Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Appreciating Auster while criticizing him

I will get to Lawrence Auster's reply to Geza's "Night and Day" comparison further down, but first something about what's going on at the general level.

Characteristic of the human mind is to organize our impressions about something as a Gestalt. To see something as something. This is our way of attributing meaning to something. Islam can be seen as a cult or as a world religion worthy of respect. The (contemporary) West can be seen in the Gestalt of for example a Jewish-Capitalist conspiracy, or as an ultra-liberal tyranny. The (solution for the) West could reduced to the issue of white genes or Christianity.

The way Lawrence Auster sees my recent criticism of him, it is a personal attack on him. He sees me as someone who has turned against him. By giving my criticism this Gestalt, in his mind, every little thing I do and say gets interpreted by Auster in this light (how I'm supposedly being openly hostile, etc.). Auster is visibly shaken by this issue. There is a lot of emotions and disappointment stirred up, and it has to be directed somewhere. And it gets directed at me.

But the fact that the issue is sensitive to Auster shouldn't stop us from discussing it. Even Auster himself admits that there is substance to the issue brought up by me, as he wrote in his latest answer to David G. It is good that this issue is also carried on by David G and Geza, since I am now a red cape (and everything I write) in the eyes of Auster. This issue is hot for Auster, and while he gives credit to David G's comments, he wouldn't bring it up himself with Jim Kalb, but instead suggests that David G should do it. We have seen before how Auster simply cannot properly criticize Kalb, instead he always end up in his "on one hand, and on the other hand" procedure.

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In spite of Auster's gross mischaracterization of my actions, I have strived for continuing to focus on the actual discussion and avoided to stoop into the same kind of behaviour. Instead I have continued to write positively about Auster. But through the prism Auster is looking through now, my expression of admiration of him, and my criticism of his stance and conduct regarding a specific issue, are irreconcilable. In his current state of mind, Auster cannot see these two things happening simultaneously. Instead he claims that I have jumped to the opposite extreme. That I have turned against him. That I shifted from admiration of his work to denouncing him as a groupie, a thrall, of a pro-Islam "fifth columnist". That I'm waging a campaign against him, driven by emotion. That I'm speaking in a hostile and insulting manner about him personally. That it's an Oedipal phenomenon set off by explosive psychological forces of a younger man [this younger man is in his forties]. That I have declared, by implication, that all of his work is mistaken.

People who get linked to my site from VFR should step out of the Gestalt that Auster puts on me, and look for themselves what is going on in this blog. You will find a community of people who greatly values Auster's work, while finding Kalb's position on Islam very problematic. You will find an intellectual exploration about the position of Christianity in European civilization, where the positions are tentative as well as diverse. You will find no personal attacks, hostility or insulting rudeness against Lawrence Auster. Look for yourselves.

In his last reply Auster writes "This brings us, finally, to what CS sees as the deeper implications of my supposed contradictions: he suggests that in the future I may change my views on Islam in possibly sinister ways, because I am 'not a constant.'"

There is nothing in what I wrote that suggests that Auster would change his views on Islam "in possibly sinister ways". On the contrary, I suggested that the thing that could hamper him is an excess of decency. Due to his fundamental respect for Islam as a world religion that is "devoted to a transcendent God". And the "not a constant" comment was, as explained in my previous post, my (clumsy) way of giving him the benefit of the doubt. But since Auster is convinced that I'm waging a campaign of personal attacks against him, he's bent on reading into my words the opposite of what I say and taking it as hostile attacks. This also makes him over-mangnify the significance of my initial Powerline comparison, which was nothing but a very first association I got, and something that I have already straightened out.

Regarding Geza's "Night and Day" analysis, Auster replies "that Charlton G.'s acquaintance's statement and Kalb's statement, far from being identical, are strikingly different." The difference being in living under Islam as a Muslim or as a Christian. But as already pointed out by Geza, this clarification by Kalb had not been presented to Auster when he first reacted to Kalb's statement. That is, the difference that Auster is referring to, in his defense, does not apply at the point of time of the two exchanges by Auster quoted and compared by Geza. Furthermore, Auster didn't criticize Charlton G.'s acquaintance for his willingness to convert to Islam, but for his willingness to let the West lose to Islam rather than letting the West be lost to ultra-liberalism.

Auster writes:

Let me add that if Jim Kalb had said that he'd rather be an Allah-fearing Muslim than live under modern liberalism I would have called that a horrific statement. But Kalb did not say that.

No, but Kalb compared favourably the idea of a West lost to Islam compared to a West lost to ultra-liberalism. And you didn't call that a horrific statement. That's the point. You even injected that you find Kalb's position theoretically interesting: "an interesting question and one worth thinking about".

Comparing the two propositions "living in a West lost to Islam as a dhimmi" or "living in a West lost to Islam as a Muslim", the striking and significant similarity lies in the West being lost to Islam! As David G pointed out: wouldn't the children of Kalb live as Muslims? And as blogger Dean McConnell wrote in my comments section:

As a believer in Biblical orthodox protestant Christianity I would actually prefer a secular Europe to a Muslim Europe.

The issue is still truth. I maintain the truth of Biblical Christianity. Secular Europeans will eventually recognize the moral bankruptcy and lack of virtue in their nihilist lifestyles. When that occurs they may be open to a reconversion to real Christianity instead of the liberal pseudo-Christianity or secularism they are familiar with now. But a decadent liberal Europe will likely still have the right to discuss and convert. An Islamic Europe may have better outward moral tone but will repress truth and discussion and conversion just as Islam does everywhere.

But I also reject the notion that Islamic societies are actually especially moral. they reject some of the favorite sins of the West, but they have their own sins and blindness-es that are just as bad.

The success of the West is due to the legacy of living Christianity. Now that Europe has dead Christianity it is slowly dying. If it becomes Islamic it will not revive - it will become like other Islamic societies to the degree it really accepts Islam.

To this I answered:
Thank you for your sensible words, Mr. McConnell. With your tempered disposition you here express important features, the essence, of the Christian West. The Christian West as we once knew it, as it should be, and as we would hope for it to be in the future. Your words mean a ray of hope, in a time of darkness and dissonance.

We are back to seeing things as something. Mr. McConnell sees the full view of the West with its many facets. He sees that--no matter how bad--modern liberlism is, after all, an expression of Christian Western culture. This is contrasted by Jim Kalb's ideological, reductionist, outlook; where the interest of the West gets reduced to the issue of Christianity; where the current state of the West gets reduced to Christianity-hostile "advanced liberalism". Adding to this the idea of Islam as providing a theoretical place for Christian communities, and we've got Kalb's horrific conclusion. This is the kind of place where reductionist ideologizing takes people. Ideology is a way of blinding people. In contrast, McConnell here provides a non-ideological balanced perspective.


marcel said...

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Conservative Swede said...

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