Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Opium Dreams Of Future Paradise

John Derbyshire:

The Beeb site also has a cute feature that permits readers to post comments on the news stories — a sort of instant Letters to the Editor column. I was reading some of these reader comments about the French riots. Listen.

We must all work together to encourage greater understanding, but it is a two-sided process requiring both sides to work towards a middle ground. — Martin Hollands, Aylesbury, U.K.

Many factors have contributed to this explosive situation. But above all, I feel the main one is the lack of respect and love on the part of the politicians and the police for the citizens, specially the ones of foreign origin. — D. DeHais, Carcassone, France.

Some causes are mainly due to discrimination, poverty, unequality of chance. — Marcel Bicho, Stockholm.

To narrowly and conclusively blame and scapegoat immigration for the unrest is to fall into the hands of, and pander to the interests of such right-wing, fascist demagogues as Le Pen and his ilk. I beg some of you to take a more complex, nuanced view of the situation. — Charles, no location.

The people the French authorities call immigrants were born in France and have nowhere to go to. The French authorities must put an end to racism,create jobs,and develop these areas. — Nfor H.Dama, Bamenda, Cameroon.

. . . All sorts of questions would have to be addressed: ranging from C20th. French imperial involvement and withdrawal from North Africa, to the continued effect of a power structure that perpetuates major inequalities of social opportunity and distribution. — Sven, no address.

Maybe this isn't about race . . . maybe it's about poverty . . . — Allan, Bangkok.

The riots are a very graphic expression of mass discontent and indicate that profound political,social and economic changes in the name of radical Socialism are urgently needed. The present capitalist system is both completely discredited and simply unsustainable. — Patrick Black, no address.

It is obvious that the French government needs to do something for these poor people before things get comepletely out of hand. — Giselle Hirschfeld, Hawthorn, Australia.

[G]ive them all jobs and give the city some peace. — Bill Derbyshire [No relation! I swear!], London, U.K.

Once Europe truly respects other cultures the way they want to be respected these problems will be history. — Firas, Leeds, U.K.

France has not yet come to terms with its colonial past. There are no 'post-colonial' studies programmes in this country . . . — Greta, Paris (19th).

So there you are. The solution to the rioting in France is plain. Respect! Give them jobs! Set up some post-colonial studies programs! Work together! Socialism! Love! End poverty! It's nothing whatsoever to do with culture, religion, or origin — how absurdly simplistic to think so! We must take a more complex, more nuanced view! Why on earth hasn't anyone tried any of this?

T. S. Eliot observed that "humankind cannot bear very much reality." I have always thought he was right. Now I am beginning to think that in fact old Tom severely understated the case. The normal and natural state of humankind, I am coming to believe, is a drugged stupor, an opium dream. Liberalism is just the opium dream of the modern West. Nothing will rouse us from it, nothing. At last, like the people in Lu Xun's iron house, we shall all suffocate. Then the bears will eat us.

The jihadists are lost in their own opium dream, of course — a dream of world harmony under a single faith, with all dissent stilled and all poverty and injustice vanquished — not so very different from the liberal dream, when you think about it, though of course the path to the promised land is bordered with primroses in the one dream, with corpses in the other. Now I find myself wondering, really for the first time: Which dream is more likely to attain reality in some form? Theirs, or ours?

No comments: