Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Narcissism is Fatal
“Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”
-From the Hamas Charter 18 August 1988
Facing real evil is not only frightening; it is humbling. For evil imparts limits on our ability to shape the world according to our hopes and desires and compels us to do more than lecture or condemn. Evil does not respond to lofty rhetoric or to negotiations or to “soft power.” It cannot be bought off or neutralized by apologies or promises.
The defeat of fascism at the end of World War II, by a collation that included both free nations and the Soviet Union, followed, almost fifty years later, by the eventual victory of the free world in the Cold War, led many in the West to assume, explicitly or implicitly, that free societies were not only morally superior to totalitarian states, but also inherently stronger, more resilient: destined to prevail in any prolonged clash.
This view is not necessarily supported by pre-twentieth century history, nor does it seem so obvious in the twenty-first.
We must now ask ourselves whether free societies can prevail against religiously driven totalitarians who will stop at nothing, who long for death—ours and even their own—in pursuit of their goals and who can be neither reasoned with nor appeased.
Currently, free societies seem to be incapable of grasping the nature of this existential threat, and the West’s instinct for self-preservation is paralyzed by a culture of arrogant self-deception.
The Intellectual class that is now dominant in academia, the media, and in most governments in the West, is happy to lecture endlessly about its own moral superiority, its infinite “tolerance” and respect for “human rights,” and yet it is incapable of speaking out against an Islamofacist ideology that advocated and practices: clitoridectomies, suicide/homicide bombing of civilians, beheadings, stoning of adulterers and homosexuals, honor killings, killings of apostates, and Jihad against the West.
Simply mention one of the magic words: “colonialism,” “racism,” “imperialism,” and any given intellectual is liable to lecture ad nauseam on the moral turpitude of the West and the “root causes” of terrorism.
That Islamofacists are imperialistic, racist, and even genocidal cannot be stated by these intellectuals: for to say so would be judgmental and “Islamophobic.” And nothing must tarnish the Western intellectual’s perfect tolerance for anyone who wishes to destroy Western civilization.
And so Western intellectuals, and islamofascist intellectuals, always agree on at least one thing: it’s all the fault of the West.
For intellectuals in free societies this is simply the path-of-least-resistance; the easiest way to achieve tenure, or status, or a phony sense of “rebelliousness” without paying any real price, or angering anyone who might want to blow you up, or cut your head off. It is much more convenient to have enemies who respect the rule of law, and who can be peacefully voted out of office, than to have enemies who will kill you for insulting them or drawing a cartoon of their prophet.
It is a point of pride among Western intellectuals that they are “self critical.”
But this is a false form of self-criticism, for the present set of Western intellectuals do not see themselves as the inheritors of a great and precious tradition; rather, they see themselves as revolutionaries overturning that tradition.
What is missing from all the apparent self-criticism in the West is any sense of responsibility or accountability. This, no doubt, is one reason why blaming everything on George Bush is so popular; it is a variation on the theme of blaming all your problems on your parents.
Indeed, true self-criticism, humility, and respect for one’s own limitations, are all aspects of the vilified Western tradition, happily jettisoned by contemporary intellectuals who have replaced it with a suicidal narcissism.
The word “narcissism” is defined in the dictionary that came with my Mac as:
• excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.
• Psychology extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
This seems to be in accordance with the current usage of the term. What is missing from this usage, however, is the profound wisdom imparted by the myth from which the word was derived, that Narcissus’ self-love was ultimately fatal.