I didn’t listen to David Cameron’s speech on extremism for the same reasons I didn’t listen to Mhairi Black’s maiden speech in the House of Commons; a decent politician can take a very bad idea and make it sound good, simply by picking the right way to present it. Therefore, once again, I read the transcript of the speech rather than listening to the words.
I’ve noted my disenchantment with David Cameron before, as my readers know; this time, I find myself convinced that Cameron is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Like so many other politicians, Cameron is infected with the virus of political correctness, a virus that weakens the host to the point where resistance against dangerous threats becomes impossible. This may seem absurd, but consider; if the mere act of identifying a threat is considered evil, how then is resistance to be organised? This is, of course, the precise reason why 1984 was (and remains) such an important novel. The newspeak of political correctness is just as dangerous as the cruder form practiced by Big Brother.
Cameron is correct, to be fair, that Islamic extremism is a deadly threat. It is a ruthless force that is just as dangerous to Muslims as it is to everyone else. Nor is there any denying the strange appeal of extremism to young men and women, even though the men will be used as cannon fodder and the women forced to breed the next generation of extremists. Nor, finally, is there any denying the spread of conspiracy theories through the Middle East and the Muslim Diaspora, an inevitable result of governments that – whatever veneer they wear – are blatantly hypocritical. Many of Cameron’s observations on why this extremism spreads are quite accurate. Far too many young Muslims in Britain – and non-Muslims too – simply feel no attachment to British society.
But this is caused by a simple failure to defend British society.
David Cameron lauds the value of diversity. In some ways, diversity isn’t a bad thing. There is something to be said for being able to go out and pick somewhere to eat that might be Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Malaysian or Japanese. BUT … as Tom Kratman is fond of noting, the level of toxicity of any given substance is directly proportional to the quantity. Britain became great because Britain evolved a society that (in many ways) was not diverse. The concept, for example, that all are equal before the law is a British invention. Our golden age did not really begin until after we had settled the question of just who ruled the country – the monarch or parliament.
Immigration is not always a bad thing. Immigrants can and do bring useful skills to Britain. But it requires a certain willingness to integrate with the local community and accept, if nothing else, the legal system. There are standards of behaviour that must be enforced – a ban on forced/underage marriage, a ban on FGM, a ban on interracial conflicts, a ban on outright treason – in order to ensure that the newcomers do not remain marginalised and isolated from the mainstream. But these standards of behaviour were not enforced.
Political correctness does not allow the host society to stand up and say ‘your customs are barbaric and will not be tolerated.’ It is, apparently, intolerant to suggest that immigrants should integrate into the host society. But this leads directly to the central paradox of tolerance. If one should strive to be tolerant, should one tolerate intolerance?
It seems to me that the central bargain behind tolerance can be summed up as ‘I will tolerate you if you tolerate me.’ However, is that bargain actually being kept?
I am loathe to give any credit whatsoever to Osama Bin Laden. However, he did understand one aspect of human nature very well. “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." This seems both crude and absurd to us in the West. By any materialistic definition, neither Al Qaeda nor the Muslim world as a whole is a match for the sheer power of the Western World. However, strength isn’t just measured in military power and nuclear megatonnage, but in the will to fight, to defend what one has and defeat one’s enemies. All the power in the world is useless without the will to use it.
In playground terms, children will generally support the bullies rather than their victims … if only out of fear that they will be targeted if they don’t. It’s safer to side with the bullies.
Our core failure lies in the fact that we have failed to demonstrate the will to tackle our enemies. We have not stood up for those at risk – including other Muslims. Instead, we have allowed political correctness to weaken our ability to even understand the threat, let alone tackle it. Indeed, the willingness of countless intellectuals to justify terrorist atrocities and demonise legitimate counter-terrorism measures only weakens our ability to resist still further. It is no consolation, really, to observe that a very similar process crippled the Ottoman Empire well before its final death in 1919.
David Cameron’s speech is not enough. We must – if I may paraphrase – speak loudly, carry a big stick and demonstrate the will to use it. On one hand, we have failed to extend protection to those who would stand up against extremists; on the other, we have failed to extend protection to our own people because of the poisonous influence of political correctness. Unsurprisingly, it is not just Muslims who feel alienated from British society. People who feel, for example, that ethnic minorities can get away with anything, while they are punished for daring to express their opinions, have no reason to uphold society. Why should they? It isn’t working for them.
CS Lewis observed (IIRC) that there was an implicit deal between the average person and the state. The average person would forgo vengeance against the person who had harmed him and/or his family in exchange for the state punishing the criminal. The rule of law would replace mob justice. But what happens, as Lewis asked, when the state fails to punish the guilty (to the point of making excuses for them) and yet also expects the victim to forgo revenge? Lewis suggested that the victim would risk criminal charges himself to take revenge.
But the victim would also support political parties (fascists, in his terms) that promised to deal harshly with criminals. The failure of our mainstream politicians to protect British society and to stand up for British citizens will only lead to support for extreme parties, the ones that will happily commit atrocities of their own against immigrants – and then the rest of Britain. Democracy itself is under threat.
We need actions, not words … and we need them before the extremists do something far worse.