J.K. Rowling Lets Ideology Cloud her Judgement

On the night of Friday, July 28, 2017, J.K. Rowling tweeted up a storm about Trump.

Again.

Rowling has an admirable affinity for those less fortunate, weaker and less privileged than herself. She is able to empathise due to her own straitened circumstances earlier in her life.

While this is surely a laudable attitude to have towards the world, it can take a turn for the worse when this outlook of compassion is projected through an overly ideological lens onto the world.

Compassion, by the way, doesn’t make you harmless, especially when something close to you is threatened. Just look at a mother grizzly bear; full of compassion yes, but for her cubs. Try getting between her and her offspring and you’ll be writing letters of regret to your severed leg.

This weaponising of compassion is precisely what happened with Rowling’s tweets about Trump.

 

What she says about Trump’s characterological defects are grounded in a mountain of evidence. Following another damning week for the Trump presidency, where he decided to tweet abuse at his AG Jeff Sessions, whine about Republicans’ intransigence and flexible spines, and complain about everything else, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal reflected the feelings of an increasing number by describing him thus:

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

None of what Rowling said about TRump’s flaws, manifestly obvious to all but his most devoted adherents, is controversial or new. We know about his flaws, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. We’ve known them for a long time.

Where Rowling is at fault is using an edited version of the clip of Trump meeting those children. This clip shows him ignoring the disabled child’s hand. That’s another fail on Trump’s part.

However, if she hadn’t allowed herself to be blinded by her own politics, which incidentally is something that happens to all of us in this increasingly political age, Rowling would have either posted the whole clip of the event, or she would have corrected her claims about Trump’s attitudes towards disabled people after yet another example of his apparent disdain for them.

This clip clearly shows Trump greeting the wheelchair bound boy.

I can only surmise that facts like this get in the way of Rowling’s feelings about the mistreatment of the weak and vulnerable. Again, while admirable, when this compassion is subordinate to a political worldview diametrically opposed to that of the President of the USA and all those who support him. then it can act as a hindrance to a more clear-sighted view of reality, of course always taking into account one’s own biases and limitations congruent with one’s view of the world.

To reiterate, I am not denying Trump’s many and overwhelmingly manifest faults.

However, if we are to have any chance at an attempt of mending the ever worsening divide between political and cultural camps in the US, Britain and the rest of the western world today, we must refrain from launching into ideologically informed tirades that serve only to reinforce one’s perceptions of those on the opposing side.

This only serves to drive us further apart and destroys any chance of some sort of rapprochement between the factions in what is becoming an increasingly threatening political atmosphere, on both sides.

As an author who has touched millions through the power of her articulated speech in her books, Rowling would do well to remember the responsibility to use her linguistic power wisely, and for the good, for the affirmation of truth as a means of mitigating suffering in the world, not as a means to score points.

Rowling has the platform and the ability to do this. It is to be hoped that she can remember this in the midst of our present turmoil.

As it is to be hoped that we can too.

Freedom of expression is for everyone in a democracy

 

Following the far-right terrorist attack at the Finsbury Mosque at 00:21 am on Monday, June 19, Tommy Robinson went on Twitter to say how he felt about the attack. Once again he put his foot in it by appearing to suggest that those outside the mosque who were run-over, while not directly responsible for their injuries, were nevertheless tangentially responsible as the mosque had a long history of creating and sheltering extremists and that a reprisal of this sort was just waiting to happen following the recent Islamist attacks in Manchester and on London Bridge.

Predictably, the Twittersphere sounded like the Twitterpocalypse had come, with scores of people slamming him for his tweets. I am not defending what Robinson said in his tweets, and think that they were poorly worded. I do however defend his right to tweet what he did. Robinson did say in later tweets that he didn’t want this to happen and that he’d been warning about it for years, but the damage had already been done. It made him look worse in many people’s eyes than he did already and confirmed other peoples’ suspicions about him.

Robinson then went in ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ostensibly to defend himself on national TV. However, the “interview” didn’t really turn out the way he might have hoped. What unfolded was extraordinary by any measure, and has caused more controversy than if Robinson had not been invited and just been left with his tweets for company.

He began by saying that there was no such thing as “Islamophobia”. A phobia is an irrational fear, and he said that it wasn’t irrational to fear these things., i.e. Islamist terror. 

To bolster his point, he brought a copy of the Qur’an and said that it incited hatred. He also quoted British Prime Minister William Gladstone on Islam, who said “So long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world”. To be clear, in this interview, he didn’t defame or make racist comments about Muslims. He spoke purely about Islam, a religion, a belief system, a set of ideas, and something that in a supposedly liberal society should be as open to criticism as any other set of ideas.

This was too much for Piers Morgan. He exploded with rage. He demanded of Robinson that he “show some damned respect for people’s religious beliefs” as Robinson held the Qur’an and told him that he was a “complete disgrace”. Morgan then went on to shout, “You’re sounding like a complete lunatic, you’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic. You are an Islamophobe who hates Islam. What you’re doing now is deliberately inflammatory. You’re stirring up hatred. You are abusing people’s religion. You are abusing their faith and you’re being a complete disgrace.”

Right. Just so we’re clear, Britain has not suddenly regressed 400 years and reinstituted a blasphemy law. We are supposedly not in a society where one religion takes precedence over another or even takes precedence over freedom of expression against it. The fact that Piers Morgan appointed himself as a form of religious police cum speech commissar, dictating what can and cannot be said and about which religion, is not a sign of his moral calibre. It is a sign that he had an agenda against Tommy Robinson and used this as a means of shouting him down.

He is also indicative of the wider attitudes of a certain part of British society who will use regressive concepts from a certain community as a way of “protecting” that community. The fact that Morgan will probably do more damage than good by adopting this attitude does not appear to have occurred to him. As an example of this regressive attitude to religion, race and free speech: the way he tried to stop what he saw as an insult to another person’s religious beliefs – which also seems to be equated with skin colour in many instances – smacks of the bigotry of low expectation, almost as if we cannot criticise someone’s religious beliefs in case they get angry or kill people because of it. Doesn’t this arguably show a lack of respect for Muslims’ ability to cope when their faith is under discussion or scrutiny?

If he knew what he was talking about in any way, he would maybe have engaged with Robinson on what he actually said about the Qur’an in a discussion that might have enlightened everyone there. That is the fundamental reason why we have free and open discussions and debates: to learn from each other, particularly when we might be in the wrong. All Piers Morgan did in shouting Robinson down was make himself look stupid and Robinson like even more of a Neanderthal than many people think he is already as he couldn’t actually get any of his points across. If we cannot dissociate beliefs from people, and debate those ideas without believing that we are engaging in bigotry against the people who hold those beliefs, then we as a society are screwed.

The freedom of expression, even that which we find abhorrent, is crucial for a free society, for it is what every other freedom flows from. This is what the staff at Charlie Hebdo believed, and they are now dead because they were seen as blasphemers against Islam for drawing cartoons. Piers Morgan dishonours their memory, and all those secularists, atheists and free speech advocates in Muslim majority countries like Bangladesh who are also suffering the consequences of blasphemy, by effectively arguing that no religious belief system of holy text is above scrutiny, satire or insult.

Added to his attenuated relationship with the ideas of freedom of expression and of the importance of dialogue, Morgan’s attacks on what Robinson did manage to say about the Qur’an arguably proved nothing more than that he was using the opportunity and platform he enjoys to pursue a little moral grandstanding and to act as the noble white knight, thereby portraying himself as the noble warrior for minority rights against a knuckle-dragging neo-Nazi who apparently wanted to “defame” a holy book out of pure spite at non-white people.

Maybe if Morgan had actually read the Qur’an he might realise that not everything in it is peaceful. As with Christianity and Judaism, there are also violent passages in the Qur’an, including instructions to kill the infidel. He was either not aware of this or he was being disingenuous for his own gain. Maybe he also isn’t aware of the doctrine of abrogation, which means that the more violent passages take precedence over the more peaceful passages? Again, I don’t know his mind so cannot say what he knows or does not know in this area for certain.

Not only did Piers Morgan show himself to be ignorant of what the Qur’an actually says, while doing so in a manner that made him look boorish and vaguely silly, his words essentially castigating Robinson for blasphemy against Islam show that his laudable concern for Britain’s Muslims and their feelings of safety after the Finsbury Park mosque attack serves only to neglect and isolate those who are even more vulnerable, namely the dissidents, the outcasts, the converts, the ex-Muslims and the reformers, as well as those non-Muslims in the Middle East at the mercy of various Islamist terrorist organisations who take great pleasure in persecuting and killing those they deem guilty of blaspheming against their own beliefs; Morgan might remember the genocide against the Yazidis or the fact that the Christians of the Middle East have been burnt out of Christianity’s cradle. The Muslim reformers in particular need the support of people like Morgan and those in the media, cultural and political elites if they are to have any chance at succeeding in their quest to reform the religion and somehow negate the more violent aspects of it, while those non-Muslims who have suffered persecution might also appreciate some solidarity should it be forthcoming.

By shouting “blasphemy” at Robinson for daring to speak against the Qur’an, Morgan is also effectively leaving the reformers high and dry, leaving them out in the open, at risk from the bullets and the blades of the blasphemy police from their own religion who would be quite happy to silence these brave people in a much more permanent way if they could. Morgan’s sentiments would basically kill any chance of the reformers succeeding, as the fact that they are trying to innovate and critically evaluate their holy text places them at huge risk of charges of, guess what, blasphemy.

Morgan’s attitude would mean that these people would be even more vulnerable than they already are; a significant number of their own communities already think they’re heretics. If, in the eyes of Western liberals they are also considered heretics, for daring to criticise and scrutinise their religious texts, then the movement for an Islamic reformation is lost, and perhaps our only chance of mitigating or ending the current wave of Islamist terrorist violence would die with it. The grim reality is that that word would likely be more than metaphorical. By doing what he did, Morgan green-lit to an even greater extent than already exists anyone who wishes to take offence at even the mildest criticism of Islam. This exponentially increases the power of those who wish to take the completely subjective concept of offence and use it to silence dissent within their own ranks.

Ultimately, in trying to put down Tommy Robinson with charges of defamation and blasphemy, Piers Morgan betrayed those dissidents and reformers in the Muslim community, leaving them open to further attack, vilification, verbal and physical assault by putting them at even greater risk of the charge of blasphemy and the penalty that comes with it. He also abandoned those non-Muslims who have faced persecution in the Middle East for blaspheming against Islam. In his rush to play the hero and lecture Robinson on how words have consequences, Piers Morgan seems to have forgotten that actions have consequences too, and often far greater.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

 

On the morning of Monday, June 19, at 00:21 am, a white van ploughed into a crowd of worshippers who had exited the Finsbury Park Mosque. 10 people were injured, eight are in hospital with several whose conditions have been described as very serious. One person was killed.

The far-right terrorist, for that, is what we must call him, was held down by members of the congregation while the police were called. The imam protected him from the anger of the crowd so that the police could do their job properly when they arrived. The man reportedly said that he’d done his job, and apparently shouted that he wanted to kill all Muslims.

This attack came just over a year after the murder of the MP Jo Cox by another far-right terrorist. Anniversaries are important for terrorists.  The Manchester bombing came 4 yours after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Last week, Grenfell Tower in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea caught fire and has resulted in the likely deaths of around 79 people. The safety concerns of the residents had been ignored. The workmanship of the refurbishment, hired out to a series of contractors, had been substandard. Now, this blackened tower stands like a tomb, reaching into the sky and berating us for the lack of thought for those at the bottom of society.

The London Bridge attack took place on June 3, and shook the capital and country, already off balance after the attack in Manchester; this was followed by the fire. Now, this. Londoners could be forgiven for feeling like society is seriously fraying at the seams. After the Manchester attacks, there were calls to carry on, as usual, to not allow the terrorists to divide us and to not let it alter our attitudes to each other or to life.

Of course, this didn’t happen, bar some much talked up events where the efforts made by the media to draw attention to their healing and harmonious nature only served to instill in the minds of many people that there are those who are endeavouring to paper over the cracks, encouraging us to dance and sing, and all the while it feels more and more like some black wave is rushing towards us, threatening to drown us, with every attack, every disaster, every instance of political upheaval.

The Finsbury Mosque attack is what happens when the great societal conversation, the dialogue between people from different walks of life, breaks down and is replaced by mistrust, fear and suspicion. The extremists from both ends of the ideological spectrum, whether it is the Islamists, the far-right ethno-nationalists, or indeed the militant far-left, thrive in this polarised environment, as more and more people are driven into their ranks seeking some kind of psychological and spiritual safety.

Al-Quds day saw a march by Hezbollah supporters and other Islamist extremists march through the centre of London. They, of course, blamed the Grenfell fire on the ‘Zionists’. The March saw the flags of Hezbollah and other terror groups flying. This is not a sign of a healthy society.

After the Grenfell fire, there was a protest against the negligence the residents felt at Kensington and Chelsea Council, the local municipal authority. A crowd of angry protesters surged into the council building and tried to make it upstairs but were stopped by police. Later, the protest took to the street, marching through central London, shouting their anger, at the government, at society, at the clear evening sky. There is evidence that many of the protestors were far-Left militants, as evidenced by the signs carried. This is where the majority of the chants for the overthrow of the democratically elected government came from.

The ‘Day of Rage’ protest planned to coincide with the Queen’s Speech this week has been infiltrated by far-Left radicals who will use the grief and anger of the residents of Grenfell and the surrounding area for their own malign political purposes: namely, toppling a government they see as illegitimate despite its having won the General Election. Even the residents have raised concern over these ideologues using their pain for their own gain.

Far-right extremism is on the rise, with the Prevent counter-radicalisation scheme seeing a sharp increase in the number of people being referred for worrying far-right behaviour. ISIS wanted to divide us as a society, to turn us into two armed camps, Muslim v non-Muslim. Last night, they succeeded. They cannot be allowed to succeed again.

Now, more than ever, it is vital that we have those ‘embarrassing’ conversations that Theresa May spoke of in her speech following the London Bridge attack. It is only through dialogue that we can diffuse the brewing tensions that people in London and across the country can feel, even if they do not wish to admit to it. It is far, far better to have combat with words, rather than combat with weapons. It is only if we speak the truth to the best of our ability that we can gain some control over the chaos that threatens to unleash itself on our society.

Robert Putnam, in Bowling Alone, demonstrated that multicultural societies are lower in trust than monocultural societies. People tend to hunker down in their nests and engage with each other less. This is not an option for us, as the last few weeks have proven. We must engage, we must discuss, we must debate, we must argue, we must not let offence at people disagreeing with ideas hold us back.

The only option for our increasingly diverse society is to have an increasingly free and open debate. The alternative is to hunker down even more and allow the cracks to grow and the tension to rise.

That would be the worst thing we could do.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

The British Bataclan and Western Passivity

On Monday May 22, an Islamist jihadist blew himself up at the Manchester Arena, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. He killed 22 people, mostly young teenagers, one only eight years old. Most of the concert attendees were teenage girls, who the bomber may have seen as a legitimate target because of their femininity–the same way Islamists pour acid on women. Police and counter-terrorism operations are still ongoing as of this writing, while the terror threat has been raised to critical and there are now soldiers on Britain’s streets.

Given my dissertation focuses on ISIS-inspired Islamist terror attacks in Europe 2015-16 it now looks more relevant than ever, and not in a good way.

Theresa May’s speech after the attack was mostly good, but she didn’t name the ideology of Islamism. As a result, she risks falling into the same trap as Obama in not naming the ideology behind these attacks. She risks handing the narrative to those who will use it for their own malevolent ends by insisting that it’s the fault of all Muslims.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester (and a long-time critic of the present government’s counter-terrorism policy), said that the bomber was a terrorist, not a Muslim. As Haras Rafiq of the Quilliam counter-extremism think-tank said, who does Andy Burnham think he is to decide who is and isn’t a Muslim? It is yet another example of a politician not having the spine to face up to what is happening and where it comes from.

Burnham also belittled those on BBC Question Time who called out the ideology of Islamism and called for the Muslim community to do more by portraying them as unserious and not “real” Muslims.

Meanwhile, in response to Morrisey posting his thoughts about the attack and Western leaders’ failure to do anything substantive about it, the Guardian argued that those who blame the lack of recognition of Islamism as the driving force of these attacks on political correctness were using the same arguments as those on the far-right. Given Maajid Nawaz, also of Quilliam, made this exact point, he is now, according to this logic, supposedly considered far-right.

Adding a note of farce to the tragedy of Monday night, Channel 4 news interviewed members of the Manchester Muslim community, who were the usual self-appointed representatives of the Muslim community and obviously spoke for every member of that monolithic bloc. One of those interviewed was a burka-clad woman who had a top on which spelt out the word ‘Love’ with the different letters represented by guns, switchblades and a grenade. The video was then taken down when this was pointed out before returning. Channel 4 said it had “investigate[d]” and found, in its words:

“We are now satisfied that the intention of that image is to subvert weaponry and is an anti-violence protest t-shirt.

The image was made famous in 2013 when the singer Jennifer Hudson was pictured wearing a very similar design, which spelled out the word “love” in guns and other weapons. She told fans “it’s time to turn all of that into this LOVE”.

“As a Muslim, this evil disgusts me; it cannot be the “new normal.”” – Haras Rafiq

Staying on the subject of the media response, which reflected the response of many politicians, many outlets and pundits took on the passive, fatalistic and naively lethargic attitude of the Independent newspaper, which ran the headline that said that the only way to respond to this attack was to keep going as normal. This spoke to a feeling among many in the cultural and political elites that there was nothing to be done, that nothing could be said about the atrocity beyond some platitudes about the undoubted bravery of emergency services and law enforcement while insisting that love would solve everything and that our diversity shouldn’t be allowed to be riven by divisions resulting from the attack.

While solidarity is important, the overwhelming feeling that showed through in all the utterances from the supine media and politicians was that there was nothing to be done, this is the new normal, and if we don’t cause offence by talking about substantive issues and keep as quiet as possible in the hope the terrorists will stop killing us, is frankly no longer good enough. As Haras Rafiq said, platitudes are no longer enough. We don’t want to live in a country where this is accepted as the new normal with little resistance.

What is needed now more than ever is an honest and open discussion about what drives this ideology, including the fact, the deeply uncomfortable fact that there are passages in the texts that specifically call for violent action against non-believers. This will not happen by cleaving to the same old platitudes, playing identity politics and slamming anyone who stick their heads up to speak uncomfortable truths.

This textual basis is what these people, even if they’re newly converted to the jihadist cause, base their actions on and use to give them “moral” legitimacy.

The counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam and other individuals are working to try to reform the religion of Islam so that these passages which undeniably exist are somehow negated. But the first step is to admit to the name of the ideology of Islamism, that it has something to do with Islam while not representative of all Muslims, and that the only way we will defeat this jihadist insurgency is by dealing with the philosophical and theological roots of the ideology.

We will not do this by passively accepting these attacks as the new normal and carrying on with our lives like everything is fine.

The only way we will win is by grasping the thorns of the painful discussions we need to have and accept that causing offence is not an acceptable reason for not having this discussion.

If we can’t even do this, then these attacks will continue, divisions will deepen and more people will die.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Euthanasia: Assisted Suicide of the West

At the outset, let me say I don’t like euthanasia for personal, moral and pragmatic reasons, all of which are deeply interconnected, and don’t think it should be legal. I may write about this from a more personal perspective in the future, but in this post I’m looking at in a broader context.

 

James Burnham wrote the book Suicide of the West, which details how the tendencies towards civilisational suicide seemingly inherent in the West do not stem from a lack of resources or military power (seen through a lens of technology rather than the will to use it).

Rather, to his mind, these suicidal tendencies lie in an erosion of intellectual, moral and spiritual factors found seemingly everywhere in Western society and especially in liberal psychology (James Burnham, The Suicide of the West, Encounter Books. Kindle edition).

When seen in this light, is it any wonder that the Netherlands, long held up as a paragon of progressive politics and liberal social attitudes is leading the way in the campaign for the right to die?

On November 28, 2000, the Lower House of the Dutch parliament voted 104-40 to legalise assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. This ruling followed 20 years of campaigning by various “right to die” groups, such as the Dutch Association for the Voluntary End of Life. (NVVE) As an aside, this organisation had a rather murky past; they had been known to ally themselves with groups that argued for the mercy killing of disabled people.

Since then, other European countries like Belgium have also approved assisted suicide measures.

Meanwhile assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Canada, and the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Washington D.C. and California.

The thing that really distinguished the roll out of voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands was the fact that those elderly who were just “tired of life” were able to go to their doctor and ask to be euthanised because they’ve had enough.

Indeed, a month before the legislation passed, 86 year old Edward Brongmersa (not a savoury character to say the least) was helped to die because he was “tired of life” and of his “ageing hopeless existence”. The doctor who provided this service was prosecuted but not punished. There have been campaigns in the Netherlands for those over 70 to have the right to die if the have had enough of life.

The numbers of people choosing to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide in the Netherlands has risen from 1,923 in 2006 to around 6,000 in 2014. According to the Dutch ethicist who supported euthanasia and oversaw its passage into law, Professor Theo Boer, who insists that what was once a last resort is now a normal procedure.

And it is not just elderly or ill people who can end their lives, as now the other end of the age scale is seeing greater acceptance of euthanising babies who are in pain and who may face a life of suffering.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association estimates that 650 newborns are killed each year – with parental consent – because they fall into this category. Dr Eduard Verhagen, a paediatric medical expert who also supports this newborn euthanasia policy. His argument is that parents don’t like to watch their children in pain or distress. A similar law pertains in Belgium. If these criteria were enough, then I wouldn’t be alive today.

One doesn’t even have to be old, ill, young, newborn, in pain or distress. There have been instances where people with depression have chosen to die because they can’t cope anymore.

The major grey moral area in this part of the debate arguably stems  from the fact that mental illness is now routinely described as being as debilitating as physical illness of disability. If that is the case, then from a doctor’s point of view, what is the problem with treating both types of illness in the same way when thinking about the case for euthanasia?

In any event, it is now acceptable and normal that those with mental illnesses deemed so unbearable that they cannot go on living can be killed, either by their doctor or by groups such as the aforementioned NVVE who have mobile freelance teams around the country who deal with 4,000 cases per year alone. The odd thing about this is that the patient must prove that they are of sound mind before choosing to die. This contradiction is more insane than the subject under discussion.

The matter of those who are “tired of life” is the most concerning however. If one thinks about it, everyone is tired of life at some point, so presumably would be eligible for euthanasia if the campaigners in the Netherlands get their way.

The very idea of being “tired of life” and using that as a reason for being killed strikes me as indicative of the state of Europe as a whole, never mind the parts who have actually taken steps in doing something about it.

It suggests that the people of Europe and to a lesser extent America, have given up hope on themselves and their societies.

This brings me back to James Burnham’s book, and the suicidal undercurrents inherent in Western liberalism. Those who wish to be killed because they’re “tired of life’ are symbolic of Western civilisation as a whole.

We in the West have had the connection with who we are cut out from underneath us. We no longer feel connected to the intellectual, moral and spiritual past of our civilisation. Many of us either don’t even know what this past was, or if we do, we don’t care.

And yet, I would submit that this rise in assisted suicide is a symptom of this feeling of loss of at the core of who we are, and nothing that has come along in the last 150 years has been able to replace it in such a way that we as people with a Jungian desire for a transcendent moral structure feel as fulfilled as those who used to hold to the traditions of the past all those years ago, as those who cleave to them today still do.

In the end, the rise of legally sanctioned euthanasia and assisted suicide is symptomatic of the fact that people across the West have lost their connection to their past, have nothing to cherish in the present, and see nothing meaningful to pass on to their posterity. As such, they have lost the will to live, lost the will to keep going, lost the will to keep fighting for the preservation of Western civilisation.

Euthanasia is the most clearly defined example of the continued assisted suicide of the West. But at least it will have been done in the spirit and using the language of kindness.

Frantz Fanon’s Theories: A Critique

Frantz Fanon’s Theories: A Critique

Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique in 1925. Fanon became a psychiatrist and worked in Algeria during the rebellion against the French colonial government. He then died of Leukemia in a Washington D.C. hospital in 1961.

His seminal work was The Wretched of the Earth, released in the year of his death and with a preface by another 20th century post-modern philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre summed up the book’s main philosophy as a dichotomy of “us” and “them”, with “us” being the West, and “them” being the developing world. The West is made up of colonisers and settlers, so obviously automatically evil, while the developing world, the wretched, are by definition exploited and victims of the imperialist West and therefore morally virtuous.

Now, before I launch into the critique, I’ll point out some of the merits of Fanon’s work. One merit is that he wrote about those living under imperialist powers from their perspective, as one who’d lived under those powers and wasn’t one of the establishment white writers who wrote about the “natives”. He drew attention to what this experience was actually like, and portrayed how it affected these people. This was arguably a badly needed corrective to the often racist views, stereotypes and descriptions of how the “natives” lived that many in the Western imperial powers absorbed every day, particularly but not exclusively in France.

Despite this, there are also many reasons that Fanon’s work deserves stringent criticism.

One is the overly broad-brush approach of putting the world into two oppositional camps: oppressors (Westerners) and oppressed (non-Westerners). This rather stunning generalisation ignores the fact that not all Western countries have been colonial powers, and not all non-Western countries have been the victims of imperialism. Indeed, many non-Western nations have engaged in colonialism, imperialism, slavery and oppression as enthusiastically as the Western oppressors.

Saying otherwise is not only intellectually dishonest and factually wrong, it also paints non-Western people as helpless victims who have no control over their own destiny and almost completely lacking free will and a sense of autonomy. Smells slightly of the bigotry of low expectations does it not?

We must remember, however, that Fanon’s views of imperialism were hugely influenced by his experiences in Algeria during the rebellion and war with the French. This was a brutal war that had far reaching and damaging consequences, especially for the local population. However, to take those experiences as representative of the experiences of all those everywhere else who lived under imperialist systems doesn’t really work. People’s experiences of colonialism varied from country to country, area to area.

Fanon also makes blanket statements about the utopian potential of revolution, betraying his roots in Hegelian dialectic and left leaning ideas. He states that the wars of liberation carried out by non-Western “natives” against their Western overlords will inevitably lead to a more harmonious form of government where they will not allow themselves to be oppressed by their own people because they will have gained the self-knowledge and foresight to avoid this: “When the people have taken violent part in the national liberation they will allow no one to set themselves up as ‘liberators.’ They [will] take good care not to place their future, their destinies or the fate of their country in the hands of a living god.”

Fanon assures us further that “[t]he African people and indeed all under-developed peoples, contrary to common belief, very quickly build up a social and political consciousness.” Furthermore, after the glorious revolution by non-Western colonial subjects of colonial powers “the people [will] join in the new rhythm of the nation, in their mud huts and in their dreams. Under their breath and from their hearts’ core they [will] sing endless songs of praise to the glorious fighters.” Vive la révolution!

These newly freed people will, furthermore, “proceed in an atmosphere of solemnity to cleanse and purify the face of the nation. . . . In a veritable collective ecstasy, families which have always been traditional enemies [will] decide to rub out old scores and to forgive and forget. There [will be] numerous reconciliations. Long-buried but unforgettable hatreds [will be] brought to life once more, so that they may more surely be rooted out.” How lovely, and what of those who do not wish to partake in this wonderful utopia? How will they be dealt with? Surely, the purification of the nation can’t include a purge of those who pose an obstacle to the nation’s onward march towards its manifest destiny?

Needless to say, the tragic and often violent history of much of post-colonial Africa has completely destroyed Fanon’s utopian dreams. Marxism and the unleashing of bitter resentment never end well.

Showing his radical bent, Fanon writes sympathetically about the violence of “natives”, where he argues that it “constitutes their only work, invests their characters with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged upwards in reaction to the settler’s violence in the beginning. . . . At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” Yay, racialised collectivism expressed through violence!

Now, if all this has the faint ring of revolutionary Marxism (with a hint of Hegelianism) then you’d be correct. Fanon, like many 20th century intellectuals, had high regard for and was an ardent supporter of Fidel Castro, who “took over power in Cuba, and gave it to the people.” America, on the other hand, “has decided to strangle the Cuban people mercilessly. But this will be difficult. The people will suffer, but they will conquer.” In light of Castro’s tyranny, one wonders whether Fanon might have had second thoughts, but I seriously doubt it. He would probably have criticised Castro for failing to go far enough, or he would have retreated into the victimhood and blame laying that so many on the hard-Left wallow in when their pathetic and destructive ideals implode.

As a result of his support for revolutionary Marxism, Fanon was of course against the one thing that could have brought peace, prosperity and stability to the liberated post-colonial countries. He insists that “it is absolutely necessary to oppose vigorously and definitively the birth of a national bourgeoisie and a privileged caste.” Further, he calls for the eradication of whatever bourgeoisie does exist “because, literally, it is good for nothing”—it “express[es] its mediocrity in its profits, its achievements and in its thought” and “tries to hide this mediocrity . . . by chromium plating on big American cars, by holidays on the Riviera and week-ends in neon-lit night-clubs.”

You read that right – Fanon calls for the destruction of the middle class because “the bourgeois phase in the history of under-developed countries is a completely useless phase,” and “[r]ich people . . . are nothing more than flesh-eating animals, jackals and vultures which wallow in the people’s blood.” The purge of the Kulaks brought to Africa.

Fanon’s theories on how post-colonial societies should function echo Paulo Freire’s: “We ought to uplift the people; we must develop their brains, fill them with ideas, change them and make them into human beings. . . . [P]olitical education means opening their minds, awakening them, and allowing the birth of their intelligence; as [leftist Martinican writer Aimé] Césaire said, it is ‘to invent souls.’”

In other words, non-Westerners aren’t human beings with souls and won’t become so until the “good” Westerners fill their heads with the right political philosophy for them to engage in the Hegelian struggle against the evil Western colonisers. Since the state replaces God in the Marxist worldview, then it is only the state who can give the masses transcendent purpose, by dictating what that purpose is and sweetening the rotten deal with promises dripping with the poisoned honey of a utopian nightmare.

The paternalistic ideological colonialism is breathtaking, and even more so today. No viewing these people as sacrosanct individuals endowed with certain inalienable rights; they’re tools to fight the Western capitalist/imperialist system that men like Fanon hated. If their ideological victims spent the rest of their lives in perpetual poverty then all to the better, as at least they’d remain pure of mind and soul, part of a wicked Rousseauian utopianism for the gratification of Fanon and those like him.

Fanon doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s talking about indoctrination into collectivist left-wing ideology:“the leaders of the ring realise that the various groups must be enlightened; that they must be educated and indoctrinated; and that an army and a central authority must be created.”

And he goes on: “The masses should know that the government and the party are at their service. . . . Nobody, neither leader nor rank-and-file, can hold back the truth. The search for truth in local attitudes is a collective affair.”

And on: “The nation does not exist except in a programme which has been worked out by revolutionary leaders and taken up with full understanding and enthusiasm by the masses.”

In sum, Frantz Fanon was part of a wave of so-called philosophers who specialised in Hegelian dialectic, fusing it with anti-colonialism and revolutionary Marxism. To Fanon, the people he supposedly spoke for and was trying to help weren’t people with souls until he’d awoken their consciousness with the right political philosophy to equip them in their struggle against the colonial power.

His view of these people is paternalistic and bigoted, as he sees them as chits to be used in his ideological campaign against France. Fanon shows, again, the dangers of collectivism and how it always results in impoverishment and misery.

Of course, he wouldn’t have cared about this as long as the people he was supposedly helping remained ideologically pure.