Sunday, 30 September 2007
Saturday, 29 September 2007
If you think, as I do, that this first decade of the 21st century is one of unparalleled moral, mental, and political lunacy, do read this book. John Gray surveys the historic roots of our current follies with magisterial sweep.
The prime culprit, he avers, is apocalyptic thinking, both religious and secular, whose myriad offshoots have dominated most of the West’s concepts and actions for the past four centuries. He traces these complex threads and their mutations with minute yet elegant precision: the chiliastic strain in the Puritan faith of the Pilgrim Fathers which still animates today’s US neoCons; the bastard offspring of 18th century Enlightenment belief in ultimate human perfection which misled Hegel and Marx, and ultimately surfaced as totalitarian Leninism in Russia and Nazism in Germany.
The myth that perfect individuals and societies can be created through political action and social engineering leads inevitably, says Gray, to the doctrine that the end justifies the means; and so all kinds of injustices, and even atrocities such as torture, can be justified by those who believe they are acting in good faith. Whilst deprecating the destructive delusions of ‘God-driven’ politicians like Bush and Blair, whose self-assumed hotlines to God impel them to brush aside uncomfortable or inconvenient facts, Gray nevertheless thinks that the desire of secularists to privatise religion and decouple it from politics is unrealistic. For the religious impulse is endemic in humankind, and has existed since the dawn of history. “Suppressing religion does not mean it ceases to control thinking and behaviour. Like repressed sexual desire, faith returns, often in grotesque forms, to govern the lives of those who deny it.”
He is scathing of the Bush Administration’s invincible ignorance and multiple blunders in
Gray’s vision of the future is sombre. He forecasts decades of wars as ferocious as any we have yet known, fought with all the violence of conflicting faiths using increased technical know-how to control declining natural resources. It is not a comforting thought. But the enduring lustre of his book is the brilliance of his analysis of our Western intellectual heritage and its use and abuse by politicians who aspire to be statesmen but show themselves up as historical ignoramuses and moral pygmies.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Monday, 3 September 2007
All countries have their myth, and a powerful one is the ‘American Dream’ – the belief that, regardless of origins or class, every American citizen can rise from the humblest origins to the top. This was epitomised in the saying “From Log Cabin to White House”.
The original thirteen colonies which metamorphosed into the new-born
The thriving and expanding
Significantly, it was also Zangwill who said: “The law of dislike for the unlike will always prevail. And whereas the unlike is normally situated at a safe distance, the Jews bring the unlike into the heart of every milieu, and must therefore defend a frontier line as large as the world.”
Substitute “the Muslims” for “the Jews”, and his prophetic words portray the dilemma of not only
This has become increasingly apparent over the past couple of decades. In
The arrival within the past two decades of large numbers of Muslims has however rent this cosy garment asunder. For Muslims are not interested in blending easily with our open, tolerant society – much less in assimilating. Their faith makes this impossible, because Islam knows no distinction between what it teaches is Allah’s law and the law of the land. They aspire to impose their own religious standards and shariah laws, not only upon members of their own community, but ultimately upon all the rest of us ‘infidels’. The contention of our mainstream political leaders and the preachers of multiculturalist orthodoxy that Islamist extremists are misguided fanatics perverting their own religious teachings is an ostrich position.
I may be wrong about this. I hope I am. But the deafening silence from the huge majority of ‘moderate’ Muslims who, we are assured, dissociate themselves from the extremists does not inspire confidence. I wait to hear from them, and would welcome doing so. Meanwhile, I fear that looking for the silent majority of moderate Muslims is as useful as hunting the Snark.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
“The war solved no problem. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its causes, devious in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict. The overwhelming majority…wanted no war; powerless and voiceless, there was no need even to persuade them that they did. The decision was made without thought of them. Yet of those who, one by one, let themselves be drawn into the conflict…almost all…were actuated rather by fear than by lust of conquest or passion of faith. They wanted peace and they fought for thirty years to be sure of it. They did not learn then, and have not since, that war breeds only war.”
DAME VERONICA WEDGWOOD
“The Thirty Years War” 
When does the overwhelming majority ever want war?
Is not fear the driving force of all conflicts?
“War breeds only war.”
IS ANYONE LISTENING?
September 11th 2001 has frequently been described as a wake-up call. It certainly jolted world-wide attention, and has led to a series of grievous consequences. But how many people have really woken up, and what do they think they have woken up to?
One popular theme is President Bush’s misnamed ‘War on Terror’. The underlying assumption is that we [the West] are threatened by a relatively small number of highly dangerous Islamic fanatics who have no purchase on the hearts and minds of the great majority of peace-loving ‘moderate’ Muslims in our midst. This is a comforting thesis, but one not borne out by the deafening silence of almost all European Muslims, who have conspicuously failed to disassociate themselves from the jihadists, and whose spokesmen, even when they do grudgingly deplore terror, invariably link it to American and British policy in the Middle East – especially the invasion of Iraq – the implication being that, if such policies were changed, terrorism would cease.
This, however, is poppycock. As Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld makes chillingly clear in her book Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop It, Islamic terrorism against the West has been steadily growing since the 1980s, and is funded by a complex and worldwide operation largely masterminded from
One of the abiding puzzles since 9/11 is why Bush’s bragging pledge to run the culprits down, dead or alive, and to cut off their sources of funding, has not been realised? If the thesis that these are just a handful of isolated crazy mavericks were true, that would surely have been a relatively simple matter. But, as Dr Ehrenfeld expounds in detail, acts of terrorism are merely the visible tip of a massive ongoing wave of Muslim – especially Arab – hostility not just to the
However, as Dr Ehrenfeld pointed out in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, “terrorism does not happen in a political vacuum. The policies pursued by Western nations impact directly on both the means available to terrorists and the motivations driving their evil agendas. It is imperative that we assess what has gone wrong and begin to set those policies right.” But since then, thanks to the folly of the purblind neoCon ideologues currently running
Dr Ehrenfeld observes that "comfortable and tolerant societies find it difficult to accept that they are vulnerable to other societies that might wish to do them harm." I do not regard myself as the enemy of all Arabs, other Middle Eastern people, and Muslims – indeed, I had a Lebanese grandfather – but I cannot reconcile the doctrines of Islam, so far as I understand them, with the open, pluralistic, tolerant, secular society in which I have lived so far and wish to continue inhabiting. So if Islamists, or any Muslims, not only regard my society as inferior to theirs, but also aspire to transform it more to their liking or even to conquer and dominate it, I am forced to ask myself what needs to be done to stop them? And is what is currently being done adequate and well focussed?
While the former is too large a question to address here, I am in no doubt that the answer to the second question is a resounding ‘No.’
I would also like the answer to another question: why do the Bush and Brown governments persist, against all the abundant evidence, in regarding