"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cartoons & Civilization

With all the attention the world has devoted to the Danish newspaper, Jylands-Posten’s, cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, there are – it seems to me – several conditions surrounding this matter that deserve further elaboration.

First, and perhaps most noteworthy, is the self censorship many Western observers have imposed on themselves when the riots began. This form of preemptive subservience satisfies Islamists intent on global domination. As many observers have pointed out, freedom of the press has in many instances retreated before selective moral indignation.

The reasons for this response are manifold: fear, sympathy, anti-Western animus, and sensitivity to Muslim beliefs. What the sympathizers ignore is that without religious mandate they have supinely accepted dhimmitude, the subservience Muslims demand of nonbelievers.

While the appropriate stance should be the affirmation of Western principle, namely freedom of speech, many cower, fearful of offending marauding religious adherents. Instead of meeting speech that may be offensive with counter speech, Islamists threaten – and in extreme instances engage in murder, e.g. the killing of Theo van Gogh after he made a film depicting the mistreatment of Muslim women.

Yet even the threats are rationalized. Pat Buchanan noted that these cartoons deserve to be censured and implied that there is justification for the riots. His response is reminiscent of John Le Carre, who after learning of a fatwa on Salman Rushdie for the publication of Satanic Verses, said, “there is no law in life or nature that says great religion may be insulted with impunity.” Yet Le Carre has not been heard when Muslims routinely call Jews monkeys and pigs. Apparently what is good for Muslims is not good for those Muslims deplore.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Canadian Justice Louise Arbour responded to a complaint from the Organization of The Islamic Conference by arguing, “I find alarming any behaviors that disregard the belief of others.” She proceeded to launch an investigation into “racism” and “disrespect for belief” and asked for an official explanation from the Danish government. It is instructive that the U.N. Human Rights Commission has been conspicuously silent on the vicious portrayal of Jews in the schoolbooks distributed in the Palestinian territory and in many Muslim nations.

While the examples cited here do not necessarily constitute a morally flaccid West, they do suggest moral hypocrisy on the part of many on the left who for decades claimed to be seeking liberation from artificially imposed social barriers. Christianity was seen as superstition; taboos as mere synthetic constraints against sexual expression.

Now, however, the left has embraced a position of high dudgeon over the criticism of Islam. Not only is freedom sacrificed on the crescent of Islam, but the left has been willing to repudiate its own position in order to be a bedfellow of Islamists.

Feminists, who have fought for women’s rights in the United States, have been silent over the abusive treatment of Muslim women. I would have thought acolytes of Betty Friedan would be demonstrating in front of every capital of every Muslim nation. Yet the moral fervor they directed against middle class American men has been converted into moral osteoporosis, alas moral hypocrisy, when it comes to Islam.

Apparently any anti-western sentiment is worthy of support if it is consistent with a reflexive anti-western view of the left. The enemy of my enemy is my friend has become a refrain. Curiously the libertarians of the left have been willing to embrace fascism of the most reactionary variety.

This red-green nexus is not a Christmas decoration. It is a threat that could undermine basic freedom in the West. The episode over the cartoons is a test. Islamists has fomented riots in an effort to see how the West will respond.

There will be other tests and with each one Islam will demand further observance of dhimmitude. The question that remains is whether the West will stand up to this challenge with fortitude and coverage. As I see it there isn’t any backing down, lest our civilization is put at risk.

Herbert London is President of the Hudson Institute and Professor Emeritus at NYU. He is also author of the book Decade of Denial (Lexington Books).

27 comments:

connie deady said...

Feminists, who have fought for women’s rights in the United States, have been silent over the abusive treatment of Muslim women. I would have thought acolytes of Betty Firedan would be demonstrating in front of every capital of every Muslim nation. Yet the moral fervor they directed against middle class American men has been converted into moral osteoporosis, alas moral hypocrisy when it comes to Islam.

I have no desire to do that for a multiplicity of reasons, chief of which is religions have the right to believe what they believe. I find their Muslim religion's treatment of women offensive, but it's not that much worse than the Latter Day Saints and some fundamentalist Christian religions. My recollection of the Old Testament is that it is not female friendly.

This probably is the great divide between the thinking of the left and the modern day right. We are believers in tolerance and diversity.

I also believe the plight of women in Iraq was much better under Saddam, since his society was more secular than fundamentalist Islam though I could be wrong.

I'm unimpressed with your challenge. I'm sure I could find lots of issues that I might argue the right should be fighting for, where were you in Rwanda, for example? It makes a good sound bite, but in reality, what kind of impact could we have on a whole Muslim way of thinking, even if one thought we had that right.

I'm content to still point out the sexism in American society. Go listen to a sports talk show (gag). We've still got a long ways to go.

Apparently any anti western sentiment is worthy of support if it is consistent with a reflexive anti western view of the left. The enemy of my enemy is my friend has become a refrain. Curiously the libertarians of the left have been willing to embrace fascism of the most reactionary variety.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. I don't see most leftists saying that we should appease Muslims on this issue. My position is its our country, we can live the way we want, which includes freedom of speech. Don't tell our nations how to act and we won't tell you.

JC said...

I find their Muslim religion's treatment of women offensive, but it's not that much worse than the Latter Day Saints and some fundamentalist Christian religions.
That is a grossly inaccurate comparison. Even in LDS and fundamentalist denominations U.S. women (and girls) can:
Go to school
Get a driver's license
Vote
...all things that were not available to females in pre-invasion Afghanistan, for example. Name something that the modern LDS does to women and then go see if modern Islam does any worse. I guarantee it does.

My recollection of the Old Testament is that it is not female friendly.
Compared to Islam, Judaism has a very liberal view of women. If an Arab girl is kidnapped, raped, and eventually released or escapes, her family will likely kill her to avenge the family honor. Jews didn't punish someone for being a victim or causing an accident. Old Testament law had special provisions to take care of the poor, widows, etc. They didn't tell women to hide their faces in public. All of this despite the fact that the OT law was written thousands of years before the Koran. Moreover, mainstream Judaism and Christianity have moved past sexism. Their texts suggest that whatever unfairness did exist was a result of social climate, rather than some fundamental superiority of the male gender. They never condoned the abuse of women.
This is in contrast to modern "mainstream" Middle Eastern Islam.
Your "recollection" of OT is greatly mistaken.


I also believe the plight of women in Iraq was much better under Saddam, since his society was more secular than fundamentalist Islam though I could be wrong.
With respect, that's blatant liberal propoganda. Note how it is vague ("his society was more secular") and ignores reality---did women have a part in Saddam's government? And what's the meaning of saying Saddam had a "secular" government anyway? He ran it like a bulldozer, crushing anyone who disagreed with him, including his own family---if the government was somehow secular it was only because Saddam felt it served his interests, not because he had warm feelings about human rights. In the new Iraqi parliament, the Constitution guarantees that 25% of seats go to women---perhaps one of the few cases of "affirmative action" that I can accept. If you really believe your statement, try and come up with some concrete examples of how the "plight of women" was better under Saddam.

Evanston said...

Thank you Mr. London, for a superb summary of free speech and self-censorship by the left. You may wish to change the word "dungeon" to "dudgeon" in the text.
Connie Deadly is entitled to her opinion of LDS and some fundamentalists, and I may share it in many ways. However, she should consider that in a muslim country a woman has no choice of religion. Convert and you can be killed. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia. The comparison with the U.S. is feeble. Women are free to leave LDS and fundamentalist strictures any time they wish and go to a mosque, liberal church, become an atheist, whatever. There may be a social price to pay when you leave a church, but this also applies to those of us who left liberal (in my case, PCUSA) denominations for more Bible-believing faith. You mention a "great divide between the thinking of the left and the modern day right." It is demonstrated by the lack of thought that you display. Your theoretical belief in "tolerance and diversity" is most often betrayed by your practical intolerance for diversity and choice. Take your examples of Iraq and Rwanda. You're free to conclude that "the plight of women was much better under Saddam." You truly don't know how things will turn out there, do you? But you have already concluded that all people -- men, women, and children -- living in a prison-nation is better than the prospect of self-determination. You can't seem to tolerate any diversion/diversity from your viewpoint (that "women's rights" such as freedom from offensive sports radio is paramount).
Rwanda is a case of a long-term ethnic feud. We left it in the hands of the French and the U.N., the high-minded champions of tolerance and diversity. Slaughter ensued. It's no surprise that you are "unimpressed" by Mr. London's challenge. Stay in your comfort zone and gripe about sports radio. It's safe. You're protected by those of us who believe in free speech and are willing to die for it.

James Elliott said...

“Feminists, who have fought for women’s rights in the United States, have been silent over the abusive treatment of Muslim women.”

I wasn’t going to jump in. I really wasn’t. But this is a blatant falsehood. I’ll chalk it up to being either poorly or misinformed. A simple trip to NOW’s website and entering “Middle East women” into its search bar can confirm that. The simple truth is that many “feminist academics” are heartily engaged in such matters. At best, Dr. London’s statement is a gross over-generalization. Feminism is hardly a monolithic institution. It is filled with individual actors with individual interests and concerns - much like the Left in general - and many of those actors are concerned with matters that affect their lives directly.

“Apparently any anti western sentiment is worthy of support if it is consistent with a reflexive anti western view of the left.”

I can see what Dr. London is trying to get at, but I think that it is again an over-simplification of a complex matter. There are those who are vocal and so obsessed with the shortcomings of the West that they are willing to overlook shortcomings elsewhere, but you can’t generalize that to the broader Left without engaging in some rather severe hubris.

“Curiously the libertarians of the left have been willing to embrace fascism of the most reactionary variety.”

Again, this statement is rather broad and sweeping. “...fascism of the most reactionary variety” is a rather hyperbolic term in and of itself, and Dr. London gives little to no evidence in support of such a statement.

“That is a grossly inaccurate comparison. Even in LDS and fundamentalist denominations U.S. women (and girls) can:
Go to school
Get a driver's license
Vote
...all things that were not available to females in pre-invasion Afghanistan, for example.”

JC, I think this fails to draw a line between what society permits and what a religion permits. Just because a religion cannot prevent something from occurring within the context of larger society does not mean that it encourages it. A brief example: My mother’s family is (with her being the sole exception) entirely Mormon. The women were encouraged to go to BYU not to get an education, but to find husbands. All were married and pregnant by the end of college. Now, an anecdote is not data, but it illustrates my point. You’re also venturing into something that you will make clearer in a moment.

“Compared to Islam, Judaism has a very liberal view of women. If an Arab girl is kidnapped, raped, and eventually released or escapes, her family will likely kill her to avenge the family honor.”

The analogies are jumping around rather sloppily here. In order to make an argument against Islam, you switch to pointing out the inequities within certain cultures. Just because those cultures adhere (mostly) to Islam, you present this as an argument for inherent inequities towards women within the context of the religion without making allowance for systemic differences. First, not all cultures that adhere to Islam are oppressive to women, and not all cultures that are oppressive to women worship Islam. Second, you are applying your own cultural norms to these cultures - and their religion - without accounting for the vagaries of history and society.

Does the West, in general, treat women better and provide more opportunities? Absolutely. I will not argue that point. Is the West perfect? No. But the West had some very important events within the last 400 years that contributed to this ongoing process of liberation: The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. One could make an argument for the Protestant Reformation making a contribution as well, and I wouldn’t dispute it. Now, the origins of such revolutions in thinking and culture can be debated, and I’m sure there are those here who will make the case that Christianity is the root of it all. I don’t pretend to know enough of history to debate that, and it’s not germane to the question at hand.

It is important to see that these revolutions in thinking were unique to Western culture up until recent modern events. Only now are we seeing the nascence of important parallels in the cultures you denigrate so easily, parallels that are corollary - indeed crucial - to women’s suffrage in those cultures. One can argue the ins and outs and whys and causes until one is blue in the face, but the bottom line is that we cannot draw parallels between cultures with wholly different systemic natures without accounting for those differences!

“Moreover, mainstream Judaism and Christianity have moved past sexism.”

Do you really think so? Why, then, are we experiencing such vociferous debate over feminism and the role of women in just the past year?

“Their texts suggest that whatever unfairness did exist was a result of social climate, rather than some fundamental superiority of the male gender.”

Don’t you see how this contradicts your above argument? You’re so close to getting it!

“With respect, that's blatant liberal propoganda. Note how it is vague ("his society was more secular") and ignores reality---did women have a part in Saddam's government?”

The short answer is, in fact, yes. A number of Saddam’s key weapons scientists were women, for example. Connie is quite correct to note that women had far more rights under Saddam’s government than may occur under sharia law.

“He ran it like a bulldozer, crushing anyone who disagreed with him, including his own family---if the government was somehow secular it was only because Saddam felt it served his interests, not because he had warm feelings about human rights.”

This is a straw man argument. At no point did Connie (or any other liberal) contend that Saddam’s government was good or attribute warm and fuzzy feelings towards women to the man. The secular nature of his government could easily have been self-serving and resulted in increased rights for women at the same time. It’s not a mutually-exclusive proposition.

“In the new Iraqi parliament, the Constitution guarantees that 25% of seats go to women---perhaps one of the few cases of "affirmative action" that I can accept. If you really believe your statement, try and come up with some concrete examples of how the "plight of women" was better under Saddam.”

Under Saddam’s government, women were guaranteed the right to drive, go to school, etc. They may have adhered to cultural norms, but this was the pressure of society. The difference that Connie is trying to point out is that the new Iraqi Constitution enshrines those cultural rules as rules of government.

According to Foreign Affairs, Iraq’s personal-status law (in effect from 1959 until the invasion of 2003) granted women the most liberties of any country within the region. The Christian Science Monitor details just what the new Iraqi constitution means for women. The short version: Iraqi women are far worse off.

James Elliott said...

"But you have already concluded that all people -- men, women, and children -- living in a prison-nation is better than the prospect of self-determination."

Wow, Evanston, so many straw men to choose from. This was the most blatant.

Tlaloc said...

“Moreover, mainstream Judaism and Christianity have moved past sexism.”


Exactly! That's why we have such a long list of of female Popes, female Archbishops, female bishops, and female (Catholic) priests.

Sorry but anybody who doesn't see sexism in Christianity isn't looking very hard at all. The religion is in no exaggeration built upon the idea of female inferiority. Everything from its' own Genesis story to its' treatment of Goddess religions demonstrates this.

connie deady said...

Thanks to James Elliot to providing some factual and evidentiary meat to support my generalizations.

I absolutely cannot stand the Islamic religon because of the subservient way it treats women. But carrying placards in Arba capitals isn't going to really do a lot to change that and it's pretty absurd to suggest that women should be spinning their wheels that way.

The improvement of women's lot in the Arab world isn't goint to come through any means except increased exposure to western ways.

JC said...

Connie originally said, "I find their Muslim religion's treatment of women offensive, but it's not that much worse than the Latter Day Saints and some fundamentalist Christian religions." This statement is clearly false if interpreted literally, but you seem to be arguing that what she really meant is that the huge gap she ignores is worth ignoring because it was caused by culture, not religion. Then you go a step farther and argue that OT treatment of women was originally just as bad as Muslim treatment of women. Here's the thing: no, it wasn't. I gave an example (killing girls who are raped) which you blew off. Nonetheless, the OT law is thousands of years old, and no one is suggesting we go back to it; these abuses of women in Muslim countries are occuring today! It makes more sense to fight the abuses that exist now than to say, "oh well, it's not that much worse than some other religions might be if they were in control." Should we really dismiss actual problems (including murder) by bringing up irrelevant hypothetical situations? You can argue all day that LDS would do this or that if they ran the country, but that's just your opinion and speculation. If they did abuse women the way Muslims do, it would be appropriate to object just as loudly. But they don't. It doesn't matter why they don't. I'm not going to waste my time arguing anymore that Christianity and related religions are not sexist... that's just a red herring anyway.
You can't dismiss Muslim abuse of women so easily.

First, not all cultures that adhere to Islam are oppressive to women, and not all cultures that are oppressive to women worship Islam. Second, you are applying your own cultural norms to these cultures - and their religion - without accounting for the vagaries of history and society.
First, I doubt you would deny the strong correlation, though "not all" may be accurate.
Second... I'll be happy to apply my "cultural norms," like not murdering people and allowing women to get an education, to any culture. Sorry (not really), I believe in objective truth that is independent of the "vagaries of history and society." The truth is:

Abuse exists in Muslim nations. It's wrong. If abuse existed in the U.S. (from LDS or some fundamentalist denomination), that would be wrong, too. The issues of women's rights in the Middle East are far bigger than any in the U.S. right now.

As far as Iraq goes, I'll be just as disappointed as you if the Constitution is used to oppress women. Right now, that's still hypothetical. It is not hypothetical that women have a quarter of the seats in parliament thanks to the Constitution.

(Re. Saddam and women---I would appreciate an example of women having a place at the top level of government, rather than science... Saddam neeeded any scientists he could get. Not that it matters, since no one really had much power independent of Saddam.)

James Elliott said...

"You can't dismiss Muslim abuse of women so easily."

I don't think anyone has dismissed anything. Again, you're raising a straw man.

Tlaloc said...

"I gave an example (killing girls who are raped) which you blew off."

That's because you got it qwrong JC. You mistakenly believe that the idea is to punish women who have been violated. It's not. The idea is that having been violated such a woman is better off dead than forced to live with the shame.

Now you and I may see that as a stupid way to look at it but it's not our culture. Every culture has barbaric practices when seen from the outside. Including ours.

I don't like the way women are degraded by a lot of traditional Islamic cultures. But it's not my place to "fix" their culture for them. It's theirs. What I certainly would support is offering shelter to any woman who flees such a regime. If she rejects that culture and chooses ours that's fine. Forcing ours on her is not.

James Elliott said...

Just to play devil's advocate for you, Tlaloc: What about women who are sentenced to be raped as punishment for a brother or father's crime?

James Elliott said...

Tlaloc raises an excellent point.

One of my good friends in high school was from a traditional Persian family. His older brother, M., was a few years older than we were. While away at college, the brother started to get to know a young woman while visiting the old homestead back in Iran. Nothing romantic, just a meeting of like minds with similar interests. They formed a close friendship and remained in contact for about a year. Well, the young woman’s father took this as a sign of interest from M. and called M.’s father. They arranged a marriage for the two young people.

Neither wanted to marry the other. However, the shame of this rejection was overwhelming for the woman and her family - she had willfully defied the family’s wishes. During a phone conversation, she told M. that she was going to set herself on fire. She had no wish to marry him, and could not live in dishonor.

M. told her how crazy that was. He agreed to marry her. He offered to fly her out to the United States, to pay for her to live here. Anything to save her life. No, she replied. She did not want to marry someone she did not love, and did not want to live in dishonor.

She took her own life on a living funeral pyre the next day.

To me, this sounds barbaric, backward, and cruel. I find it rigidly inflexible, fundamentalist, and wholly devoid of respect for individual choice and feeling. But then, I live in one of the few individualistic cultures in the world - of course I feel that way, and I don’t feel that I’m wrong. She lived in a communal, family-oriented culture with strict traditions and expectations of conduct and honor. Most importantly, she made her own choice: she had a way out and chose her culture over her life.

We don’t have to respect that culture she chose - I certainly don’t - but shouldn’t there be some level of respect for her own choice? I believe that our own culture, while far from perfect, holds far superior values when it comes to the treatment of women, and that we have a humanistic responsibility to spread those ideals of individual choice and respect to the world. Like Tlaloc, I believe we should do everything in our power to support those women (and men) who wish to leave such misogynistic and oppressive cultures. We can best foment revolution and change within those cultures by providing examples of alternative thinking and support for the agents of change when they appear - for such change only occurs from the inside.

Tlaloc said...

"Just to play devil's advocate for you, Tlaloc: What about women who are sentenced to be raped as punishment for a brother or father's crime?"

Are you asking if I find that repellant or if I think it reflects the culture?

My impression (and I may be wrong) is that such things are pretty much restricted to the most in bred red neck places in even hard core islamic countries. For instance in Pakistan (hardly a mecca of enlightened thought) when it was made public that a woman had been raped as a punishment the president had to come out and decry the incident.

In other words it's much like the lynching of blacks back in the day in the south. Something that was not acceptable to the overall population and culture but practiced by the most ignorant and reactionary segment of the population.

I'm not sure what exactly your question was, so I'm not sure if I answered it.

James Elliott said...

You answered it perfectly and made my point (as I'd hoped you would). You can't take the actions of the backward few and generalize them to the whole.

Otherwise, I'd be able to tar JC with the brush of Michael Savage.

JC said...

I see our fundamental difference over the nature of truth and morality is the source of our disagreement.

"We don’t have to respect that culture she chose - I certainly don’t - but shouldn’t there be some level of respect for her own choice?"
You ask this rhetorically, but I would have to say---in this case---no. Some actions are so morally gross that they trump any "respect for culture" that I have. If it were a matter of dress or music, that's one thing---but when a culture condones murder or suicide, then I have a problem with it. Civilation should never condone these things, even out of respect for cultures.

I respect your right to disagree with me etc., but if I saw a girl sacrificing herself by fire... I have zero respect for that, whether it was her choice or not. I would drag her off to a mental hospital or something if I could. Same for the girl who is murdered by her family to "protect the family honor;" I'd kill them all before letting them take her life. Zero respect.

Incidentally, I think the impression that the killing of raped girls is rare may be mistaken. Perhaps in some countries... but I heard a story on NPR about it that implied it was more common than an occasional event, and that the government doesn't always do anything about it, especially if the murder is only known to local authorities.

Tlaloc said...

"Some actions are so morally gross that they trump any "respect for culture" that I have."

Is that not precisely what people complain about with regard to "Islamofascism?"

Those are peope who see you flouting god's laws and find it to be such a grotequery that they will use the sword to make you moral.

See once you open the door to saying that it's okay to force your morals on others you lose any ability to decry the same activities in others.

Tlaloc said...

"Incidentally, I think the impression that the killing of raped girls is rare may be mistaken."

If you are referring to my comment then that's not what I said. I said that I believe the use of Rape as a punishment is rare, not that honor killings in response to rape are. Two different things.

James Elliott said...

"See once you open the door to saying that it's okay to force your morals on others you lose any ability to decry the same activities in others."

This is where many relativists fall into laziness. The key isn't to not act, the key is to understand why you act. JC is free to leap in and kill in order to protect his morals (oh, the irony!) - or, rather, avenge the affront to them - but he'd damn well better realize why he's doing so and be honest enough to realize why the others would want to kill him.

The key to relativism isn't that all people's beliefs are equal, but that both believe in the inherent truth of their context. JC is free to decry the "Islamofascists" (what a stupid word), but if he's honest, he'll see that his hypothetical actions were no more or less than those of theirs.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

but if he's honest, he'll see that his hypothetical actions were no more or less than those of theirs.

That statement should read:

...but if he's a moral relativist...

Tlaloc said...

"This is where many relativists fall into laziness. The key isn't to not act, the key is to understand why you act."

I think there's more to it than that though.

To illustrate, in the example of the girl killing herself a person may feel morally obligated to interfere because they think it is required of them to prevent every death as much as they are able to.

Of course such a moral code would be unbearably difficult to live up to and I personally pity the poor guy.

But on the other hand a person may feel like interceding because they believe that the woman couldn't possible mean it because they couldn't mean it in her place. And so they view their moral construct as superior, assume an ourside force is compelling her and act to "save" her.

In that case if they learn to recognize that morals are not absolute then they should indeed restrain their action. It was motivated not by their morals but by their bigotry.

JC said...

"I said that I believe the use of Rape as a punishment is rare, not that honor killings in response to rape are."
My bad, tlaloc. Either action is atrocious.

JC is free to leap in and kill in order to protect his morals (oh, the irony!) - or, rather, avenge the affront to them - but he'd damn well better realize why he's doing so and be honest enough to realize why the others would want to kill him.
The point is I wouldn't be acting to protect (or whatever word is appropriate) *my morals*, but *The Objective Moral Standard* that I believe exists. Not all of my personal moral beliefs are strong enough that I would cram them down someone's throat... but some of them are. You may think it's arrogant or something, but I think that murder (and the girl / funeral pyre) is objectively wrong, and worth stopping. Our legal system agrees; killing is justified to prevent violent felonies.

There is a careful line that has to be drawn. I wouldn't kill someone to stop them from saying something offensive, looking at pornography, or anything like that.... but as I said, I think I would kill to prevent a murder if I had to.

Evanston said...

JFE, I habitually read your comments and can follow your line of argument. However, I could use a bit of enlightenment on the "strawmen" I constructed. Choose from one. And please keep in mind I was responding to points made by Connie -- my responses were not intended as all-inclusive arguments to counter any possible disagreement. As I understand the term, a "strawman" is a false characterization of someone else's position so you can easily take it apart. Please tell me how I mis-characterized Connie's positions and then falsely took them apart. Again, just one example would be instructive. Respectfully, Evanston

James Elliott said...

"The point is I wouldn't be acting to protect (or whatever word is appropriate) *my morals*, but *The Objective Moral Standard* that I believe exists."

Belief does not equal truth. Or more accurately, belief is all we have to equate to truth in matters of ethics, morals, and metaphysics. You are acting as you believe is right. Guess what? So are they.

What I'm getting at is that neither of you is wrong, unless you are both wrong. Let me try to be clear: I agree with you. I would act in much the same fashion as you. BUT, I cannot apply those same motives and objectives to all peoples, nor can I expect them to behave and believe as I do without having been raised in my own context. My action is a result of wholly personal beliefs. Just like yours.

Evanston, I appreciate the respectful tone and will try to return the favor. I think the example I quoted is fairly obvious:

"But you have already concluded that all people -- men, women, and children -- living in a prison-nation is better than the prospect of self-determination."

Connie said no such thing. Her point never touched on the matter of totalitarian versus democratic government. You created a complete non sequitur that had nothing to do with the point of debate you were attempting to refute. You set her up as "saying people are better off in a prison-nation" when she did no such thing.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, I believe it was along the lines of Mussolini making the trains run on time. Non non sequitur. Sequitur.

Matt Huisman said...

Tlaloc>> In that case if they learn to recognize that morals are not absolute then they should indeed restrain their action. It was motivated not by their morals but by their bigotry.

T – I know you’ve heard this before, but according to your own logic you are making a bigoted assertion. You are making a truth claim that you can’t verify. James has it right here in that you cannot ‘not act’. Restraining action (due to lack of moral authority) is itself an imposition of your morality on the rest of us.

Despite all of this, I respect where you’re coming from. I think your position is based on a genuine desire to be humble, and your frustratons with others (say Christians) is their lack of it.

Humility…hmm…maybe not. That would be getting too close to one of those universal morals.

Tlaloc said...

"T – I know you’ve heard this before, but according to your own logic you are making a bigoted assertion. You are making a truth claim that you can’t verify."

I don;t see how. In a certain situation I gave to different examples of a person's motivation and explained what they should do in each of those cases. In other words I've said if A then B or if C then D but I haven't said I know whether it is A or C in the first place.

Evanston said...

JFE, Connie’s comments were not made in a vacuum. They should be read in context. To wit:
- She quotes Mr. London, who accuses feminists of being silent over the abusive treatment of muslim women
- She mentions Saddam. Why? Mr. London did not mention Iraq or Saddam. He only talked about Islam and dhimmitude
- She is must be doing so to make a point, right? Note how she says “We are believers in tolerance and diversity.” Then she immediately follows by saying that “the plight of women in Iraq was much better under Saddam.”
- Her apparent point is that OIF was a mistake based on the (alleged) deterioration of women’s rights in Iraq. If that was not her point, then what is the logical connection between her assertion that liberals value diversity and then immediately mentioning Iraq? If she is a poor writer, don’t blame me for the confusion
- Read on. She then brings up Rwanda when saying “I'm sure I could find lots of issues that I might argue the right should be fighting for, where were you in Rwanda, for example? “ Now, isn’t it clear that she is talking about the merit of fighting various wars?
- So, I respond and say that her conclusion about women’s rights in Iraq is premature. And that her using Iraq as an example shows how she prioritizes her interest (feminist) over true tolerance for the self-determined, democratic action of the Iraqi people. If you think that’s stretching the point, fine. But it’s no strawman, and it’s not a “complete non sequitur” as you allege.
- Also, if you’re interested in de-constructing strawmen, how about challenging Connie on Rwanda? I point out that we left Rwanda “…in the hands of the French and the U.N., the high-minded champions of tolerance and diversity.” Evidently this was unfair of me. Fine. Now, is it TRUE that conservative politicians and commentators said nothing about Rwanda? It’d be nice if she proved the point. Because in 1994 I was sitting in Jacksonville, FL at a Marine Corps expeditionary logistics base and we studied the issue at the time. Our Commander in Chief was Bill Clinton. In 1993 it seems the Army had some trouble in Somalia when the initial mission of humanitarian relief was expanded to “nation building” under Clinton. They had a nice multinational force, and when the U.S. Army got in trouble it seems we had trouble getting the Pakistanis and Malaysians to provide armor support (see Blackhawk Down). Now, after Somalia went bad, it seems Mr. Clinton lost his appetite for nation building. Perhaps that’s why we weren’t ordered to Rwanda. I don’t know for sure, but it seems Connie should be asking her fellow believer in “tolerance and diversity” (and women’s rights!) Mr. Clinton about this. And again, you seem to give her a free pass on this.
- Please note that she never responded to any of this, including when I characterized her comparison of Islam as practiced in the middle east to mormons and fundamentalists in the U.S. as “feeble.” Did she make such a comparison? Connie: “I find their Muslim religion's treatment of women offensive, but it's not that much worse than the Latter Day Saints and some fundamentalist Christian religions.” She used the word “treatment.” Now, I take this to be actual practice, today, as did other commenters on this Blog. But perhaps I was again confused and constructing a strawman, perhaps she just meant “doctrine” or “dogma.” But if words have meaning, that’s not what she said.
Hey, I appreciate your challenging me on this, and in contrast to Connie, your writing is quite clear. If I’m wrong, please continue to point it out to me.