Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoons and the Clash of Civilizations


The Blogosphere has been abuzz this weekend over massive violence, stemming from cartoon caricatures of the prophet Mohammad published in Denmark last year(?!). Bloggers like Michelle Malkin, Powerline, Gateway Pundit, and LGF have provided great coverage (faster on target than main stream media and more insightful, I might add).

I followed the coverage loosely, checking in from time to time on the sites described above; about an hour ago I found this editorial on the Financial Times website that stated, among other things, that

"Because we in the west are convinced of the superiority of our own political system, we tend to explain the refusal of some to adopt or adapt to it by way of their beliefs. Muslims cannot assimilate into European society because of their “creed”; the Middle East must be “taught” democracy. . . What this illustrates is the repeated failure to think of culture other than in ethnocentric terms. While happy to assume our values are universal, we are loath to accept that others differ. We explain disagreement as deviance: when these people understand our principles, they will agree.

Such presuppositions are dangerous because they lead to the type of rigid reductionism – people who disagree hold the wrong beliefs – that makes misunderstanding and violence more likely. "


The distorted logic behind this point of view is astounding, but will likely be seen more in social commentary in the coming days: Western Society, due in large part to arrogant ethnocentrism, failed to understand Islamic "society" in the Middle East (in the case of the cartoons published in European newspapers last fall[?!]); therefore, the West, in its failure to appreciate and understand a different culture, is responsible for the wanton violence and destruction on display in these societies.

I beg to differ.

A great myth foisted on the liberal democratic societies of the West is the fable of moral or cultural relativism: that differences in one culture over another do not imply superiority or lack thereof.

A person can gauge a great deal in a society's reaction to an idea or thought, especially an unpopular one. Hence, a Piss Christ in Western Society (United States) causes religious conservatives in that society to question government funding of the artist in question; meawhile, a series of cartoons offensive to Muslims cause regional anarchy and destruction in Middle Eastern societies. Which society is likely to advance, to continue to increase its overall level of human capital (ie, the number of engineers, scientists, PhD's, patents on new ideas, et al), and which society is going to continue to decline into irrelevance? YOU make the call.

For my part, I am not going to try to search for moral equivalence in a society that answers an unpopular thought with a closed fist, or a molotov cocktail.

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