"Clash Of Civilizations”: Spiritual, Not Intellectual
The words "The Clash of Ideas” are splashed across the cover of the special anniversary issue of Foreign Affairs this month. This is of course a play on the "clash of civilizations” narrative that we’ve heard countless times since 9/11, and a nod to the notion that this clash – between radical Islam and the West, or liberal democracy – is fundamentally a "war of ideas.”
I have come to believe that this diagnosis is not only wrong, but a large part of the reason why we, who believe in freedom and the rights of the individual, appear to be losing ground. (For example, we are seeing more sharia in the West, despite us knowing that full sharia demands the execution of homosexuals, the stoning of women who commit adultery, and discrimination against religious minorities. And we are seeing our right to free speech eroded, especially across Europe.)
The battle is not one of ideas. It is a spiritual battle, pure and simple.
Deploying ideas like soldiers in which the generals do not believe, the "Counter-Jihad” and anti-Islamist pundits have reduced themselves to Sunday intellectuals.
A speech by any "Counter-Jihad” spokesperson or anti-Islamist media pundit is liable to denounce the increasing liberalism and "Cultural Marxism” of the West as a symptom of the rot, and to suggest that they are fighting for a more conservative Christian West, before going on to tell us that we are also fighting for liberal ideas, such as women’s rights and gay rights.
Such speeches will only ever appeal to the converted – "sensible people” who are able to shut out one half of the message to find support for their gut instincts. Contrast this with the radical imam, who calls for full sharia in the West, and who speaks with passion and conviction, regardless of what anyone thinks.
The imam knows what the West does not, i.e., that it is about the fire in the belly and in the eyes. It is first and foremost about integrity, conviction, and spirit.
If one wants an example of the ravages of strategy, put above values and integrity, one need look no further than Britain’s main three political parties. With the exception of Brighton – a student city – which elected a member of the Green Party to Parliament in 2010, over the last few decades the members of the British public have ignored those parties that best expresses their values on the grounds that they "won’t get in.”
Instead they have made the tactical decision to vote for the "mainstream” party that seems most likely to keep out of power the one they dislike more. The result of this "tactical voting” is that the three parties have become indistinguishable ideologically, and appear to be without values or, sometimes, without any morals at all. The complaint that party leaders would "say anything to get elected” reveals only that the leaders are no less tactical than the voters.
There is also, though, a tactics of the minority, of course, who believe that some extreme minor party should be supported, and its past behavior – which is, for example, racist and anti-Semitic – overlooked. To be sure, politics across the board has changed over the last decade, and so have the political parties. But where such changes appear to be cosmetic, masking a fascist underbelly, they cannot be supported.
Like the follower of Confucius, we need to cultivate integrity, so that we’re supported in our struggle for freedom – a struggle which must, perhaps, take place anew with each generation – by an inner will, and an inner spirit.
Recently, I came across a comment on a blog that suggested violence against Muslim women was an advantage to those who opposed sharia and wanted to defend liberty, since it kept the fanatics busy. This is precisely the wrong attitude, and one that is certainly not supported by Western culture – or most other cultures.
It is completely alien to the notion of chivalry of the West, the Gentleman of Confucianism, etc.
It is the comment of one who believes strategy is to be placed above his own soul. But, without a soul, without integrity, without a clear sense of right and wrong, left only with his tactics, he is doomed to lose. His freedom will go the way of that of the Muslim women we see brutalized in Egypt, Iran, and elsewhere. (...)