by Daniel Greenfield at Sultan Knish
We face two conflicts in the present day and against the present day. Both conflicts are being fought against ideologies dislocated in time, longing urgently for the past and the future.
Islamism is a reactionary ideology preaching a perfect world to be gained by stepping back to the 7thCentury origins of its founding and seeks to recreate it by enslaving women and non-Muslims, making Mohammed’s false treaties with Christians and Jews, this time no longer in Arabia, but around the world, and then subjugating them to usher in an age of perfect peace.
Progressivism looks for its utopias not in the splendors of the past, but in the wonders of the future, its fanaticism fueled by the wonders of the emerging technologies of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries fused with the delusion that these material technologies could be matched by social technologies of equal depth and effectiveness, bringing forth both a technocratic utopia of physical technology and social technology.
Utopianism is a matter of faith and perspective. One man’s utopia is another man’s nightmare. And like many matters of faith, those who cannot be convinced must often be compelled.
The Utopianist is dislocated, feels born out of his proper age and fervently at odds with the tenor of the time.
For the Muslim, this is a matter of pure culture, for Islamic civilizations were left behind in the great rush of forward momentum experienced by Western civilization within the past centuries. The modern world is a Western creature and though it boasts many comforts and achievements, the Muslims who inhabit it can never feel fully at home in it. Unable to dream of a great future, they dream instead of a wonderful past that will sweep away the alien complexities that they could rarely learn to live without, and replace it with the purity of the desert and the simplicity of the sword.
For the Westerner, the dislocation is also cultural, it is the clash between the mechanical accomplishments of the civilization that he lives in and the decay of the spiritual and aesthetic values of its culture. The artist and the sculptor despaired of matching the engineer in the last century. The cleric feels a trembling in his bones when he sees the visions spun by theoretical physicists. Rather than exceeding themselves, the bearers of the cultural traditions of the West have often chosen to diminish themselves, fleeing into ugliness and unbelief, defacing and distorting the traditions they bear, rather than rising to face the challenge of their civilization’s material accomplishments and subsuming their fears of inadequacy in the expansion of their heritage’s possibilities.
The sensitive soul of the middle class child bemoans the industrial revolution without realizing that the only reason that there is a middle class and that he isn’t toiling in the fields and she isn’t at the mercy of any passing knight is the very materialistic technological revolution that the sensitive soul bemoans. For centuries, the dislocated Westerner has physically or philosophically attempted to retreat to a pastoral Eden, to the garden and the field tended by the Noble Savage, erecting complex theories to promote a new simplicity.
The dislocated Westerner finds in the form of the Noble Savage, a fellow dissatisfied soul rebelling against the constraints of civilization, and discovers too late the cost of savagery and the alternative to the new world of freedom that Newton’s Apple and the slide rule, and its rude children, the factory and the company have made. The Muslim is the latest in a long line of noble savages, fellow travelers on the road to a terrible Utopia that only one of them shall ever see.
Trying to synthesize a cocktail of the spiritual simplicity of the imagined past and the social technologies of the future, the dislocated Western invariably creates totalitarian horrors, monstrous bureaucracies and secret police forces who guard the efficacy of his philosophies, so that rather than escaping the factory, the life of men toiling in his utopias become the factory, slaving over flawed mechanisms of ideas, living as cogs in a broken machine that grinds up men and feeds their bodies to its own fallacies.
In this too the Muslim is his equal, resolving the contradiction between the comforts of the present and the purity of the past through an endless war whose irresolvable nature allows him to stand for the past while enjoying the comforts of the present.
The past was never pure and neither are those who long for it. It was always as flawed and marked by its mistakes as the present. And the future is no more pure than the present, it only appears pure because like a blank page, it is as yet unmarked by the disappointments and the crimes that have become a part of every era of existing history.