Thursday, February 23, 2012

Islam's Viral Stasis

By Edward Cline

Two recent, contrasting analyses of Islam – or rather, of the Islamic “mindset” that governs the behavior of Muslims – help to identify the problem with the ideology. One is “Why Muslim cultures lag behind,” by “Anti-Jihadist” on Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch. The second is by Daniel Greenfield on Sultan Knish, “Will Islam Destroy Itself?” Both articles discuss what can be described as Islam’s state of stasis, or moral, political, and cultural stagnation. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary best indicates the phenomenon:

Stasis: a: a state of static balance or equilibrium; stagnation b: a state or period of stability during which little or no evolutionary change in a lineage occurs.

That Islam fosters stagnation in its adherents’ cultures is an observable given. Islam has not changed in any fundamental respect since its founding in the 7th century. It has simply been refined in its details and interpreted to govern all human action, regardless of race, region, or nation. Christianity and Judaism underwent changes that made them tolerant of secular, exo-religious values, such as freedom of speech. Men who saw no value in stagnation, who wished to exercise their minds and be free to act, waged a long and bloody conflict with religious and political authority in the West, and won. If the Church claimed it ruled men to save their immortal souls, men replied that their souls were not the Church’s to save. 

Islam cannot cede such an argument. There are no doctrinaire loopholes in the system. It is all-encompassing, and allows no exceptions to its rule. To be “saved” by Islam is to submit to it without reason and in every particular. Your “soul” is Allah’s to save or to condemn. 

Jihad Watch’s article lists several attributes prevalent in technologically and economically advanced Western and Westernized nations (the latter including India and Japan), but which are largely absent in any given islamic culture: an absence of personal responsibility, of innovation, of “devotion” to any idea or organization beyond family, tribe or clan, of equality of women and men in terms of politics and economics, of skilled labor, and of a “meritocracy.” Included in the list are a belief in magic and an obsession with conspiracies (against tribes, against Islam, and so on), but these will not be discussed here. 

The Jihad Watch article is correct and well-intentioned, but woefully lacking itself in explaining why the West has surpassed Islam. Without establishing the broader context of why and how innovation, “devotion,” skilled labor and so on exist in the West but not in Muslim culture, the list seems wholly arbitrary. One could easily substitute “honesty,” “diet” or “education” for any of the others, or simply add them to the list. 

“Innovation,” for example, requires not only the freedom to create and invent, but the desire to think. Capitalism fosters and rewards the freedom and the desire. Islam suffocates and punishes them. The article makes this odd statement about “meritocracy,” which is likely a euphemism for capitalism.

The West has thrived not only because they have learned to hold people responsible for their actions, but also they have learned to give out rewards based on individual achievement. Hence higher–performing individuals tend to be eventually in charge and reap the most rewards (in prestige, rank, money, etc.).

Who are “they” who are “giving out rewards” to individuals? And who are the “high-performing Individuals” who will eventually take charge and reap the most rewards? This could just as well be a description of a communist or fascist society, of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Prestige, rank, and (legally looted) money are paramount values in collectivist societies, even in Islamic ones. If the author of the article is pro-capitalism, his choice of words is ill-considered. 

Linked to the “meritocracy” issue, although the author treats it as a separate issue, is “personal responsibility,” which he attributes solely to political leaders.

Muslim leaders often lie to or deceive their own people, to subordinates, or to allies in order to advance their own personal agendas. Remember that most Muslim countries are a patchwork of tribes who barely tolerate one another in the best of times. Loyalty to one’s country as a whole is next to non-existent. So, the main objective of these leaders, whether at the top, middle or bottom, is to steal as much as they can, while they can, in order to enrich themselves and their families, clans or tribes—'national interest’ be damned.

But personal responsibility is also a private, non-political characteristic, as well. One can take responsibility for an accomplishment as well as for an error in thinking or a disaster. Western politicians, however, are as notorious for lying to and deceiving their constituents as are their Muslim counterparts (the modus operandi of the current occupant of the White House). They are indemnified against lawsuits no matter how disastrous and destructive their policies are, and insulated from their consequences with hefty salaries and generous packages of fringe benefits (all paid for by productive, responsible taxpayers). If their policies produce the opposite of what they intend, they will blame external forces beyond their control or anyone’s comprehension. They cultivate “patchworks” of special interests – lobbies, or “tribes, if you will – and will advocate and enact progressive laws, propose burdensome regulations, and append pork barrel programs to other bills that are in fundamental conflict with the “national interest,” regardless of their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. Barney Frank and Harry Reid are not shaking in their boots. There are never untoward repercussions for them – only for the electorate. They are no better than any Arab sheik, general, or dictator when it comes to venality and theft. 

Again, the author of the article chose a poor example to demonstrate why the West differs from Islamic cultures. This is the trouble with purported conservative advocates of freedom, and that article exemplifies it: theirs is a disintegrated moral and political philosophy, akin to the asteroid belt that never coalesced into a planet. It is an itinerary of concretes that refer to ideas that just float in the space of their minds. 

More to the point of how stuck in an insurmountable rut Islam is, Daniel Greenfield’s article more closely examines the issue.

Racial and religious doctrinal purity does not equal omnipotence. And Islamic expansionism is due to relearn the same lesson that World War II meted out to the aggressors. The Caliphate and Third Reich are the vision of maniacs and demagogues trying to turn back the clock to a mythical past. Building castles in the sand by a bloody shore.

The obsessive petrodollar construction projects of Dubai have something of Albert Speer about them. Huge tasteless buildings constructed to show the grandeur of a regime, even while revealing its lack of taste and creativity. And its underlying insecurity. The Nazis’, Communists’ and now Muslims’ obsession with constructing gargantuan inhuman structures reveal some of the insecurity behind the violence. Giant concrete and steel security blankets by vicious men terrified of their own mortality.

Built also to demonstrate an efficacy that is founded on the fallacy of force. Greenfield’s thesis is that Islam must expand or perish. It cannot be content to rule over mere dime-a-dozen believers. It must conquer, loot, plunder, rape and murder. Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum features a story about just how necessary force and conquest are to the Islamic mind. 

On the one hand, Islam causes Muslims to be incurious and indifferent to life-affirming values. How many Muslim critics have written approvingly about a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, a Rachmaninoff concerto, an engineering marvel, or about an advance in medicine or technology? On the other hand, and at the same time, Islam encourages Muslims to be hostile to those values, hostile from an intractable envy, and envy that can morph into a desire to eradicate them. 

Islam fosters cultural, political, and economic stagnation because individualism is an anathema to it. An absence of freedom of speech inculcates minds that lack any measure of intellectual vigor in any realm of human action, whether in politics, science, or art. If one fears to say what is on one’s mind, even to oneself, nothing will happen. One treads water in a brackish pond of the unassailable given. That is the condition of most Muslims, who are locked in a stasis of their own making. They are alive, but, for all practical purposes, they are dead. Their cognitive faculties have atrophied. They become interchangeable ciphers. (I always cite the analogy of The Borg from Star Trek.)

Their only assurance or guarantee that the universe is reliable and knowable is to submit to pointless rituals and to accept the word of their moral “superiors” (imams, mullahs). They become immune to reason. They are incapable of valuing anything beyond the concrete aspects of their creed; they develop a seething hostility and hatred for anyone or anything that contradicts their unchallenged, unquestioned assumptions. Woe to any Muslim who violates the arbitrary diktats of Mohammed. Thus the killings, stonings, hangings, and so on. They become super-sensitive to any criticism of their beliefs, because the criticism is not only a threat to them, but also because criticism implies a world-view that is possible beyond their warped metaphysics and epistemology. It is an existence they have surrendered. Muslims are not capable of starting anything like the American Revolution; the so-called “Arab Spring” is fundamentally a hankering for a friendlier despot. 

Islam would indeed expire should it ever achieve the global caliphate its advocates boast is their end. Islam would act like a cancer; once it had debilitated and enveloped the host, it would perish with the host. That is because Islam is essentially a nihilist ideology. One can point to any Middle Eastern nation dominated by Islam and see a preview of a world governed by Islam – except that the ensuing and necessary poverty and misery would be global in nature, and not just regional. If there are skyscrapers in Dubai and some economic life in Egypt, it is only because a West exists that created those values. Emulation is not creativity. Like Soviet communism, it can only copy the achievements of the West, and poorly at that. If Islam denies men the right to think, to move, to challenge, to innovate, to risk, to live their own lives free from fear of retribution, then the reduction of men to thinking only about the next minute or next day, is all that can be achieved – or, universal destruction and a new dark age. 

One of the virtues of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, is that, while it was written as a “prophetic satire,” it contains such a plentitude of truisms and perceptive observations that it is taken as a blueprint for successful totalitarianism. The world of Winston Smith, however, is impossible in reality. That is one of the bones I have to pick with the novel. As a feasible political stasis, the totalitarian state described by Orwell would not survive. It would not be industrial, or productive, or self-sustaining. One doesn’t choke off men’s capacity to think and act and expect them to continue producing steel, or medicine, or art. 

But there is one particular feature of it that stands out and which would guarantee the short-lived existence of such a political establishment. 

Much is made of “Newspeak,” the program devised by the totalitarians to stunt men’s minds by reducing the number of approved and politically-correct concepts available to men in their vocabulary, and in particular to the ruling Inner and Outer Party members. Its purpose is to render impossible any hint of rebellion, betrayal, or resistance within the Party. Such is Orwell’s respect for language that he even devotes an afterward to the subject. But if such a state were actually attained – with Party members communicating with each other by means of a deliberately emaciated lexicon of operative terms, they would be rendered helpless against the first men to reinvent the concepts. If all memory of standard concepts that we take for granted today was eradicated – nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, articles – and replaced with a suffocating, mind-stunting written and spoken jargon, no communication would be possible between the rulers and the ruled. 

Likewise, Islam must adhere to the approved lexicon that appears in the Koran andHadith (the latter the alleged canonical “sayings” of Mohammad, much like Mao’s Little Red Book of quotations), or perish. It cannot adopt new terms without admitting a flood of concepts alien to its intent which would simply adulterate and dissolve the doctrine. It cannot even attempt to redefine its most belligerent and aggressive terms without reducing its already primitive doctrine to certifiable gibberish and “speaking in tongues.” 

Any new terms must be Western terms, introduced to amend or qualify the brutish, criminal ones that characterize Islamic literature. Islam’s purists – the sheiks, the imams, the mullahs – can be likened to the Orwell’s Inner Party, which wields more power over rank-and-file Outer Party Muslims than it does over the infidels and dhimmis. They are the gimlet-eyed guardians of the Islamic lexicon as well as of the faith, for the purity of the faith depends wholly on the purity of its words. “It is written” is not merely a hubristic assertion of predestination; in Islamic metaphysics, Mohammad’s words are as real and unalterable as a rock. That is another cause of Islam’s viral stasis. And another reason why Islam cannot be reformed without killing it.

I agree with Greenfield that Islam must at some point disintegrate and self-destruct. But that may not happen until it has made too many inroads in a Western culture that denies its own exceptionalism, a culture that once upheld reason, individualism, and freedom as its distinctive and empowering virtues. Islam must first succeed in corrupting the spirit of its enemies before it rots itself. Islam is a parasite; it can make progress only by grace of the timidity of its adversaries and the mindless, obedient plain song of its billion-plus collect. It derives its strength from the weakness and cowardice and compromise of its enemies. If Islam succeeds in conquering the West, it can only die with it. The most rabid of its advocates know this. They are death worshippers. A Dark Age is the only cultural environment they will feel comfortable in. 

Islam is otherwise impotent. Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of a number of novels, and his essays, books, reviewsand other nonfiction have appeared in a number of high-profile periodicals.

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