Do I attack Islam too much and fail to consider our own failings?

Thucydides writes:

I saw your comments on Peters, who seems to have gone off the deep end. We are seeing a lot of craziness (witness the surprisingly large numbers who think that 9/11 was a secret government plot) as the reality of fanatical Islam is putting enormous pressure on the underlying Enlightenment assumptions of liberals (including the neocon variety) regarding the supposed reasonableness and inherent goodness of man. [LA replies: Yes, itís called the apocalypse of liberalism.] The spectacle of people who find a personal apotheosis in killing innocents while committing suicide, and who are impervious to every material blandishment or argument of liberal reason, comports poorly with the Enlightenment faith. Because this faith is at the core of liberal self identity, they cannot abandon it for the more reasonable classical view of man as tragically flawed and prone to great evil as well as good (in the religious sphere, the equivalent is the doctrine of original sin), without giving up their sense of identity as moral individuals. So they resort to fantastic theories and denial of facts to protect the core assumption. [LA replies: This is very perceptive and well stated.]

At times in our past correspondence, you have stoutly resisted my occasional suggestion that more than just Islam was the problem, that deep human imperfection played a role, and that the problem was in some cases being exacerbated by pernicious Western ideological influences. [LA says: Iím floored that you would say this. My analysis of the civilizational crisis has always looked at it in two dimensions: the external threat, such as Islam or mass immigration, and our own societyís loss of the belief in truth, expressing itself as non-discriminatory liberalism, Eloi-hood, the cult of tolerance, moral nihilism and so on, that has exposed us to that external threat and makes us incapable of responding to it.] This was in no way to water down the reality of Islam as you have so well outlined, nor to open the door to possible arguments that our problems could be solved without facing up to the reality of Islam, which you seemed to fear. However, I wonder whether at times you yourself may be trying to preserve some core vision of human beings as less flawed, and at least potentially more reasonable than they are. [LA: Iím not aware of that, perhaps you could show me where I seem to do that.] A part of the Enlightenment faith is that the evil in the world is purely externally caused, by bad institutions, and is not attributable to human flaws. While it is vitally important to insist on the reality of Islam, as so few in the West are prepared to acknowledge its true character, we must acknowledge that there are reasons why people adopt this fanaticism, or having inherited it, hold to it, that go beyond the pure content of Islam. Perhaps I have not understood you well on this, but in that case, there may be others who have also misunderstood. [LA says: I agree that in discussing the always amazing Islam question the focus tends to be on Islam itself. But unless you want me to give an entire civilizational exegesis every time I discuss the Islam question I donít know how I could avoid the problem you have pointed to.]

For more on your idea that we must separate ourselves, and restrict Muslim immigration, I recommend Roger Scrutonís piece on Enoch Powellís famed ďRivers of BloodĒ speech.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 20, 2006 01:40 AM | Send

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