Category Archives: Caliphaters

Pallywood 2017: The meaning of the Becky Anderson-UNRWA gaffes

Those paying attention to matters of Pallywood, or the faking of news in order to target a given population with lethal narratives, had a double feast yesterday and today. First UNRWA, the UN agency for helping the Palestinian refugees, used a picture of a forlorn Syrian girl, living in ruins caused by the wars of rule and resistance in that part of the Arab political world, to relay a lethal narrative about Israel, all for the benefit of fundraising for the work of UNRWA.

Imagine being cut off from the world – for your whole life. That’s reality for children like Aya. The blockade of Gaza began when she was a baby, the occupation in the West Bank before her parents were born. Now she is eleven, and the blockade goes on.
Aya’s childhood memories are of conflict and hardship, walls she cannot escape, and the fear that the only home she knows, however tiny, could be gone when she returns from school.
This Ramadan, please help support children like Aya who have known nothing but conflict and hardship. Donate here:

Even those unaware of how much UNRWA employees are either Hamas agents or their dhimmis, can appreciate the moral degradation involved here. Appealing dishonestly to people’s pitying concern for Palestinians, by providing a heavy dollop of moral Schadenfreude about Israel, in order to raise money to prolong the victimization of Gazans.

For a German article on this issue, see Stefan Frank’s take.

Réponse au sujet de l’Islam et la culture d’honneur et honte

Réponse au sujet de l’Islam et la culture d’honneur et honte

J’ai reçu une requête par Facebook d’un chercheur français au sujet de mon article sur Edward Said et la culture d’honneur et de honte.

Il m’a adressé la question en anglais, j’ai répondu en français pour essayer de formuler mes idées dans une autre langue. Merci Jean Patrick Grumberg pour une lecture correctrice approfondie.

(i) would you have any idea why honor and shame-avoidance seem to be such strong motivations in the muslim world compared to most non-muslim countries?

La puissance du désir de recevoir les honneurs et la crainte (dread) de la honte (oneidophobie) est énorme. Tout individu y est lié toute sa vie, et tout culture passe par ce “code d’honneur primordial ” “primary honor code.” Cela prend une forme particulièrement tenace chez les tribus de guerriers comme les germains, les celtes, les romains, grecs, sioux, japonais, mongols, africains, bedouins, berbères, etc.

Cette dynamique guerrière se trouve partout dans le monde, et l’importance de la dynamique honneur-honte est universelle.

Par contre, en Occident, on a su (à travers le dernier millénaire) transférer pas mal de valeurs vers un “code d’honneur inférieur” “secondary honor code” qui renverse le sens moral de certaines pratiques culturelles clé – par exemple le duel, l’esclavage (v. Appiah, The Honor Code and Moral Revolutions). Ce processus a produit entre autres, les Démocraties, et la culture de connaissance/ technologie/ production qui en ce moment est l’hégémonie du monde (siècle de globalisation), et peut-être destructeur de ce même monde d’abondance.

Pourquoi les musulmans, en particulier les arabes, ont-ils eu plus de problèmes avec ce processus ? Tous le monde (y compris l’Occident) expérimente le processus qui consiste à arriver à une société civile et pacifique comme un traumatisme (pour l’Occident, voir l’oeuvre de Norman Cohn). Par contre, les autres cultures non-occidentales, même en gardant la dynamique honneur-honte à une place prédominante, arrivent néanmoins à s’adapter au monde moderne, et semblent mieux négocier cette transformation. (exemple le Japon, et pas mal de cultures confucéennes)

Le problème de l’Islam, dans sa forme politique (dar al Islam/dar al Harb) traduit les préoccupations d’honneur et honte en religiosité triomphaliste. “Nous avons la vraie foi, car nous dominons” (jeu de somme nulle). Donc la victoire d’un occident post-honneur (qu’ils voient comme une forme d’emasculation), constitue une insulte narcissique intolérable, surtout après l’humiliation globale que represente Israël – le destin interrompu. Ils sont donc dans une spirale négative où ils cherchent à détruire le succès de l’autre par leur autodestruction (somme negative, terrorisme suicidaire)

 

(ii) according to you, why has the quest for honor taken a more and more religious overtone since the 1970s in the muslim world, i.e. from Morocco to Indonesia?

D’abord, pour les musulmans du Proche-Orient (les arabes), le “nationalisme arabe” (oxymoron du premier ordre) recelait la promesse messianique : en devenant laïque on pourrait maitriser le monde moderne, et developper notre puissance pour a) détruire Israël (et laver notre visage noirci dans leur sang), et b) ainsi tenir tête (au moins) au Occidentaux.

Après la Naqbah de 1948, toute l’énergie des élites était dirigée dans cette direction, avec des résultats médiocres. Les pertes catastrophiques de 1967 et 1973 contre le minuscule Israël ont détruit la force de cette promesse de libération “nationale et laïque.” Donc le souterrain jihadiste (toujours présent même s’il n’est pas dans la conscience des Occidentaux qui insistent toujours pour ne voir les palestiniens qu’en termes laïcs comme mouvement “national”) a resurgi, car il y a  toujours eu un jihad.

Le nouveau message salafiste est le suivant :

“On n’a pas fait faillite devant le monde parce qu’on était insuffisamment séculiers (une concession humiliante à l’ennemi), mais parce qu’on était insuffisamment dévoué.”

Dans les deux cas, la motivation est de compenser la perte d’honneur, de se venger, de verser le sang et retrouver son statut d’homme d’honneur et de respect. Cet aspect religieux, bien qu’il va à l’encontre des mouvements globaux sécularisants, prend son élan avec l’arrivée du mujaddid en 1979 (voir la suite).

Dans le reste du monde musulman (le monde des peuples convertis, selon Naipaul), je crois qu’une dynamique alliée, mais beaucoup plus multidirectionnelle, s’est déclenchée surtout en 1400 AH (1979). C’est le 14e mujaddid, moment centenaire qui au moins depuis 200 AH (815 CE), promet aux croyant l’apparition d’un “restaurateur” (dans l’analyse apocalyptique: un rédempteur/mahdi avant l’avent du centenaire, restaurateur après, ex post defectu).

Ce fut certainement un élément clé dans la transformation de la théologie shi’ite de Khoumeini (par exemple à Paris) en mouvement révolutionnaire (ie millénariste) en 1400/1979, développement qui eu rapidement une réponse dans le monde Sunnite, surtout avec l’émergence d’al Qaeda et du Hamas (1408/1988).

Bref, le Mujaddid de 1400 déclencha (selon moi) la vague du millénarisme apocalyptique qui eu son point fort au tournant de notre centenaire/millénaire en 2000, et qui continue à croitre.

Yussuf al Qaradawi considère tout le 15e siècle, déclenché par le mujaddid, comme le temps pendant lequel le Dar al Islam global va s’étendre, non seulement par le Jihad, mais aussi, et même plus encore, par la Da’wa. Le premier sursaut de cet esprit apocalyptique/millénariste se voit déjà chez les musulmans non-arabes dans le récit de voyage de VS Naipaul publié en 1981, bien que pour lui, comme pour Gilles Kepel en 2000, c’était le crépuscule de ces zélotes. Le Pakistan nous fourni un bon exemple d’un militantisme islamiste lié à une culture d’honneur et honte très prononcé. (ainsi que l’Afghanistan et toutes les autres sociétés tribales musulmanes (Somalie, Niger, Soudan).

Ceci dit, on espère que dans les courants spirituels musulmans, on trouvera un millénarisme un peu moins triomphaliste, par exemple même démotique. Mais à présent, dans le monde musulman, les gens qui prônent la dynamique honneur-honte (primary code), les oneidophobes, dominent l’espace public (à savoir que ce sont eux qui définissent le cadre de l’honneur : s’occidentaliser c’est s’émasculer).

Ils ont un point de vue radical du jeu de somme nulle (qui devient facilement un jeu de somme négative – voir les nouveaux “martyrs” du 15e siècle), et n’hésitent pas à recourir à la violence pour imposer leur hégémonie (takfir), et donc, la revitalisation de l’Islam de nos jours est, pour la plupart, très belligérent non seulement contre les kufars (nous), mais aussi contre les musulmans insuffisamment mobilisés.

Je n’ai pas de solutions.

Je crois qu’on ne peut s’adresser à ces sujets qu’en commençant par la compréhension du problème, et ensuite (ou pendant le processus de compréhension), on trouve des solutions, ou au moins des chemins à suivre.

S’interdire de comprendre parce que les problèmes ainsi identifiés n’ont pas de solutions immédiate, ou parce que c’est un “racisme orientaliste” d’ainsi parler des sociétés musulmanes, ne me semble pas un processus de raisonnement mais plutôt de dhimmitude proleptique.

Who will defend Western Civilization? Not its “Social Justice Warriors”

David Brooks bemoans the inability of the West to defend itself and its values. The plaint is valid, the analysis deeply superficial and, I’d guess, ineffectual in reaching the “millennials” who think they’ve outgrown the need for those values and the democracies they created. Below a half fisking (critique) and whisking (elaboration) of Brooks’ proleptic threnody for Western civ. HT: YS.

The Crisis of Western Civ

David Brooks, NYT April 21, 2017
Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.
Note the lack of mention of ancient Israel. The Durants did address the issue what they called Judea, briefly if with limited sympathy in their opening volume, a small fraction of that first volume. In discussing the 6th commandment (thou shall not kill [really murder]) he notes:

nowhere is there so much killing as in the Old Testament; its chapters oscillate between slaughter and compensatory reproduction…

What a bizarre thing for a reader of the Iliad and great admirer of Greece to say! Why is so much of this chapter set on comparing ancient Israel (often, as here, unfavorably) with the worst of other cultures, including Christian religious practices like the inquisition?

That series encapsulated the Western civilization narrative that people, at least in Europe and North America, used for most of the past few centuries to explain their place in the world and in time. This narrative was confidently progressive. There were certain great figures, like Socrates, Erasmus, Montesquieu and Rousseau, who helped fitfully propel the nations to higher reaches of the humanistic ideal.

And Jews were a marginal part of the tale, victims of lamentable Western intolerance (read: aggressive supersessionism), but not actual contributors to that great civilizing venture we call the West. I was astonished, when I finally got introduced to “Western Political Thought” at Columbia, to find that everyone began with Socrates/Plato (5th-4th century BCE) and no attention to the Bible as a political document with remarkably modern resonance.

This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated.
… the principal of equality before the law, the value of manual (productive) labor, literacy and self-empowerment for commoners, respect and empathy for the “other,” criticism and self-criticism, rejection of oppression of those weaker, guilt at wrongdoing, the value of all human life…
It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.
And this civilizational consensus became the target of the Caliphaters, hard-zero-sum players from what we Westerners refer to as our “middle ages” or more broadly, pre-modern society, from a world of triumphalist religiosity, holy millennial war and inquisition. They have, with really astonishing success, managed to drive a wedge into democratic civilization and hammer away at fending what has become a internalized clash of civilizations between Western “left” and “right.”
Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
Pascal Bruckner wrote about this in his Tyranny of Guilt (in French penitence). Tenured Radicals pursuing their supersessionist, revolutionary agenda. When I was at Columbia (1984-86), a fellow grad student gave a presentation in which he argued that liberalism was a self-creating fantasy that did not collapse in a manner similar to how Wylie Coyote did not fall when he ran over a cliff, until he looked down. I did not at the time imagine that GPL radicals would stampede us off the cliff. Now we have millennials, proud of their unerring instinct for social justice, ready to forgo democracy in search of… ?

Millennial Social Warriors Fighting for Justice
The nice touch here is that it’s Western civilization’s teachings that make it possible to identify this oppression, to detect social injustice in every micro-aggression, every invasion of safe space. You won’t find another civilizational ideology (excepting the Jews) that does not take exceptional privilege for the elite – legal and life-style – as a given. And yet now, the demand for radical social justice=equality (whatever that means) has been turned by those who have been trained in the western (and Jewish) moral tradition(s), exclusively on attacking western (and Jewish) exercise of power.

Honor-Shame Pathologies and 4th Generation Warfare

One of my colleagues with whom I discuss honor-shame issues is Doyle Quiggle, who in addition to his ability to think about what Daniel Lord Smail calls deep history (governed by honor-shame dynamics), also happens to work on military issues: COIN, Fourth Generation Warfare. He recently sent me the following query, which prompted me a formulation that brings together a number of threads of thought:

What aspects of your research and scholarship would you apply to help us reveal the honor dynamics of Somalia? 

The stubborn and irreducible pathology of conflict in Somalia must be accepted as an existential given. Failure to perceive this pathology and its generative sources condemns the analyst and operator to alienation from the primary psychological, social, economic, and security realities of this region.  That blindness will lead to fatal operational consequences, sooner or later. To operate effectively, let alone establish lasting communal stability in any part of this region, we must first see the pathology of conflict in this region for what it is, accept it, no matter how ugly it might be, and then attack its sources. Once exposed, this pathology is immediately seen to require an integrative “oncological” approach to killing both its tumors and its feeder cells.  However, the decisive operational question today is this: Do we continue to pursue a chemotherapeutic tactic (“paint & kill” drone strikes)? Or do we attempt to administer homeopathic remedies? Is the long-term strategy containment or stability?

A strategy of stability requires an organic, homeopathic approach. Paramount to this approach is co-opting local moral authority.  Local moral authority is used as a kind of homeopathy to kill the cancerous stem cells of Islamic extremism and jihad by use of their own pathogens.

[For further elaboration framing the problem, see below.]

My response:

I’d study the pathologies of honor-shame, i.e. the cases when warrior/stratified, zero-sum, cultures find themselves faced with a more powerful positive-sum culture and after losing repeated zero-sum encounters, instead of adapting, going negative-sum: I’d rather lose more and drag you down in the shit than let you win; I’ll even sacrifice myself/honor/family just to make you miserable.

The classic case of this is the Arab-Israeli conflict where, in response to losing a hard-zero-sum war with Israel, the Arabs were in such denial — recognize Israel? admit defeat? impossible! — that they turned the Arab refugees from their lost war into weapons in a longer war against the Zionist entity. (The original meaning of Nakba/catastrophe was coined by the refugees about what Arab leaders had inflicted on them.)

Linda Sarsour’s tweet on those who disagree with her

Linda Sarsour, the controversial but highly acclaimed co-chair of the Women’s March, tweeted out her good will towards those who disagree with her.

I think this raises some important questions. First, what does it mean to bring in love in these matters? Normally the formula is “we can disagree and I can still listen to you, tolerate you, interact with you civilly.”

Second, what kind of conditional is that? Who decides when disagreement “is rooted in her oppression, in denial of her humanity? She does? What if her definition of what “oppresses,” “denies her humanity,” threatens her “right to exist” is extremely sensitive? What if she takes offense at the disagreement by claiming it threatens her very being?

And what happens then? Does she hate those she disagrees with?