Friday, November 02, 2007

Fetishisation of Balance II (I is here)

Oliver Kamm applies his knowledge with unfailing surgical logic to some morally illiterate absurdities which have become acceptable memes in today's discourse:

When Amnesty International, purportedly not a partisan organisation at all, famously compared Guantanamo to the Gulag, Christopher remarked:

[I]f an organization that ostensibly protects the rights of prisoners is unaware of the nature of a colossal system of forced labor and arbitrary detention—replete with physical torture, starvation, and brutal execution—then the moral compass has become disordered beyond repair. This is not even neutrality between the fireman and the fire. It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States. If only this were the only symptom of that tendency.

And another example of the same distorted perception of reality:

If all-encompassing normative community is neither historically inevitable nor rationally mandatory, with what right do we seek to impose that vision on a reluctant world? Down the path of forceful imposition lie Stalin's gulag, Mao's Cultural Revolution, George Bush's misbegotten invasion of Iraq, and the dark dreams of al-Qaeda.

I will not insult my readers' intelligence by challenging you to spot the odd one out. Professor Taylor's inability to distinguish an "invasion of Iraq" - as if a state's legitimate sovereignty had been violated by the removal of a bestial and kleptocratic regime - from an intervention in Iraq is merely the least of the many components in the evidence of his stupidity.

These a-historical analogies tend to “burn out” the meaningfulness of of language and its attendant moral import and relevance.

In his famous article: “ Politics and the English language” (1946) George Orwell writes:

".. it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. … the English language.. becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. ... If one gets rid of these [bad] habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.”

Orwell's expostulations about the cheapening of language in the service of shrill and mostly meaningless polemics is just as relevant today, if not more so.

The very same people who do not shy away from referring to the American ethos as fascist, Nazi, imperialistic, etc. are also the people who reject with much vehemence the term "Islamic fascism" when applied to the global pathology of Jihad and Islamic fundamentalism. In other words, they inflate the first and deflate the latter in an attempt to create an equivalence, a balance of sorts. This false balance is created by doing violence to truth. It is a fetishisation of the term, not a genuine evolution of reasoning and arguments.

This sort of balance reminds me of the original Cinderella story. The prince comes to Cinderella's house carrying the glass slipper. The stepsisters try it on first. The first sister tries to shove her foot into the tiny shoe with the help of a shoe spoon. When she fails, the second sister takes a more radical tool, and cuts off part of her toes to fit into the coveted shoe.

So here is the shoe, made of glass and therefore unstretchable, and here is the foot, too big, cannot be pushed into that small space. But the sister does not give up. She will mutilate her own limb in order to make it fit the enclosure.

The same kind of desperate illogic animates the balance fetishists.

1 Comments:

At 9:16 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

those who can do...those who can't....become oilmen, and disrupt the balance of an entire race of individuals. I personally (as an american) think its a mockery of virtue, justice, and real Liberty to war with other areas over something as fickle as oil, or economic gain. And it surprises me (even as one uneducated formally) that more are not aware of the mediocrity of this war. Its never been about liberating a world or battling terror. Its about dominating for control over a perceived threat, and oil/money. YOu miss..are a pioneer of thought. thank you

 

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