Re: EXTROPIAN MORALITY: A necessary debate (was: Attack on CivilizedWorld...)

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Wed Sep 12 2001 - 19:00:43 MDT

Daniel said

>As a side note, how many on this list are emotionally devastated by this
>attack? I know I am. I was last in the WTC on September 2nd. I spent
>of yesterday in a state of utter disbelief and shock -- though happily I've
>accounted for all my friends and loved ones who lived or worked in the

It seems like more than a side note. I was certainly devastated - and I
hadn't been in the WTC since 1984 or in NYC (or the US) since 1997. I do
have friends who live/work in NY and others currently travelling in that
part of the US.

I also scarcely know where to begin in responding to the very good posts of
Greg Burch and Adrian Tymes, among others

Greg said

The irony of calling on god - the nearly universal reaction of America's
political leaders - was completely lost on the media. NONE of the talking
heads on the tube noted it. Oh well . . .

The root problem is not US foreign policy, as some here have suggested. It'
s that there is a widely distributed culture of fanaticism in the Islamic
world. It focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it certainly has
other objects, as well. Consider that the savagery of the Taliban has
basically nothing to do with the on-going crisis in the Levant. Examples
can be found from Algeria to Indonesia that have nothing to do with
Palestinian nationalism. That culture of fanaticism has secured the "sacred
high ground" throughout the Islamic world. As a result, there is no secure
middle ground in politics or culture in the Islamic world. This is because
Islamism is truly totalitarian, or "culturally hegemonistic," to borrow a
phrase form Marxist rhetoric, i.e. it makes claim to relevance to and
dominance over every aspect of life. Contrary to the claims of
Arab-Americans and others today, and in the days that follow, that the
9/11/01 attacks don't represent "true Islam", in fact they do. They
represent precisely the aspects of Islam that made it the most successfully
viral meme in human history.

And herein lies the ultimate, gut-wrenching irony and threat: Our political
and cultural leaders cannot condemn this root cause of the problem. On the
one hand, it would likely be ineffective. Condemnation of Islamism would be
interpreted by Moslems all over the world as the simple rhetoric of
inter-religious bigotry and ompetition. In other words, condemning Islam
for what it is would be heard by Moslems as the same kind of rhetoric that
has fueled inter-religious wars throughout history, no different than the
kind of pronouncements made by leaders on both sides of the European
religious wars of the Reformation.

On the other hand, the modern dogma of cultural relativism makes any kind of
public judgment of one culture by another impossible. Any condemnation of
Islam for the fertilizer of fanaticism that it is would be interpreted by
the shapers of our own culture as chauvinism. Thus, our public discourse is
condemned to a fundamental impotence: We cannot as a civilization even TALK
about the root cause of the problem.


As Adrian says, there's some more to it than that, but I agree with Greg's
comments as far as they go. It is difficult to have a robust public debate
about religious fanaticism because of politically correct/post-colonialist
etc attitudes that are overwhelmingly predominant among journalists,
academics etc. The issue of intolerant cultures is a huge one here in
Australia, one we cannot discuss openly except at the crude level of
talkback radio, with so many people from Muslim countries wanting to flee
here from repressive regimes. I was against our government's approach to the
Tampa crisis last week (which now looks insignificant), and I tend to favour
immigration from Asia and the Middle East, but we do need to be able to
talk openly about cultural issues (in this sense) without being considered

All that said, I also agree with the thought that we do need, long term,
some kind of non-hostile way to address the problem of religious
fundamentalism, Muslim or otherwise. Islam does not have to be as bad as we
are experiencing it in current times as a geopolitical force. Historically,
Christianity was probably worse but has been tamed to some extent by
rationalist and (classical) liberal ideas.

I'm afraid I can't contribute much to this discussion. I need to fly out to
Europe (getting in a plane now seems like a very different prospect than it
did two days ago!) very soon and have some nasty deadlines to meet before
that, which mean I'll be dropping off the list in a day or so for about two
months. I'll still be able to check this e-mail address and my hotmail
account occasionally on my travels if anyone needs/wishes to contact me.

Russell (still feeling grief and shock)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:30 MDT