My personal confrontation with the refugee/migrant crisis in Europe has placed me in an awkward position. I don’t mean my going out on a limb with a non-PC exploration. I mean having to confront the dissonance between my unciv convictions – in other words, my opposition to civilization as we know it – and my gut-level reaction to those who privilege the interests of strangers over those of their home cultures, who are unwilling to make value-laden comparisons between cultures (or civilizations), and who promote the ideology of multiculturalism without regard to their policies’ consequences.
The ‘clash of civilizations’ meme has been assiduously promoted by mainstream media. “Our” western civ against Islam and its barbarian hordes. I am glad to see that this form of propaganda for “our way of life” has been firmly rejected by crunchy greens. At the same time, I have found it profoundly troubling that these same people, my allies, are all too ready to throw their concern for women’s wellbeing, or that of any group of peaceful citizens readily abused, under the bus when discussing crime caused by Europe’s flood of migrants.
I have clashed with people, normally friends, on Resilience.com over this issue, and felt quite betrayed by those who in other context say they promote “localism” but when it comes to protecting local cultures of Europe, that localism seems to vanish, making room for a reflex reaction in defense of a politically correct line against boundaries and for the indiscriminate acceptance of all comers.
But why, I thought to myself, am I standing up for a civilization that has let me down in so many ways? Where before, the faults of this civ loomed large but somewhat theoretical, now, in the clash of Europeans with the forces unleashed by migration out of control, I stepped into a box with a label that said, “compared with a culture that forces its women into harems, into sacks with openings for eyes, and into tolerating brutal violence against them as normal, hey, I’ll take western civ any day!”
Seductive though the clash of civilizations narrative is, I keep reminding myself of the fact that I loathe the way this culture treats women as well. I detest the hypersexualization of girls, the parading of women’s naked or near naked bodies everywhere one looks, from booze and lingerie ads to celebrities who vie for attention through concocting ever more risqué gowns. I choke on the backlash against us as some men brazenly return to jeering outspoken women who skip make-up as ugly broads, and on reports of politically correct campuses that manipulate elder feminists through threats of “no platform” simply for the “thoughtcrime” of disagreeing with trans definitions. The list goes on and on.
What a choice the ‘clash of civilizations’ story places before me: black sacks with eyes, or decadence and demeaning bullshit! Two faces of one civilization gone awry.
No, I don’t buy that Islam is evil. Religions go through their abusive, violent periods when many abusive, violent people use them as justification for their abusive, violent behavior. Islam is going through that now. Christianity went through it some centuries back; after all, it was a Christian pope who invented the holy war at a time when Christendom was launching the crusades, yet to gear up for the full-out persecution, torture and mass murder of its own brothers and sisters in Christ. Religion and power mix poorly. That’s why people came up with the separation of religion and state. Folks with first-hand knowledge warn against Islam’s violence as enshrined in its holy writ. I am sympathetic to that point of view as my younger self argued against Christianity on the same grounds. But I no longer buy the argument. Once, Christians used the Old Testament’s “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” as an excuse to torment and murder women and heretics. Today, they don’t. Once they used the Bible to justify chattel slavery. Today, they don’t. I am more persuaded that all religions have skeletons in their closets, and that the behavior of followers has to do with their everyday values and character; they will use excuses and justifications for their behavior when those values and character are lacking.
There is a real clash of civilizations going on now, unreported. And that is the clash between those who are willing and able to behave in civilized ways in the best sense of the word, and those who are not – who would rather wreak mayhem upon the world. Western and other elites, all those who profit by wars and plunder without end, who pretend to be fighting terrorism while aiding and abetting it, all those turning our world into Orwellian nightmare, they are on the other side of this clash. So are everyday people – regardless of their ideological affiliation — who harm their fellow humans in innumerable small and sometimes large ways and find endless excuses for it; those who delight in demeaning domination games, taking advantage, pulling the wool over your eyes, making other people’s private worlds hell. They are with the Dark Side. Every other human division is just a diversion from this stark reality.
The first civilizations were built by people among whom anti-social behavior was firmly limited by boundaries created by the demands of community and survival. They were peaceful, more or less egalitarian (meaning a social arrangement that evens out native differences between human beings in the interest of crafting a low-conflict polity), and the surpluses and prosperity were broadly shared. By the time this civilization came along, those ancient peoples were but a faint memory. We can use that faint memory made more vivid with the help of recent archeology as inspiration to build a real civilization again. We can choose to raise a culture that is grounded in the values of being truly civilized, values that have been showcased in their best form by a number of tribal societies: generosity, trustworthiness, empathy and kindness, open-mindedness, fairness, civility, common sense, mutual respect, recognition of fundamental worth of all humans and other living beings, courage and resilience, loyalty, deep connection, love of beauty, gratitude, humility, willingness to accept limits and responsibilities as the other side of freedom, and a commitment to a lifelong effort to cultivate these virtues in oneself and in the local society one inhabits. This is the road ahead: walking the Path of Beauty into whatever the future holds.