The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


In an op-ed from The Wall Street Journal, Shelby Steele examines “western guilt” and the way in which it empowers Islamofascists. He contends that hatred, not “oppression” drives Islamists and argues that anti-semitism is only one manifestation of that virulent hatred:
The anti-Semite is always drawn to the hatred of Jews by his own unacknowledged inadequacy. As Sartre says in his great essay on the subject, the anti-Semite "is a man who is afraid. Not of Jews of course, but of himself." By hating Jews, he asserts that his own group represents the kind of human being that God truly wants. His group is God's archetype, the only authentic humanity, already complete and superior. No striving or self-reflection is necessary. If Jews are superior in some ways, it is only out of their alienated striving, their exile from God's grace. For the anti-Semite, hating and fighting Jews is both self-affirmation and a way of doing God's work.

So the anti-Semite comes to a chilling place: He easily joins himself to evil in order to serve God. Fighting and even killing Jews brings the world closer to God's intended human hierarchy. For Nazis, the "final solution" was an act of self-realization and a fulfillment of God's will. At the center of today's militant Islamic identity there is a passion to annihilate rather than contain Israel. And today this identity applies the anti-Semitic model of hatred to a vastly larger group--the infidel. If the infidel is not yet the object of that pristine hatred reserved for Jews, he is not far behind. Bombings in London, Madrid and Mumbai; riots in Paris; murders in Amsterdam; and of course 9/11--all these follow the formula of anti-Semitism: murder of a hated enemy as self-realization and service to God.

As I have noted in many recent commentaries, hatred alone, as awful as it might be, is not the sole modus operandi of Islamofascists. Hatred must be accompanied by reverence for death. Steele comments:
And death--both homicide and suicide--is the extremist's great obsession because its finality makes the grandiosity "real." If I am not afraid to kill and die, then I am larger than life. Certainly I am larger than the puny Westerners who are reduced to decadence by their love of life. So my hatred and my disregard of death, my knowledge that life is trivial, deliver me to a human grandeur beyond the reach of the West. After the Madrid bombings a spokesman for al Qaeda left a message: "You love life, and we love death." The horror is that greatness is tied to death rather than to achievement in life.

And so, the challenge is enunciated. In my last blog entry, The Possibilities of Politics I bemoaned the futility of a “political solution. Is there a political solution that attenuates hatred and deemphasizes reverence for death? Steele notes that “The West is stymied by this [Islamofascist] extremism because it is used to enemies that want to live.”

And so, as we face a death cult that is consumed with hatred of all things American and western, how do we respond? In some quarters, with guilt:
White guilt in the West--especially in Europe and on the American left--confuses all this by seeing Islamic extremism as a response to oppression. The West is so terrified of being charged with its old sins of racism, imperialism and colonialism that it makes oppression an automatic prism on the non-Western world, a politeness. But Islamic extremists don't hate the West because they are oppressed by it. They hate it precisely because the end of oppression and colonialism--not their continuance--forced the Muslim world to compete with the West. Less oppression, not more, opened this world to the sense of defeat that turned into extremism.

And that’s the irony. The yoke of oppression has been lifted from Islam and the Arab world. They have enormous wealth and with it, enormous potential. But rather than looking inward and asking why they cannot compete and succeed, why they cannot progress into the 21st century, they try to justify their unadulterated hatred by crying “oppression.”

And many Europeans along with most of the American Left lap it up. Steele notes: “This despite the fact that Islamic extremism is the most explicit and dangerous expression of human bigotry since the Nazi era.”

In the conclusion of his piece, Steele argues that white guilt does more harm than simply empowering Islamofascists:
But white guilt's most dangerous suppression is to keep from discussion the most conspicuous reality in the Middle East: that the Islamic world long ago fell out of history. Islamic extremism is the saber-rattling of an inferiority complex. America has done a good thing in launching democracy as a new ideal in this region. Here is the possibility--if still quite remote--for the Islamic world to seek power through contribution rather than through menace.

The “possibility” – again that word arises. Lets hope we all beat the oods.