The Madrassa mindset.
We’ve all watched with disgust ISIS and their forebears the Taliban blowing up sites of immense archaeological significance. In the main, the people committing such vandalism are the lineal descendants of the civilisations which built those very monuments in the first place. They tend to blow up the big bits left over after they’ve looted and sold off the more portable bits to support their barbaric cause.
To some extent, it’s understandable since the only education so many of the perpetrators have had was in what’s called Madrassas. All that happens inside a Madrassa is endless memorisation and repetition of the Koran, with only a token nod to learning anything else. The world revolves only and exclusively around the tenets of the Koran and any dissent is punished by the whole pack turning on you because you’re committing blasphemy.
As an educational institution, it represents nothing more than the complete victory of fanatical theology over any kind of preparation to live in the secular world of the twenty-first century. The net result has been the stifling of innovative thought in the Arab world for the last five hundred years. Apart from advances in art, literature, astronomy and architecture, classical Arabic culture also produced ideas such as a positional number system, algebra and so many other innovative insights – in its heyday it more than matched the culture of the ancient Greeks.
The tragedy is that just when we were having our Age of Enlightenment, they were regressing backwards to what can only be called theological barbarism. A few parts of the Arab world, most noticeably Turkey in recent times, resisted this trend. We in the West have this unconscious assumption that as the years roll along, we become somehow more culturally advanced, the corollary being that it would be impossible to retreat back to some pre-enlightenment middle ages run by an unquestionable theocracy.
Developments of late make me think it’s time to consider if that latter idea still holds true because there are some striking parallels.
I suppose the first would be outraged demands to pull down symbols and statues of our cultural heritage. The most stark and yet the saddest is a vigorous campaign to have the statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from the front of Oriel college, Oxford. He’d been a student at Oxford and bequeathed a large chunk of his fortune to the college which created the Rhodes scholar scheme, enabling poor and not so students from all around the world like Bill Clinton to have an Oxford education. It’s an irony that one of the leaders of the vandalism campaign is an African Rhodes scholar who otherwise couldn’t afford Oxford.
A woman is fired from her job because she’s a Christian who insists on wearing a small silver cross around her neck.
There are many other examples of such cultural vandalism, but a Dutch art museum to its eternal shame taking it upon itself to retitle the paintings of the old masters to avoid giving offense is pretty indicative of the mindset.
It’s an almost hysterical outrage that people born hundreds of years ago are innately evil because they somehow don’t conform to the perfect moral code we’ve evolved for ourselves since their bones long ago turned to dust. By destroying their images and works, it will be as if they’ll never have existed for future generations. All that will be left is the one true word.
Even worse than the vandalism of historical objects, is the complete intolerance of any viewpoint that might contradict any tenet of a moral absolutist worldview. There is only one correct view on any subject, and I’ll not only hate you if you say otherwise, but do my best to ensure you can’t be heard either.
This attitude is most prevalent in colleges and universities. People are scheduled to appear at debates but because they might be speaking against the politically correct side of the question, they are disinvited or the whole debate cancelled. The whole intention is nobody should ever have to suffer a moment’s intellectual discomfort listening to an alternative viewpoint in their most formative years.
It’s bad enough when the topic under discussion is weighty, but when you hear somebody like John Cleese say he’s been advised not to appear at universities unless he wants a lot of hassle, it shows the spiteful venality. It’s not as if he’s some raging fascist, quite the contrary. It’s just that he might offend someone in the audience by telling a joke.
The Guardian recently announced a change of policy – they’d disable comments under controversial topics from now on. It’s a bit of a joke really, since they don’t publish controversial articles simply because they’re a consensual monolith on any subject, as we climate skeptics well know. What was really being shut down was any right of rebuttal via a comment under the current Pravda article. Dissenters will not be heard and as a result I rather suspect their click rate will plunge accordingly.
The actor Damian Lewis agreed to turn up at a school in his area of north London to turn on a laser light show. Immediately a campaign was started to ban him from supporting a local school because he’d gone to Eton, an expensive private school. The list of petty exclusions of non-believers is endless. Only the right people are allowed freedom of speech.
The mainstream media of course have a share of blame but it’s sometimes hard to discern if they’ve any belief in the process of cultural lobotomy and radicalisation, or are just after a good controversial headline and therefore ready to publish the minority views of any unrepresentative bunch of maniacs just to stir up some sales.
Yes, the people normally demanding we turn backwards to extremist views and behaviour are minorities, but the point is that they are achieving their goal of creating a narrow madrassa mentality in the West at the cost of our cultural heritage and liberalism.
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