Friday, September 10, 2010

Arrogance and Hubris

Now here is a post from a former student who thinks, as you can tell from the first sentence, that Western Civilization, as he calls it, is clearly superior to the Muslim faith and Islam. He calls himself at times a "cultural imperialist" because he thinks that WE have the right and even the duty to transform the Muslims by "Westernizing" them.

I don't understand at least a couple of things about this.
(1) Where did WE get the authority to undertake this project? I mean, did I miss a meeting or something where "it" was decided that WE have the right to force others to change the way they choose to live? Is this just a throw back to the "divine right of kings" or some other divinely ordained responsibility? For me, foreign policy should be about defense, defending ourselves from the threats posed by others, not, as John Quincy Adams said, "going in search of monsters to destroy."

(2) But also, isn't Islam part of "Western Civilization?" I thought it was. Guess I was wrong.

(3) Even if Islam is wanting in some ways, and even if we exclude it from "Western Civilization" what makes us think that this civilization is so great that it is justified in transforming the rest of the world? To wit: Here are some of the goodies that Western Civilization has given the world: Nuclear weapons and the use of them [only one nation has ever used atomic weapons and it wasn't the Muslims!]; the Holocaust and Nazism and the slaugher 6 million Jews; Marxist Communism and the millions killed as a result of that ideology in the Soviet Union, China, and elsewhere; numerous wars like two World Wars that took millions of lives......And there is more but that is enough for my purposes.

It is like these "cultural imperialists" have taken leave of their senses in that they think some of the examples mentioned above, Nazism and Communism and World Wars, as ABERRATIONS. That is, they conveniently compartmentalize these phenomena and as a result think that, hell, those weren't part and parcel of Western Civilization, that they did not arise out of Western Civilization but must have been the result of some alien forces beamed down onto earth which were, as in the movie, The War of the Worlds, defeated by the forces of "Western Civilization." Nice try but it doesn't ring true. Nazism, Communism, World Wars, nuclear and other inhumane bombings [like the fire bombing of Dresden or of Tokyo] are all the "fruit" of "Western Civilization - and not the Muslim part either.

"I don’t think it’s hubris or arrogance. If there’s a superiority complex involved, it’s because we are objectively superior. Now there are two things at work when I say “WE” are superior.
1) Our Western values: Free inquiry and valuing of the individual. These are worth risking your life to protect. These are superior.
2) Capitalist realities: this is where the greed and imperialism come in. We don’t need to be greedy. We don’t need to be imperialistic. We could moderate our economic system into a mixed system: Keynesian economics where the government greases economic gears. If we exported mixed economy throughout the globe—at least made it available, it would improve many lives and has.
I would say it is in fact a matter of self-defense. It wouldn’t be important to Westernize Muslims in foreign lands if we never made contact. Realistically, it's necessary to make sure they are not a threat to us. (We’ve proven that all-out war is not a viable option for making sure…) Now I would combine a "Hitchens" view--and say the Islamic threat is somewhat inherent to its theology and a "Chomskyite" view--and say that the Islamic threat is inescapably of our own doing/ regional meddling. So as a rational political actor, I want to make sure the Taliban and Al Qaeda do not pose a threat to me by being dethatched. You stay in your world, I’ll stay in mine. Unfortunately with globalization, that’s not an option: contact between the two “civilizations” is inevitable.
So, there are only so many ways to deal with the inevitable “Islamic-Western nexus”. "Westernizing" is certainly one option. Chomsky would say this is cultural hegemony, but I'm okay with that, it’s FAR better than Islamic hegemony, or even a constant Islamic threat.
It’s not a neo-con thing. It’s been our policy since at least the end of WWII. We gave volatile non-aligned nations economic incentives to industrialize and modernize. In the industry, we call it “neo-liberal institutionalism” (which is different from neoliberal economics).
It’s helped to raze the land of Islamic superstition while help to modernize and develop the second and third world.
When I say Westernize Muslims, I mean domestically. We can’t have citizens of the United States supporting fatwahs against authors who “defame the name of Muhammad.” This is a constitutional issue. We can’t have newspapers afraid to publish cartoons that might offend people. Questions of poor taste aside, the freedom of speech is at odds with Islam.
As for the international community, I really believe in the principles of Trotskyism and the Socialist International: to help develop viable secular socialist communities. This can’t happen when a woman who has loosened her hijab has acid thrown at her face…..or when books are banned because they defame Allah……. Or when countries become anti-democratic overnight.
I am really put off by Malcolm X’s Islamic beliefs because it progresses an inimical narrative: that blacks in the US can’t do anything collectively without first inquiring with God. Blacks cannot be rational. Despite all the gritty work done by the Black Panthers and the US communist party for the Black community, their national heroes are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Good grief.
As for the absence of racism in Islam: sure. But there’s plenty of petty tribal hatreds to take its place."

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