Monday, October 25, 2004

Thanks for the comments. A hiding to nothing, Elliot, is a pointless or counter productive activity.... a bit like blogging.

While Guardian bashing is fun, the more serious point is that the War on Iraq/Terror has produced a fault line in Europe between a minority who, even with misgivings, accept that the world changed on 9/11 and a majority who believe that if we were all just nicer to each other then everything would be OK. Hence, most Europeans assume that if only the Israelis would talk to the Palestinians, then they could work something out. They do not realise that Arafat has already twice turned down the very deal that the Israelis are being urged to offer him. Likewise, most Europeans think that if you act weak and harmless then you get left alone. Alas, human nature never was and never will be like that. The weak get kicked unless the strong protect them.

At heart I am a liberal and a cultural European. I prefer Italian food that comes from Italy to pizza from Chicago. I adore France and the French. But I despair of this continent's politics. We destroyed ourselves in two world wars. Walking the ugly modern streets of Dusseldorf or Cologne is a sobering experience for a Brit as we were the ones who flattened the beautiful mediaeval cities. But we seem to have thought that just because we have stopped fighting each other means the rest of the world is ready to stop too. Sadly, this is not so.

Even worse, the European left has forgotten the meaning of liberalism and tolerance. I mentioned the case of Buttiglione, the Italian Catholic now the target of an inquisition by socialist MEPs in Brussels. Buttiglione says he thinks homosexual acts are wrong but they should not be made illegal. His opponents say this is bigotry. Surely, all Buttiglione is doing is being tolerant. You CANNOT tolerate something of which you already approve. I do not 'tolerate' the glass of port I'm currently enjoying because I like it - but I do tolerate the people who smoke in my local pub as they inconvenience me. To tolerate something is to disapprove of it and yet let people do it anyway. But for the Left tolerance is no longer enough because they insist that we must all actually approve of their moral decisions. That, to me, sounds like fascism and it sounds like trying to impose morality in exactly the same way the Left accuse Christians of doing.

This all leaves me in something of a quandary because I would rather identify with liberal opinion and yet I find many of the things self-proclaimed liberals are saying to be utter rubbish or worse. So I find myself pushed politically right - or perhaps the right is moving towards me...


Anonymous said...

I am from Finland. I have noticed the same thing, that a lot of Europeans have lost the meaning of tolerance if they ever understood it. I find it rather tragicomic that the danger to our freedom comes from the politically correct left rather than from some ultra right wing wackos. (There are very few in Finland.)

For example, I cannot think more religious concept than "sin". If saying something is a sin is not accepted, what has happened to freedom of religion? Recently a philosopher(!) said in a Finnish liberal religious magazine that the people who prayed publicly against so called gay marriages were actually practising violence. He also demanded that the (Evangelic Lutheran) Church should have done something to stop such activity.

It is so sad that some people have no respect for freedom.

jon said...

I don't think the world changed on 9/11. 'Terror' has always existed. I cannot think of a period in history when 'terrorism' as we now call it did not exist.
Listening to Bush's speeches anyone would think that terrorists suddenly sprang into existence from nowhere on 9/11.
Ultimately 'terrorists' are what we use to label the weaker of 2 tribes/factions/nations at war with each other. Israel and the palestinians are at war with each other, Israel uses soldiers,
the Palestinians use 'terrorists' to achieve their goals. At least that's how it's presented to us by the media. The end result is the same though, they kill each other. This is not to say that 'terrorists' are 'right' or 'just' in what they do, but it does
convey the other nation in the conflict as more blameless and morally superior than the other.
Reagrding the war in Iraq, I think we all know now that it was an un-necessary war based on lies, deception and manipulation. Nothing new there I guess...
Iraq a 'direct and immediate' threat to the most powerful nation on earth? A more accurate description would be "a third world country decimated by years of wars and sanctions, incapable of being a threat even to it's closest neighbour". Funny how I (and many others) never believed this WMD/direct threat rubbish. I guess that makes us more 'intelligent' than the 'intelligence' services who somehow got it wrong.
The relationship between Iraq and the US over the years has been a Suzerain-Vassal realtionship. The US exploits Iraq/the Middle East to achieve it's political/economic/strategic goals. i.e. Get Saddam Hussein into power and use him to wage war on the Iranians. Nice counterbalance. Now no-one in the area can become too powerful as long as they keep slaughtering each other. Once he becomes an irritation we can demonise him and use some sort of WMD-threat as an excuse to remove him from power(and in the process decimate an entire country) and then start the whole process again.
Just the same as every superpower in history does. No change there then.....
The problem with the invasion of Iraq was that the US/UK forgot to take a cursory glance through the history books beforehand. If they had, they would have realized people generally don't like armies invading their country and bombing them into 'democracy'. Especially when 'Western democracy' in the eyes of Muslim Arabs means an extremely liberal and permissive society with an infantile and morally defunct culture.
This also gives them(in their view) a reason and desire to fight what they see as this 'evil' trying to destroy their culture/faith/identity and so spurs them on to become 'terrorists'.
Isn't it funny how everything goes in circles....

Bede said...

Jon's post seems to perfectly represent the kind of moral relativism that has afflicted many Europeans. To see politics simply in terms of power relationships is a hangover from Marxism which avoided ever having to admit the West was right and the Soviets wrong. In the case of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict this hides most of the picture and seeks to justifiy Palestinian terrorism and instransigence. The reason the media portray the conflict this way precisely to avoid admitting that the Israelis may be more sinned against than sinning.

Next Jon makes the essentially rascist assumption that Moslems do not want demoncracy. Try telling that to the Turks, or the Afghans where the recent successful election has been criminally under-reported by the Western media. True, the fanatics do not want democracy but Jon seems happy to allow their views to represent everyone in Iraq.

Finally, he claims that 9/11 was like other terrorism. In this he is also wrong. Other terror organisations like the IRA, ETA, even the Tamil Tigers and Sendaro Luminoso of Peru all knew they had to maintain some moral grounding to keep their support. Not so Al Quaeda. Here the aim is simply to produce as many casualties as possible and we are left in little doubt that they would use worse means than planes and semtex if they were available. This is how the world changed. We will not escape simply by refusing to admit that there is a war going on.

Anonymous said...

There was no 'racist' assumption that Moslems do not want democracy. I'm not saying whether they do or not. I'm merely saying that they do not want 'democracy'
forced upon them in the way we have gone about it in Iraq.
Furthermore, the 'democracy' that we seek to export represents, in their eyes(which can be seen clearly to anyone who has lived or travelled in a Moslem country),
a culture that is shallow and trivial and full of sexual shamelessness. It is also a culture, from their point of view, that undermines the concept of family, honour and tradition - this may be no big deal to us but these are very important concepts in those (often complex) societies.
So many westerners see it as simply obvious that we need to export out worldview to other countries and 'liberate' them, often citing 'human rights' as the reason.
It is this very assumption that is not shared by the vast majority of these people. That is the point. This 'terrorism' is not caused by the US being militarily strong or the fact that is is a superpower, it is because these people see their traditions and values being undermined and eradicated by the steamroller of westernism and it's for this reason that this 'terrorism' will never be defeated militarily.
Whatever else western society does in the light of this 'terrorism'. It should at the very least question some of it's own (often unwarranted) underlying assumptions and philosophies about it's own culture and worldview.
I also find it strange that you label anyone who opposes the western occupation of Iraq as 'fanatics'. Most of them are Iraqi people, and many, if not all of them are/were terrified of the US invasion. To suggest they are simply 'fanatics' is to paint a simplistic black and white picture of the whole conflict.
My remarks about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were not designed to suggest that the palestinians are the victims here, merely to point out that in this way it's easier for Israel to portray itself as the victims in every instance. For what it's worth I can see faults on both sides of the conflict here and don't wish to suggest the blame lies squarely with any one side.
As for the the Afghan elections, call me cynical but I'm sure that the US made sure their man won those 'democratic' elections........

Anonymous said...

James, I wouldn't worry that you're becoming 'right-wing.' I think you're a classical liberal, and that contemporary liberalism is moving farther and farther away from its roots.

Certain left-wing American constitutional theorists have been developing weirdly fascist ideas about liberalism - basically, they assert that religious or minority groups should not be permitted to opt for home schooling and the like, because these foster illiberalism. Fundamentalists must be forcibly taught tolerance in the government-controlled system, or else the Republic will fall apart. Kind of like the French decision on headscarves. The frightening thing about such thinkers is their increasing influence. I think their desired goal is good, but their means could very easily be twisted to darker ends.