Monday, March 11, 2013

The Dark Tower in our Midst

Brian LaFrance, Society of Digital Artists

The stronghold of tyranny has but one rifle, and we, its enemies, are many. We imagine ourselves lined up in ranks and files, ready to do battle with the evil forces of bigotry and intolerance, but it is only in the anonymity and safety of the crowd that we declare our moral strengths. Over time, we have become accustomed to this anonymity and safety, and when the rifle settles on us, we lose our courage.

The tyrants have learned a trick; if they point the gun at the nearest person, the one stepping farthest out of line, everyone is quick to ensure that someone else is closer than them. All of the brave defenders of liberal democracy and freedom make sure they are not at the front of the line and in the sights of the rifle. Thus, the outnumbered enemy has kept us in constant retreat, and even convinced some that if only we would remove the more outspoken and aggressive critics of hatred and oppression ourselves, they would leave us alone. The old tactic of divide and conquer is conquering us, and in our never ending race to the bottom, so-called liberals are turning against each other in the hopes that they won’t be seen as a threat by the enemy. In doing so, some have even managed the double-think of convincing themselves that the enemy isn’t really the enemy; that the true enemy is the one the tyrants point their angry fingers at, the ones who step out of line.

These are the people, we are told, who threaten peace and harmony. A peace upheld by submission to those who daily denounce the core principles of our nation: freedom of speech and the secular state.

But the enemies of liberty and truth cannot hide forever. Intolerance of gays and lesbians, mistreatment of women, bigotry against Jews and other religious faiths, and murderous contempt for any criticism are not the hallmarks of the critics of militant, reactionary Islam, but of militant, reactionary Islam. This is a fact that must be acknowledged if our values of freedom and democracy are to survive. These are values that benefit all people, no matter their gender, ethnicity or religion, and they really, truly are under attack.

The solution to the prisoner’s dilemma, the dilemma of the group having a single rifle aimed at their midst, is simple in theory. Without courage, however, it can become lethal for those who attempt it. One need look no further than the likes of Salmon Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Theo van Gogh, Maajid Nawaz, Lars Vilkes, Geert Wilders and, more recently, Lars Hedeggard to notice this. These are the brave soldiers who marched forward, sure that their line was advancing with them. Perhaps too late, they noticed they’d been left to advance against the fortress alone.

Three things must happen.

First, we must acknowledge that there are tyrants—backwards, violent theocrats—who do exist in the world today. They’re not “just” a vocal minority, they’re not doing what they do because they’re victims of Western imperialism and they really do kill people. We must admit to ourselves and proclaim and repeat that there really is something objectively, morally wrong people killing other people for being homosexual, for leaving their faith or for criticizing these practices too loudly. This requires the courage to face harsh realities, or as Orwell once put it, the “power of facing unpleasant facts.”

Second, we must stop submitting to the demands of the tyrants and shooting our own in the back with nonexistent labels like “Islamophobe,” and putting such people on trial for “hate speech,” as if an idea or a religion had feelings one could hurt, or a reputation one could destroy. The double-standard is clear if we consider what we would think if a politician were put on trial for hate-speech for saying blaming a political party for an economic downturn or accusing members of discrimination. This requires the courage of reconciliation, of admitting we might have been wrong about some things and that people we may have strongly disagreed with in the past might have been right.

Third, we must turn and join the charge against tyranny. Tolerance not a virtue when it tolerates intolerance, and that is precisely where we are and where we will remain if we do not find the solidarity and the courage to put an end to an enemy that isn’t unwilling to throw battery acid, rape, shoot, behead, and bomb whomever they like, and all the while to call for tolerance of its most grotesque crimes. This requires the greatest courage; the courage to acknowledge and accept that the rifle-sight may fall upon you in its sweep across the soldiers of the enlightenment. Many have died, and it is all but certain that many more will join their number before we can declare that we are through this dangerous chapter of history.

But the price of victory over the imposition of totalitarianism is worth it, for a life without freedom is, arguably, a life not worth living. We as a society face a choice: we can choose to accept a tower of death to stand unchallenged in our midst, destroying whom it pleases when it pleases, all the while growing stronger day by day, or we can choose to be intolerant of those who openly and incessantly call for the death of our culture and civilization, and laugh with delight at every sign of this visions’ progress. It is not a choice we may have for much longer.

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