A Manifestation of Blind Collectivity

As usual, Paul Belien of Brussels Journal cuts to the core of the argument. And, as seems to be coming usual, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is behind the publication of the controversy.

This time it is the manifesto, Together facing the new totalitarianism, signed by twelve varied “ writers, journalists, [and] intellectuals” who have banded together to issue their creed. Here is the opening salvo:

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Belien, however, sees things differently; he thinks the signers have missed the point:

The above paragraphs clearly display the manifesto’s defects. While Islamism can be considered the perversion of religion, the three scourges of the 20th century – Fascism, Nazism (National-Socialism) and Stalinism – were secular ideologies. Neither Adolf Hitler nor Joseph Stalin were theocrats. It takes “French intellectuals” to use mankind’s experience with National-Socialism and Stalinism as motivation for a rallying cry to oppose “religious totalitarianism” and a call for “secular values,” which they hold to be “universal values.”

He then discusses the furor that one of the signers, Hirsi Ali, raised last year when she suggested that religious schools in the Netherlands ought to be abolished. Gates of Vienna discussed this in December, pointing out that Ms. Ali, for all her courage and principles, is perhaps culturally blind to the idea of true pluralism:

Ms. Ali has not learned or experienced true pluralism so she cannot see past the limits of orthodoxy, she can only move the chairs around.

Secularism is as much a religious point of view as any denomination. It is worse, in some ways, because its intolerance is so virulent that it spreads and occupies its hosts, who are often unaware of having been invaded. Paul Belien shows how it works, even among those professing another religion or allegiance:

it is no coincidence that the manifesto avoids referring to “Socialism” (and even “Communism”) among the scourges of the past century and prefers to speak of “Nazism” and Stalinism” instead. Half the manifesto’s signatories are probably Socialists, which explains why the manifesto obfuscates the secular, Socialist roots of these scourges.

While in America a cultural war is going on between “blue” (liberal) and “red” (conservative), the cultural war in Europe is a three-way war between the European equivalent of the American “blue” (socialist), the European equivalent of the American “red” (conservative, though Europeans often use the term “liberal”) and Muslims. I prefer to refer to the first group as “secularist” (although I realise this is a generalization and many Christians belong to these “secularists,” including – unfortunately – most of our bishops and priests) and to the second group as “Christian” (although many agnostics belong to it). The reason why I make this distinction is because the second group is prepared to acknowledge the importance of the cultural traditions of the West, rooted in the Judeo-Christian values without which classical-liberalism could never have evolved.

As Mr. Belien notes,

…The battle that is being waged today is a battle between those who defend the right of individuals against the right of collectivities.
The Islamists and the secularists (including the priests and bishops among them) have more in common than the Islamists and the Christians (including the agnostics among them), because the latter acknowledge that at the heart of Christianity is the individual with his individual responsibility before God. Without Christianity, individual responsibility would not have become the centre of European civilization. It was the French Revolution that jeopardized this tradition and that became the root of collectivism, with its socialist, fascist, national-socialist and communist excesses. From this perspective even Jihadism is more a child of secularism than of religion.

Never have I seen the French Revolution, that bloody, frenzied dismissal of all tolerance, better shown up for what it was and remains: the glorification of the collective. This idol exists also in America, wherever the politically correct brutally oppress those with whom they disagree. These destroyers of careers and reputations run amok in the ivied halls where once Larry Summers roamed. They live and prosper in our political institutions. They move and have their being wherever the individual and his conscience are not the prime consideration, the ultimate value.

When the Christian creed proclaims that “Jesus died for me” it is stating the primacy of Me as I am subsumed under the exigencies of the Golden Rule.

What a shame: a brave manifesto not for the individual rights of each of us but for the collective “universal” values which, when allowed full play, obliterate the individual…including the individual signers of that sad declaration.

We have traveled so long to have arrived only at this pathetic junction where once again voices and fists are raised to the glory of the group.

Hat tip: Peter Fleming in the comments section of The Belmont Club.

8 thoughts on “A Manifestation of Blind Collectivity

  1. “Secularism is as much a religious point of view as any denomination. It is worse, in some ways, because its intolerance is so virulent that it spreads and occupies its hosts, who are often unaware of having been invaded. “

    This is utter rubbish. You appear to be living in a world _almost_ as filled with cant & cliche as are the Islamists.

  2. “Rubbish?” Hardly! Clearly an awful lot of people have read the Manifesto only far enough to recognize the signers’ opposition to Islamist ideology, and no farther.

    It’s worth noting that the same sort of simplistic “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend” mentality was directly responsible for the 50 year enslavement of eastern Europe.

    It may well be that the Manifesto’s signers did not view their creation as a secularist creed, but it is also very likely that they are so devoutly committed to their own secular faith that they are oblivious to the distinction. Islamists are clearly the most dire threat to those of other faiths, but they are not the only bigots on the stage.

  3. Raw data —

    Your nic is well-chosen. With the lack of information in your complaint, there’s nothing to respond to. At the very least, present some data, or muster an argument. A dismissive reductio ad absurdum does not count as an argumment.


    Bat One —

    I agree. The key word there is “oblivious”, otherwise they could not serve as hosts for this particular pathogen.


  4. I have been a frequent critic of our entrenchment in the US in the two party system and its by-product of “Two Party Thinking” (too long to go into here), but there are advantages as well. Factions each fighting for power in several European countries are accomplishing little more than keeping the people at each others’ throats (not unlike the US), but in ways that split the power in too many directions.

    Infighting has led to the conquest of many a people, I hope that we will not see a repeat of European history in Europe in the near future for this reason. The inability to unite under one leader, or even one standard, is a frequent death knell when the enemies are already past the gates. I would hate to see Islam celebrate the same victory that the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc. were able to celebrate due to the inability of the 6th century Britons to cease the infighting, even if they did manage a few rallies.

    This infighting and lack of unity will be the death of us, and there are plenty of vultures waiting to pick our bones. That is why I’m still fighting.

  5. I think that anyone who reads into The manifesto any degree of anti-religious or pro-secular sentiment is unable to read. Don’t be fo looking for arguments. The Manifesto is anti-Islamism, pure and simple. Have you lost all capacity to reason? You are simply looking for a fight with ‘the secular.’ Please don’t be difficult.

  6. I find the numerous attack on Hirsi Ali quite interesting as everyone sees fit to tar and feather her for her statements but know little about her own background. Nor do they seem to understand that she is commenting from the perspective of someone who must live under police protection due to constant death threats from the members of her former faith. This refusal to see the context is a disgrace, IMHO.

  7. they say the struggle can’t be won by force or use of arms. they are simply WRONG and this is why the manifesto sucks.

    we must defeat the enemy and to do that we must be willing to use every tool and any tool we can – every weapon in our arsenal.

    these folks want to have and eat their cake. you can’t. these folks won’t speak out in support of the war in iraq.

    this manifesto is just ass-covering for them. like usa commies who condemned stalin after the hitler pact, and then liked him again until after WW2 and krushchev came along.

    i posted this at my blog:

    “It’s swell that these famous Left-leaning intellectuals have taken a universalist/non-relativist stand on human rights, but the REAL issue is: What are they willing to do about it?!

    Are they willing to support a proactive, bold, aggressive counter-attack – including sanctions, blockades and even preemptive military strikes?

    Will they urge their own nations to do more to help the USA and the UK and the other coalition members assist the emerging Iraqi democracy?

    Will they support an end to immigration without assimiliation? Will they support the deportation of radical Muslims who incite violence? Will they demand that nations which don’t allow its citizens the universal human rights outlined in the UN Declaration be demoted to “observer status” at the UN?

    Will they at least criticize their comrades on the Left who – at best – have been skeptical of Bush, and at worst accused him of being a lying, torturing war criminal who went to war for oil/Halliburton/family revenge?

    Or do they just want to sign petitions and send strongly worded, high-minded letters?

    I suspect it’s the latter, and we don’t need them for that – we already got Blix and Baradei and Kofi for that!

    I pray they prove me wrong, and that this represents the beginning of a more unified West. If that’s the case, we will be more likely to have the resolve necessary to defeat the enemy in this – THE LONG WAR.”

    all the best.

  8. Pim’s ghost:

    I know quite well Hirsi Ali’s background. I have written a number of posts on her and done some research on her early history in Somalia (where her grandmother held her down for the customary clitorectomy). I know her family left Somalia when her father’s political activities made it dangerous for him to stay. I believe he lives in London now.

    I know she fled an arranged marriage, landed in the Netherlands, and quickly found a woman mentor. She worked menial jobs, educated herself, and became politically active, just as her father had been.

    She chose to team up with Theo van Gogh, though I think they had very different intentions in making “Submission.” Since that is what the word “Islam” means, Ali was making a public and sacrilegous renunciation of her former faith. van Gogh was doing “cool”, edgy art. She knew the danger she was in and took precaution to have guards…Theo laughed them off until it was too late. As he was being stabbed, he kept saying “can’t we talk?” He majorly didn’t get it.

    There is much I admire about Ms. Ali, but I do not think she understands pluralism — given her background, it seems to be an elusive concept for her. When she wanted to close *all* the religious schools in the Netherlands, she was hit with a backlash that surprised her. There are many Catholic and Dutch reformed schools that fought hard for recognition of their right to exist. It was a fight long over, and now Ali wanted to bring it back to life…she’s been falling in favor in the Netherlands since.

    The co-signers of the manifesto have the same tunnel vision. Otherwise, the ideology of Communism, which killed more people in the 20th century than any other belief system, would have been on their list of facisms.

    It wasn’t because basically theirs is a belief in collectivism/socialism. They’re not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

    I continue to admire Hirsi Ali. She is a courageous and determined woman of principle. It’s simply that some of her principles and mine disagree.

    I believe people ought to be free to set up private schools as long as their academic standards meet the state requirements. She thinks they should be abolished.

    I believe that the answers to our human problems lie not in state solutions, but in government getting out of the way so people can more directly help one another. She is a socialist; I am a supply-side, smaller government advocate.

    We both come to our conclusions based on our experiences. I can see why she thinks as she does; I simply disagree with her and were I Dutch, I would fight some of her ideas.

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