Saturday, 27 February 2016

Decline of the West Revisited

Dear sir:
I feel discriminated against by your demonizing of all leftists. I’m even thinking about seeking help from the ACLU (just kidding).
At the age of 17 I was a communist sympathizer living in a Fascist dictatorship. That’s when I started hating religion, because the reactionary Roman Catholic church was backing up the régime to the hilt -- although i must admit there were a few progressive Catholics who fought for freedom and democracy. But the hierarchy was deeply reactionary. So when i visited the GangstaSpace I felt  instinctively apprehensive about the Mohammedan religion.  But at the same time I started learning Arabic. In Spain Arabs are part of the country’s background, and Arab culture is very prestigious, since they left impressive monuments behind when they were driven out, and the names of Moorish rulers resound through Spanish history.
So I wasn’t the least bit anti-Arab and I still am not.
Then I studied Arabic and Islamic studies at college and became quite familiar with Mohammedans and various Mohammedan countries and their denizens.
So by the time Islamic terrorism became all the rage around the 1990s (being preceded by a long run of Palestinian terrorism), i was sufficiently familiar with the subject to be able to  think objectively  about  Arabs and Moslems and  terrorism. Of course i was aware of great violence in the Middle East long before Islamism became trendy. 
Sandstorm Sept 2015

Anyway Karl Marx was no slobbering dimwit who instinctively sympathised with exotic mumbo-jumbo, the cruder the better.
That whole mind-set has nothing to do with traditional socialism. Marx criticized the Western imperialists who were exploiting China and getting the Chinks hooked on narcotics. Mark Twain was no Marxist, but he did a good job of raking US imperialism over the coals when  the US snatched the Philippines from the dying Spanish empire and proceeded to wage a devastating war against the independence-loving natives. But Marx would have scoffed at traditional Chinese notions of politics and religion. Marx was European to the core.  
The whole exotic mumbo-jumbo fad is not rooted in Marxist class-based theories of society at all. Nor could it be, because Marx never wrote about alien cultures. He simply followed the then prevailing convention of ignoring the subject. He was a Eurocentric thinker. The men who started all this cannibal-hugging were not the least bit influenced by socialist thought.
The man who started it all was not Karl Marx, but a different German Jew altogether called Franz Boas, a founder of the subject of cultural anthropology. He and his colleagues and successors like Radcliffe-Brown, Bronislaw  Malinowski, Marcel Mauss, etc. invented the intellectual fashion of regarding primitive cultures on an equal footing as their own (and our own). Doing so is a methodological requirement in order to think rationally about alien cultures.
Malinowski stole a march on Sigmund Freud and began studying the sexual practices of primitive islanders instead of those of repressed Viennese bourgeois as Freud was doing. Malinowski spoke very highly of British colonialism.  He knew what he was talking about, because he did most of his sex research in British colonies in SE Asia and the Pacific. At the same time Pablo Picasso was discovering African sculpture. European culture was becoming more humble. And a good thing too.
But it has now become an obsession, a nervous tic, a mannerism, a bias and a crashing bore.
It has no intellectual basis at all. It’s a fad, like skateboards and body-piercing. The traditional Marxist solidarity with all peoples against imperialist oppression is a noble tradition, but it has nothing to do with automatically siding with traditional pre-industrial cultures against the West. Alien culture must be examined and criticized with exactly the same clinical objectivity that we devote to analyzing out own cultures. Just because they talk funny doesn’t mean they’re right, or even that they know what the hell they’re talking about. As a matter of fact what always astonishes me about Moslems is their utter ignorance of history and their low esteem for facts.  They usually just repeat village gossip and the platitudes their daddies told them.
European civilization invented the habit of criticizing European civilization. Those who carp at European civilization are blindly following in its footsteps.
Our admiration for alien cultures should be tempered by loyalty toward our own glorious intellectual traditions, which we vouchsafed to humanity and are becoming the backbone of a planet-wide human civilization.
Being anti-Western long ago ceased being identical with being anti-imperialist. When the Japanese fleet knocked the socks off the imperial Russian navy at the battle of Tsushima in 1905, the white man (or the pink man, as I prefer to call him) had to acknowledge that non-European civilizations were starting to catch up with the West.  The trend has progressed ever since and shows no signs of abating.
So hating Western Civ long ago ceased being original and revolutionary. It is now simply a cliché, a cult, a stereotyped attitude popular with resentful adolescents and Mohammedan fanatics. 
There is an indefinable sort of covergence between these reflections and those manifested by Phil Burton-Cartledge with his deep hisorical perspective in The anti-imperialism of fools, Left Futures, Dec 13th, 2015

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