Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cassandras -- Keep It Up

In classical literature, Cassandra is depicted as a harbinger of impending peril to whom none listened in her doomed and beloved city of Troy. Today, the number of Cassandras cry out about a formidable array of signs pointing to the old Christian West's denial and ignorance of the demographic, legal, and religious intentions of Islam.

I will not name the blogs, you probably know most of them if you are a regular reader of The Four Mass'keteers; two I am fortunate to say are posted by my personal friends. The Catholic bloggers among them -- and I count myself among them -- consider the heirs of Christendom at the height of its finest hour to be no account wastrels who have given up and gone to seed. Like Jack and the choirboys in Golding's Lord of the Flies, they have not only let the signal fire go out, they have begun tribal, pagan practices as orgies, infanticide, and delapidation of the walls that once offered protection and the temples that safeguarded truth, beauty, and goodness.

To the blogging Cassandras, it seems that if Islam wants to gain its world-wide domination and "peace" [Dar al-Islam], the children of the West seem only too willing to provide the foot-baths, change the laws, cloak their women, and relinquish any signs of strength, virtue, and chivalry ... as long as the party lasts and the dope holds out. The West's motto? "Yeah, whatever, man. Pass me another toke."

The Cassandras at moments wonder if these wastrels are worth worrying our heads about, particularly since the mammoth, bell-shaped curve of westerners slumber and do not perceive any threat.

My one piece of advice to western nations is this: demand reciprocity when it comes to the freedoms of immigrants. If a country like, say, Saudi Arabia does not allow Bibles to be distributed within it, do not allow immigration into the western country by citizens of that nation. If freedom of religion is not allowed, do not allow immigration into the western country. It is a simple -- and no doubt simplistic -- action, but it is to a degree measurable.

As a Cassandra, I'd love to finally be proved a Chicken Little. But for now, I'll keep the sword upstairs, the dog loose, and the Catechism handy.


Porthos said...

Tricky. Since it is (probably) against the law to convert to Christianity in Pakistan, Pakistan Christians could not seek refuge in the US, if we were to follow the letter of the reciprocity doctrine. That strikes me as an undesireable unintended consequence.

However, the focus in your post on Saudi Arabia (which is a major real elephant in the living room) is probably good. I'd be equally or probably more happy, for starters, with an aggressive identification and pursuit of Saudi/Wahabbi funded religious schools, institutions, front organizations. (That's a "neo-con" position, typical of Powerline and the like. The "neo-cons" are presumed to be bloodthirsty warmongers. To me, they are looking more and more like the most humanitarian on the spectrum.)

For my twentieth time, we will be doing Muslims a favor by taking on the extremist elements; we won't be doing anyone a favor (or looking at the problem realistically) by identifying the problem as "Islam."

Athos said...

Duly noted for your non-Cassandra-esque 20th time, brother Porthos. But Turkey's new Prime Minister Erdogan thinks such distinctions are ”ugly”.

Genevieve said...

Excellent as ALWAYS!

Porthos said...

MEMRI is a splendid organization.

Look, it aint the religion, it's the ideology. The ideology is new, a hybrid of European fascism, European Marxism, mutated Pan-Arab Nationalism, extreme Wahabi (sp?) iconoclasm (to traditional Islam roughly what the Aryan Brotherhood is to traditional Christianity), etc. The Wahabi (sp?) sect spawned itself in the 19th century. Even the extreme racial anti-semitism is Europe derived. The total female covering is new, and a lot of the other female covering "tradition" originated among the Lebanese Shia in the 1970s (probably influenced at least in part by images of Our Lady) and became a revolutionary identity marker.

But, OK, take the Turkish PM at his word. There IS no "moderate Islam"! There is only Islam, a single, undifferentiated whole! We are at war with Islam! Are you OK with that?

I myself do not accept this. Fight the ideology. Don't fight the religion.

In WWII the Japanese PM may have said, "There is no 'moderate Shinto.' It is an isult. There is only one Shinto, and one God-Emperor!" But we were never at war with Shinto, or even the God-Emperor (a mutated development from the Meiji Restoration in the 19th Century). We were at war with a Japanese fascist ideology and war machine.

Hitler might have said, "There is no 'peaceful' Aryan race, no 'moderate' Aryan race. This is an isult! There is only one Aryan race, proud, superior, conquering, war-like!" But we were never at war with the Aryan race. We were at war with the Nazi ideology and it's war machine.

These distinctions are important, I think.

Porthos said...

Or let's say someone like Jimmy Swaggart says something like, "There are no 'Catholic' Christians. This is an insult. There are just Christians, scriptural, indivisible. There is one Christianity."

Person A: Hmm. Sounds like Swaggart means business to me. I think I'll take him at his word, thank you very much.

Person B; Well, he does mean business, I'm sure, and you can take him at his word if you want, but what he's saying isn't true. There are Catholic Christians, and Christianity is not (unfortunately) indivisible (though the scriptural and doctrinal unity that he seems to imagine doesn't have anything to do with him and actually exists in the Catholic Church).


Now, you could make a point that for all practical purposes, most of the global Islamic community identifies their religion with the thing I am calling an "ideology," and that my distinctions are moot. OK, that would be a compelling argument up to a point, but for me it would have other implications if true, namely that Islam no longer exists as Islam but only as a patched together, make-it-up-as-you-go-along vitriolic ideology that uses scattered Koranic verses to justify the hatred of the week. It would mean Islam actually has no unity of content but is brittle, wobbly, and ready to plunge off the road, crash and splinter--taking many with it, no doubt, but no longer sustainable as a unified belief system.

Athos said...

“You can’t conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God,” Graham Greene said. It isn't the religion, it is the ideology, Porthos?

Now, granted, the grid is far too large to be envisioned by only one rather puny mind, but being an intuitive on the MBTI, I tend to see the forest rather than the trees, make connections amongst disparate notions, so, while I bow to your rubric I rather think that tiny errors in notions concerning revelation (read: religion)can lead to enormous, dangerous, and wrong-headed ideological fanaticism. Combine that with a nearly unlimited source of wealth in petro-dollars and the present technological capability of communication and dissemination of sound-byte primitive sacred notions via imams with the mob at their feet and ... voila.

A theological error at its source can take people drastically far from where they ought to be, like a bicycle wheel spoke at its hub is close to another spoke. But by the time it reaches the rim, it just ain't going in the right direction (okay, prof, loopy simile - tough - you see what I'm saying).

I see a much closer and intimate connection between religion and ideology, succinctly put. And mimetic theory allows for thematizing the problem most clearly, in my book. Cheers

Athos said...

BTW, Porthos, your thoughts are worth posting, IMO.

Porthos said...

Thanks! I am posting it--here!

Your analysis good, but you're positing in some ways a subtle thing, and certainly an indirect and looong time-delayed effect between an original revelation error and the modern fascist socio-pathology. Actually, I can't deny that or refute that. You may be right. [I would just note that isolating an original revelatory "signal" from the "noise" of a hundred intervening ideological pathologies would be a tough job.] Notice how different what you're saying is, though, from the Spencerian approach, where the modern fascist socio-pathology of jihadist nihilism is practically scripted in the Koran. (My now endlessly aired argument is that no, it is not.)

But anyway, my impressionistic counter-argument would be to point out the amazing conformity of fascism/totalitarianism, irrespective of the cultural/religious formation of the people swept up in it. Why does fascist goose-stepping in Gaza look so much like fascist goose-stepping in Nazi Germany or fascist goose-stepping in WWII Japan, or Mussolini's Italy, or present day North Korea, etc. etc.? Did the Germans and Japanese and Italians and North Koreans read the Koran or something? Obviously not, so then what particular revelation error leads them all to the same bleak destination?

Athos said...

The "same, bleak destination" is the same, bleak, and predictably benighted destination of the primitive sacred, Porthos. You know that these matters are disclosed with perfect clarity by the gospel writers through out Passion Week; a veritable case study in crowd contagion.

For a serious scholar like yourself, it can be maddening for dyed-in-the-wool Girardians to say that the myriad of themes of differences between, say, the groups that you mention (Nazis, Gaza mobs, KKK, N. Korea, Italian fascists, etc.) all fall under the same "spell" of the sacrificial gradient of the primitive sacred. Yet that is the truth of it, structurally, IMO.

There is more in common between a mob attacking, killing, and burning military contractors in Falluja and two tub-thumpers killing and dragging a poor Black man behind their pick up truck in Arkansas than any reason they ostensibly give for doing it (for Allah, for the hell of it).

Athos said... then what particular revelation error leads them all to the same bleak destination?

Sorry - More directly: it is the lack of revelation that leads conventional human religion, anthropologically speaking, to the same destination, i.e., the place of sacrifice. The scandal of particularity is the truth claim of the biblical revelation. Without this claim, we are right back in the relativism of comparitive world religions 101. Hence, the Christian faith IS categorically different, superior, and unique in that it claims we are ALL crucifiers, mobsters, etc. capable of bloodthirstiness, betrayal, and cruelty.

The only "righteous" mobs, in the Christian world, are goose-steppers.

David Nybakke said...

Oh my Athos, you just spilled the beans:

"the Christian faith IS categorically different, superior, and unique in that it claims we are ALL crucifiers, mobsters, etc. capable of bloodthirstiness, betrayal, and cruelty."

You have been stepping around this, and this can't be explained well in intellectual circles, but it seems to me that you are acknowledging that there are only 2 spirits to imitate (dropping labels such as nation-states to different religions) one is the spirit of the primitive sacred, and the other is the spirit of the all-loving God shown to us by Christ on the Cross.

The trouble with many who claim intellectual muscle is that they quickly jump on the time of the Inquisition to dismiss Christianity as the source of Truth - perfectly content to relativize Christianity as one of the many religions of the world and therefore NOT get to your statement: "the Christian faith IS categorically different, superior, and unique in that it claims we are ALL crucifiers, mobsters, etc. capable of bloodthirstiness, betrayal, and cruelty."

This is huge! And Christianity also provides the map of the way to live so as not to revert back to our re-generation of culture founding scapegoating violence.

“What is frightening is the conjunction of massive technical power and the spiritual surrender to nihilism. A panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the only direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life.” – René Girard

David Nybakke said...

In the end it was summed up by Nietzsche who said we must choose either Christ or Dionysus. The choice, structurally, is manifestly clear in our world today.

Porthos said...

OK, let's highlight that mimetic/sacred element and re-examine the original premises. The contents of the Koran and traditional Islam are now pretty much non-sequitors in the discussion, no?

I won't deny the deeper mimetic tectonics (though I treat them a tad more tentatively), and you lay them out very well, but we are talking about policy and how to resist fascism (or actually, fascism recombined with postmodern victimology). Or, are we still talking about how to resist Islam, the religion? Or, is the distinction moot because one deviated transcendancy is as bad as the next? But we can't formulate policy or responces based on that coclusion, as even the opening post shows, because there distinctions are being made about the ongoing threat level of a given foe, and the hypothetical responses are calibrated accordingly.

Athos said...

As per Dennis Miller, we aren't trying to thwart Islam per se, but we are looking for a few good Muslims to step forward and denounce -- with the presumably vast majority of Muslims -- the disdain with which they hold the bombmaking suicidal maniacal types. The No Muslim Left Behind program, if you will.

When there is evidence that the Paraklete is sufficiently Christianizing Islam to feel and occlude such mob-sanctioned "righteousness", then there is something we can work with. Until then, any may catch fire with sacral power. An arid secularity is the breeding ground for the recrudescence of the primitive sacred -- our human default organizing principle. The Gospel alternative is hard work: try teaching the Golden Rule to children. See?