Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member

True Blue Door

True Blue Door's Journal
True Blue Door's Journal
January 9, 2015

Keystone XL veto threat: Anyone ready to admit they were idiots?

So, President Obama - the most active environmentalist President in all of US history - just recently doubled down on that legacy and threatened to veto any Congressional force-feeding of the Keystone XL pipeline. Anyone who talked shit on this ready to admit they were ignorant? Or shall we believe it's YET ANOTHER mustache-twirling Obama conspiracy to do the exact opposite of what he's doing?

January 9, 2015

If you're having trouble digesting the news about the French terror attacks, think of it like this.

A newspaper mocked and criticized some right-wing assholes. So those right-wing assholes murdered them. Evil motherfuckers.

Now stop making fucking excuses for said assholes.

Je Suis Charlie

January 9, 2015

Europe's moral tightrope on Islam

Historically, the Left and the Right have had a certain consistent dynamic: When it uses the truth as its sword and shield, the Left advances and brings the whole world with it, while the Right survives on sheer nihilism, malice, and depraved self-interest. To the degree they follow these programs for their respective natures, they succeed - sometimes at the exact same time. But when either deviates from the program, huge amounts of sociopolitical energy seem to flow to the other side.

When the Left is confronted by questions it doesn't want to answer, doesn't even want to think about, and chooses to avoid the subject rather than do due diligence on it; or, even worse, resorts to rationalizations that seek to consciously deceive; that separates the Left from both its sword and its shield, the truth. Similarly, when the Right abandons its natural selfishness and starts pretending to be about something noble, we can shine our spotlight on them and discredit them easily. Unless both deviations happen at the same time - because that is a recipe for general catastrophe.

If the Left accepts lies to avoid confronting a complicated issue, and at the same time the Right seizes on that weakness to make the issue theirs, that is a moment of great danger. Europe knows this kind of situation well, because it happened before - and the consequences were the most devastating in all of human history. We, the Left, shared a sense of purpose (albeit not necessarily of exact ideology) with Communism in its pre-Soviet incarnation as a worker's empowerment movement, but that identity led to increasingly surreal acts of denial as the governmental incarnation of Communism became obviously tyrannical and murderous via the Bolsheviks. The European Left would not confront the heinous creature that had arisen under its own flag and rhetoric, and so they resigned the public energy of that task to forces on the Right.

The Left would not confront Stalin, so in the public mind they became indistinguishable from Stalin - from the "crazed Bolshevik horde" cresting the horizon from the East to annihilate everything that most people identified with: Their religion, their traditions, and in the case of the elites, their hereditary privileges. So then the European Right says to people, "I will defend these things!" and makes a a cargo cult pageant out of their local cultures, pandering to the basest instincts and bigotries they can find. People were nervous about the Far Right, there is no doubt about that - but they saw the right-wing radicals as "our crazies" rather than "their crazies," while the left made excuses for criminals they didn't identify with in any way.

They easily fell into the fallacy of seeing Hitler as "our madman" - a necessary evil to confront the Bolshevik Horde. It's impossible to know for certain the "What ifs" of it all, but there's no denying that the German Left utterly failed to acknowledge the horrors of Soviet Communism, and did nothing to address German fears of Stalin. They were in denial about things that, by then, were generally known about what went on in Russia - they were so enraged by the evils they saw in front of them, they couldn't deal with the equal reality of the evils in their own camp behind them. So somehow, in a world where the right-wing values of militarism, imperialism, and capitalist exploitation had nearly destroyed Germany, it was mindfucked into believing that the Far Right was the answer to problems it had caused! Because the Left had lost its sword and shield, the truth.

And when that happens, nobody knows anything. They'll believe any Big Lie that sounds appealing. And so Europe was destroyed in a clash of mad tyrants using opposing rhetoric and more or less equivalent psychopathy. Where was the truth in that? Maybe not exactly at home in the USA, but at least a refugee. American liberals learned from that history, and took a hard line on Communism - not because Communism itself was the biggest threat as the Right pretended, but because the Right's ability to exploit the threat was the biggest threat. We took it away from them. Wouldn't let them have it - at least not to the extent they wanted. We blunted their weapon without giving in to it.

It wasn't any kind of cowardly "triangulation" strategy either, because the truth was that the Soviet Union was fucking heinous on a level we had no direct experience with in all of our history. So the American left simply told the truth: These people are power-mad. They have no self-control. They use the rhetoric of People's Revolution while making people slaves. They speak the rhetoric of "truth" while telling Orwellian lies (Orwell himself being a prime example of a leftist who told the truth on this subject). And what did the American left get out of this? Everything. People happily voted for ideas that today would be considered nearly Communist, because the progressives advocating them had drawn a clear and unambiguous moral line between an economic philosophy and a tyrannical governmental form.

The European Left faces a similar choice with respect to Islam, with similar moral dilemmas. Very few Muslims support terrorism, and very few Communists outside of the Soviet bloc would have expressed support for Stalin's Reign of Terror if it had been as well-documented at the time as Islamic terrorism is today. But.

But there is a truth in both cases that the Left is/was uncomfortable confronting: The cultural sphere in question has features that increase the likelihood of that kind of thing happening - not on any particular person's part, but just statistically over an entire population. Every single Communist government either started out from the beginning as, or turned into, a murderous dictatorship that impoverished and beat down its people; every single country with a strong Muslim population is faced by levels of religious violence well beyond any other kind of religious mix in the world.

There was something fundamentally wrong with Communism as it existed then that enabled bad people and made good ones with the same politics less powerful. There is also something fundamentally wrong with Islam as it currently exists that motivates bigots to commit suicidal violence in substantial numbers far beyond every other religion. You can equivocate and call it "radical Islam," but that's just an evasion from the real issue: Why is radical Islam SO radical compared to other radical religious elements? Why is it SO powerful in influencing the general religion, while other religions seem pretty content to ignore or laugh at their bigots? The answer is obvious, but one that seems to instinctively raise hackles on the left: Islam has a bad attitude. It does. That can't make a good person turn bad, but it can make a bad person a lot more motivated.

That doesn't mean anything about the vast majority of Muslims, just about the net effect of Islamic ideology on the large-scale currents of its culture. To deny it at this point would require a level of evasion, of rationalization, of just plain dishonesty that no one on any side of the issue could avoid noticing. To deny the opinion polls showing what kind of political views prevail in the Islamic world; that abandoning Islam for another religion or for none should be punished with death; that blasphemy should be a punished criminal offense; etc. etc. Something in Islam makes these viewpoints much more prevalent, and have more social authority in their own communities, even (or especially) among those who emigrate to Europe.

What is it about Islam that makes angry Muslim youths choose Islamic rhetoric to justify going on murder sprees while violent Western youth typically avoid - or even target - religion? Well, it's kind of the old debate about violent music and videogames: No, they don't make kids violent - they are just very attractive to violent kids. Islam doesn't make people violent, it just makes violent people a lot more motivated. The same is true, for instance, of conservative politics in general - of which Islam is very clearly a part.

So...what then? The European Left has to acknowledge that Islam has a problem, that it's not just in the imaginations of racists. Because if they cling to that position then everyone who genuinely isn't a bigot and who still sees the problem will simply keep having an unaddressed fear that the Far Right can exploit. What's more, they have to come together with mainstream Muslims get them to admit the problem too: That some aspect of Islamic doctrine encourages hateful and violent attitudes, and that perhaps this needs changing.

Once you acknowledge that, then you're entering really dangerous - and necessary - territory, because "changing their religion" is considered a capital offense in mainstream conservative Islam. Because, let's be honest here, such a suggestion from any kind of influential figure would absolutely spark violence and shrill flag-burning protests in the Islamic world: The idea that something in Islamic doctrine doesn't work right, and some Muslims are therefore going to change it so it stops promoting murder and oppression. Otherwise there is no liberal Islam - just fundamentalists who oppose terrorism, and fundamentalists who support it. And if there is no liberal Islam, then there can be no democratic Islam. (And if you think there can be democracy without liberalism, you are not a liberal.)

There are much more pressing problems in the United States than this issue - the white, Chrays-chin, right-wing, gun nut types are responsible for a lot more violence both directly and indirectly (via gun sales to criminals) than Islamic terrorism. But in Europe, this is a very, very pressing subject right now, and Rightward tides anywhere poison all waters. So the choices for the European Left are to confront this head-on and deprive the Right of a platform for spreading hate; or dodge the punch just to run face-first into the kick.

I'm not saying the danger of Islamic terrorism is anywhere near what the Soviet Union represented - the former is trivial by comparison, actually. But fear is fear, and you can't fight fear by denying it exists. And when there is a legitimate basis for fear, the absolute worst thing you can do is turn it back on people and act like they're immoral if they feel it. Moreover, the Left worldwide needs to recognize that Islam is definitely not a left-wing social phenomenon (it is by far the most conservative of major religions), so perhaps stop with the attitude that making excuses for its problems somehow serves our political interests. The more afraid the Left is of confronting the issue, the bolder and more effectively the European Right will do so in its place, and exploit it to achieve exactly the same results as Islamism - violence, hate, and oppression.

I hope they see that over there and don't just act out the same old script, leading to the same old self-inflicted wounds.

Je Suis Charlie.

Profile Information

Name: Brian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969

About True Blue Door

Primary issue interests: Science, technology, history, infrastructure, restoring the public sector, and promoting a fair, honorable, optimistic, and inquisitive society. Personal interests: Science fiction (mainly literature, but also films and TV), pop culture, and humor.

Journal Entries

Latest Discussions»True Blue Door's Journal