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The Divorce

Aug
2
2005

A friend points out this Chicago Tribune editorial on the source and nature of Islamist terror.  It has some good points, and its main point — that the Islamist threat will only end when Muslims destroy it — is quite correct.
It is thus profoundly disappointing to see the essay descend into silly cant at the end: “Those who dispatch suicide bombers, and the bombers themselves, have no claim to belong to any civilization–or any religion.”  This is, of course, so absurd as to be stupid.  Evil that arises ex nihilo is not evil at all: it may be harm, but its moral quality is that of a damaging force of nature.It is the supposition of free will coupled with reason, and the consequent ability to choose, that gives a thing its moral quality.
To call, for example, the recent tsunami catastrophic, lethal or stupefying is to render meaningful description: to call it evil, even with its quarter-million victims, is to anthropomorphize. These choices themselves do not arise ex nihilo.  To trace them back to their root cause is to indulge in pointless reductionism.  Much ink is spilled over the nonexistence of the infinite causal chain, but suffice it to say that it does exist for practical purposes in fathoming the minds of men.  The various causes, thoughts, reactions, reasons, impetuses, rationales, excuses, and whims that strike a person in his context and because of his context we call the results of family, belief, conviction, ideology, friends, culture, upbringing, and faith.
That is:  culture;  civilization;  religion.


This much ought to be obvious in a sane world.  But because we have delved so far into the ideology of tolerance for its own sake, it is not obvious, and our world is not sane.
Tolerance used to be a social virtue because it served particular social goods: the prevention of bloodshed in the public square due to dialogues on faith and ideology; and the elimination of false distinctions of race and ethnicity among men.  At some point “tolerence” became a good in itself, divorced from the thing being tolerated.
Only in such circumstances could the ideological wellspring of a worldwide cult of death and fanaticism receive the exculpatory praise it has from its victims’ very leaders.  The tragic irony is that the well-meaning believers of that wellspring are ill-served by it.  And only in such circumstances could the Chicago Tribune find itself declaring that an evil thing is ipso facto detached from that which made it evil by reason of its evil.
If we are to declare that “civilization” and “religion” do not, by definition, encompass anything evil – or evil beyond an arbitrary point – then we are engaging in a profound and willful infantilization of history, society, and ourselves. Once upon a time, conservatives believed that “ideas have consequences.”  Now we cast this away in favor of a false acausality on grounds of aesthetics, pragmatism, and habit.  Like the unrepentant Communist who insists that the noble idea remains such, millions slaughtered notwithstanding, simply because it was never “really tried” — with the criterion for a “try” being a successful try — so too do we absolve Islam for its inevitably bloody-minded doctrines.  Logical consequences of a thing somehow strip away the association with that thing.  It makes no sense, but one might excuse it on compassionate grounds: it is a remarkably kind thing we do for Islam, and generosity will bring its reward in time.  Indeed yes.  This might have some small merit if compassion were the beginning and end of it.  But it is not so, for this logic of the disassociated evil is not merely for Islam’s benefit.  The devotees of tolerance-as-such must, in the end, apply it to themselves.  Perhaps they already do: one finds few conscious of their guilt as suicides.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 7:39 AM | Permalink

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