R for Reparations, also for Revenge
In this installment of my exposé of the Left-Islam unholy alliance, I show how the Left’s demand for “reparations for the wrongs of colonialism” serves as its connection point with Islam, how it is fundamentally irrational, and how it truly precludes any possibility of permanent peace.
I do not give colonialism a moral clean bill of health; there were wrongs, injustices committed by the Western colonial powers, that is a matter of historical record. But then those powers did some good things as well to the peoples they ruled, and those peoples in turn were not always the innocents the Leftists portray them (see for example the article The fraud of primitive authenticity, by Spengler of Asia Times). And whatever the case, it is irrational to hold the West guilty and obliged to atone for its past deeds, for no good is served by that—not to the former colonized peoples, nor to the West itself, which by that attitude is driven to suicide through self-loathing. My theme here is the great distance between rationality and the Left’s view of identity politics.
I used to be enthusiastic about opposing colonialism, back in the 1990’s, when I was a Leftist. I haven’t changed to pro-colonialism, but my enthusiasm for that issue has been all but dampened ever since the anti-colonialist narrative started to be applied to Israel, framing Zionism as a colonialist movement and the “Palestinians” as the indigenous people of the land. For that reason, I will demonstrate my point not from the Middle East, but from Africa, where I am relatively free from the coloring of opinion that closeness to home brings.
It is argued that the effects of European colonialism in Africa are still in force, long after the cessation of European rule of the lands and exploitation of them and their inhabitants. The European powers in the 19th century divided Africa into provinces whose borders cut across tribal boundaries; those provinces, once granted independence, became the states of present-day Africa, but those states still suffer from the problem of aggregating different, often conflicting, tribes in them, hence the frequent rise of dictatorships in Africa as a last-ditch effort to give those European-imposed borders a real-world meaning. I am inclined to agree with that analysis, not having found evidence to the contrary so far. However, the things the Leftists demand from the West as reparations to this state of affairs cannot address it, and are driven by an irrational desire.
What are the demands? First, apologies from present-day Western leaders for the past colonialism of their countries. Second, aid from the same Western countries to their former colonies. The first demand, if it has been complied with once, has no redeeming pragmatic value (I mean one apology is sufficient; the Left’s demand for constant apologies, and remembrance of the past wrongs, brings no gain to those countries). The second demand could be helpful, but that is not self-evident, and indeed the representatives of many pan-African groups have pleaded with Western aid funds to stop sending money, because it was both fattening corrupt rulers and inhibiting Africa’s economic self-sufficiency. For Leftist groups to comply to such a request, however, would be deleterious to their myth of the perpetual guilt of the West.
They call apologies and economic aid, “reparations”. They are not—they are compensations, substitutes for something lost and unrecoverable, like someone remarrying and having new children after losing the family in a disaster (far be it from us). To repair means to bring a broken object to its former state, or as near to that as possible with regard to usability. Reparations for the past European colonialism in Africa would be to repartition Africa according to its tribal boundaries. But considering the Left’s frenzied opposition to such ideas, for example when proposed by the Project for a New American Century or even on a single country like Iraq, there is vanishingly little chance that we would ever hear the term used in its proper meaning. Instead, we get from the self-professing “reality-based community” a host of irrational demands, demands that have nothing to do with actually making the world a better place, and everything to do with revenge, or retribution. Let me quote a passage from the article Revenge of the Indians from the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, from issue #2239 of the Friday addendum “7 Days”, dated December 22, 2006:
(Reporter speaking about a Native American flute-player from Arizona) Perhaps because we were foreigners or because we listened to him, his heart and mouth were opened swiftly, and when we told him about what Si Teeshire said about the Gringos, the flute-player said clearly and plainly that the World Trade Center tragedy was “the day of reckoning and retribution for the wrong done to the Indian nation. They started paying now. The 9/11 was the payback”.
Since this article is from the Mainstream Media, which in Israel as everywhere is not to be trusted to report things as is, and furthermore its author is Yig’al Sarane, a well-known and stubborn Israeli Jewish Leftist, some creative interpretation and interpolation may have been involved in this quote. But to its credit, I do not find it hard to imagine the flute-player saying those things. People might tell me to cut him some slack, for he is a Native American and his nation suffered true wrongs; my reply is that this post is not for dealing with any specific group perceiving itself wronged, but with the Leftist ideological stance on the issue of past wrongs, and I regard the flute-player’s sentiment, whether made rightly or wrongly, and whether actually voiced or fabricated by Sarane, to be the authentic echo of that Leftist stance, the stance of seeking revenge.
The desire for revenge is intertwined with the view of the world as fundamentally just. It is compatible with the view of a personal deity and with the view of karma (“reaping what you sow” as a natural law), but not with materialism. If there is neither a personal deity to dispense justice nor a natural law to work it—and that is indeed what the materialist view entails—then the view of the world as fundamentally just is irrational, and with it, by necessity, the desire for revenge. Under Karl Marx’s view of historical materialism, which underpins most of the Left today, even, on an unconscious level, many of those of them who are not Marxists, the just world view and the desire for revenge ought to be scoffed at as primitive ideas originating from religion, the “opiate of the masses”. Yet they are not scoffed at; far from it, almost every Leftist I know claims to hold justice, justice worldwide, as his most important political belief.
Yet the Marxist belief in justice worldwide is different from the Bible-based or even the karmic one. The Native American flute-player expressed a karmic belief; the Marxist agrees with him that 9/11 was fitting payment for a “long history of the USA being the world’s bully”, but he is not content with being an onlooker, waiting on the sidelines for karma to work its effect. The Marxist believes in active application of justice, by individuals. Whereas karmic justice is passive, and whereas the Biblical concept of justice is active but confined to institutions of law, the Marxist concept of justice rests on the idea that the uprising of the oppressed (“proletariat”) over those who wrong them (“bourgeoisie”) is an inevitable occurrence, and should be seized upon by the revolutionary as soon as he can. And that is where Marxist politics meets the politics of Islam.
Is Islam not a theistic religion like Judaism and Christianity? Surface appearances do not reveal the truth deep down. Yes, Islam does hold the god of the Koran to be the supreme ruler of all his creation, but in actuality it delegates that rule to men, to the Muslims. Whereas the observance of G-d’s commandments in Judaism is for crowning Him as a prelude to His coming to rule the earth, the Muslim’s observance of Islam has the purpose of letting the Islamic god rule. The goal of instituting shariah law over the whole world is not merely one of maintaining civil order or sanctifying people, but, as many an Islamic site will say clearly, it is that of “giving Allah the right to rule”; and any state not ruled according to shariah law is guilty of “denying Allah the right to rule”. Where Islam is not the law, the god of Islam is not the ruler; this in contrast to Judaism and Christianity (or most of it; the Dominionists are a fringe sect with an Islam-like mindset), which hold that the Creator rules His entire creation whether humans keep His laws or not.
So the Islamic god needs shariah law to be instituted by humans in order to rule. As a natural consequence of that, Islam offers the option of delegating the job of dispensing divine justice to individuals. This is not to say there are no courts of law in the Muslim world; but, in contrast to the Biblical worldview, which says it is sinful for an individual to take the law into his hands, the Koranic worldview leaves much room for it, and even commends it in many cases. Hence the cataclysmic effect assassinations have had on the Jewish psyche, such as that of Gedaliyahu ben Achikam in ancient times and of Yitzchak Rabin recently, while in the Islamic world these are so commonplace as to be shrugged off every time they happen.
“Resistance to oppression by any means possible” is both a Marxist and an Islamic tenet. Western Marxism has in our day fallen in love with Islam because of that shared trait, going so far as to treat the Koran as a Communist manifesto. Above all, the Western Left sees Islam as a valuable agent of fulfilling the goal of global justice, with revenge and retribution for past wrongs and all. To them, who are timorous to wreak revenge on the “powers of oppression” themselves, the Muslim suicide-bomber brings the benefit of having global justice dispensed by individual humans, without themselves (the Marxists) being held accountable for it. All they have to do is give aid and comfort to the Muslim enemy by fighting its propaganda war, serving, as Daniel Pipes said in his recent article for the New York Sun, as “the Islamists’ auxiliary mujahedeen”.
Actual peace and prosperity for all are not the goals of the Marxists, nor of the Muslims, as the case of the “Palestinians” shows: to paraphrase Abba Eban, they have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, preferring the destruction of the other side over the life of even their own children. Peace and prosperity for both Marxism and Islam have the precondition of removing all opposition to them first, even if it means destroying their means of achieving peace and prosperity in the here and now. With the individual being empowered to dispense global justice, there has never been a chance for democracy or for lasting treaties with the other side, and always been the threat of internecine warfare, among the adherents of these dysfunctional ideologies. In contrast, the Biblical view of the mandate for worldwide justice is put forth eloquently by Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings, in the mouth of Gandalf:
“Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.”
Very many people know the Hebrew word for “G-d”: E-lohim (I have written it thus, with a dash, out of the requirement of Jewish law). Not so many know that that word is used for a certain group of human beings: judges presiding over a court of law. G-d is E-lohim, and a judge sitting at a court of law is E-lohim, going to show the seriosity, the weight of the task of deciding the fates of people. To be a judge at a court of law is the closest possible in action a human can be to G-d. It is no wonder, then, that the Biblical tradition prohibits humans from wreaking revenge. This is not out of a fluffy, kumbayistic belief that “war is not the answer” and that dialog and appeasement of the aggressor are the right way to achieve peace; it is because, if every human acted upon his perceived grievances, the result would be war of all against all. We can see right now, before our very eyes, the results of individuals acting upon their perceived grievances; such that all non-Muslims worldwide have to fear their every use of an airplane, and to check their art and literature seventy-seven times before publicizing it, to make sure it does not offend the Muslims. Because the Muslims believe in the individual’s right to dispense justice on behalf of the deity, and the Western media and academe and policymakers are either appeasers cringing with fear (that is: dhimmis), or worse, Marxists glad to aid and abet those whom they have found to share their judicial worldview.
“I bid you stand, Men of the West!” Revenge is not permitted to the individual, only to courts of law and, of course, the Judge of All Judges, G-d Himself; but self-defense, in contrast, is not only the individual’s right but his duty, a duty which, if neglected, if relinquished in favor of mercy toward the cruel, will necessary lead to cruelty toward the merciful. The West is duty-bound to defend itself, its values, its civilization, from those who would murder it, and from those who would facilitate that murder by bringing it to suicide. Under those circumstances, the demands for “reparations” should be ignored, rejected for the Marxist sedition they are. As I said, this is not pro-colonialism or pro-imperialism; this is anti-colonialism (i.e. against Islamic colonization of the West) and anti-imperialism (i.e. against Islamic institution of shariah law over the whole world). As I have written before, the Marxist anti-colonialist narrative is an archaism, unsuitable for coming to grips with today’s challenge, and useful only for pricking the West’s conscience away from taking the necessary steps to defend itself. This war is the war of the true rule of law against the threat of systems that disguise lawlessness under the mask of law.