Saturday, January 06, 2007

A New Twist on White Man's Burden

At first glance, it would appear that the western opinion of Muslims is largely split between those who consider them the enemy, and those who consider them the victims of western aggression. Of these two positions, the first may arise from racism, but the second is also typical of a form of racism which is all the worse for its patronizing attitude.

Consider: there are only 9 Muslim Nobel Prize laureates, only 2 for science. There have been 178 Jewish Nobel Prize winners, 156 for science. 1.2 billion people vs. 15 million, and look at the difference. Scott Atran, at the Beyond Belief conference last November, argued that Muslim terrorists do what they do not because of their Muslim beliefs, but because they are marginalized and crave respect. Yet he, like many other apologists for Islam, ignores the elephant in the room. The reason that there are so few Muslim Nobel Prize winners, the reason that the infrastructure in Muslim countries is kept running by imported western labour, the reason that the Middle East served as a chew toy for every world power that took an interest in it, and the reason that they are marginalized and that no one respects them, is that they are saddled with a religious ideology which makes them culturally, scientifically, politically, and economically sterile. They produce no art, music, science, technology, and the few that dare to write something of value take their lives in their hands. Nobody respects someone who contributes nothing.

Muslims are oppressed by Islam. There's simply no other coherent explanation for their poor performance in all these areas. Or did you think they were genetically inferior? Racism takes many forms. White Man's burden has been given a whole new packaging; we feel responsible for the downtrodden and oppressed--which makes us just a little bit superior to them, doesn't it? My, how wonderful and powerful we must be to control the destiny of everyone else! But it never occurs to anyone to wonder whether the reason they are oppressed is that we play into it by our patronizing attitude. We treat them like pets. The only way to continue to exploit the victim card is to remain a victim. You cannot demand pity and respect in the same breath, and expect to gain both.

This same attitude prevails with respect to blacks in the ghettos, North American Natives, and Australian Aborigines. We set lower standards for them. We consign them to hell holes where they have nothing to do but slowly kill themselves and each other. As John Ibbitson said in the Globe and Mail, "If you’re an Indian in your 20s living on a reserve, you need to leave right now." We seek to preserve a culture which is already long dead, or a culture which is born out of dysfunctional poverty, as if their misery was somehow an enriching experience for us. Being that it is what they know, they are, of course, willing to go along, even as that culture slaughters their children and compounds horror upon horror. It's the devil they know.

Maintaining and supporting dysfunctional cultures is a waste of resources, and helps preserve in the first world the very conditions which many of the people of those cultures may be attempting to flee. Even if, like the people from Jamaica or Somalia, they have come to escape conditions in those countries but still seek to preserve their culture, we must ask whether that very culture is itself the cause of those conditions. If it is, we are doing them no favour by collecting them in ghettos where those cultures predominate. All we have done is abandon them to pockets governed by the very conditions which they have fled. We wall them off, throw just enough money over the wall to keep them quiet, and leave them to wallow in destitution and prey upon each other. But we are doing them no favours. The ideal of multiculturalism is predicated upon the belief that all cultures are equally conducive to the well being of those who belong to them. This is obviously not the case. It is no accident that the colonies which were governed longest by the English now fare better than those which were never colonies, or were governed by other European powers. The English were no angels, but at least they imparted to their colonies the same economic and political principles by which they governed themselves, and those principles have worked very well both for the English and their former colonies. We owe it to immigrants to teach them the best that we know, rather than marginalize them and treat them like quaint figurines on our mantlepiece. We owe them a piece of the pie, and they will never get it if we continue to sideline them in the same conditions they have come to escape. And we have to make this change soon, or the disparity between us and them will grow as those conditions stigmatize them and arouse habitual prejudices in the future.

My opinion may not be politically correct, but I suspect that future generations will look back upon our treatment of these communities in the same light that we now look back on the Crow laws of the old south. Affirmative Action is not the answer either--gains cheaply made are less valued, and each newcomer, in any group, is expected to prove their value to those already in the group, or they can never earn the respect of that community. Efforts in political consciousness raising to overcome this attitude have failed, because it has produced the very patronizing attitude that I am arguing against here. The experiment has gone tragically awry; all we have done is taught the monster to smile and whisper soothingly as it kills. Prior to the orthodoxy of multiculturalism, each new ethnic community was forced to earn respect by making standing on its own feet and contributing to our society. Macho poses do not accomplish this. The Irish were the biggest brawlers and thugs ever to set foot in North America, but only when we grew up and faced our responsibilities did we gain the respect we so craved. We stopped being green or orange, and became Canadians. No one respects a gangster, not really. Irish women got fed up with men behaving like boys, and insisted that they act like men. Threats and posturing may gain momentary concessions, but they will never earn respect.

Of course, there remains the problem of whether attitudes in the home impair education. This should be a serious concern for immigration officials--a culture which devalues learning will be a serious impediment anywhere. But perhaps we should make it clear to immigrants that we expect them to integrate into our society, rather than promise them that we will attempt to preserve them in their current culture. At least then, those unwilling to make the sacrifice would choose not to come, and the rest would know the price they are prepared to pay.

We regard only children and the insane as not responsible for their actions. So which are the Muslims, the Aborigines, the Indians, and others who fall into the ghetto trap--children, or lunatics? Let's start treating them as adults, stop patronizing them with pity, and expect them to take responsiblity for their own fate, just as we would anyone in our own society, anyone we considered equal.

Islam is even more of a problem for Muslims than it is for us. It's time we stopped making excuses for it.