Monday, August 14, 2006

Maybe we are to blame?

As I have often noted here, I think the "philosophy" of White Guilt - the desire to identify and defend "victims" of every socioeconomic distinction or asymmetric human relationship - in which the postmodern left is currently immersed is highly irrational. White Guilt blames the successful west and its individual achievers for the resentments of the less successful, ignoring the question of how humanity as a whole could survive without someone somewhere taking the creative lead. However, this argument from R.R. Reno at First Things (HT: CSM) has me reconsidering:
Step back for a moment and think about it. We wonder why Muslims in Europe won’t contain their grievances and settle down to live within the ordinary routines of European society. I imagine that the tacit motto of most British politicians is “Just give assimilation a chance.” And yet that same society supports and idealizes an entire class of perpetual protestors (Greenpeace, anti-globalization groups, animal rights activists, and so on) whose waking lives are spent hurtling themselves against society. May I be forgiven for thinking that mode of modern European existence has been well assimilated by the arrested terrorists?

Moreover, the linkage of supposedly idealistic protest with violence and aggression is also very much a part our modern Western political aesthetic. The French Revolution sanctified mob violence and ritualized public executions as noble expressions of liberty. The revolutionary remains a heroic type with a gun slung across his shoulder. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir wrote about gratuitous crimes as acts of existential purity. Norman Mailer romanticized murderers, and the Marquis de Sade ascends to canonical status in our universities.

I’m not an expert in Islamic history or theology, so I cannot assess its contribution to the European predicament of homegrown Islamic terrorism. But I do know something about the antinomian theologies of modern Western culture. We have a strong tradition of idealized political violence, and we have a closely related tradition that celebrates the imagined courage to transcend mere bourgeois morality to become the master of life and death. These are traditions taught and transmitted with pride and public subsidy. Educators and other representatives of culture vigorously defend these traditions against any criticisms by what remains of the older Western culture of civility, order, and restraint.

Maybe the arrested British Muslim men are not so alienated from the West after all.
Seriously, however, I would not blame the west across the board for being the home of a lot of bad ideas. At the end of the day, it must always be the resentful (i.e. all of us) who are responsible for their own resentment, whatever the degree of rational thought (and it is never wholly rational) behind the sense of injustice we feel.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

Why does this have you reconsidering your position?

MeaninglessHotAir said...

There is no question but that the current troubles represent a most unfortunate confluence of Islamic tradition with certain strains within recent Western traditions. Like two reinforcing wave fronts, they are together creating a powerful danger aimed directly at the center of our culture like a laser beam. Whether we will be able to withstand the onslaught, given that it is the Sartres who lie at the center of our culture, and not the Ann Coulters, is very much an open question. It is, in other words, the Manhattanites and not the denizens of lower Indiana who are running things here. Ultimately, I tend to agree with Heather that we are weak and probably won't survive. But, we shall see.

truepeers said...

Reconsidering my position (about blaming the west)? - that was just tongue in cheek.

You might say that it is the Sartres who are at the centre of our culture; but consider that this centre is not simply something of the present to be dominated by academics or MSM, but that our centre(s) is both an event of origin and something sacred that emerged from that origin, and that we find in the cultural works of our entire tradition. Thus, I'd say that the Sartres have actually evacuated and sworn off the centre, precisely because they learned in the age of Leni Riefenstahl that there may be a problem with cultural elites justifying their status through defense of a sacralized centre.

It thus now remains for any ordinary, non-elitist, who is capable of representing the centre and its sacred values to do what we all now need to try to do: stand up and find a new way to defend the centre or the various origins or foundations of our culture. The employee at the Michigan Walmart who tipped off the police about the odd cellphone purchases is exemplary of this standing up. More generally, defending the centre means, e.g for Americans, standing up for the constitution and for American nationhood, and doing what one can to marginalize the elitists who are attacking same.

terrye said...

I kind of wondered about this. after all who invented the demonstration? The flag burning. all of it.

Anonymous said...


...given that it is the Sartres who lie at the center of our culture...

No, they don't. They are often the center of public attention, but they don't lie at the center of our culture.

David Thomson said...

“given that it is the Sartres who lie at the center of our culture...

No, they don't. They are often the center of public attention, but they don't lie at the center of our culture.”

The West is multicultural to a degree. Some people like Elvis Presley and others don’t. Jerry Lewis is not everybody’s favorite comedian. Most probably have never heard of Jean Paul Satre. One almost has had to attend college to have done so. Still, it is very fair to assert that those associated with “elite” and “advanced” studies are often loyal adherents of the infamous French existentialist and his cronies. And most assuredly, they dominate these institutions.

terrye said...


Gale is not a denizon. And the people in Manhattan just think they run things. That is their problem, they are far too big for their britches. Our culture is about more than money. It is about more than a big house and fancy neighborhood and a good job and all that stuff.

Once I talked to a guy from Manhattan about farming. He said that even if we got rid of the farmers [jack legs that they are] it would not matter because the dirt would still be there. I about busted a gut laughing at him. If the temp got over 100 degrees this silly man would be afraid to go outside for fear that he would immediately have a stroke or something, but hey that corn just pops right up out that ground. Don't need any hicks on tractors. He was completely oblivious to the fact that in most ways he was as helpless as a child.

terrye said...

And btw Ann Coulter is a rich, white, obnoxious, elitist, ivy leaguer. Don't let her mouth fool you. She just markets herself a little differently from Arriana Huffington but the two of them have a lot more in common with each other than either of them has with we denizons of southern Indiana.

Pastorius said...

Ann Coulter and Arianna Huffington may have a lot in common in the sense of style, but Coulter's IQ is about 30% higher than Huffington's.

First things is a good magazine. I read it every month. This article gives food for thought, but I'm glad such thought is a small portion of my diet.

As for the discussion of Sartre being an influence in the academic world, yes, but I think he is going out of style. It seems to me Chomsky, Edward Said, and Marx are much bigger influences though.

Syl said...

I don't know why we don't see the obvious. It's all simply a people problem.

Throughout history there have been those who think they have the answers and try to control other people. Others fight back because they have the true answer, so they think.

Combine that with wars over territory and resources and you have history.

MeaninglessHotAir said...


I notice that the people of the Midwest are selling their crops to the Manhattanites for a pittance, while the Manhattanites are selling their "crops" to the Midwesterners for real money.

I don't doubt for a minute that the Midwesterners are better people, or that most Manhattanites would die quickly in the event of total civilizational collapse, but let's not kid ourselves about where power-trippers like the Clintons think they should live in order to move up in the world.

gumshoe said...


is the value in life
spiritual or no?

i know my feeling in that regard.

...and isn't this the nature of the current global turmoil and upheval
(ie the spiritual...what is spiritual...mine better than yours...)?

and what genuine spirituality
have you(personally)recognized, and responded to,with your heart, that was not at least somewhat humble.

you were discussing the Clinton's
and their choice of Manhattan...