Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Aux Armes, Citoyens

There's something about La Marseillaise.  Certainly it's a most stirring anthem, instantly recognizable; the anthem of a nation that believed itself to have experienced freedom at long last, only to be threatened by a tyrant backed by foreign armies.  A call to arms to preserve freedom.

It's peculiar of course that within a few years of the writing of that song, or more properly poem, the self-styled Son of the Revolution (or embodiment of it, even), Napoleon, was ruling France as an autocrat.  While he did impose reforms that can be said to have been consistent with certain of the professed aims of the Revolution, it's doubtful the France during his rule can be said to have been free.  But nor was it free during the Terror.  Even so, the song itself is an inspiration towards freedom, and speaks of the need to defend it.  It gives France a kind of claim to being the birthplace of freedom in the modern world and even the birthplace of modernity itself.

France seems to retain its status as an icon of freedom even today, given the reaction of the Western world, at least, to the murderous attack on those working at a satirical publication in Paris, purportedly for "picturing" the Prophet Mohammad, which is evidently forbidden, as it seems so much is forbidden, in certain Islamic sects.  This reaction has resulted in a remarkable public display of solidarity against terrorists.  It's a display which has been sadly lacking.

Christopher Hitchens wrote that institutional religions are the products of the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species, a claim with which I sympathize in some respects.  But a religion whose adherents kill with abandon while shouting "God is great" is deserving of more scathing and significant characterizations.  Granted, that religion may be an extreme and twisted form of Islam, and that many followers of Islam may deplore it.  Granted, other religions in the past, and perhaps even now in other ways, have sanctioned murder and repression in the name of God.

Grant all that and we are still faced with a particular threat, apparently based on religious views of a particular kind, which is violent, has killed and seeks to kill, seeks to repress any views but its own, seeks to repress an entire sex, and seeks to suppress conduct of any kind but a certain kind.  We should treat it as a threat.  We should treat these primitives as threats.  They're not merely discontented victims of the modern world.  They're committed to a tyranny different from that to which France was subject before 1789.

This is not a case of a clash of cultures, and it is absurd to treat it as such.  There is no obligation to accord this kind of world-view any respect.  There is no reason to withhold judgment on the ground that there is no sure or objective basis on which to condemn it.  There is simply no reason it should not be questioned, nor is there any reason to allow its adherents to impose it where they will.  It should be countered, it should be deplored, and where it translates into conduct harmful to others it should be stopped.

With some regret I must admit to finding myself wondering whether those we hear of who "march" in Europe against what they call the Islamization of the West, or of Europe in particular, may raise a valid point--not that people should not be allowed to be Muslims in the West, which is clearly invalid.  Not that Muslims should be barred from living in the West, either.

However nobody, Muslim or otherwise, when moving to or living in a nation/society which recognizes free speech and free thought, and free conduct subject to the rule of law, should expect that nation/society to abide by their contrary customs or the limitations they wish to see imposed on speech or thought or conduct.  Having such an expectation is unreasonable, and is indicative of a selfish and self-righteous nature.  If people are unable to tolerate such a nation or society without harming others, they need not and should not go there.  If they are there already, they should not be there, and their clear option is to leave.

Perhaps it's not time to take up arms, but it is past time to meet these primitives with a solid front and resists their efforts to repress and threaten others, or kill others in the name of an apparently bloodthirsty god if their actions are representative of that god's will.  There is a limit to toleration where action is concerned, and nothing sacred about action which is harmful to others.

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