard liberal response, the response that omits all mention of Islamic doctrine and belief.

As I pressed her on the subject it became apparent that any acknowledgement that there might be aspects of Islam that should be criticized was impossible. It was impossible because there was a fundamental unwillingness to criticize a culture other than western civilization. “It’s none of our business” was the first objection to any such criticism.

I countered that because Islamic doctrine has certain very negative ideas about the position on non-Muslims it is actually very much “our business” to scrutinize Islamic beliefs. To no avail, any criticism of Islam (or any other culture) was seen as an egoistic assertion of cultural supremacy.

Quakers claim to be people of peace but they don't have peace in their hearts because their hearts are full of politics.

You are no doubt very familiar with this response pattern.

My friend trotted out the usual tropes about the effects of colonization, the exploitation of weaker peoples, she could not bring herself to acknowledge any merit of western civilization that made it better than another. Every assertion in favour of western civilization was countered with a “we also” argument about some wrong committed by us in the past. Is this the constant acknowledgement of sin that Pauline and Augustine Christianity has inculcated? It has become a very ingrained mental habit.

I asked if a culture that stones women for adultery is worse than one that doesn’t. Of course, the reiteration of the Old Testament was made. I said that the problem with Islam is that stoning for adultery was endorsed by Muhammad which is why it is part of Shariah. Her response was, “Well, bugger Muhammad.” I should have pointed out that such a statement would be a death sentence in the Muslim world – a world which now extends into our inner cities and suburbs.

The tu quoque in the form of “we also” came up over and over again. Taking any pride in one’s own culture is very taboo. It’s as if the fundamental resistance to doing this, even in an objective manner, continually throws up logical fallacies to prevent the person crossing the line into any sense of cultural supremacy, what they feel is a collective egoism.

I can see a certain healthy wariness of the egoic mind in this manoeuvre. However, it lends itself very readily to distortions of reality in favour of people and cultures that do not warrant it. These distortions are buttressed by many arguments in the form of logical fallacies such as appeal to authority; appeal to consensus; and the ubiquitous tu quoque in the form of “we also”.

Yes, attitudes of cultural supremacy can be very dangerous but so can failing to see those attitudes in the people of another culture. Islam is loaded with cultural supremacy of a most virulent and unwarranted nature.

In addition, she constantly introduced the issue of race even though the conversation had nothing to do with race. It seems that people on the left are very prone to "racialize" a subject. This suggests that the category of race figures very prominently in their intellectual architecture. Perhaps this explains why they are constantly accusing others of racism?

My friend’s wariness of the egoic mind is justified. However, her wariness of the egoic tendencies in others in the form of jingoism and collective boasting is unaware of the form the egoic mind is taking in that very wariness. For it sees and feels itself superior to those egoic minds it objects to. For example, their egoic consciousness is very evident in their dehumanization of President Trump.

Finally, as with so many such people her mind is filled with unquestioned assumptions. Assumptions make fools of us all.

For further insight into the nature of the egoic self and the non-egoic self I highly recommend this (and many other videos) by Eckhart Tolle

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