Pulling People Off a Lifeboat onto a Sinking Ship

From Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art:

The artist and the fundamentalist arise from societies at differing stages of development. The artist is the advanced model. His culture possesses affluence, stability, enough excess of resource to permit the luxury of self-examination. The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place. He has a core of self-confidence, of hope for the future. He believes in progress and evolution. His faith is that humankind is advancing, however haltingly and imperfectly, toward a better world. The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state. The truth is not out there awaiting revelation; it has already been revealed. The word of God has been spoken and recorded by His prophet, be he Jesus, Muhammad, or Karl Marx. Fundamentalism is the philosophy of the powerless, the conquered, the displaced and the dispossessed. Its spawning ground is the wreckage of political and military defeat, as Hebrew fundamentalism arose during the Babylonian captivity, as white Christian fundamentalism appeared in the American South during Reconstruction, as the notion of the Master Race evolved in Germany following World War I. In such desperate times, the vanquished race would perish without a doctrine that restored hope and pride. Islamic fundamentalism ascends from the same landscape of despair and possesses the same tremendous and potent appeal.

The bolding of words is mine.

So let us consider that very succinct description of fundamentalism in context with the recent John Robson article  and the Munk debate from last Friday  of which people are shocked that the pro-refugee side actually lost the debate when the audience was polled at the end of the event.

Here’s my thesis; the Islamic world is a failure.  Despotic rulers, poverty, backwards misogynist cultures… they’re a failure and have been for quite some time now.  They’ve “lost” to the West and modernity.  The people in those lands are confused, disheartened, defeated, they don’t know how to deal with this new liberty especially in places like Iraq where it was forced on them because the neo-con arrogance was that people want and embrace freedom.  So Muslims come to the West, either physically or metaphorically, looking for rules and guidance on how to navigate the “free” world because they lack the tools for self-regulation, as do great swaths of humanity, even in the West. 

But per the Robson article and Charles Murray and others, progressives have been so successful over the past 40 years destroying Western culture and the institutions it was built on that these people come to the West and find nothing, a vacuum. No structure, no rules, no ideas on how to regulate themselves.  And so they turn to fundamentalists who tell them this freedom stuff is for the birds, we need to return to a time in history (the Caliphate) when things were known, when faith ruled the day and we were in our glory.  And they buy into it – even two or three generations into being Western, because even great swaths of youth in the West are lost in a culture that holds nothing sacred anymore and just looks steady for the next thing to tear down.

Freedom is messy, incoherent and confusing.  For the most part, anyone who might read this post is lucky- we’ve been blessed with a good upbringing and rooting in character fundamentals that give us the ability to more or less successfully self-regulate our own behaviours and navigate our free lives.  But a great number of people in our own countries and across the planet are not as fortunate, and they have no idea how to deal with their lives.  Once upon a time here in the West, we had a dominant culture and traditional institutions that may have helped people get through life, but now those are being laid to waste.  And so we offer people who have difficulties nothing.  You’re on your own.  And that’s why they turn to fundamentalism because there’s answers there.

So, the idea that we should hold out our hands and bring in millions of migrants and refugees into the West is an increasingly absurd proposition in these current times because it is akin to people on a sinking ship volunteering to pull people aboard from a life boat.  They may not be jihadists or fundamentalists before they get here, but ironically we’re the ones who’ve made the conditions ripe for them to turn that way once they get here.



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