Friday, February 02, 2007

Perving in Paradise

While I was in Kailua on an errand yesterday I took the opportunity to hit the antique shops and Salvation Army in the eternal quest for a deal. After crossing the street from three of the shops on my way to Salvation Army I realized that a grassy playground at Kailua Intermediate School, while devoid of young scholars, was the brunching grounds for four Hawaiian Stilts.

Naturally I stopped to check them out while they stilted about on their ridiculously long coral-colored legs, poking their bills into the ground, two of them hassling each other over something or another, until I realized that here I was, a middle aged guy standing on the sidewalk peering over the chainlink fence into a playground.

I moved along lest I get reported as a kiddy perv, rather than the reality of a birdie perv.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"The mystique of respect for others which is developing in the West is highly dubious."

So says Pascal Bruckner at He has some thoughts on multi-culturalism:
In multiculturalism, every human group has a singularity and legitimacy that form the basis of its right to exist, conditioning its interaction with others. The criteria of just and unjust, criminal and barbarian, disappear before the absolute criterion of respect for difference. There is no longer any eternal truth: the belief in this stems from naïve ethnocentrism.

Anyone with a mind to contend timidly that liberty is indivisible, that the life of a human being has the same value everywhere, that amputating a thief's hand or stoning an adulteress is intolerable everywhere, is duly arraigned in the name of the necessary equality of cultures. As a result, we can turn a blind eye to how others live and suffer once they've been parked in the ghetto of their particularity. Enthusing about their inviolable differentness alleviates us from having to worry about their condition....This is the paradox of multiculturalism: it accords the same treatment to all communities, but not to the people who form them, denying them the freedom to liberate themselves from their own traditions. Instead: recognition of the group, oppression of the individual. The past is valued over the wills of those who wish to leave custom and the family behind and - for example - love in the manner they see fit.

...under the guise of respecting specificity, individuals are imprisoned in an ethnic or racial definition, and plunged back into the restrictive mould from which they were supposedly in the process of being freed....

Thus they are refused what has always been our privilege: passing from one world to another, from tradition to modernity, from blind obedience to rational decision making. "I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and marriage for the world of reason and sexual emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values", Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in her autobiography. The protection of minorities also implies the right of individual members to extract themselves with impunity, through indifference, atheism and mixed marriage, to forget clan and family solidarities and to forge their own destinies, without having to reproduce the pattern bequeathed to them by their parents.
What then to do when one is a member of a group which believes in executing those who leave? Are we to respect the rights of the group? Multi-culturalism seems to say we must.

However, once one joins a group of individualists, mayen't THAT group act on its own customs and defend their new fellow member against those who attack the new member? Or would the multi-culturalists denounce that as racist and/or ethnocentric?
In the name of social cohesion, we are invited to give our roaring applause for the intolerance that these groups show for our laws....A French, British or Dutch citizen will be prosecuted for beating his wife, for example. But should the crime go unpunished if it turns out that the perpetrator is a Sunni or Shiite? Should his faith give him the right to transgress the law of the land? This is the glorification in others of what we have always beaten ourselves up about: outrageous protectionism, cultural narcissism and inveterate ethnocentrism!

This tolerance harbours contempt, because it assumes that certain communities are incapable of modernising.
I'm not sure it is saying that exactly: It may be saying that modernising is simply one of many lifestyle choices, all of which are equal (except likely modernity). However, to the extent that Brucker is correct, it does raise the ghost of the White Man's Burden and his responsibility for his Little Brown Brother, doesn't it? Every behavior we descry in Muslim fundamentalists is our own responsibility, because, after all, we caused their behavior: they are not up to responsibility for their own actions. Only we are, or so say the anti-Westerners among us.

It is remarkable that the very people who are so vociferous in their condemnation of Western racism and imperialism are so quick to adopt as their own the very arguments of their opponents, and to embrace as a human right racism and ethnocentrism when it is directed at us.
...attempts by revanchist Islamic tendencies such as the Saudi Wahabites, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists or Al Qaida to gain ground on European territory and reconquer Andalousia resembles a colonial enterprise that must be opposed.
Yet there is not a whisper of criticism of Muslim imperialism: THEY have a right to move to Europe and change the laws, even be exempt from them. How white of them.*

Perhaps it is like affirmative action in college admissions: people who didn't discriminate must be discriminated against because people who weren't discriminated against must be discriminated in favor of because someone else was discriminated against by someone else. Anyway, the proper discriminations seems to make some people feel better about themselves. Apparently that is what counts.

*If you don't see the sarcasm in this comment, please don't comment.