Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lawrence Auster, Kalb and Islam

There has been quite a lot of e-mail exchange between me and Lawrence Auster about the Kalb/Islam issue.

The first reaction of Lawrence Auster, when I sent him the Jim Kalb quote, was to thank me for it (he was unaware of this position by Kalb), and then he posted it and replied.

My reaction to this was to say:

I can read at VFR how Jim Kalb's derangement is treated with respect, together with the willingness to explain for his position. All reminiscent of how the poor guys at Powerline continue to treat George W. Bush with respect. And VFR is never a site holding its fire otherwise. Jim Kalb is the Dinesh D'Souza of traditional conservatism, and any movement having such a person among its ranks is in deep trouble.

To this Auster answered:
[H]ave you lost your mind? Didn't you see the follow-up comments explaining Kalb's context? Didn't you see my disagreement with Jim Kalb?

My answer:
This is exactly what I looked at, and then I described it.

You respectfully disagreed, and even "explained" his context. What else could you do?

But herein lies the problem that I see. And we all have our limits, even you.

If Jim Kalb belongs to traditionalist conservatism, there is no political substance to it.

Auster continues:
And what is this business that, because Kalb takes a bad position, that means that that bad position defines trad conservatism, which means that Auster's good positions have nothing to do with trad conservatism? Why is it that Kalb's positions define trad conservatism, and Auster's don't?

I reply:
So let's say that Auster's position define trad conservatism, who else is in trad conservatism? Is it a movement, or just another name of Auster's position?

And if it is a movement, it seems to be a movement that is bound in its respect for Kalb's position. Which surely distracts the movement and hampers it.

But the important thing is that this whole affair made me question what is at the core of trad conservatism.

Regarding my Powerline comparison Auster wrote:
My disagreements with [Kalb], while stated politely, were clear and strong and repeated. I don't see how you can compare that to Powerline's groupie-hood toward GWB.
I really feel you have mistaken politeness for something else and you ought to correct this.

While the comparison between VFR (comments by Auster and Bruce B) and Powerline holds true in one dimension, it differs in many others; many of which are to the disadvantage of Powerline. Kalb is of course not the sort of idol as Bush, and VFR has not expressed groupie-hood toward Kalb. But the similarity is a very important one. Whenever a person presents himself as belonging to a certain group or movement, there will always be things that he has to deny or block out of his mind, in order to being able to sustain this position. It is true of people presenting themselves as pro-Bush neocons, who have to block out and deny the many times Bush screwed his base, and how he's pushing for national suicide of America by mass amnesty. It's true of people presenting themselves as Catholics, who have to block out and deny the Vatican II's embracement of Islam, by saying Muslims adore the same one god, and how they are included in the plan of salvation simply by remaining Muslims. It's true of people presenting themselves as anti-racist non-bigots, who have to block out the idea of halting immigration, among other things.

Lawrence Auster presents himself as a traditionalist conservative. This sets limits to how Auster can behave if he wants to continue presenting himself as a trad conservative. For example, he cannot attack Jim Kalb as fiercely as he attacks e.g. Mark Steyn, even if Jim Kalb deserves it just as much. If he did that it would undermine the possibility for Auster present himself as trad conservative. Auster has to make himself blind to the utter seriousness of Kalb's position, and how it torpedoes the substance of trad conservatism (if there is going to be any substance of value in it).

Kalb's position is not simply the one of ignorance about Islam. He takes it a step further and claims that Islam is superior to, and preferable to, contemporary modern liberalism. Modern liberalism which, with all its serious flaws, is one of many incarnations of European civilization. It has turned into a kind of soft totalitarianism which is bringing us down, but as any European incarnation it is mixed with the many traditional and typical features of European civilization; it still is European civilization. Without this consciousness there is no substance to a defense of European civilization. Trad conservatism does not have this consciousness. Trad conservatism is too obsessed with the idea of modern liberalism being evil, to being able to see the full picture.

A main weakness of Western history has been how soon Westerners label each other as heretics and evil enemies, while lacking the focus on Islam as an enemy, even inviting Muslims as allies. There are numerous examples, e.g. how during the crusades the Catholics invaded and weakened Byzantium, and thereby helped paving the way for the subsequent Islamic conquest of Constantinople. This sort of treason against European civilization continues today. Much of it is coming from the conservative side, e.g. from Dinesh D'Souza, Le Pen, Mark Steyn and Jim Kalb. Based on an excessive despise of liberalism (or Jews), and therefore the willingness to reach out a hand to Islam, one way or the other.

In the case of Jim Kalb, monotheism trumps European civilization. Already there Kalb's substance for a defense of European civilization is gone. This is a sort of treason that is far too common among believing Christians.

The single worst aspect of modern liberalism is how it invites Islam into our lands. If modern liberalism is going to be criticized, this has to be at the top of the list. Jim Kalb's position that Islam is preferable to the contemporary West does not help here. His weakness vis-a-vis Islam puts him in the same category as the liberals themselves. It's a position that is all part of the problem, and has to be strongly opposed.

Where does Lawrence Auster end up in all this? Let's go back to what he posted at VFR. His first reaction to Kalb's position on Islam. Auster who otherwise has a good position regarding Islam and the West, is here hampered by his affiliation to trad conservatism, and this forces him into acrobatic straddling: Jim Kalb's position has to be treated respectfully, while Auster still want to make his points about Islam. He ends up in a lot of "on one hand"/"on the other hand", trying take a balanced position and to reconcile the irreconcilable. He writes:

On one hand, I can see this statement as coming from a consciousness that modern liberalism is so evil that anything, including Islam, would be better than it. Islam is not evil exactly; Islam is like a predator that you know will kill you and you have to protect yourself from it, but you don't hate it because it's simply its nature to be a predator, whereas modern liberalism is truly evil.

The "consciousness that modern liberalism is so evil that anything, including Islam, would be better than it". This is where you lost me, Auster. This sentence alone shows what's wrong with trad conservatism. And the talk about Islam not being exactly evil, and more like a predator. Auster only consider Islam from the point of view as an external threat. He cannot allow himself the internal perspective: how it is, from the inside, to live in a Islamic society. He cannot allow himself such a full and fair comparison between modern liberalism and Islam, because that would open a cleft between him and Jim Kalb, and that would shake the whole fundament for Auster in presenting himself as a trad conservative.

Instead of attacking Jim Kalb--as he would if it were Mark Steyn or Robert Spencer--Auster is going out of his way in explaining for the "context" of Kalb's remark, and even describing Kalb's position as expressing "consciousness" (as part of his confused "on one hand"/"on the other hand" act.)

Lawrence Auster has a good position on Islam. But he needs to drop his affiliation with Jim Kalb. This is hampering him and weakens him. It puts him in a sort of "usual suspect" position, where, among all the sense that he makes, some things cannot be clearly said because of his group affiliation.

3 comments:

xlbrl said...

Swede, both you and Auster are making opposite points on the same subject that are no less true for being opposite. Niels Bohr put it this way- The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement, but the oposite of a profound truth is sometimes another profound truth.
Auster warns that politeness must be observed to long continue any discussion or relationship. You observe, essentially, one of Robert Conquest's three laws of conservatism: Anything not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.
We all fall off the politeness wagon, or withdraw the branch of respect to soon or to late. My own opinion is that even good ideas contrary to our own take months or years to take root. A powerful idea communicates some of its power to those who contradict it.
That is very true of conservatives. It is why we are conservatives. It is far less true of liberals. That is why they are liberals.
The wise man questions himself, the fool others. That is what you do in the sense that conservatives question themselves to form and better defend their understandings, where the liberal is quite the opposite. This is why we are not really addressing ourselves to liberals--they are not going to hear us anyway.
So let your arguments speak for themselves and grow on inquiring minds in proportion to their substance and eloquence. This is not only a long process, it is a never-ending process.
I wouldn't be prepared to boot anyone out of the tent who was not positively destructive. Sometimes our antagonist is our helper in forcing us to find better arguments for our understandings. Besides, ours is already a small tent.

Steven said...

The Great Leap forward killed about sixty million people... but they came out of it and now line up to see Mao tze Tung in the mausoleum. It was just a temporary thing... meaning, I guess, for reasons that escape me, that it won't ever happen again: Now the Chinese are all right, because they produce a lot of goods and services and like the North Koreans are very rational about cracking down on the religions, ideologies and forms of Calsthenics they're not partial to. In India it is calculated that one in every ten females gets murdered at birth, something which I doubt happens in blood-sucking Morocco... The Indians, far more rational, have little trouble in calculating that females are worth less. And when Indira Gandhi was murdered by her own Sikh honor guard, the long-lasting Hindus went on a rampage murdering every Sikh man, woman and child in sight, not like the wimpy Judeo-Christians who after 9/11 only bumped off a couple of Sikhs, mistaking them for Mooslims.

It's a fine choice... Actually the way it's breaking down, there will be three contenders: Christianity, Islam and Athiest/Rationalist/Barbarity. The latter two are becoming more similar with every passing day:

They have the Age of Ignorance in common. Jihad/militant secularism, Fatalism/behaviorism, an enormous fascination with sex (including among the most militant atheists, paedophilia), the wanton murder of innocents (mostly old-timers and abortions, but if Peter Singer, the atheist/rationalist/barbarian, chair of Princeton ethics has his way, even infants within the first 28 days and/or first year) and an overall Halal, Haram, Tolerated mindset.

If it's between Denmark 2060 and Iran 2060, well who knows? It should still be Denmark... but a lot of trendy people are moving to boomtown Dubai these days.

The sad truth of the matter is that real civilization (our and ours alone) is a very delicate house of cards.

There are many angles in which one can fall, but only a few in which one remains standing.

Much depends on what you value. Geza1 seems to be fond of skin tone (and he will fall) and others about culture-destroying rationality (and they will fall too) and... well, I really doubt that Mr. Kalb's opinion, stated rather casually and here taken brutally to heart by the mono-themists, was all that crazy.

Would you rather live in China or Tunisia? Japan or Morocco? I think one is overall freer in Tunisia and at least more physically satisfied in Morocco.

But it's like comparing belly-aches. Do you prefer poison fish or poison meat?

The civilizational suicide of secularism or the end-of-thought, but the still somehow physical (touchie-feelie) warmth of a vaguely progressive Muslim society?

Why neither of course! What we should want is to get back to our Judeo-Christian culture. We should get rid of most of the 60's and 70's, and plug ourselves back to the main artery of civilization... realizing that political militancy is fine, especially if it has the restraining force of good religion.

Any sane person doesn't want his politicians/generals saying the same thing as his religious leaders. That tension is what makes for civilization. And civilization really WAS an exclusively European thing... that combination of the transcendental with reason and reasonableness (morality trumping metaphysics), the sacredness of human life and the attempt at Corinthian virtue.

What is false is calling it suicidal. The west got suicidal when she turned atheist/rationalist/barbarian.

Much work needs to be done, even within the Church, which reflects many different opinions and SHOULD IMHO be more combative... yet I'm glad she is a restraining force, for that is what paradoxically makes her more credible.

Eventually I see protests against Islamic outrages gathering in front of Cathedrals. When we learn that it's not "blasphemy" against Mohammad that will scare them, but a positive affirmation of our own sacred values, then we will have taken a step in the right direction.

geza1 said...

Steven,

You are missing the point about China and India.

China is only communist on paper. The only thing the Chinese believe in now is a strong central government (a feature of Confucian history) and robust Chinese nationalism. It is still a totalitarian society and the best the Chinese can hope for is a soft totalitarian state or a benign nanny state like Japan. East Asians value racial and familial pride more than they value individual freedom. And yes, Maoism was temporary and the Chinese don't have the luxury to start new social experiments or new wars when they are trying to build up their economy to compete with America.

You write:
"In India it is calculated that one in every ten females gets murdered at birth, something which I doubt happens in blood-sucking Morocco"

Have we forgotten about honour killings and female circumcision in North Africa? India's big problem now is sex-selective abortion, not suttee or female infanticide. And despite its social pathologies, I think India would be much safer for a Hindu woman than Morocco would be for a Muslim woman. A Muslim woman isn't even safe in secular Istanbul. Did you know if you beat your wife in public in Istanbul that if the police see you, they will look the other way?

India has a complex history of conflict involving caste, ethnicity, and religion. It's a very diverse country and it's been happening for centuries. The Muslims just exacerbated the problem because they can't get along with anyone. Sikhs for example hate Muslims far more than Hindus.

The point of bringing up these two cultures is not to "prove" that they are more "rational" than the Muslims but to illustrate that despite their pathologies and tragedies, that as civilizations they are in a healthier state than Islamic civilization. The Hindic and Sinic have better art, literature, and philosophy than the Islamic. They also have more professionals, a better living standard, and have contributed more to the world than the Muslims.

You write:
"Geza1 seems to be fond of skin tone (and he will fall) and others about culture-destroying rationality (and they will fall too) and... well, I really doubt that Mr. Kalb's opinion, stated rather casually and here taken brutally to heart by the mono-themists, was all that crazy."

Guess what? Kalb is fond of skin tone as well. Have you not read his excellent piece on anti-racism? I am not opposed to Kalb's preference of Christianity over liberalism but his preference of Islam over liberalism is sickening. Liberalism is perverted but judging by Kalb's ignorant comments on Islam he simply has no idea of the depths of Islam's psycho-sexual perversion. Teaching Afghani children mathematics and studying the societal structure of Islam (want to bet that one of his most important sources is that shameless apologist Bernard Lewis?) is no substitute for reading the texts closely and seeing how Islam is practiced when infidel eyes are not watching. Would Kalb find it shocking to find out that some of the Pushtun boys he was teaching (assuming he was teaching Pushtuns) were most likely buggered by older men and that this practice is generally accepted in Afghanistan? What I find offensive is that Kalb hates liberalism so much that any tradition would be better than it no matter how perverse because it's more authentic and attuned with man's natural inclinations.

You write:
"What we should want is to get back to our Judeo-Christian culture. We should get rid of most of the 60's and 70's, and plug ourselves back to the main artery of civilization... realizing that political militancy is fine, especially if it has the restraining force of good religion."

The New Right argues it was Christianity that gave us liberalism in the first place and that we should revert back to our former pagan selves and create a new culture built around paganism. I think they are partly right and partly wrong. I don't think Christianity can be uprooted completely but if the West needs to survive it will need a little more than Christianity. In terms of social morality, I think Christianity works far better than paganism ever did but in the other realms of the political it fails misreably. How many Christian churches do you see speaking out against mass Third World immigration or political correctness? The only thing they are concerned with right now is abortion, homosexual rights, and stem cell research. Christianity can preserve our moral order but not our civilization. They are either silent or on the other side.

Your write:
"Eventually I see protests against Islamic outrages gathering in front of Cathedrals. When we learn that it's not "blasphemy" against Mohammad that will scare them, but a positive affirmation of our own sacred values, then we will have taken a step in the right direction."

"Believe in our culture"! Yeah, and then what? We need concrete steps. If you want Muslims to leave you make them feel UNWANTED and make it harder for them to practice their religion and you ridicule their beliefs. When the Serbs gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Bosnian Muslims wanted to all leave for Anatolia but they didn't and you want to know why? CHRISTIAN CHARITY. The Serbs who had been brutalized by their racial brethren turned the other cheek! And we all know how that story ended. This is why it is hard for Christian conservatives to say the painfully obvious, that Muslims are our enemies.