The crucial difference between Western and non-Western debaters, to which Westerners are blind

Alan Roebuck writes:

The following thoughts occurred to me before I read the VFR entry “The face of black rule.”

To influence others, one must appear strong. In the premodern West, one appeared strong in debate primarily by showing superior reasoning and by showing courage under fire. It was crucial to have both virtues, because the West has always respected superior reason and all men—Western or not—respect courage.

But in the contemporary West reason and courage have given way to a new primary virtue: tolerance. Therefore when a liberal debates, his primary goal is to appear more tolerant than his opponent, because—being a liberal—he believes this will make him look good. A similar attitude is held—if only subconsciously—even by many conservatives. Western man shows his superiority primarily by showing his tolerance.

Non-Western peoples do not debate in this way. From what I can tell, their goal is to show their superiority by appearing to be strong and beautiful. Consider, for example, the Beijing Olympics. Many Western liberals wanted the games to be awarded to China because they assumed that with the spotlight shining on them, the Chinese would want to look good by appearing to be tolerant. The Chinese, of course, tried to look good by looking strong and beautiful, for example by their (to us) fascistic-looking opening ceremony and by their suppression of free speech, which they interpret as suppression of disharmony, i.e., ugliness.

When non-Western people debate or argue, their goal is usually to appear stronger and more impressive than their opponents. Therefore they rarely make any concessions except when they are trying to induce their Western opponent to display his “tolerance,” i.e., to praise his non-Western opponent. The non-Western debater does not give an inch, and interprets any such move by his opponent as a sign of weakness.

To put it crudely: for white people, you win a debate by showing superior reason and by respecting your opponent. For nonwhites, you win by looking strong and beautiful, and by forcing your opponent publicly to honor you.

This insight struck me while listening to a Christian podcast. The host began discussing an article at the Huffington Post on the subject of whether Christians and Moslems worship the same God. Since the author was a theological liberal, I knew before hearing anything about the article that he was required by his creed to answer in the affirmative, possibly with some very minor qualifications concerning “extremists.” It struck me that very few Moslems, if any, would make such an assertion. For them to assert that theirs is the same god as the God of the Jews and Christians would be an unthinkable insult to Allah’s honor. And they would be correct. To honor their god properly they would never even consider the possibility that he is the same as Jehovah, unless it is to try to trick a gullible Westerner into betraying his people.

But Western liberals have an entirely different mindset. For them, it is tolerance uber alles. And this, of course, gives Moslems (and other non-Western peoples) a huge advantage in the arena of intellectual combat. Possessing and articulating good ideas is necessary for public debate, but the advantage this confers can be nullified by the simple failure to stand up for your own side.

When publicly debating non-Western opponents, our primary goal must not be to win them over to our way of thinking. Certainly we should demand that they agree with us, but we should not hope they will. This hope can cause us to make concessions in the hope that they will reciprocate, but these concessions simply confirm to them that we are weak and they are winning. Instead, we must stick to our guns: Yours is a false religion; You have no right to immigrate here against our wishes; Your position that whites are evil is wicked; and so on. We should avoid personally abusive language, but we must be strong in our position. This is what they do to us; we should do it to them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 15, 2011 10:03 AM | Send

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