Thursday, March 10, 2005

Origins of Chaos (continued)

read the first half of this post

In an entirely-too-long rant a few days ago, written to keep my brain from exploding, I argued that tolerance is at the root of many of our social problems today. The wrong kind of tolerance; the kind of tolerance that confuses acceptance of differing beliefs with willful blindness to unacceptible and destructive behavior:

Burning cars and elderly women is not a central tenet of Islam any more than looting big screen TVs is a defining practice of American black culture. These things are, quite simply, wrong.

Two weeks ago I watched in bemusement as various black spokesmen refused to condemn the morons who trashed their own neighborhood in a blaze of righteous anger over a KKK march. Could not even black "leaders" see the idiocy of this tactic? If one wished to punish the KKK for their noxious racial message, why not find out where they lived and trash their houses? Of course this would have been illegal too, but it would, at the very least, have had the value of being neither stupid nor self-destructive. Over and over we are told we must be tolerant. We must try to "understand" the root causes of black anger, jihadi anger, or whatever ire-du-jure is currently in vogue.

To conflate tolerance of destructive or criminal behavior with tolerance of differing skin colors, religions, or cultures is absurd in the extreme. It also, in the end, undermines the goal it seeks to uphold: tolerance of those who are different from us by linking unacceptable behavior to race, religion, ideology, or ethnicity.

The unpleasant truth is that if these rioters, as with the situation in New Orleans, were predominantly white and Christian, the tear gas and riot gear would have been out long ago. It is our fear of treating the rioters as Other - of seeming racist - that impedes reasonable action. But this is a rather racist response in itself. It is as if we are saying we will tolerate criminal behavior from the inferior classes of humanity because we can expect no better, but when whites do such things we shall hold them to a higher standard. Amazing, and insulting. Yet we do this all the time. In college. In work. In life.

As The BarbEhrian would have it, we are truly showing our stripes: marginalizing them and treating them as Other. We certainly aren't treating them as we do ourselves. And they are quick to recognize this; to recognize it and take advantage of it. In fact, there is significant evidence that at least part of the Muslim population of Europe has no intention of becoming part of the mainstream:

In the “Resolution of Strasbourg,” passed unanimously by the general assembly of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation on June 7-8, 1975, more than 200 Members of Parliament from Western European countries, representing all shades of the political spectrum (except the far right), unanimously agreed to allow Arab immigrants to bring their culture and religion to Europe, to promote it and spread it. The parliamentarians stressed “the contribution that the European countries can still expect from Arab culture, notably in the area of human values” and asked the European governments “to accord the greatest priority to spreading Arab culture in Europe.” Today the forests of satellite dishes on the apartment blocks in the suburbs of Western European cities link the immigrants to the culture of their countries of origin, whose television programmes they watch day after day.

Dyab Abou Jahjah, the young and charismatic Brussels-based leader of the Arab European League, rejects assimilation and demands segregated schools and self-governing, Arab-speaking ghettos. “We reject integration when it leads to assimilation,” Jahjah says: “I don’t believe in a host country. We are at home here and whatever we consider our culture to be also belongs to our chosen country. I’m in my country, not the country of the [Westerners].”

Paul Belien refutes the NY Times article I referred to earlier:

Those media that tell us that the rioting “youths” want to be a part of our society and feel left out of it, are misrepresenting the facts. As the insurgents see it, they are not a part of our society and they want us to keep out of theirs. The violence in France is in no way comparable with that of the blacks in the U.S. in the 1960s. The Paris correspondent of The New York Times who writes that this a “variant of the same problem” is either lying or does not know what he is talking about. The violence in France is of the type one finds when one group wants to assert its authority and drive the others out of its territory. American MSM who imply that there is a direct line from Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to stand up for a white man on an American bus in 1955, to the rabble that are now throwing molotov cocktails into French buses containing passengers, are misrepresenting the facts. (The only comparison between America and France is that many of the bus drivers in the Parisian suburbs, like those in New Orleans, seem to be white women whose vulnerability attracts rioters and looters).

I have often written of the conflict between individual rights and societal duties. Those of you who know me well, know of my strong belief that a civil society cannot endure if individuals think only of their own happiness and freedoms. This, in the end, is why I distrust Libertarianism despite the strong emotional attractions of this quasi-philosophy and my inherent distrust of governmental intrusion into my private affairs. A few days ago, I wrote:

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Greeks believed that without a well-developed notion of civic virtue, no society could long survive. In the intervening centuries, the notion of what constitutes the civil society has continued to evolve, for the most part moving from a notion of collective duty or virtue to one where only the individual's rights are recognized. Sadly, the idea that an individual has any duty to society seems to have fallen into disfavor.

Especially in America we fear this notion: that we as individuals can be asked to limit our freedoms from a sense of obligation to something larger than ourselves. But in a large, increasingly complex, multicultural world how will we ever live together in peace if there is no common loyalty, no sense of community, no feeling that we are all in this together? We cannot all simply gorge ourselves from the feeding trough. We must also give back. This is a message both conservatives and liberals dislike. Liberals would like their rich neighbor to fork over his ill-gotten gains to right the economic and social wrongs of this vale of tears. Conservatives, on the other hand, often envision a utopia in which that government is best which governs not at all. I sometimes wonder how much either side would like living in the world they dream of at night?

Meanwhile, most Americans live somewhere in the middle: that practical and mundane no-man's land sneered at by intellectuals, where compromises between grand theories and cold, hard reality are worked out. And they deserve protection from disaffected youths who seek the answers to where they belong in a burning car, or lawless hoods who clamber from broken windows of flooded cities with a plasma TV, not because they are hungry, or poor, but because we tolerate such behavior from them.

Because we tolerate their behavior. Not their beliefs, nor their skin color, nor their religion. But their unacceptable and criminal acts.

I am tired of being told I must understand their feelings. They are free to feel any way they please, whether or not I understand it. But feelings are not what civilized people use to determine what they do when they go out of their doors each day. They are not a basis for rational behavior, nor for a civil society.

I sometimes fear for the world my grandchildren will inherit: a world in which society no longer believes in anything strongly enough to stand up for it. And as much as we in this country have been taught to fear the over-orderly strictures of civil society, there is another danger out there: the anarchy and lawlessness of the mob. Where there is no law, or where law is held in contempt, there is only chaos and the rule of the most brutish and bestial among us: a place where reason is shouted down and emotion, avarice, and self-interest routinely carry the day. That place is commonly known as Congress.

That way madness lies.