From time to time, people get to wringing their hands and lamenting the erosion of Western cultural sensibilities.
It used to be, for example, that you couldn’t mention the word “pregnancy” on television for fear of causing offense to gently-bred, Victorian-minded persons who weren’t given to discussing reproductive matters in company. When in 1984 it emerged that Vanessa Williams had posed for Playboy, she was stripped of her Miss America title as surely as she’d been stripped of her clothes during the Playboy photo shoot. Nowadays, it’s practically impossible to have your own reality TV show unless there’s sexually explicit footage of yourself available for download on the Internet.
And it certainly does seem that we’re getting blasé about it all. The first time people gathered in the streets to denounce the Great Satan circa 1978, we greeted it with shocked disbelief. Us, we wondered incredulously? Why would anybody hate us?
These days, you’re more apt to provoke a stare of wonderment if you’re not off chanting “Death to America” or, at the very least, its proxy cry “Death to Israel”. Cries for our demise have long since become monotonous. Old-hat, you might say. And whereas once this was an exotic feature of the foreign landscape, like non-potable drinking water, now you don’t even need to leave town to do it.
Time used to be the swastika was the exclusive preserve of the shaved head and white sheet set, something you wouldn’t normally encounter in polite society. Today, no self-respecting protestor would be caught dead without a placard or two comparing Bush to Hitler, to the detriment of the former. The swastika is enjoying a surge in popularity it barely had during the Third Reich, courtesy of the same people who brought you the convenient contraction “Bushitler”. Such is the strength of its renaissance that you’d be hard put to distinguish between an Aryan Nations hate convention and an International ANSWER rally for peace, using only number of swastikas as a metric.
The first time Iranian President Ahmadinejad called for wiping Israel off the map, there were a couple of raised eyebrows among the pinstriped pants at the United Nations. But by now it’s become so routine that he’s lucky if he can draw a half-hearted, pro forma rebuke from Tony Blair calling his comments “unhelpful”.
Truth is, Ahmadinejad is a victim of our jadedness. He’s simply lost the power to outrage. He searches in vain for ways to outdo himself.
He denies the Holocaust ever happened. The world barely bats an eyelash. He launches a nuclear program. The EU stirs itself to send some forms in triplicate. He sends a proxy terrorist army to wage war on a fellow UN member state. France lauds him as a “force for stability in the region”. Try as he might to provoke a reaction, the world is determined to pat him on the head (no great feat, in light of his small stature) and treat it like a quaint prank.
The danger in all this is that when the leader of a totalitarian theocracy is given to making the outrageous demand that a democratic fellow nation be annihilated and, furthermore, that he be the one assigned the task, he starts to seem like a reasonable fellow when he suggests instead that it be merely dismantled and relocated to Upper Silesia.
Every time a bunch of university-educated, upper-middle-class guys attempt to blow up a few planeloads of their fellow citizens, we’re told that such is the strength of their grievances they were positively driven to it. After a few repetitions of this mantra, it starts to seem like a plausible hypothesis. We stop questioning how it is that citizens of a democratic nation, encouraged to express their opinions in every conceivable way except violently, able at a pinch to round up several thousand of their fellow countrymen in front of Her Majesty’s Parliament to denounce their host country in terms bordering on the seditious, can possibly feel “alienated” from society. In fact, one wonders in just what other non-Western nation on earth could these individuals have greater latitude with which to promote their views. Try emigrating to Iran and pulling that stunt in front of the majlis, for instance, and get back to me on the results.
These days, victimhood is so fashionable that you can’t find a group without a long laundry list of compelling grievances. And yet it is only one group among them that resorts, with alarming frequency, to violence. So the argument that terrorist acts are motivated by sundry “grievances” is simply unconvincing.
Then just what is the mysterious ideology that fuels these acts of terror? Don’t expect enlightenment from our law-enforcement officials, who get suddenly tongue-tied whenever it comes to naming it. It seems that every age has its taboos, after all.