Mindfulness over Martyrdom
In Victor Davis Hanson's weekly gem Losing Civilization, he draws the same connection I do between the totolerantarians of the left and the totalitarians of Islam, noting that the cartoontifada "represents an erosion in the very notion of Western tolerance.... Insidiously, the censorship only accelerates. It is dressed up in multicultural gobbledygook about hurtfulness and insensitivity, when the real issue is whether we in the West are going to be blown up or beheaded if we dare come out and support the right of an artist or newspaper to be occasionally crass."
Obviously, we "do not threaten to kill Muslims when they promulgate daily streams of hate and racism in sermons and papers, and much less would we go about promising death to the creator of 'Piss Christ' or the Da Vinci Code. How ironic that we now find politically-correct Westerners--those who formerly claimed they would defend to the last the right of an Andres Serrano or Dan Brown to offend Christians--turning on the far milder artists who rile Muslims.... The Islamists are sad bullies, who hunt out causes for offense in the most obscure places, but would recoil at the first sign of Western defiance."
The cognitively and spiritually bereft idea of multiculturalism causes the West honor totalitarians "who embrace or condone polygamy, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, political autocracy, homosexual persecution, honor killings, female circumcision, and a host of other unmentionables to threaten our citizens within our own countries."
At risk of pointing out the obvious, is it not clear (to paraphrase someone) that tolerance is indeed the virtue of the man with no convictions? It is actually moral cowardice, and as such, opens up a free space for bullies to operate unhindered. Contemporary liberalism is illiberal to the core. There is a hidden unity between the postmodern left and the pre-modern Islamists: it is a tacit conspiracy between those who make a god of their religion and those who make a god of their irreligion, and forcefully demonstrates the emptiness at the rotten core of liberalism (yes, on the spiritual plane it is possible to be simultaneously empty and rotten).
There is a story about a British magistrate in colonial India who interfered with the venerable act of tossing a resistant widow on the funeral pyre of her dead husband. A villager protested that the magistrate had to understand that this was just their sacred practice of sutee. The magistrate responded that we also have a sacred law that involves hanging people who burn widows.
Why is no one in the liberal MSM willing to step forward and remind the Muslim world of our sacred law of freedom of expression? After all, isn't this the crown jewel in the secular iconography? Not anymore. It has been replaced by a higher good, political correctness, which is now the holiest ideal of the left, itself a perversion of the Christian cognitive template that the equates the innocent victim with God. The secular liberal confuses this equation and regards any victim as God.
As I mentioned before, this also highlights the fact that the liberal victim is not really a victim, but an aggressor. Of course there are true victims, but officially sanctioned liberal victims use their victim status to generate real power in the world. Victims can say and do anything, and certainly do not shy away from throwing their weight around. They have real power and know it. And they are protected from consequences of using that power illegitimately, in ways that you or I could never be.
This is why liberal victims are always bullies. They don't have legitimate power or knowledge, only illegitimate power and knowledge. The cartoon jihadis are just a bunch of pathetic losers immersed in a pseudo-religion that only deepens and justifies their moral, intellectual, spiritual and economic squalor, but with the complicity of the left and their elite media, pointing this out makes you the aggressor, so that any reaction on the part of the victim is given sanction. The real headline of this farce should be, "Muhammad Implicated in Middle East Failure to Launch: Millions Left Angry, Stupid."
In a piece entitled What Is a Picture of Muhammad, Anyway?, Robert McHenry notes that a picture of Muhammad is only a picture of Muhammad if you accept it as such. In other words, no one knows what the prophet actually looked like, panties be upon him. So you have to want to be upset in order to decide that this or that picture actually represents Muhammad.
McHenry points out that "This is not unlike our response to a small child's drawing that looks like mere scribbling: 'Oh, yes, dear, that's a lovely picture of Aunt Louise.' If only one of the artists had meant to depict Muhammad, neither we nor our panel of Muslims would have been able to pick out his work from the field. What is objected to, then, is not an actual thing or an observable act--but an intention, a state of mind, a point of view."
McHenry then gets into the more general question of exactly what constitutes an insult? For example, "A says or does something, whereupon B reacts with strong negative emotion." But "A may or may not have intended to evoke that response; the response does not depend on A's intentions. We blur this fact in ordinary speech when we say that A has given offense. It would be more apt to say that A has provided the occasion for offense."
There you have it in a nutshell. Just as you would a child, someone has to take the Islamic world by the hand and firmly tell them: "No. We have not offended you. You have chosen to be offended. Your feelings are your responsibility, not ours. You are free to have them, but no one cares about them. And don't you dare act out your infantile rage."
There is something deeply wrong with people who can only be offended, never shamed. As Mark Steyn points out, if a Muslim wants to be offended by something, why not be "hurt" and "humiliated" by all the evil people who actually call themselves Mohammad? "The leader of the 9/11 plotters? Mohammed Atta. The British Muslim who self-detonated in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammed Hanif. The gunman who shot up the El Al counter at LAX? Heshamed Mohamed Hedayet. The former U.S. Army sergeant who masterminded the slaughter at the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed. The murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh? Mohammed Bouyeri. The notorious Sydney gang rapist? Mohammed Skaf. The Washington sniper? John Allen Muhammed. If I were a Muslim, I would be deeply offended that the prophet's name is the preferred appellation of so many killers and suicide bombers on every corner of the earth."
Here is McHenry's key insight. That is, "It would appear that the reason for choosing to be offended is that it is believed to elevate the offended one to a superior moral position. 'You have offended me! I am now authorized to blame, censor, censure, denounce, excoriate, fault, etc., you.' Or, in some cultures, riot, burn, and kill. In short, all the nasty things that we humans enjoy so much that we feel instinctively that we need moral sanction to do them, and no sanction is quite so available, so ready to hand, as the bad behavior of others."
That point is worth pondering. But only for a lifetime. If you are the type of person who is easily offended, part of the reason you do it is to elevate yourself and give yourself a false air of nobility and righteousness! Once offended, then your own dreadful superego is put to sleep, freeing you to do what you wanted to do all along, which is vent your primitive, instinctual aggression. The victim is God, and vengeance us his.
Now, let's tie this together with the contemporary left, which has no ideas, only attitudes, stances, and emotions. Let us further stipulate that ideas emanate from a realm that we can equate on a spiritual level with life. Someone who is full of ideas is full of life. Someone devoid of ideas--of creativity--is functionally dead on the psycho-spiritual level.
Still, biological life goes on, and one must consume something in order nourish the mind. So leftists have gotten into the habit of consuming death in order to nurture their movement. In Speak of the Dead (HT David Webber), Noemie Emery observes that "since September 11, liberals have found a new weapon of preference, and that weapon is martyrdom. They have discovered grief as a tactical weapon. They tend to like grief they can use. They use it to arouse guilt and sympathy to cover a highly partisan message, in the hope that while the message may be controversial, the messenger will be sacrosanct and above reproach. Since 9/11, they have embraced this tactic repeatedly, and each time with a common objective: to cripple the war, to denounce the country, to swing an election, but mainly to embarrass and undermine the president."
This article was written some six months ago, before the most recent example of liberal necgrophilia at the King funeral. She cites a number of similar instances of what I call "dining on death." For example, there was the time they "accused Republicans of insulting the dead of September 11 by selling a photo of George W. Bush on Air Force One on that day." Then there was the attempt "to capitalize politically on the shock and sorrow from the deaths of Paul Wellstone, his wife, and his daughter." Or remember the " 'Jersey Girls', four young widows whose husbands died in the Towers, whom Gail Sheehy formed into a Bush-bashing regiment, and who ended up campaigning for John Kerry and cutting commercials for him"? And of course, the pathetic death-mom, Cindy Sheehan.
Now, what do these all have in common? They are all represent attempts on the part of the left to come up with gold-plated victims to carry the banner of their otherwise unpalatable ideas. If a certified victim leads the charge, he or she is immune from criticism, because criticism will offend the victim and the victim's supporters, and offended people are righteous and superior. And if they are righteous and superior, they are a priori right without even having to make any substantive argument at all. This is why the left is always right, even though they no longer even know how to argue rationally. "We're for the little guy! You know, the victim."
The immaculately empty-headed Maureen Dowd said it best: "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." The victim is God. But only the liberal victim, mind you. You can be sure that she does not accept the absolute moral authority of those mothers who have lost a son in Iraq but strongly support our aims there, or who think that Cindy Sheehan is a morally reprehensible dingbat.
Emery draws the obvious conclusion that "for Dowd and her ilk, moral authority stems less from service or suffering than from the potential to cause serious trouble for Bush." The entire sad process has nothing to do with legitimate debate, rational argument, morality, or even bereavement--except the unbearable grief of having watched your political power dwindle in election after election. Cindy Sheehan is simply "the vehicle for a collection of losers, who will use her, and then toss her over and out once she has served their purposes, or more likely failed to do so."
Finally, how do we tie this rambling post together with a nice ribbon and make it personally relevant? At New Victorian there was a recent post entitled Happiness is Not Normal, discussing a "new" form of psychotherapy that, instead of trying to change negative thoughts and beliefs, involves learning how to observe them and let them go. It focuses "less on how to manipulate the content of our thoughts and more on how to change their context--to modify the way we see thoughts and feelings so they can't push us around and control our behavior." The trick is "disidentifying with thoughts--seeing them not as who we are but as mere reactions," similar to mindfulness meditation, which involves "observing thoughts without getting entangled in them, approaching them as though they were leaves floating down a stream."
This is the practical meaning of turning the other cheek. We saw President Bush practicing it at the King funeral, behaving with his usual affable gallantry in response to the petty, mean-spirited, inappropriate, sanctimonious, and small-minded Jimmy Carter, who turned the proceedings into a liberal satanic eucharist: death as the occasion to nourish one's depleted ego. I don't even personally know anyone who is so tasteless and ill-mannered that they don't know how to behave at a funeral. Do you? But it's not a matter of taste or civility. Rather, what you and I find repellant, Carter and all of the people who cheered and left wildly approving posts on dailykos are nourished by. That's a scary thought.
I have been practicing a from of mindfulness for about eleven years now. Of course, doing so prevents you from being easily offended, so you lose the benefit of taking offense in order to feel morally superior to others. Nor can you just act out whatever feeling you have in the moment, even if you are under the illusion that someone provoked it. And you can't decommission your superego anymore and give yourself a free hand to act out your feelings. Nor can you nourish yourself on death and make yourself into a victim in order to avoid rational debate with others.
Bottom line: you can't be a Muslim or a contemporary liberal. I don't usually like to make judgments based on skin, but in this case it's difficult not to. After all, their skin is thinner than ours.
Coming tomorow, part one of Alternate Realities. (Check your local reality; not intelligible in certain ultra-liberal precincts; void where prohibited by secular thought police )