Blunting the Senses
Nobody wants to "judge." Postmodernist though has made judgement obsolete and socially unacceptable. I recall hearing a woman from the audience proclaim, with a straight face, on a CNN talk show in the 9/10 era, with respect to Gary Condit (remember him?), that we should move on because "Jesus wasn't judgemental!"
Never mind all that about
And He shall come again in GloryApparently Jesus came to tell us, "If it feels good, do it!" according to today's heretical understanding.
to judge the Living and the Dead,
and His Kingdom shall have no end.
If one must judge, preferably only Dead White Males can be the targets (I recall the movement on college campuses in the late 80s to rework the traditional "canon" to cut our culture off at the roots), or living ones if necessary. But certainly not the Third World Brown Man!
Which is why the LA Times suggests we will never see movies about the heroism in the GWOT from Hollywood, because it would require showing the white man (and woman!) defeating the brown man.
But I digress.
This essayist has a great take on it, first with Moral Tourism:
As the conversation continued, I was emphatically informed that to regard one set of cultural values as preferable to another was “racist” and “oppressive.” Indeed, even the attempt to make any such determination was itself a heinous act. I was further assailed with a list of examples of “Western arrogance, decadence, irreverence, and downright nastiness.” And I was reminded that, above all, I “must respect deeply held beliefs.” When I asked if this respect for deeply held beliefs extended to white supremacists, cannibals and ultra-conservative Republicans, a deafening silence ensued.Great stuff, read it all.
After this awkward pause, the conversation rumbled on. At some point, I made reference to migration and the marked tendency of families to move from Islamic societies to secular ones, and not the other way round. “This seems rather important,” I suggested. “If you want to evaluate which society is preferred to another by any given group, migration patterns are an obvious yardstick to use. Broadly speaking, people don't relocate their families to cultures they find wholly inferior to their own.” Alas, this fairly self-evident suggestion did not meet with approval. No rebuttal was forthcoming, but the litany of Western wickedness resumed, more loudly than before.
During her tirade against ‘muscular liberals’, Bunting argued that Enlightenment values should be “reworked” (in ways that were, mysteriously, never specified), then said: “One of our biggest challenges is how we learn to live in proximity to difference – different skin colours, different beliefs, different ways of life. How do we talk peacefully with people with whom we might violently disagree?” This sentiment echoes those of Ken Livingstone’s race advisor, Lee Jasper, who maintains that “you have to treat people differently to treat them equally.”
But judging by Bunting’s own assertions, and the claims of those who share her views, perhaps we should assume that “reworking” Enlightenment values means pretending they don’t exist in certain kinds of company. Perhaps we should pretend we don’t disagree at all - as demonstrated by Bunting’s own flattering interview with an Islamist cleric who advocates suicide bombing, the murder of apostates and the stoning of homosexuals. Though one can’t help wondering what would have happened if Ms Bunting had actually dared to challenge Qaradawi’s prejudices with any rigour. How would he have reacted? And what would this tell her – and us – about the limits of moral relativism?
Perhaps we should assume that when faced with bullies and bigots we should say nothing, do nothing, and pretend everything is fine. Though quite how that polite little lie will help the victims of bullying and bigotry isn't entirely clear. And one has to raise an eyebrow at those who will happily bask in the advantages of values that they refuse to defend and pointedly disdain for the sake of appearance. But such is the nature of cultural and moral equivalence, and those who espouse it.
And further reflections follow here, on the consequences:
Blunting the Senses in the Name of Fairness
The size of an extremist ‘fringe’ and its relationship to mainstream conceptions of the faith have to be considered as they actually are, not as one might wish, or assume. When given a moment’s thought, all fundamentalisms are not in fact equivalent in their particulars, or the consequences thereof.
By way of further illustration, Rosie O’Donnell was happy to assert that, "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America." But while red-faced evangelists may say, for instance, that gay people are wicked, damned to hellfire, etc, I don’t know of any internationally renowned Christian leaders who are calling for the imprisonment and killing of gay people. Unlike the supposedly “moderate” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who insists that gay men and lesbians should be “killed in the worst manner possible.” Not condemned, ‘corrected’, prayed for, or pitied, or any of the usual nonsense spouted by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson et al; but murdered - as brutally as possible.
However studiously such distinctions are overlooked, this one in particular strikes me as significant. Especially considering the readiness with which some will enact Sistani’s wisdom - as illustrated by Rexhep Idrizi, a chairman of Australia’s Board of Imams who thinks beheading gay people is in order, and whose son is currently serving a four-year jail sentence for attacking a cyclist with a machete. Given the number of believers who listen very carefully to Sistani, both in Iraq and beyond, it would be unwise for gay Iraqis to treat the cleric’s fatwas as irrelevant nonsense. And while mad Methodists or Creationists can be laughed at with relative impunity, sadistic bigots like Sistani are mysteriously exempt from comparable scorn in the “progressive” left-leaning media.
The claim of alleged ‘humiliation’ touches on a central conceit in many discussions of this kind, whereby religious freedom is presumed to entail sparing believers any hint that others do not share their beliefs, and indeed may find them ludicrous. (There is, apparently, no corresponding obligation for believers to embrace ideas that are not clearly risible, monstrous or disgusting.) When given a moment’s thought, this protectionist claim is decidedly fascistic in its practical implications. If believers wish to be insulated from any differing opinion, and even statements of fact, they would have to create a closed religious order, somewhere atop a mountain where reality can to some extent be avoided.