FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Price of Globalization

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries…wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live… The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith…and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).

I was watching an episode of the Simpsons last night, enjoying their brilliant mockery of Catholicism, Mormonism, and other Christian faiths. Even as I doubled over in mirth, there lurked in some corner of my mind a nagging question whether they would dare do the same with Islam or Sikhism , Hinduism or Judaism. Few politicians or journalists will speak or write their minds in our day as Churchill did in his, or Marx or Mohammed or Gandhi did in theirs. Political correctness has sapped the ability to, in Mencken’s words (full quote later), “utter what seems at the moment to be the truth”.

A vestigial self-assurance may still remain. On ABC’s Nightline many years ago. Ted Koppel was interviewing a Soviet dignitary visiting Washington. Accompanying him was a junior functionary from the Embassy who spoke fluent English. In the middle of the program the young man protested to Koppel, “You are being unfair, you are not giving us equal time”. Saying, “I’ll worry about it when we get equal time on Moscow Television!”, Koppel continued on without skipping a beat.

The incident came to mind when I saw reports of protests, among other countries in Saudi Arabia (where one cannot possess a copy of the Bible or the Gita, and the only public worship allowed is that of Islam), and from Pakistan (where there are recent reports of young women being forcefully converted to Islam, and people of the “wrong” religions being on death row for blasphemy), up in arms about cartoons in a Danish newspaper making fun of the Prophet. In Gaza, Fatah activists (eager to make up for their recent electoral loss, perhaps) were shown bustling about with shoulder fired missiles, issuing threats to people from certain countries to leave in 10 hours, failing which their lives would be in jeopardy.

Of course, none of these same protesters have no complaint with western personages Carlyle, Bernard Shaw or Goethe for praising Prophet Mohammed. Like the rest of us, they are happy when they or theirs is praised, unhappy when criticized or satarized.

Except, however, most of us don’t threaten to kidnap and kill people who have criticized us, nor write specious screeds pointing out the difference between freedom and license. We shrug and move along, knowing that not everyone needs to accept our beliefs for us to be secure in ours. It is as simple as that.

And as vital. The quesion is whether the West will defend the central pillar of the Enlightenment, or will it abandon it to the new faith of ‘getting along at any price’ mealy-mouthed obeisances to self-censorship in the name of multiculturalism? Will it protect the one thing that has distinguished life in the West from life elsewhere on the planet — the protected freedom of expression? Or will it surrender before the threat of Danish biscuits vanishing from Arab storeshelves?

For in this crisis is laid bare a real cost of globalization — Western ideals in hock to the lure of free trade. Notice how the same people who are willing to start wars eight thousand miles away in the name of Democracy are ready to water it down at home at the first sign of economic disruption emanating from far-away lands. The global chickens have come home to roost.

After the principled stand by the Danish prime minister, who explained politely to critics that the government in Denmark could not order the press, some EU high-up weighed in with a disingenuous statement about the need to be sensitive to religion and culture. Following bravely was that unctuous hypocrite, Kofi Annan — who, it will be recalled, sullied his post by watching mutely when a UN member nation was savaged in a pre-meditated war — now expostulating on the need for freedom of the press to be tempered by respect for religion.

Weighing in the following day was Condoleezza Rice’s Department of State, whose spokeswoman blasted the Danish and other European papers for publishing the cartoons, stressing the need for press responsibility. For once they may be sincere — no one loves a supine press more than this administration!

The assault on free speech has been happening on a smaller scale for some time. I recall some company in the US which had used a picture of Gandhi in some unflattering fashion. A howl of protest went up on the Internet, and the company folded with the usual noises of forced apology and assurances of how much they respected the great man, etc. etc. About a year back, a play had to be canceled in the UK because members of the Sikh faith felt it offended them. The British state was nowhere about to protect the right of the organizers (in fact, the playwright, I recall reading, had to hide in fear of death threats. Not all are as prominent as Salman Rushdie).

Where is the State when it has a real role, which is it is to preserve and protect everybody’s right of free expression? President Bush speaks often about the threat to our way of life. If there is anything worth preserving in our way of life, the freedom of speech is first on that list.

“[I] know of no human right that is one-tenth as valuable as the simple right to utter what seems (at the moment) to be the truth.” Thomas Jefferson went further, ” “…truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”

The president needs to speak out on this matter and defend free speech in clear terms. As does every Democrat and Republican, every organization including the ACLU, and indeed, every individual.

There has been criticism of the self-censorship and the written laws of censorship which European media meekly follow, chiefly on topics of questioning the holocaust and bogey of ‘anti-semitism’. But just as a person protesting a speed limit of 60 mph would drive at the maximum speed allowed even while campaigning for its raising, instead of driving at 40 mph to protest the limit, expanding the right of expression, not its curtailment, should be the goal.

“We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us”, went the joke in the Old Soviet Union. Rather similar is the demand by protesters that Denmark, France, Norway and Germany apologize. This is the nature of both the apology and its demand in such cases. Galileo recanted, but did he stop believing the Earth went round the Sun? Compliance may be enforced, but respect is earned.

The editor of the Jyllander-Posten, accused of not ‘respecting’ Islam, said that what was being demanded was not ‘respect’, but ‘submission’. When told that Danish law allowed the newspaper to publish what it saw fit, the imam of the largest church in Denmark declared, “If this is Democracy, we want no part of it”.

I doubt if the imam had read Ved Mehta’s autobiography. When Mehta left India for America when he was not yet out of his teens. His father took him to take leave of Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he knew. Nehru wished the young man well and added, “Remember that wherever you are, you are an ambassador of your country.” In the chorus of outrage from muslim lands, Ayatollah Al Sistani in Iraq alone seemed to have grasped the import of Nehru’s words. He criticized muslims for bringing a bad name to their religion by postures of intolerance and threats of violence. Unknowingly, he was also echoing the late Nirad Chaudhuri’s apt reminder to his fellow Indians, “A tree is known by its fruits.”

References
1. The Trouble with Infallibility by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN
2. Newsweek: A Contest of Hypocrisies by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

 

More articles by:

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail