Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Piece by Daniel Pearl's father

Very sad and many truthful words from a grieving father. Article here (New Republic).

The thesis: Moral Relativism died with Daniel Pearl's murder.

The beginning is very intriguing:

I used to believe that the world essentially divided into two types of people: those who were broadly tolerant; and those who felt threatened by differences. If only the forces of tolerance could win out over the forces of intolerance, I reasoned, the world might finally know some measure of peace.

But there was a problem with my theory, and it was never clearer than in a conversation I once had with a Pakistani friend who told me that he loathed people like President Bush who insisted on dividing the world into "us" and "them." My friend, of course, was taking an innocent stand against intolerance, and did not realize that, in so doing, he was in fact dividing the world into "us" and "them," falling straight into the camp of people he loathed.

I think this is such a key point to stress: judgment (of action and attitude) is inherent in discussion, dialogue, and thinking. There are degrees of tolerance that should be emphasized, but tolerance as an absolute is self-defeating. The world is always us and them, but it can be us and them and them and them and those.....

Judea Pearl, the father, takes some issue--though he is thoughtful and respectful--with the movie about his son, claiming that it blurs the lines between say the murder of his innocent son and the prisoners in Gitmo.

I see what he means. How it can play into the hands of what jihadis want. But at the same point I don't think our decisions should be dictated always by what they will think or do. It should be weighed and not lightly brushed aside, no doubt, but we still have to be able to criticize our own actions and positions. Otherwise we do in fact become them. They having no self-criticism. Not relativism, not self-loathing, and naivety about the evil of them. But neither letting ourselves off the hook.

I'm distinctly not saying something like this (Pearl right on on this point):
Indeed, following an advance screening of A Mighty Heart, a panelist representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations reportedly said, "We need to end the culture of bombs, torture, occupation, and violence. This is the message to take from the film." The message that angry youngsters are hearing is unfortunate: All forms of violence are equally evil; therefore, as long as one persists, others should not be ruled out. This is precisely the logic used by Mohammed Siddiqui Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, in his videotape on Al Jazeera. "Your democratically elected government," he told his British countrymen, "continues to perpetrate atrocities against my people ... . [W]e will not stop."
He ends with wise counsel (my italics):
There was a time when drawing moral symmetries between two sides of every conflict was a mark of original thinking. Today, with Western intellectuals overextending two-sidedness to reckless absurdities, it reflects nothing but lazy conformity. What is needed now is for intellectuals, filmmakers, and the rest of us to resist this dangerous trend and draw legitimate distinctions where such distinctions are warranted.


Post a Comment

<< Home