In reply to the miser Roger Scruton’s article Forgiveness and Irony that weakens man.
Many thinkers of the Western establishment are slowly buying into the idea of a clash of cultures between the secular Christian-Judaic culture of the West and the Islamic theocracies of the Orient. When launched by the religious right under George Bush, many Western thinkers resisted the notion, but the persistency of the fear tactics by both the theocratic Jihadists and western supremacists, slowly seems to penetrate the academic ivory towers of European thought. These confused western intellectuals slowly shift their opinion by turning the Judeo-Christian foe into a friend, and replacing it by an image of a monolithic Islamic enemy. But the foe is all religion, and I argue against the impression that the progressive, secular revolution and the liberation of the self has concluded, an impression that is perhaps true for parts of European academia, but certainly not for Western culture that is still infested with the widest variety and many distorted forms of metaphysics.
Scruton forms a more complex framework of analysis around this compliance to the notion of a fundamental schisma, and is therefor worth more scrutiny than that of populist ideologists that gain so much support in Europe and America now. Scruton in his article defines a fundamental pendant of terms between the West and the East consisting of citizenship that implies a ‘freedom of the individual’ and the Islamic brotherhood that requires a ‘submission’ to the religious community. Scruton then argues that these two paths both have the same objective or as he puts it the same origin of defining meaning in life. This quest for meaning lies at the root of man’s existence and in entension it forms the foundation of statehood and governance. In his analysis, he then sees the loss of individualism in the brotherhood of collective submission and the retainment of the individual in citizenship. But no matter how fancy or gutsy one’s words, the message is the same echo of righteousness that the narcissism of supremacy dictates.
No wonder then, that Scruton concludes his introduction with a firm ‘yes’, Western citizenship is worth defending, with the academic treachery of thought following, ‘only if associated with meanings [..] to which the rising generations can attach its [..] identity.’ Now we enter the intellectual plains of cultural warfare in full armor.
First Scruton describes the failure of western idealism. This false argument bears no fact, Scruton better define failure of civilization first. No civilization has produced such prosperity, happiness and might as Western civilization in our time. The unscientific assumption that the West fails of an aging man who feels his juices flowing out of his body, and who projects his rising impotency onto the renewing world, irritates me without measure, especially as it is presented with the arrogance of sophisms of a philosophy of failure which finds itself mirrored in the rhetorics of neo-right populism.
The causes for failure according to Scruton: the second law of thermodynamics and a culture of repudiation. Scruton then loses every rational argument, but nevertheless believing in his own cries to battle, he rambles on about the energy and spiritual terrain of western civilization, how there is a sense of defeat and emptiness, a loss of belief, hesitation and timidity, doomed, unable, and doubts. This all hardly makes sense, but it supports a feeling, a feeling most likely within Scruton himself. An old man at the end of his career, lost ideals, a body trembling, friends once considered vigurous and invincible, dying, passion replaced by the routine of a dependent love.
Then Scruton, the old man, in a final attempt to rebuild his past youth, bound to fail, tries to rise it from the ashes, and his magic stick is the argument against the repudiation of the past. If we repudiate he argues, we cannot survive, but I say we MUST repudiate otherwise we cannot survive. We MUST destroy the old order to re-create a new order. Let us jump over the old fool Scruton, for every ending is a new beginning. This! This is the meaning that Western secularism has established, we have restored the natural order of the seasons, of death and life, of birth and re-birth.
And then Scruton commits the ultimate reactionary sin of progress, he re-builds the old ruins and argues the re-establishment of the Judeo-Christian order, one that has cast its vicious shadows over Europe for 2000 years. Has Scruton forgotten the darkness of this shadow that we now refer to as the Dark Ages? Has Scruton no memory of the secular glory of Greek and Roman citizenship as the founding pillars of civilization, that once the burden of Judeo-Christianity were thrown off in long and bitter struggles -and let me remind you: the struggles of single men AGAINST Judeo-Christian tradition- during the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Liberalism and Socialism, we finally entered into the Utopia of an intellectual, spiritual and sexual libertinism that allowed men to reach the moon and the stars!
Scruton summarizes the greatness of this Judeo-Christian tradition that he wants to be rebuilt: forgiveness, irony. ‘Forgiveness and irony lie at the heart of our civilization.’ The atrocity of this statement is sickening. Is there forgiveness and irony in the Requisition? in slavery? in colonialism? in genocide? in the absoluteness of monotheism or papal repression? or to be concrete is there irony in the repression of Palestine? in the Iraqi war? I don’t even know what people talk about when they are full of forgiveness they see in Western society and claim it as the great miracle of civilization. Forgiveness is a firefly in the darkness of Judeo-Christian culture. The two swords of power represent the revolution against divine absolutism, but this is not enough! and it certainly is not the merit of any religion. It is the SOLE merit of MAN ALONE that he has risen up AGAINST the Judeo-Christian tradition, and has established the kingdom of men! THIS is the struggle Scruton should be fighting, the battle against all religion, the establishment of reason and the liberty of self. So here is my battle: against the new conservatism of dying men.
bravo on the last two paragraphs remko! you easily overran scruton’s illogical assertions.
i found his interpretation of “civilization” and its effects on modern society and his theory on terrorism to be interesting though. i agree that it reflects his internal state to some degree, at least.