The Irresponsibility of Intellectuals

Lorenzo Lazzerini Ospri

How many more wake-up calls do we, the citizens of the free West, need? Many more, apparently. Journalists and cartoonists were gunned down last year like quarry for the crime of having dared, as non-Muslims in a s ecular country of Europe, to defy Islamic blasphemy laws. November 2015 offered the sight of heaps of corpses strewing the streets of Paris. The sacrifices have continued in a drip: stabbings and shootings and decapitations. The way ghoulish scenarios are becoming routine is in itself indecent. That the rampaging thugs banded under the Islamic State will eventually be defeated, no intelligent person can doubt; it’s been repeated ad nauseam that they’re a cult of death, destined like all nihilists for self-destruction. It can’t happen too soon. The problem, however, isn’t the Islamic State or al-Qaeda before it or the Taliban. Those are symptoms.

The real struggle is between enlightenment and barbarism. The terrorists themselves are keenly alive to that fact. Why does France continue to be their prime target in the West? Demographics may be part of the explanation, but there is more than the irony of fate at work in black-hooded fanatics mowing down cafe-goers while shouting “God is great!” on the Boulevard Voltaire.

This war of ideas has been raging for at least four decades. It is not a war between Westerners and Muslims, much less Christianity and Islam. There are Christian theocrats and fascists who long for a kind of society hardly out of place in a Taliban dream. On the other hand, Muslim immigrants in the West are varied, both ethnically and ideologically. Persians have little in common with Pakistanis, and Kurds may not be uniformly fond of Turks. In France, a poll famously revealed that 20 percent of self-identified Muslims are actually atheists and only 5 percent regularly attend mosque. These secular Muslims are the most precious denizens the West could have, since the battle underway is above all for their hearts and minds. Indeed, this began as a civil war between Muslims, and it is now spilling into the streets of our cities. The outcome, given demographic trends, might determine Europe’s destiny, much as the Battle of Britain did seventy-six years ago.

The nature of the enemy has been described at length by experts. Our current world crisis has been smoldering since the late 1960s when Wahhabism, the unreconstructed ultra-reactionary state ideology of Saudi Arabia, fused with the incendiary new teachings of one Sayyid Qutb, who was to go down in history as the sexually repressed chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. The spawn of this union was, as you’d expect, an aggressive expansionist totalitarian creed. Various designations have been proposed for it, including militant Wahhabism and Islamofascism. Whatever the name, few aspects have been regarded as benign. Garden-variety Wahhabism itself was so extreme that when it first emerged from the Arabian desert in the eighteenth century, it proved too much of a nasty jar for even the world-weary rulers of the sandy purlieus, the Ottomans. At the risk of imperiling their reputation as street-hardened toughs—hard-won on the dust of centuries spent impaling Hungarians—they decided to send in the troops at once to stamp it out. The Qutbist mutation made this ideology imperialistic: it now has the ambition to conquer the world, overthrowing secular governments and replacing them with the caliphate—a jolly vision of a society where every aspect of life from how you shave to your boudoir behavior is prescribed and regimented and inculcated by black-cowled clerics backed up by a “morality police.” In this world-sized dystopia, swaddled women survive as chattel; freedom of speech is of the past; all education, art, and music are forbidden; and the only form of entertainment is witch-hunting, during which apostates, heretics, homosexuals—in short, anyone who doesn’t conform—are destroyed in elaborate displays.

Now you have to understand that this picture of the future is not a remote and improbable one, and if it comes to your neighborhood in the shape of terrorism, you’ll have paid for it. The West has made Saudi Arabia immensely rich with oil trade, and the vile clerical establishment of that benighted and perverted country hasn’t been sitting idly on the cash. Hundreds of billions of petrodollars have been lavished over the past few decades for the global proselytizing of militant Wahhabism. Radical madrassas, mosques, and Islamic “cultural centers” have sprung up all over the world. Islamist propaganda is rolled off the presses of Riyadh for distribution from the United States to Indonesia. Saudi-trained imams are dispatched to European communities. Wonder why most Eurabian terrorists seem to sprout in Belgium? Look at the track record of Saudi subversion there. Worldwide, concerted indoctrination efforts have succeeded to a remarkable extent in sidelining previously dominant moderate strains of Islam. Now the wildfire has reached a critical mass and is destabilizing whole regions of the globe.

The same wealth that enabled the Saudis to poison the wells of Islam also enmeshes and paralyzes Western governments. That’s why the United States continues to press for “regime change” in virtually every Middle-Eastern country other than the one where it would make a difference. The way our politicians and media have willingly prostituted themselves in the service of barbarians who openly despise them and wish to destroy their societies is itself highly educational. But the worst, of course, has come from the intellectuals.

The Traitors

Islamism wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the West were it not for a rot that has overtaken sections of the left-wing intelligentsia and is sapping Western society at large. To understand it, a seeming digression is in order.

In 1545, a Catholic mob swept through the village of Merindol, on the stark Alpine frontier between France and Italy. It hunted down and killed everyone, children included, because the villagers were Vaudois—heretics—and their lives, therefore, were offensive to Catholics. The massacre was the latest in a centuries-long series that was just about to draw to an end, as sheer exhaustion forced the two sides to an armistice. The resulting treaty established what could be called a perfect regime of de facto multiculturalism in the Western Alps: Vaudois and Catholics lived in cozily segregated communities, each perfectly undisturbed by the other, each living under a different set of laws and local governance from the other. This premodern European atmosphere of multiculturalism extended to the Jews, who were vouchsafed the terrific privilege of living in their own ghettos, subject to their own religious laws and community leaders. Of course, Jewish ghettos were rather grim theocracies ruled by despotic rabbis, but that was a little thing to countenance for the sake of this idyll of diversity.

What could possibly have gone wrong, one wonders? Well, you probably already know what in the case of the Jews. The Vaudois, too, had an unfortunate relapse. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the world’s Protestants, had to intervene diplomatically to avert a final solution at the hands of the Catholics, but intercommunal relations remained, shall we say, strained. It is, I believe, fair to both sides to state that the absence of suicide-bombers ought to be imputed only to deficient technology, not lack of will.

The Vaudois in the end survived to the present. But what saved them as individuals destroyed them as a discrete religious community, and that was the French Revolution.

Yes, citoyens of the English-speaking nations: the French Revolution, whose image will be forever tainted in the Anglosphere’s imagination by Dickens’s farcical image of endless convoys of tumbrels overworking underpaid guillotine operators, is actually quite fondly remembered in continental Europe. The French, that most quixotic of peoples, go so far as to still blazon all their state paraphernalia with the revolutionary motto. The Second Spanish Republic in the twentieth century adopted the same for its own: “Libertad, igualdad, fraternidad.” The reason? The revolutionaries were men and women who had a dream: to emancipate humanity in a country and time when society appeared a hopeless slough of oppression, exploitation, and fanaticism. They squared up to these problems with all the coarse blundering resolve of people quaintly incapable of hand-wringing about whether Enlightenment values were morally superior to the systematic murder of blasphemers. Religion was disestablished; radical churches were shut down and their pelf nationalized; Catholic imams who persisted in their sectarian nonsense after repeated appeals to their reasonableness were finally deported. They didn’t muse: “But what to do with the cultural minorities in our bosom? Should we value diversity for its own sake, or do we really have to take this Declaration of the Rights of Man seriously?” One deputy to the National Assembly, Mr. Clermont-Tonnerre, addressed this poin head-on. He held up the Jews of 1789 France as the most perfect example of a minority steeped in alien superstition, but he might as well have been addressing Sharia civil courts in twenty-first century Britain.

No doubt these religious oddities will disappear [in time], if they do survive the impact of philosophy and the pleasure of finally being true citizens and sociable men.

But, they say to me, the Jews have their own judges and laws! I respond that is your fault and you should not allow it. We must refuse everything to the Jews as a community and accord everything to Jews as individuals [emphasis added]. We must withdraw recognition from their judges; they should only have our judges. We must refuse legal sanction to the maintenance of the dictates of their Judaic organization; they should not be allowed to form a separate political body within the state. They must be citizens individually.

But, some will say to me, they do not want to be citizens. Well then! If they do not want to be citizens, they should say so, and then, we should banish them. It is repugnant to have in the state an association of non-citizens, a nation within the nation. . . . In short, the presumed status of every person resident in a country is to be a citizen.

If you’re a Canadian and think it’s a liberal cause to condone the literal effacement of women during their citizenship oath, you must be recoiling: “What, minorities being made to obey the one law for all? Trump supporters galore!” Be it as it may, these overweening ideas prevailed in the medium run. Jews, Protestants, and actors (yes, actors) were emancipated. The gates of ghettos everywhere were flung open, and their gauleiter-rabbis were kicked out. Jews became citizens and flourished. When Napoleon spread this sort of Western-imperialist thinking to Italy, the Vaudois, too, were freed. Tensions with the Catholics dissipated permanently. Today, Vaudois Italians are indistinguishable from Catholic Italians, both being considered not two exotic species for the enrichment of the national menagerie but notional sets of citizens—each and every single one of them a unique oddball of shifting allegiances, as was sempiternally meant to be.

The same result, incidentally, was achieved by that other feast of Reason, the American Revolution. E pluribus unum!

Now, this tale could end here with everyone living happily forever after, except that our best and brightest have spent the last thirty years trying to reverse the “errors of the past.”

To understand how and why, imagine that you’re an intellectual with leftist inclinations but an unfortunate totalitarian streak (don’t worry, this is a thought experiment). You fell for Marxism, a doctrine purporting to bring the emancipation of mankind to its full unfolding but actually disguising a relapse into authoritarianism and cultist dogma. Imagine further that the great experimental trial of this majestic edifice turned out to be a massive, murderous, dismal rolling failure shambling on for decades before finally collapsing in bankruptcy and beggary. What reaction is expected of you? Why, you’re embittered, disillusioned about ideologies. Perhaps, you muse, truth itself does not exist. And even if it did, really, how can one possibly know it? You don’t trust scientists, who after all have an odd tendency to laugh off any Foucault not named Léon. And even if, perversely, truth were indeed knowable, one still can’t get an ought from an is (haven’t you heard?). Ergo, you conclude triumphantly, there’s no way whatsoever to proclaim “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” superior to “Murder, Rape, and Force Women to Live in Bags.” Eureka! You manage to convince enough of your well-meaning fellow citizens, feeling a little guilty perhaps over the destruction of World War II or the horrors of Heart of Darkness, of the soundness of your views. Old attractions are easily repackaged into post-colonialism, and your ingrained dislike of liberalism is recycled as hostility to the hegemonic culture of the West. You peddle cultural diversity as a value in its own right and forsake any expectation of reciprocity. In short, multiculturalism was born.

This innovative theory—which, out of our reverence for accuracy in naming things after their proper function, we will refer to “Masoch-culturalism”—has recast the invasive, ultra-reactionary Islamists as the wretched of the Earth, the conflation of the two quintessential victim groups: the proletarians and the brown-skinned formerly colonized masses. Any and all criticism of their ideology is preemptively shot down as racist: enter the new coinage, Islamophobia. The fruits: Sharia civil courts, where a woman is worth half as much as a man, are official British institutions; there are Muslim-majority prisons in England where the St. George Cross English flag is not flown and the toilets have been rebuilt to face away from Mecca (really); authorities in England and France don’t intervene when hundreds of Muslim congregants jam the streets of entire city blocks for some bracing open-air mat aerobics; the police have been hesitant to step in in cases of sexual grooming of minors perpetrated by Pakistani gangs in the United Kingdom; U.S. troops are told to look the other way when Afghans rape children. One could go on chronicling the West’s abject surrender, all the way down to the gender-segregated swimming pools that appear to have become all the rage in Sweden.

Europe has seen the worst of it. The Sharia boys, courtesy of the Saudis, have the best-funded organizations deftly maneuvered to wangle political concessions from European authorities all too eager to “engage” them as the community’s authentic representatives. Meanwhile, the secularists, the liberal Muslims (who, after all, come across as a little stodgy, what with their never threatening to behead anyone and all that) are ignored, undercut, and even viciously harassed: Sarah Haider, who fights for the right of Muslims to leave the faith, has been called a “house Arab” by self-professed leftists; Seyran Ates, isolated in Germany for taking up the cause of the emancipation of Muslim women; Mohamed Sifaoui, Zineb El Rhazoui, and Nadia Remadna, ostracized in Voltaire’s homeland for denouncing political Islam. Masoch-culturalists have made up their minds: “The Muslims,” this amorphous bloc, belong to the vilest clerical fascists in their midst. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the West seem to have lost all self-confidence. What vision of the world do we have to offer as an alternative to the fanatics?

The Cowards

If the moral relativists were the first to open the gates, it is the cringing pants-wetters who are responsible for Western capitulation vis-à-vis the issue of free speech.

Here the handsel came on Valentine’s Day, 1989, with a death fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Halcyon days. We have since then regressed to pre-Enlightenment times in regard to blasphemy.

The new century swung in auspiciously with the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoon crisis. The Danish imams that instigated the whole murderous frenzy actually cobbled together a dossier larded with spurious material that the tabloid Jyllands-Posten had never printed, which they then proceeded to parade around the Middle East. Mob scenes ensued across the world. Again, the media reaction was instructive. CNN famously pixelated the offending images. And everyone else in the Anglo-American press, journalists who give each other awards for bravery all the time, cowered in fear and refused to touch the scorching ink with a bargepole-length zoom camera. There you have it: people accustomed to poking tame beasts all their lives come face-to-face for once with a wild one. And what do they do?

Self-censorship and hypocritical groans of “respect” for the baby-bottom-sensitive Islamists have become the norm. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who decided in the face of this intimidation to uphold a long French tradition of anti-clerical satire, paid the ultimate price for their isolation and were vilified afterward by self-styled leftists anxious to add to their own list of moral failings. Masoch-culturalism’s totalitarian impulse surfaced here in all its glory. Posit that there might exist a right not to be offended. Where does it stop? Anyone can claim to be offended by anything. If such a right trumped free speech, we’d wind up with the bullies, the most ruthless, having their way. Pluralism would be destroyed in the name of sensitivity and respect. For some, that may be precisely the intent, whether conscious or not.

And they’re succeeding: Islamic blasphemy laws are now de facto in force in the West.

Do not delude yourself that this was inevitable. Had the “free press” reacted to the early bullying attempts by reprinting (a united front, from the New York Times to the Wichita Ledger-Gazette) “offensive” material, there wouldn’t have been a bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo. Think of the Islamists as no more and no less than a mafia. When the Sicilian mob, in the 1980s, got into the habit of blowing up un-pally prosecutors, the government set up large teams of magistrates to run inquests and trials, kibbutz-like. The mafiosi just couldn’t whack them all; therefore, doing in any one became nugatory. Yes, it might get tedious to find every single newspaper and magazine in the land teeming with endless variations on Mo’s ill-favored face, but freedom, as they say, isn’t free.

And if the Organization of Islamic Cooperation were to whinge again about “Islamophobia,” we’d be there ready with the soothing, immortal words of the only prophet we recognize: “Hearts live by being wounded.”

The Clueless

But it wasn’t meant to be, apparently. We let barbarians dictate our laws. We give away our freedoms inch by inch without a peep. Again the overarching theme is loss of self-confidence, so the craven and the traitors might be not entirely irreducible categories.

We come now to the last species of Western commentator: the clueless. The label is unfair, admittedly, for it pigeonholes multifarious dimensions of punditry, each graced with its unique personality. Foremost among these are the narcissists, utterly convinced that everything befalling the world must be traceable to the West. They insist that Islamism is a (legitimate?) reaction to U.S. interference in the Middle East. What to make of crazed thugs shrieking “We’ve avenged the prophet!” after gunning down defenseless cartoonists? It’s because of France’s participation in the Iraq War. (“What?” you say. “France did not partake?” Never mind; must be Charles Martel’s poultry coming home to roost from Tours.)

Islamists wreak havoc in India, China, Nigeria, the Philippines, and a host of other conspicuously un-neoconned countries. It is inexplicable, or more likely unknown, since narcissism entrains self-absorption. Yes, Western blunders in Iraq and the Israeli land-thieves in the West Bank likely provide a convenient reservoir of resentment, but the Islamists feel aggrieved even by the Reconquista of Andalusia and the liberation from Islamic colonizers of non-Muslim East Timor. Their litany of woes has theological undertones, not social ones.

Nor are these mass murderers moved primarily by personal alienation, something that may sporadically account for an original impulse to violence but certainly not for the existence of a warrant to exercise it. Many are middle class, architects, and physicians. Some (Osama bin Laden comes to mind) live in extreme privilege. A particularly dense specimen, the so-called Silent Bomber, a suburban home-owner, went on an extended Twitter paean to suicide bombing wherein he gleefully referred to his backyard improvised explosive device as his “key to paradise.” You can hardly get more explicit.

The narcissists do the most harm when they foment against the multiculturalists, providing fresh masochistic impetus for the latter to discourage assimilation of Western Muslims. This is how you end up with fatuous “liberals” raving about “World Hijab Day,” when in Pakistan and countless other countries, women who refuse to live in bags have battery acid thrown in their faces.

But let us not forget the clash-of-civilizations crowd. These tend to expatiate on how perfectly rotten Islam is as a religion. The Qur’an is adamantly theocratic (without the saving “Render unto Caesar” bit), devotes inordinate longueurs to trash-talking the “disbelievers,” and markets the concept of holy war with innovative enticements, such as gazelle-eyed virgins on high. No Christian martyrs, it should be conceded, have ever been offered such a ruttish meed. And if they had, they’d probably have regarded it as a deterrent, given their penchant for self-castration.

All this is well and good, except that Muslims were not especially problematic in the modern era prior to 1970. Back then, Cairo or Beirut looked like towns on the French Riviera: there was not a veil in sight. Most Muslims were secular, and their faith was a panoply of traditions and interpretations, most of them tolerant. The desert that was made of them by Wahhabism was not an inevitability but the result of decades of very artificial indoctrination.

How enduring is the damage done by the Saudis’ activities? Can it be reversed, barring their nefarious influence? The answer will emerge, one way or another, in the course of our lives. But while it may be too late for the children being stultified in Wahhabi madrassas the world over, reared to “love death more than the infidels love life,” it is certainly not too late for the many still-secular Muslims living in Europe or the unborn millions to come.

The battle for their minds is on, now more than ever. Why then has the intelligentsia proved such an abject human and moral failure? The same sort of disaffection for liberalism showed in the intellectuals’ demeanor the last time they faced the totalitarian crucible, in the 1930s. It feels like the West lacks the ideal lure of the earthly or heavenly utopias that have variously sought to annihilate it only to end themselves in slaughter and ruin. An Islamist who arrived in Norway as a refugee in the early 1990s and has since been living there on the dole puts it thus: “We’re the ones who will change you. . . . Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. . . .Our way of thinking . . . will prove more powerful than yours. . . . Materialism, egoism and wildness [have corrupted you].”

This same vision of the West is to be found in the mad proclamations of the Nazis, of reactionary Christians, and of a good many Stalinists. Will “their thinking” prove “more powerful”?

Know Thyself

The West must be unique among world civilizations, past and present, for at least this reason: the vast majority of its citizens hold false beliefs about its nature. The average right-winger will insist that the foundation of Western civilization is Judeo-Christianity (an obscure chimera; usually what is meant is Christianity with the sporadic Old Testament Sunday sermon). The lefties’ answers will range from “human rights” to democracy to some sort of utilitarian ethics to no ideology at all. I submit that all these ideas scrum in the public’s collective psyche to form what Monod once called “a disgusting farrago.” Christianity was the basis of our civilization till the eighteenth century, and the result was something little different from today’s Saudi Arabia and no less repulsive. In America, the epitome of Christian rule was Salem. In Europe, the Catholics had their own multiple Rushdie affairs, a choice example being the papal fatwa against Paolo Sarpi (an insensitive Venetian; his assassination attempt was carried out not with a suicide vest but with a stiletto—this being Italy, after all). Whoever touts “Christian identity” as a bulwark against Islamism is a fool or a knave (or both). The distinctiveness of the West is the Enlightenment, the transfiguration it underwent during the Age of Reason. As Paul Hazard reminds us in The Crisis of the European Mind:

Never was there a greater contrast, never a more sudden transition than this! An hierarchical system ensured by authority; life firmly based on dogmatic principle—such were the things held dear by the people of the seventeenth century; but these—controls, authority, dogmas and the like—were the very things that their immediate successors of the eighteenth held in cordial detestation. The former were upholders of Christianity; the latter were its foes. The former believed in the laws of God; the latter in the laws of nature; the former lived contentedly enough in a world composed of unequal social grades; of the latter the one absorbing dream was Equality.

The Enlightenment is an ethic that rejects revelation and tradition as sources of authority in favor of reason, doubt, and free inquiry. Think for yourself! is the command that distills what is best and unique about our civilization and what is worth preserving and fighting for.

The revolutions of the Enlightenment (American and French) translated this ethics into politics, and in so doing founded the modern world. But our culture was never fully transformed: naturalism was never acknowledged as its new ideological foundation. We’ve retained a more or less gutted Christianity to pose as our ethical mainspring. This is an unprecedented state in the history of civilizations: our systems to determine truth (science) and to determine values (the disgusting farrago) are contradictory. There’s no coherent comprehensive ideology that informs both, unlike in religious societies. How could a situation like this arise? Monod suggested a psychological predisposition to find naturalism rebarbative; humans, in his view, evolved a need for a unifying theory assigning a purpose to the cosmos and a necessary place in it for us. We accepted naturalism only in practice and solely because of its material blessings: science gives us technology; the Enlightenment, insofar as it endures, gives us a society that is relatively tolerant, peaceful, and open to self-improvement. Its nurturing of dissent and free speech protects us from pluralistic ignorance and makes it possible for democratic persuasion to replace tyranny in the political domain. These are the strengths that have allowed the West to prosper and outstrip all its enemies.

But the idea undergirding it all leaves us cold, hagridden. It’s the Karamazov argument: the negation of religion leaves a spiritual void only superficially filled by the ideals of the Enlightenment. Anomie ensues. Camus referred to it as a constant inner tension that people have tried, since its very inception in the eighteenth century, to find deliverance from in “the ecstatic escape of unreason.” Hence the ideological limpness perceived by everyone, from the intellectuals to the Islamists. I’ve mentioned how Masoch-culturalism itself is the latest manifestation of this aversion to the Enlightenment, resurfacing now as self-instigation to cultural suicide (“the rebellion of Reason culminates in madness”).

Alongside Monod’s account, one could add that a full embrace of Enlightenment values never happened because of the threat it poses to elite privileges: with perfect education, critical thinking, and an earnest commitment to liberty and justice, who would put up with our relapse into plutocracy after the thirty years of post–World War II egalitarianism? Vested interests would be deprived of their cloak. Religion and tradition remain convenient smoke-screens (incidentally, what’s the matter with Kansas?).

It’s not a coincidence that Western liberalism tends to be deserted, as it is now and as it was in the 1930s, when capitalist injustices make its hypocrisy untenable. If the Muslim youth of Europe saw a society living up to its stated commitment to justice, as part of proudly asserted Enlightenment mores, perhaps it would be easier for them to realize that Western liberty does not equate to effeteness. And perhaps (but this is more fanciful) many Western intellectuals would rediscover some ardor in the defense of their civilization.

The Future of an Illusion

The West could face down Soviet communism while remaining under the illusion that its own animating ideology was religious. We cannot do so now. Sectarian schools proliferate in the United Kingdom because anything “faith-based” is considered ipso facto benign. In the United States, Islamist propaganda is pumped into the prison system under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This cannot continue.

On the international stage, destroying ISIS or al-Qaeda, or whatever the next iteration will be, is merely playing a costly game of Whack-A-Mole with no cognizance of the fact that one cannot fight ideas with drones. The problem of militant Wahhabism will be solved only by solving Saudi Arabia. This is a concrete political problem. The Pentagon sells 25 percent of all its foreign-export weapons to the Saudis. U.S. officials retire into oofy posts in Saudi companies. The Saudi oligarchy own stakes in Western companies and their business interests are considerably intertwined. Till recently, the United States was dependent on Saudi oil. These are the reasons we allowed the problem to fester for forty years. These are still the reasons why our elected officials are responding to ever-worsening terrorism only by turning our societies in to surveillance states.

Until that is rectified, there are palliative steps we can take as a civil society. They’re all consequent to the realization that cultures are not equal. Traditions that deny science and oppress the individual are a blot on humanity no matter where they originated and are fit only for eradication. Muslims in the West and around the world deserve to have access to the greatest engine of emancipation the world has ever known: the values of the Enlightenment. As citizens of the West, we should not only be proud of them but also apply them in our own society—something that hinges crucially on the fight for a genuine radical democracy where people are free from want and ignorance. This is the only way to a decent future.

In the end, I trust that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (or their triune twins, “Liberté, Eqalité, Fraternité”) are ideals that will continue to win over the hearts and minds of people, as they have done over the past 250 years—and triumph over far more formidable enemies than we face now. But above all, it is those on the Left, born of the Enlightenment, who must uphold these ideals, without hypocrisy or cowardice. Appeasement of Islamism—usually under the pretense of “civility” but actually out of fear or mad self-hatred—is yet another rendezvous with the fatal temptation to be the brilliant ally of your own grave-diggers. We’re living through a time when the world is shaping up more and more like an eerie rerun of the 1930s, with Europe on a familiar path to disintegration. If the Left abdicates its duty, Far Right hysteria will carry the day, and the darkest chapters of the twentieth century will again be upon us before we know it.

Further Reading

  • Cendrowicz, Leo. 2016. “Brussels Attacks: How Saudi Arabia’s Influence and a Deal to Get Oil Contracts Sowed Seeds of Radicalism in Belgium.” The Independent, March 23.
  • “Saudi Government Paper: ‘Billions Spent by Saudi Royal Family to Spread Islam to Every Corner of the Earth.’”
  • Windsor, Curtin Jr. 2007. “Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the Spread of Sunni Theofascism.” Mideast Monitor, June/July.

Lorenzo Lazzerini Ospri

Lorenzo Lazzerini Ospri is currently a neuroscience PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University, where his research focuses on the effects of light on the brain. He has a background in philosophy.

“You have to understand that this picture of the future is not a remote and improbable one, and if it comes to your neighborhood in the shape of terrorism, you’ll have paid for it.”

This article is available to subscribers only.
Subscribe now or log in to read this article.