Monday, June 28, 2010
Cracking the Code of Civilization
Civilization is a code, and while we easily fall into the habit of assuming that civilized norms are universal, they are limited to the civilized. Kindness, humility and reaching out to the enemy are valid behaviors only when they are likely to be reciprocated. Practicing that code toward nations and cultures which markedly refuse to be civilized, is the same thing as painting a target on your own back. Because civilized codes of conduct only work when they are reciprocal. They allow us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves and permit us to find common ground based on underlying principles. But to those who choose to be outside the code, such concessions are a weakness. Not a sign of moral strength, but physical cowardice. To the Muslim who has been raised on the tales of the Koranic conquests of Mohammed and his successors, only force represents moral truth. In the Koran, the infidels negotiate in good faith, while Muslims negotiate in bad faith. That is because Islam was meant to supersede the old tribal codes with a superior moral system, based not on honor, but on submission to Allah and Mohammed.
What we might consider foul treachery, was to the Muslim only a means to an end. Because moral behavior no longer had anything to do with trust, only with forcing more victims to submit to Islam. Negotiating in good faith was itself a symptom of a lack of faith. For the true Muslim could never honestly accept any enduring compromise with an infidel that would lessen the temporal power of Islam. He could only do so as a stratagem for weakening the infidel. To do otherwise would be blasphemy and heresy, two charges still commonly raised in the Muslim world against their own leaders who make even the appearance of honest negotiations with Western leaders. Meanwhile the willingness of the infidels to negotiate in good faith, in the Muslim worldview only demonstrated their lack of faith.
Paradoxically the willingness to negotiate in bad faith, to betray and assassinate shows a commitment to something greater. While negotiating in good faith and treating your enemy kindly shows a lack of confidence and principles. This attitude is not unique to Muslim fanatics, it is just as ubiquitous the left of our own cities, which considers radicalism and ruthless terrorism the mark of a true revolutionary conscience. From Lenin to Mao to Che, Communists ridiculed and murdered those who were not willing to be as ruthlessly amoral as them. The Western left has long since absorbed that same attitude, treating political activism as a kind of fevered passion that does not answer to any moral code. From the Paris Commune to the Baader Meinhof Brigade. From the Chicago Anarchists to the Chicago Seven. From the Black Panthers to the PLO. The left admires most those who are willing to kill or die, as evidence of their sincerity.
And such people, whether they are Hamas members in Gaza or the descendants of the Mayflower in Berkeley, are savages. Not savages by race, but savages by choice. They know what civilization is. They have often benefited from it. But they despise it as weak and unprincipled. To them the civilized code is a sign of the cowardice of the infidel or the bourgeois, who want to make limited concessions in order to protect their possessions and privileges. To them civilization is the compact of materialism over spirituality for the Muslim and passionate political engagement for the leftist. And they are entirely willing to exploit it, but they have no interest in honoring it.
When we treat savages as civilized, we let ourselves be vulnerable by pretending that people who do not share our code, are nevertheless entitled to its privileges. But civilization can only be a reciprocal code, or it risks being overrun by the barbarians at the gate. Because civilization only has value if membership has its privileges. If one can be a savage and still benefit from being treated according to civilized codes-- then civilization becomes a mug's game. Such a conception of civilization cannot and will not last.
Imagine if taxes were done on the honor system. Or if stores were equally willing to extend credit to thieves as to valued customers. Very soon, honesty and decency would become endangered traits. Instead those who ripped off the system would thrive, while those with integrity would suffer. And that is exactly the consequence of extending the benefit of civilized codes to savages. Civilization itself becomes a devalued and worthless commodity.
A savage can be reformed only by providing him with the incentive to be civilized. That requires a two tiered system. One for those who follow civilized codes. And one for those who do not. The former are protected by mutual agreements. The latter have no protection whatsoever. They are treated as they treat others. They have no rights, but those which they are willing to permit to others. If they are willing to live and let live, so much the better. If they are not, then so much the worse for them. Let them not hide behind words or excuses, because only civilized people may be judged by their words-- savages can only be judged by their deeds.
What is the savage then? He is not a savage because he is illiterate or uneducated. He may have the finest education that civilization has to offer. The savage may be wealthy or poor, but in the civilized world he is more likely to be wealthy. He may be of any race and skin color. These things do not matter. Only this does.
The savage seeks power to rule over others. He lives by no true laws, instead laws for him are means of achieving his goals. His word is worthless, as there is nothing he will not betray for his greater aims. He may believe in all sorts of things, but there is one thing he does not believe in, that others have the same rights that he does. Therefore he cannot be a citizen of any civilized nation. Alone he is a wolf seeking prey. When he finds a pack, then he sets to sniffing around the walls of the city, he looks for a way to bring down the city and all within it.
Mohammed, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Karl Marx, Benito Mussolini, Hassan al Banna Bill Ayers, Charles Manson, Eldridge Cleaver, Yasser Arafat, Idi Amin, Lori Berenson, Abu Hamza and so many others-- all savages. And when the savage stands in the light of civilization, his only impulse is to burn it all down. The savage has cracked the code of civilization and to allow him to exploit it, is to let the civilized world burn.