It bowls us over that what seemed so substantial—the multi-storied castle
of lit ballrooms, grand staircases, fine furnishings, a self-sufficient man-
made world of beauty and luxury—could slip so swiftly into oblivion.
Robyn Sarah, Maisonneuve
However one looks at our current cultural and geopolitical situation, whatever symbol or metaphor one uses to clarify our dilemma, one remains with a sinking feeling. The story of Noah’s Ark is no longer relevant for our times except as a children’s fable. For the Ark has been replaced in our unconscious, as it has in our collective destiny, by another emblematic vessel.
The Titanic is foundering. Captain, crew and passengers have together conspired to set course directly for the iceberg while irrationally refusing to admit its existence. The ship of state, having been transformed into a ship of fools, may not be able to be hauled into port and retrofitted. Everything considered, perhaps its adversaries might be better off leaving the West to its own devices, as a civilization set on auto-destruct.
Even should we be spared the worst, the prognosis is not good. The task force of the Western mind seems to have been permanently disbanded and succeeded by such self-serving and ostentatious groups as Nelson Mandela’s Council of Elders, foregrounding a vespiary of professional appeasers of an anti-American and, of course, acridly anti-Israeli pedigree like Jimmy Carter, Fernando Cardoso, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan. (They are, as I write, busy spreading the gospel in Israel!) Such people are collaborators of the first order, giving aid and succour to the enemies of the West in the guise of a rather flocculent peace deputation.
There is no doubt that the major, long-term threat to the civilizational life of the West—though by no means the only one—emanates from theocratic Islam. Christopher Caldwell brings up an interesting idea in his 2009 book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, suggesting that the undeniable success of Islam may compel Europe to re-examine its religious and cultural roots. “Everywhere Islam has asserted itself in recent years,” he writes, “it has provoked reflections among Christians.”
As a result, Islam deserves a measure of gratitude since its effect, however unintentional, has been to revive the moribund intellectual and metaphysical life of the West, allowing us to “talk about God once more, even if in someone else’s language.” Well, I don’t know. I see little evidence of a vital Christian resurgence and a lot of evidence for the relentless advance of Islam. We may be talking about God in someone else’s language, but it may not be the same God we are talking about.
The West seems prepared to surrender the intellectual field and lower the cultural portcullis. One of the citadels of the Western intellectual tradition recently raised the white flag. Cambridge University Press, cravenly responding to a libel claim filed by the late Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz, pulped several anti-jihadist books that offended the Saudi billionnaire’s literary and political taste. It is also interesting to note that Cambridge accepted a gift of eight million pounds from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
It is a known fact that the publishing industry in general has become extremely wary of offending Muslim sensibilities, the United States being no exception. Another bastion has begun to crumble. It started with the Rushdie affair when Viking sought to appease Ayatollah Khomeini, who had issued a fatwa against Rushdie and put a bounty on his head, by releasing The Satanic Verses only in hardback, thus pricing it out of the reach of much of its clientele.
More recently, Looseleaf Law cancelled the publication of Nancy Kobrin’s The Sheikh’s New Clothes and Random House, citing “safety concerns,” dropped Sherry Jones’ biographical novel The Jewel of Medina, despite the fact that it celebrates the relationship between Mohammed and nine-year-old Aisha and that Sherry Jones in various interviews sounds more like a saccharine apologist for Islam than an objective writer and researcher. (The book was picked up by two small publishing houses, Beaufort Books in the U.S. and Gibson Square in England; on September 28, 2008 the latter’s premises were firebombed and the firm cancelled publication.)
The latest such ignominy comes from “the ivy-covered eyrie of Yale University…that great bastion of intellectual light,” in Roger Kimball’s colorful formulation. The Cartoons that Shook the World, dealing with the Danish caricatures of Mohammed that set the Islamic world aflame, sounds like a brave endeavor from the University press—except that the cartoons in question are not to be found between its covers. Reza Aslan, author of No God But God, told the New York Times that “to not include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic” and has withdrawn his jacket attestation. It is not only “idiotic,” but a typical illustration of scholarly diffidence and, ultimately, of academic irrelevance.
The North American university as well—Yale is only one of innumerable examples—has become a major contributor to the dissolution of the foundational values upon which the life of the nation has been erected. Reconstructed Muslims tend to see much more clearly than unreconstructed Liberals. Edip Yuksel, author of Quran: A Reformist Tradition, has warned us about “Western financial and academic institutions that have a vested interest in dealing with backward regimes. For instance, many Middle Eastern Studies Departments at American Universities, including Harvard University.”
Indeed, many of these Departments give every indication of having calved from the steadily advancing Islamic glacier. Under the mantle of diversity of opinion, free expression and the unfettered exchange of ideas, they have given the podium to homicidal despots and enemies of the state. Many universities seem to be in the business of pimping for the Arabs, considering all the Saudi money (as well as “donations” and “gifts” from other Muslim nations) gushing into university programs and endowments.
Shilling for jihad, as well as for the Communist dictatorships of Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela and even North Korea, has assumed the proportions of an intellectual mandate. Resistance is contra-indicated. The bacillus now seems to have spread everywhere in the West, not only in Europe where the epidemic is well under way, or in my own country of Canada where the germ has seeped into every corner of public and professional life, but most vexingly in the United States where innumerable “peace” groups, like their university counterparts, have followed a strictly biased and partisan agenda: among others, Global Exchange, Code Pink, the UFPJ (United for Peace and Justice), Ramsey Clark’s Intellectual Action Center, the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), Vietnam Veterans Against The War, the ACLU and so on. One would also be hard put to find even a single instance in which they have reacted to the growing international menace, whether from Islam or the militant autocracies of Russia and China, for which, true to form, they find the United States wholly responsible.
Worse, the—in more senses than one—unaffordable Presidency of Barack Obama promises nothing short of disaster. Economics aside, current American policy under the new Administration, practising “outreach” to the Islamic world and pressing the “reset button” with adversarial regimes, presents no less a threat to America’s interests than its domestic fifth column organizations. These moves appear to be popular with an increasingly ahistorical electorate, leading to high approval ratings for a government whose arrogance and sense of “unsinkability” actually jeopardizes the security of the nation. (The numbers have gone down of late, owing, however, to the Administration’s economic and social policies, not its foreign affairs initiatives.) Call it the Obamarchy. For this administration, abetted by its Congressional puppy mill, bad policy is good politics.
And this is unfortunate for all of us. The “free world” relies upon the continued health and vigor of the United States—Thomas Paine knew whereof he wrote when he penned those famous lines in Common Sense, “The cause of America is, in great measure, the cause of all mankind”—but America now seems to be undermining its own “cause” as well as those of its dependent democracies. In effect, what we are witnessing is only the cisAtlantic expression of the cognitive blindness and the subliminal spirit of defeatism that has gripped the entire Western world.
Despite its small but valiant crew of bailers, the intellectual, cultural and political life of the West appears intent on sinking ever deeper into the great sea of failed civilizations. Now that Europe has been breached and it is clearly too late to plug the leakage, the only question that remains is whether America too is plunging toward Davy Jones’ locker.
The great shipwreck seems well under way. Sauve qui peut.