by- 8th January 2015
For once, our reasonable culture has no reasons.
Of course, it’s obvious the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were killed for religious reasons, but why would one kill for religion?
The killings by two masked gunmen audibly shouting Allahu Akhbar – God is Great – on videos replayed over and over again, are bullets to the heart of the Western dream.
Anyone can come and live in the West if they can fight their way in that is – regardless of belief, background or even moral eligibility.
And they can live here without being taught the first thing about it, or what its freedoms are built upon: which are essentially the courage to live for the Man who preached ‘The truth will set you free’.
We assume because our beliefs don’t apparently matter any longer – or the history they rest upon – that theirs don’t either. Their cultural baggage is not only private, it’s for that reason irrelevant.
This is especially so in the land of laicité – a civic religion that requires the strictest religious self-censorship in public, unless it’s anti-religion. The Paris journalist last night on Channel 4 spoke proudly of the country’s ‘anti-clericalism’ as if it were still 1789.
But as I’ve been saying interminably for two decades, the spiritual dimension is more real than the material. It is what governs human motivation, the meanings human beings give to things, the way people cope with deep-seated fear.
Reference to transcendence, to meaning beyond the immediate, is how society builds coherence out of the rubble of human circumstances.
Desire is spiritual. Self-loathing is spiritual. Self-control, and the management of hatred and revenge are spiritual. And they are for that reason manipulable. You can decide to persevere in loving or hating or living. It becomes a habit. It changes you over time. Religion is a world-building exercise and it starts with small things.
No amount of shopping, or laughter, or sex, or money can entirely over-master the deeper reasons for living.
Mostly we don’t know it though, as we try to avoid at all costs that nightmare place where we find all our own resources unequal to our need.
But now our whole culture is finding its resources unequal to its need.
And what is filling the vacuum? Sound and fury.
As Alasdair MacIntyre says in After Virtue, we don’t even know what we’ve lost.
And if that is true, any attempt to revive it will necessarily appear implausible, since, he says ‘one way of stating part of the hypothesis is precisely to assert that we are in a condition which almost nobody recognizes and which perhaps nobody at all can recognize fully.’
That’s why we merely do more of what has got us into this mess: secularists extinguish what little sense of spiritual truth remains in public life; the left blame the far-right; the right blame immigration policy; think tanks give us facts about Islam in France; Americans happier in their religio-civic identity write about Islam’s inner war.
Journalists meanwhile debate how reckless/brave to continue to be, depending on your point of view, in regards to the unreasonable power of religion … and without more social coherence out there as a buffer, will continue to die.
Lapido’s own Trustee ,the winsome Tom Holland, has re-tweeted one of the offending cartoons, and then written about why he did it here. He is brave, and though he hates to cause offence – I’ve witnessed him for years cope initially with death-threats, then lies and slander with endless good grace and wit – he’s decided that for once something matters more.
In the BBC News Magazine, he wrote this morning: ‘While under normal circumstances I am perfectly happy not to mock beliefs that other people hold dear, these are far from normal circumstances. As I tweeted yesterday, the right to draw Muhammad without being shot is quite as precious to many of us in the West as Islam presumably is to the Charlie Hebdo killers.
‘We too have our values - and if we are not willing to stand up for them, then they risk being lost to us. When it comes to defining l'infâme, I for one have no doubt whose side I am on.’
Without this kind of bravado, Europe will be engulfed – indeed is already being engulfed – in the very same insidious, collective fear many left their homelands to escape.
Islam is indeed Islam’s problem.