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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Philip Carl Salzman : The Great Humanistic Delusion


  • With the broadening of globalization, and the ever-larger flows of population to distant lands, diversity became not only more prevalent, but a quality to be desired, an inclusion of all varieties of humanity, an ethic.
  • The means of attaining this diversity is cultural relativism. Its thesis is that all ways of life are equally valid, and that judgement must be suspended absolutely and permanently. In acknowledging differences, we would potentially be opening discussion to insidious comparisons with claims that one culture might be preferable or others. Such evaluations would violate the cultural relativist principle that all cultures are equally valid and good.
  • If some people attack others in the name of Islam or jihad, we hear it as if they must be lacking the things that we would miss: steady jobs, nice houses, good cars. If some people who have immigrated to our home country murder our citizens, they must have suffered a lack of opportunity due to racism or "Islamophobia." According to the humanistic delusion, violent people are despondent and desperate from not having the things that we have. And there is also a clear answer to stopping the attacks: give those folks the nice things that we like, so they will be content, be nice, and not try to take us over or blow us up.
  • We like to think that all people should be treated as equals, and regard religious prejudice as racism and discrimination on the basis of sexual preference with disdain. But in South Asia, the hierarchical caste system ranks people according to purity vs. pollution. Pakistan means "Land of the Pure".
  • Finally, as members of the UN, we believe that countries should respect one another, and not interfere with one another; particularly, we think that warfare should be avoided. But does everyone think that?

Most people in North America and Western Europe cling to a very dangerous belief: that people are really all the same, that people everywhere want the same things, that people everywhere have the same values. And the things others want and value are the same things that we want and value. This is the great Western humanistic delusion: that everyone is the same, and everyone is like me.

Historically, people saw their encounters through a loyalty and pride in his or her family, clan, tribe, caste, class, nation, religion, and race, and to have suspicion and disdain for those of other families, clans, tribes, castes, classes, nations, religions, and races. Uniquely, in the West, after the Enlightenment, the idea of the "in" group broadened and broadened over time, so that by the second half of the 20th century, identity was increasingly with all of humanity. Anthropologists rejected race as a legitimate scientific category.

The positive side of the new framework of "all of humanity" can be seen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promulgated by the United Nations, and endorsed by most countries of the world. However, Saudi Arabia abstained from the ratification vote.
"Saudi Arabia's stated reservations to the Universal Declaration were that its call for freedom of religion violated the precepts of Islam, and that the human rights guaranteed by the Islamic-based law of Saudi Arabia surpassed those secured by the Universal Declaration."
In 1984, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, said that the Declaration was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition" that could not be implemented by Muslims without conflict with Sharia.

On June 30, 2000, members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference officially resolved to support the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, an alternative document that says people have "freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari'ah." The Islamic Cairo Declaration excludes many of the rights inscribed in the U.N. Universal Declaration, such as the rights of free speech, of religion, and of marriage by free choice. In other words, to the OIC, whatever is inside sharia is a human right; whatever is not inside sharia is not a human right.

This framework of inclusion of all humanity by the West and its allies is seen in immigration policies opening Western countries to people everywhere; in the embrace of multiculturalism by Western governments, and in the laws liberal democratic countries passed that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, race, nationality, or other external characteristics.

With the broadening of globalization, and the ever-larger flows of population to distant lands, diversity became not only more prevalent, but a quality to be desired, an inclusion of all varieties of humanity, an ethic. The means of attaining this diversity is cultural relativism. Its thesis is that all ways of life are equally valid, and that judgement must be suspended absolutely and permanently.
At the same time as we celebrate diversity, however, we tend to deny differences. 

We would rather emphasize what we have in common: that we are all human beings who deserve dignified treatment and consideration. Furthermore, in acknowledging differences, we would potentially be opening discussion to insidious comparisons with claims that one culture might be preferable or others in some ways worse than others. Such evaluations would violate the cultural relativist principle that all cultures are equally valid and good.

The alleged homogeneity of people, according to the humanistic fantasy, helps us to misunderstand the world. If some people attack others in the name of Islam or jihad, we hear it as if they must be lacking the things that we would miss: steady jobs, nice houses, good cars. If some people who have immigrated to our home country murder our citizens and military, they must have suffered a lack of opportunity due to racism or "Islamophobia". If Palestinians refuse to accept a Jewish state or even Jews in their midst, it must be because the Jews stole their land and kept them from having nice houses and cars. According to the humanistic delusion, violent people are despondent and desperate from not having the things that we have. And there is also a clear answer to stopping the attacks: give those folks the nice things that we like, so they will be content, be nice, and not try to take us over or blow us up.

The deluded conviction that all people want the same things has been refuted by the entire field of anthropology, which identifies culture as a primary determining influence in people's lives, and which studies, through peoples around the world, the great variations in values, and practices and beliefs.

We say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," which recognises that Romans do things differently. The point of anthropological research is to identify, understand, and explain those differences from culture to culture. Ruth Benedict in Patterns of Culture spoke of the great arc of cultural variation. Anthropological understanding of the diversity of cultures has spread to other fields, such as international relations, where Samuel Huntington analysed international conflicts as the "clash of civilizations."

People from other cultures repeatedly tell us that they view things differently from the way we Westerners do. Hamas and other jihadi groups repeatedly say, "You love life; we love death".

Jihadis may love death because they believe that to die while waging jihad will send them directly to heaven, 72 virgins, and glory here on Earth.

While we in the West work toward ensuring that all sexual relations are consensual, the view in Pakistan is probably more that "Christian girls are for one thing, the pleasure of Muslim men."

Sharia law (Quran 4:34) allows Muslim men to capture infidel girls, rape them, keep them as sex slaves, sell them or kill them, as they like. The Islamic State has recently been active gang-raping Yazidi captives, selling them as sex slaves, and, as in the instance of 19 girls who refused to have sex, placing them in iron cages and burning them alive.

In Hindu South Asia as well, women are subject to rape, and their communities and public authorities often ignore their anguish unless they are murdered as well.

We like to think that all people should be treated as equals, and regard religious prejudice as racism and discrimination on the basis of sexual preference with disdain. But in South Asia, the hierarchical caste system ranks people according to purity vs. pollution. Pakistan means "Land of the Pure"; the trouble is that fewer and fewer people seem pure enough. Crossing caste lines often leads to violence.[1] Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu was an Indo-Canadian woman, who, while visiting India, fell in love and married a man of low caste. Her Canadian family arranged to have her murdered.

While in the West we think that girls should have a certain amount of freedom and be able to mix with their peer group, some Middle Eastern immigrants in the West think that their and their families' honor has been besmirched by their wives, daughters or sisters becoming "too Swedish," or "too Canadian".[2]
In the Shafia family, who came from Afghanistan to Montreal, the father, mother, and older brother murdered a first wife and three daughters for becoming "too Canadian," dressing immodestly, talking to boys, and thus becoming "whores." The victims were dumped in a canal in Kingston.[3]

We may all wish for the Palestinians and Israelis to make peace. But do the Palestinans wish it? The Israelis have offered the Palestinians a state and peace repeatedly, from the UN 1947 Partition Plan on. The Palestinians repeatedly rejected all offers. Why is that? Should two peoples not be willing to live in peace side by side? Alternatively, the Palestinians seem to believe that all of Palestine is an Islamic waqf, a permanent religious endowment, and must belong to Muslims alone; and that Jews and other "unbelievers" should only allowed to be dhimmis – second-class, tolerated residents who have live under Muslim rule with separate, humiliating laws, and pay a special tax, the jizya to protect their property and their lives.

Finally, the Jews had the lack of grace not to let themselves to be defeated during four invasions by Muslim armies – in 1947, 1956, 1967 and 1973.
Middle East expert Gregg Roman notes:
"However, when taking into account 3,000 years of history and context, Palestinian Arabs, not indigenous Israeli Jews, become the offending party....Around 1,300 years ago, descendants and followers of the Prophet Mohammad from Arabia poured out of the Peninsular in an orgy of conquest, expansionism and colonization. They first annihilated ancient Jewish tribes in places like Yathrib (known today as Medina) and Khaybar before sweeping north, east and west, conquering what is today known as the Middle East, North Africa and even southern Europe...Wherever Arab and Islamic rulers conquered, they imposed their culture, language and — most significantly — their religion....At first, Arab settlers and conquerors did not want to intermingle with their indigenous vassals. They often lived in segregated quarters or created garrison towns from which they imposed their authority on native populations.... while slavery became rampant and unfettered...Slowly, but surely, the "Arab world" that we know today was artificially and aggressively imposed."
Palestinians believe that the situation can only be set right by defeating Israel, destroying Israel, and replacing Israel with a Palestinian Muslim state, as can be seen in both the PLO Charter, Article 22 , the Hamas Charter or any Palestinian map.[4]
 It is for this reason that many Palestinian mothers do not want their children to go to college and become businessmen, dentists, accountants, or doctors, as we wish for our children, but want them to murder Jews, be killed, and become martyrs for the Palestinian cause.

Finally, as members of the United Nations, we believe that countries should respect one another, and not interfere with one another; particularly, we think that warfare should be avoided. But does everyone think that? Russia has recently invaded Ukraine, showing the West's guarantees were worthless. Russia then proceeded effectively to take over Syria and now appears inclined to take over the Baltics.
The Islamic State, for its part, intends to take back Andalusia, lost in 1492 from Spain, which had reconquered it from Muslim invaders:
"We will recover al-Andalus, Allah willing. Oh dear Andalus! You thought we forgot about you. I swear by Allah we have never forgotten you. No Muslim can forget Córdoba, Toledo or Xàtiva. There are many faithful and sincere Muslims who swear they will return to al-Andalus."
And Iran continues to be the world's leading sponsor of terrorism, as it continues to threaten Israel and the U.S.


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, March 16, 2015. (Image source: European Union)

So it appears that peace and stability is not what many others crave. If you really think everyone is like you, you might want to think again.
Philip Carl Salzman is Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Canada.

[1] See Weiner, The Rule of the Clan, Ch. 7.
[2] See Unni Wikan, In Honor of Fadime and Generous Betrayal; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel.
[3] See Christie Blatchford, Killed Because They Were Girls; Paul Schliesmann, Honour on Trial: The Sahfia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings.
[4] For more on this, see Salzman, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East.

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