Published on The Federalist
Last week, bullets from jihadists’ AK-47s pulverized the European Union’s hopelessly — and, indeed, dangerously — naïve vision for society. Moving forward, we must dedicate as much of our attention to radical Islam as to the Western culture that bred and allows radical Islam to flourish. To do otherwise would only further tighten the noose clutching the neck of liberty.
France — realm of rationalism, existentialism, and deconstructionism, those oh so uplifting conceptual frameworks that have entombed generations in labyrinths of self-destructive questions about knowledge and the cosmos. It is also the realm of another disastrous “ism,” multiculturalism, the unofficial ideology of the postwar European project, the one that has — as recent events fatefully and vividly illustrated — wildly succeeded in paralyzing those with a moral compass and letting run rampant those without one.
At the heart of the European continent’s debilitating obsession with “tolerance” is guilt. For France, memories of colonialism, imperialism, and the Vichy Regime weigh on its collective conscience with the same heaviness as a PBR hangover on a Brooklyn hipster. Previously, one might have speculated that it would have taken a suicide bomber’s obliteration of the Louvre to clear the scales from the eyes of the French. Today, so psychologically mired in the iniquities of “dead white men,” a significant portion of the population would probably (quietly) celebrate the metaphorical cleansing of its sins from yesteryear.
Terrorism experts have confidently predicted that copycat incidents will ensue. If al-Qaeda — or whatever group helped orchestrate last week’s attacks — were really smart, it would wait another or year or two until the uproar has subsided. Allow the public to return to its corrosive, multiculturalist lull, further eroding the backbone of French society. Thus, the next time around, the target will be even softer than it was before. After all, modern-day secularists are selfishly betrothed by the here-and-now. Islamists, however, see the struggle for civilization as an eternal endeavor.
WITH WESTERN FRIENDS LIKE THIS
It’s true that France’s security forces are some of the best in the world. They would be even better if they weren’t hogtied by PC-red tape spewed out by bureaucrats schooled at the École Normale Supérieure and drunk on the diatribes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. But as for defense strategy, the heated debate over whether Islamic terrorism is a perversion or the literal fulfillment of the Koran and Muhammad’s teachings is extraneous. Islamic terrorism, one way or another, is tied to the faith of Mecca and Medina. Forthright recognition of this fact will prove the first step to countering rabid opponents of profiling and, finally, penetrating the banlieues, the domestic breeding grounds of extremism.
Alas, it is far from clear that the enraged denizens of the République — and beyond — are willing to tread in this direction. “We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” noted a prominent cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo. His cynicism is understandable. Undoubtedly, most of the “Je Suis Charlie” demonstrators would have — if they had known about Charlie Hebdo prior to the attack — pilloried the satirical publication as “racist,” “bigoted,” and “hateful.” Calls for the editors, illustrators, and writers to be arraigned on “hate crime” charges would have been vehement and widespread.
So is the cartoonist’s pen — to put a contemporary spin on a classic adage — mightier than the sword? What’s the successive move after marching, making a placard, or retweeting a cover from Charlie Hebdo? “Solidarity” has been used a lot by the press to describe the condition of the French people. Yet solidarity in what? Merely shock, anger, and frustration? Solidarity in this situation is rather pointless unless it further encourages coming to terms with the present and pursuing meaningful changes in policy and culture. Indeed, ideas cannot be killed — if they inspire action. But at the moment, there’s a surfeit of hollow slogans campaigning against a bloodthirsty menace bent on world domination. Phrasing it differently, there’s a cluster of dry pens facing an army of sharp swords.
THE LAND OF HOLLOW MEN
Of course, the sensitivity illness dogging France is not unique to the dominion of Brie and baguettes; it courses through the veins of the liberal ethos, shutting down conversation and fomenting ethical vacuums. Still, the incubation of homegrown radicalization can also be deemed an unintended consequence of France’s noblest of movements: the Enlightenment. The progressive’s zealous drive toward a society of ever-increasing reason shaped by the “collected will” echoes from the Reign of Terror. Tragically, the fundamentally warped interpretation of human nature that left France’s citizens susceptible to tyranny in the late-eighteenth century has done so again in our own epoch.
If the eighteenth-century Irish politician Edmund Burke were to spring back to life, he might retitle his foundational work “Reflections on the Regression in France.” Clearly, it’s high time for the courageous in the West to guillotine hypocrisy and empty gestures by confronting reality as it truly exists — not as it appears in the minds of starry-eyed utopians.