2008 September 20 Saturday
Muslim Politics In America And Materialistic Shallow Progressives

Razib rifts off of a recent report that evolutionist and avowed atheist Richard Dawkins' web site has been banned in Turkey (which wants to become part of the European Union btw). After commenting that Anglo-American and Scandinavian attitudes toward free speech are alien to most of the world Razib points out that in spite of a higher IQ skew of Muslim immigrants to America they take political positions close to those of Evangelical Christians.

In the USA the Muslims are relatively civilized because of immigration which skew toward those with industry and education, which naturally means inculcation in many disciplines which presuppose a Western outlook. Nevertheless, I have pointed out that by the data the average American Muslim has views in line with the average Evangelical more than the typical religious person. On a pan-religious distribution of traits in many ways moderate Muslims and conservative Christians are isomorphic. There are Muslims who might be the equivalent to liberal Christians, but their numbers proportionally small even in a relatively assimilated and integrated community such as American Muslims.

Razib points out that American secularists (and by these I think he's referring to the left-liberal subset of secularists) focus their criticisms on Evangelical Christians while simultaneously saying nothing about the threat posed by letting Muslims immigrate to America.

I only bring this up because many American secularists are in the habit of mocking and attacking the "American Taliban" and the primitive knuckle-dragging predispositions of Bible-believing white Evangelicals. On the other hand, to a great extent they treat Muslims like they treat black Christians; with benign neglect. This makes sense to some extent, Muslim politics today resembles that of black Americans; roughly, relatively fiscally liberal and socially & religiously conservative, and strongly Democratic. Muslim and black Americans are not perceived to be a threat to abortion rights, for example, despite their avowed opposition to the practice, because they support a political party which generally supports the maintenance of Roe vs. Wade. In contrast, large numbers of white religious conservatives are mobilized around this issue. The social conservatism of Muslims and black Americans is directed inwardly, against deviants and misfits within their own communities, and so to a large extent invisible to the anti-religious progressives who are allied with these communities politically.

But context matters. Turkey is not the United States, it is a 99% Muslim country where religious conservatives flex their muscle in a manner very reminiscent of American religious conservatives, except to a far greater magnitude of medievalism. For example, the stalled attempt to criminalize adultery. Across the Muslim world heterodox men and women exist under an oppressive traditionalism which would put small town Mississippi to shame. Of course despite any universal avowal of human rights there is only so much that one can practicably do. Here in the United States gay rights activists usefully turn their attention to religious conservatives as their primary opponents despite the much greater repression of open homosexuality in most of the world, especially the Muslim world. It is to some extent a matter of bang-for-your-buck, and also an issue of concerns near which are realized in our day to day life vs. abstractions of justice and fairness on the grand scope.

I do not see American left-liberalism as stable. The left-liberals act in ways counter to their long term interests because some of the elements of their faith blind them to their interests. As a result they support public policies that do great harm. Unfortunately from my perspective to the extent that my interests overlap with theirs my interests get sacrificed along with theirs. I will live in a less free and less prosperous society because they were too content to criticize Evangelical Christians and people in Fly-Over Country to develop in depth understanding. Their biggest mistake is going to turn out to be their support for immigration of groups which will, in the long run, act in ways that undermine the goals of middle and upper class liberals.

This all reminds me: Stuff White People Like blogger Christian Lander (read his post on white people moving into Harlem for an example) has a book out entitled Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. Writing for The Atlantic Benjamin Schwarz takes a look at the white progressive status-seekers and Lander's critique of this population segment.

Lander’s White People approve of the kind of diversity that affords them the aesthetic and consumer benefits of what they like to think of as urban life—that is, the kind that allows them to

get sushi and tacos on the same street. But they will also send their kids to private school with other rich white kids so that they can avoid the “low test scores” that come with educational diversity.

Here and elsewhere, accompanying the book’s mockery of the essentially innocuous solipsism of White People is what Lander, a man of the left, described to me as his exasperation with progressives’ “cultural righteousness” and “intolerance and groupthink”—a set of attitudes that enhances and is enhanced by a profoundly smug and incurious outlook. To be sure, these faults aren’t peculiar to the progressive and the hip, but Lander repeatedly and cleverly shows how some of White People’s favorite activities (watching political documentaries, “raising awareness,” foreign travel), which they complacently embrace as broadening, are in fact lazy and tend to be intellectually and politically stultifying: White People “like feeling smart without doing work—two hours in a theater is easier than ten hours with a book.”

More damning is the conclusion produced by a careful reading of this often fine-grained semi-sociological analysis: a good deal of the progressives’ attitudes, preferences, and sense of identity are ingrained in an unlovely disdain for those outside their charmed circle. In Lander’s analysis, much of their self-satisfaction derives from consumption (the slack-sounding “stuff” in the title is deceptively apt)—and much of that consumption is motivated by a desire to differentiate themselves from the benighted. Sushi, for instance, is “everything [White People] want: foreign culture, expensive, healthy, and hated by the ‘uneducated.’” And whatever its goals, the ACLU is beloved by White People, Lander satirically but not wholly unjustifiably asserts, because it protects them “from having to look at things they don’t like. At the top of this list is anything that has to do with Christianity”—an aversion, Lander discerns, rooted not in religious enmity but in taste (Christianity is “a little trashy”), formed largely by class and education. To those of this mind-set, the problem with a great many Americans is that they don’t “care about the right things.”

What is especially exasperating to me about the "White People" which Lander describes is the lasting damage of their shallow condescending outlooks. When translated into public policy their desires lead to long-lasting harm to the commonwealth.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 20 01:52 PM  Cultural Wars Western

cb said at September 22, 2008 2:27 AM:

Criticizing Muslims for their theopolitical culture would do, for Leftists, a disservice to the multiculturalism party line.

For instance, "liberal guilt" allows Leftists to attack people who look like themselves in order both (1) to avoid undercutting the facade of moral relativism and (2) to leverage cultural differences into agitation for equality of outcome (e.g., wealth distribution); which cultural differences would have otherwise and in the past -- so to speak -- spiced the melting pot rather than created a chemical reaction (well, Muslim immigration is actually kind of different, but that group isn't their only target, so I think this reasoning holds overall). That's what agitprop gets us, and it doesn't have to be that way.

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