Human beings can get used to anything.
The prisoner gets used to shackles and chains. The amputee hardly notices his artificial leg. The inhabitant of Vestvågøy becomes accustomed to the long dark winter, the call of the gulls, and the crash of the sea against the cliffs.
What would seem to the rest of the world to be exotic, bizarre, or outlandish becomes unnoticeable through long familiarity.
And so it is for Western Civilization and the reigning ideology of politically correct Multiculturalism.
We’re all used to it. We hardly even notice it. We’re aware of its prescribed boundaries, and anyone who holds a government job or political office soon feels the yank of the chain if he strays beyond them. The PC rules are the water we swim in and the air we breathe.
The fear of Muslim wrath dovetails neatly with Orthodox Multiculturalism, producing that familiar attitude of cringing appeasement displayed by virtually every public figure in the face of Islamic intimidation. Allah proposes and the infidel disposes — at least if he wants to keep his head.
If Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in 1949 and woke up today, the public culture of the West would be unrecognizable to him. The evident death wish of our leaders, the doubletalk in the newspapers, our collective masochistic attitude towards manifestly inferior peoples — all of this would seem evidence of mass insanity.
For most in Western societies, the behavior of Muslim fundamentalists is often incomprehensible and, at the same time, terrifying, as illustrated by incidents which make news headlines.
The most recent is that of Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher at a school for children of the Sudanese elite and foreign diplomats. Gibbons was charged by the Sudanese government with inciting religious hatred after honoring a 7-year-old student’s innocent request to eponymously name a classroom teddy bear “Mohammed.” Gibbons was found guilty under Sharia or Islamic law of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. She was jailed and informed that she could be punished by 40 lashes and six months in prison. After a “fair” sentence of 15 days was announced by the ruling clerics, frenzied rioters brandished swords and knives across Khartoum, screaming for her death.
In Saudi Arabia, a woman gang raped by seven men was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being in a state of “khalwa” or in the presence of unrelated males. Under Sharia law, women can appear in public only with male relatives. The victim’s lawyer had his license to practice law confiscated after he deemed the rapists’ sentence lenient and the victim’s sentence unjust.
In 2005, a 14-year-old Iranian boy died after receiving 85 lashes for eating in public during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.
Such incidents provoke outrage, shock and bewilderment in the West, which perceives the innocence of these victims and the injustice of their punishments for violating outmoded codes of behavior. But Muslim societies perceive these same actions as unacceptable breaches of and major offenses to a rigidly enforced code of behavior and moral precepts.
Actually, our shock and outrage are becoming more and more muted. The idea of accepting into our midst a parallel culture of sharia is beginning to enter the mainstream, so that the behavior of Muslim fundamentalists becomes just part of the rainbow weave of the cultural fabric, representing the ideal so proudly proclaimed by Multicultural orthodoxy. All cultures have inherently equal value, and the tenets of political correctness provide no basis for judging amongst them.
In his provocative book, Harris contrasts this path of cultural evolution with an examination of the foundation of pre-modern societies, such as tribal or Islamic cultures ruled by “the law of the jungle.” Thus, hewing to tribal values, Islam is a totalitarian religious and political ideology that protects the ummah, or the Muslim world, from being undermined and preserves mandated tribal behaviors and beliefs. The fanaticism inherent in Islam produces a group allegiance that supersedes all other potential attachments. The tribal code and tribal cohesion takes precedence over anything else and a collective fanaticism fosters cultural protectionism. Harris maintains that it is impossible to appeal to a sense of reason in societies bound by fanaticism because enlightenment directly challenges and threatens their beliefs and very existence.
Another feature of tribal societies is the existence of religious authorities that control the populace and serve as their spokespeople. Fanatical intolerance demands that critics or apostates are shunned and condemned to death. There is no room for self-reflection. The only criticism permissible is that levied at “the other” or the non-believer. Ironically, the very qualities that are shunned and prohibited by cultures of reason are viewed as good and virtuous by fanatical cultures. In Islamic fundamentalist societies, the mullahs endeavor to fan the flames of fanaticism in order to make it more intense and powerful.
The principle of honor is of primary importance in radical Islamic cultures. The honor of the community must be protected at all costs and far exceeds any notion of the individual or of individual rights. Religious leaders, who view the world across a long-term time horizon, operate for the good of the ummah, the propagation of Islam over time and the enforcement of Islamic law.
Tribal success hinges on the inculcation of a uniform system of steadfast shared values and of a sense of shame so deep and visceral that it is impervious to reason and makes death preferable to tribal code violations and the accompanying loss of collective honor. It solidifies a rigidly imposed “us vs. them” mindset in which “the other” is a cursed object of abject enmity. The faithful are indoctrinated and prepared to sacrifice themselves for furthering fanatic tribal goals. Martyrs for the cause are celebrated and elevated to a position of honor.
Tribal cultures thrive on the vacuum that chaos presents. It is a boon to fanaticism and totalitarian control. In a state of chaos, all behaviors become permissible and extreme measures are easy to enforce on desperate populations.
In summary, the West is suffering from an insidious ideological assault from the outside by fundamentalist Islam that could result in profound societal damage, while at the same time we are, from the inside, undermining our core values and traditions. We are not experiencing a clash of civilizations, but an overt attempt to dismantle the worldwide status quo. The West is vulnerable, because it has failed to recognize that survival hinges on being intolerant to the intolerant and acknowledging the superiority of our way of life and the exceptionalism of America. We will probably be unable to change the Islamists and alter their three-pronged prescription for non-Muslims – death, subjugation or conversion – but we can prevent them from changing us. Through our “enlightened” democracy and lack of cultural protectionism, we are inadvertently aiding their cause. Our ability to fight has been severely weakened by the enlightened principles of tolerance and multiculturalism that we have grown to cherish and by a lack of group cohesiveness and respect for our common values and accomplishments. While we think short-term and teach our children to have contempt for our culture, the Islamists think long-term and teach their children to die for Islam.
This is an effective summary of the bizarre confluence of two cultures that should be at odds with one another. The synergy of an aggressive intolerance and a weak and conciliatory tolerance has produced the surreal landscape that is the Western world in the 21st century.
Lawrence Auster has some acerbic things to say about Ms. Levy and her review:
It doesn’t occur to Levy that Islam could not have had the slightest effect on our societies if we had not admitted millions of Muslim immigrant into our societies, and that the only way to end Islam’s assault on the West is to stop and reverse the Muslim immigration into the West.
He’s quite correct: without the mass importation of Islam into the heart of the West, the primitive tribal practices of Muslims would be of no particular moment to us.
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In defense of Ms. Levy and Mr. Harris, however, it may be that they felt no inclination to state the obvious. I might write an entire treatise on the Gobi Desert without ever mentioning that its desiccated condition was produced by a prolonged lack of rain. Writers sometimes assume that their readers are aware of the obvious.
Once again, it’s the water we swim in. Why bother to mention it?
All of this discussion has brought to mind the Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS).
An ESS is a term used in game theory, evolutionary biology, and population genetics, but it can also be applied to any dynamically evolving information system. A concise definition of the phrase can be found at Gene Expression:
As usually defined, an ESS is a strategy such that, if all the members of a population adopt it, no mutant strategy can invade (John Maynard Smith, Evolution and the Theory of Games, p. 204).
Here is a somewhat more elaborate explanation:
The concept of the evolutionarily stable strategy, or ESS, is an important part of game theory. An ESS is a strategy which, over evolutionary time, is able to withstand the invention of new strategies. Although Maynard Smith and Price (1973) visualized strategies as being genetically encoded, this same logic applies to strategies which are learned during the course of an animal’s life. In most models of the prisoner’s dilemma the “tit for tat” strategy is evolutionarily stable; over time it can beat any other strategy that you might invent for this game.
Individuals or groups operating under an ESS behave according to strategies which have evolved to successfully resist any change. Islam presents a striking example of an ESS; its encoded rules have successfully resisted any significant change for over a thousand years.
Consider the simplicity of these rules:
|1.||All instructions are written in the Book (the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sunna); there are none outside it.|
|2.||No adherents to these instructions may remove themselves from adherence, on pain of extermination.|
|3.||Anything from the outside that threatens a change to these instructions must be immediately swarmed and destroyed.|
A system designed so efficiently to prevent change probably cannot be changed. Any effective modification of it must necessarily involve its destruction.
With the worldwide advent of modern electronic communication, the entire planet has become a vast interconnected information system. The behavior of Islam within this system most closely resembles a viral infection within a biological host, or a computer virus within a PC network.
By this analogy we would consider the precepts in the Book to be strings of individual codons in a long but finite sequence of DNA, or a series of machine language instructions in a computer program.
The instructions are typical of those found in any virus: under favorable conditions invade the host, reproduce, destroy the host, and then migrate to repeat these steps. In addition, this particular virus constructs special organelles that guard against and destroy agents that would cause mutations in its codons. Any individual viral organism is destroyed as soon as it shows evidence of mutation.
These are the characteristics of an ESS within a favorable environment. The genetic instructions for the virus under unfavorable conditions are equally simple: encyst the string of codons behind an extremely resistant shell, and await an improvement in the environment.
The favorable environment for Islam is modern Western Multiculturalism, with its weakness, its reflexive appeasement, and its masochistic urge to incorporate the Other. No more favorable conditions could be created for the survival and proliferation of the Islamic virus.
An unfavorable environment for Islam is best represented by the stance taken against the Saracens by Charles Martel and Holger Danske at Tours in 732, or the breaking of the Ottoman siege of Vienna by Jan III Sobieski in 1683. Absolute determination and ruthlessness against the Islamic virus causes it to withdraw, call a hudna, and encyst until more favorable conditions arise.
Although Islam can be seen as an ESS from an internal standpoint, the dynamics of game theory normally involve interactions among players with differing strategies. These interactions may cause a stable strategy system to evolve over time.
The more sophisticated examples of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy involve two or more players who look at the past behavior of other players and plan ahead, developing their strategies according to experience. Players can choose to cooperate with other players, or to attack, depending on which strategy would create the greater payoff.
An ESS emerges in the system when each player has settled on a strategy which maximizes his advantage.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma presents one of the simplest examples of a game in which an ESS can emerge. The two players in the game follow these simple rules:
- At each move a player may either “cooperate” or “defect”.
- If both players cooperate, each wins three points.
- If one player cooperates and the other defects, the defector gains five points and the cooperator receives no points.
- If both players defect, each gets one point.
The possible combinatorial outcomes are illustrated in the table below:
If players cannot remember past play, nor expect that their opponent will remember past play, then anticipatory strategies have no function. The only ESS that can emerge is the defect-defect strategy: each player defects on each turn, and can thus be guaranteed at least one point per turn.
However, if players can recall past play when anticipating future play, the possibility of another ESS can arise. The most effective strategy of all, as proved by computer models, is the “tit-for-tat” strategy, in which each player always makes the same move that his opponent made in the previous turn.
This makes it possible for a cooperate-cooperate ESS to appear in the game. Once it emerges, players following the tit-for-tat strategy maximize their payoffs.
Robert Axelrod in his book The Evolution of Cooperation reviewed studies of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and proposed a mechanism for the emergence of cooperative strategies within human society. The results are appealing, because they are methodologically sound, have utilitarian applications, and reinforce altruistic behavior without resorting to religious dogma:
By analysing the top-scoring strategies, Axelrod stated several conditions necessary for a strategy to be successful.
The most important condition is that the strategy must be “nice”, that is, it will not defect before its opponent does. Almost all of the top-scoring strategies were nice; therefore a purely selfish strategy will not “cheat” on its opponent, for purely utilitarian reasons first.
However, Axelrod contended, the successful strategy must not be a blind optimist. It must sometimes retaliate. An example of a non-retaliating strategy is Always Cooperate. This is a very bad choice, as “nasty” strategies will ruthlessly exploit such softies.
Another quality of successful strategies is that they must be forgiving. Though they will retaliate, they will once again fall back to cooperating if the opponent does not continue to play defects. This stops long runs of revenge and counter-revenge, maximizing points.
The last quality is being non-envious, that is not striving to score more than the opponent (impossible for a ‘nice’ strategy, i.e., a ‘nice’ strategy can never score more than the opponent).
Therefore, Axelrod reached the Utopian-sounding conclusion that selfish individuals for their own selfish good will tend to be nice and forgiving and non-envious. One of the most important conclusions of Axelrod’s study of IPDs is that Nice guys can finish first.
As you can see from the above description, Western Civilization seems to have forgotten the importance of Retaliating, since “always cooperate” is one of the mantras of modern political correctness. “Nasty” strategies will ruthlessly exploit such softies.
Islam, on the other hand, plays the game with an “always defect” strategy, guaranteeing that it will gain a payoff at every turn.
What is reassuring, however, is that the current mix of strategies is not an ESS. The situation is not stable, and will not last.
Reading about Evolutionarily Stable Strategies and the Prisoner’s Dilemma put me in mind of an episode from The Prisoner, a 1960s TV series. As some of you will recall, the main character, Number Six, was a prisoner in a surreal setting known as “the Village”, and every episode focused on his efforts to escape.
In one episode Number Six finds himself in a wooded area where he is watched over by a pair of the ubiquitous spy cameras, which are like giant eyeballs on stalks. The eyes are motion-sensitive, programmed to turn in the direction of any detected movement.
Number Six, in an ingenious move, grasps the stalks of both eyes and forces them to stare directly at each other. This effectively immobilizes them, and allows him to continue his movements without being observed.
What a marvelous example of an ESS! If only there were an analogy in the current struggle against Islamic expansion, a pair of jihadi eyestalks that could be turned towards one another and away from the infidel…
In any case, the current strategy set of Islam and the West is not a stable one. Over time an ESS will evolve.
What remains to be seen is which one it will be.
This is not the way of Tao.
Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.
— Lao Tzu, from Tao Te Ching, Chapter 55