Sunday, September 16, 2012

Innocence of the West

Following on my previous blog, I think it’s important to understand the way in which the reaction to Innocence of Muslims is a ‘clash of civilizations’. Twenty-first century religion is linked to morality and ethics through the facet of our culture known as consumerism. The adultery portrayed in The Scarlet Letter was not mediated by any commercial activity; today it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the costume of a stripper and the wardrobe of an inner city high school student.

The reason for this is that our corporatocracy is dedicated without nuance to selling stuff, from weapons to use against those who sit on oil, to the ever bigger TVs that have replaced ever bigger automobiles, to the latest fashions made in Third World sweatshops, to infinite variations on breakfast cereals and a lipstick for every outfit.

This culture has just reached its nadir in the shape of a film portraying Mohammed as a childish skirt-chaser surrounded by dumb and dumber acolytes. The media understandably focuses on pictures of the riots the film has provoked. But the words used to describe it are studiously mild. No commentator has suggested that if a similarly mocking and denigrating film were made about Christ, Christians would be horrified. Today, playing it safe, American, French and Russian TV are all referring to the film as ‘controversial’, telling us what it has done, but not what it is.
 Rather than talk patronizingly of a clash of civilizations, we need to realize that our ‘civilization’ is not what most other peoples would call civilized. Worshipping individualism, modern society sees freedom rather than ‘virtue’ as the highest moral value. Westerners are so used to vulgarity that we no longer see it. The  populations all over the world that are attacking our embassies and burning our flag may not have college degrees, but they know disgusting when they see it.

The West’s cultural inability to recognize the boorishness and ugliness of the film has prompted a desperate search for another explanation of the violence we are witnessing. If neither poverty nor the theft of resources have stocked such deep anger, why a ‘mere’ film? Because the film is seen as reflecting the West's true attitude ttoward Islam. Muslims who granted the U.S. ‘attenuating national security circumstances’ for its repeated invasions of their lands now feel they were duped. The fact that Washington dissociates itself from the film is irrelevant because its actions seem to condone it.  Like the proverbial butterfly effect, the sick creation of a convicted felon has turned a significant number of people against what has hitherto been the most powerful country in history.

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