Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's Next for the Ummah? Freedom or Socialism?

Humans in their primitive stages, had to survive in a wild and hostile natural world. Danger lurked under every stone and in each and any shrub. A sole individual, thrown back on his own devices, could hardly hope to live long enough to tell the tale. A lone existence was a constant existential threat. So humans sought security in numbers and shelter with each other, within the safety of the tribe.

Random individual acts, which could endanger the survival of the community as a whole were not just discouraged, but severely punished by exile, shunning and worse. Morality consisted in the common good, the well-being of the whole of the tribe; the single tribes man or woman, was dispensable.

Since the collective security is the tribe's entire reason of being, these were what we would term today, small totalitarian communities. Individuals were not supposed to have private lives, or undertake 'rogue' actions. Even today there are many peoples who do not even have a word for 'privacy', or for 'individual'.

Humanity has come a long way. In the Western world, with the onset of the Renaissance and the period of the Enlightenment, we discovered person-hood and what it means to be a man or woman. And that our prime instrument for survival in a cultivated world, are our own wits. Morality shifted from collective survival, to the survival of the individual.

It is not always appreciated how far this development has helped human progress. There are forces in the Western world today that prefer humans with tribal minds. They say, one person's wits aren't sufficient, that rationality can break down or can be fooled, or reason isn't relevant to a social being.

Some even say wits do not exist at all, and that humans live by instinct, or by synapses and secretions, or that they are steered by God, or by a fate determined in some parallel universe.

They say that in our hearts of heart we are still members of the tribe called humanity and we should share whatever we have, just as in olden days. Some say we should only share things which ensure common security, others advocate sharing the things with which we produce other things. And then there are the peddlers of ideas who come for people's souls. Their morality is altruism. They say, an individual's only use consists in his utility to be tribe.

Peoples in other parts of the world walked other historical paths. They quietly wandered off the reservations in droves, while other tribes held it together. Sometimes new ones were created based on common religion, Islam for example.

In Islam the whole of the faithful - the Ummah - is such a new tribe, replete with tribal justice - Sharia - to ensure its survival, and death for whoever dares to wander off, or pledges loyalty elsewhere. As the discovery of individualism took place in the Western context, this process from collective to individualization is often understood by Muslims as "Islam being besieged by the West".

The painful process we are witnessing before our very eyes in the Middle East and North Africa may be the death throes of the Muslim collective. Muslim men and women may find their person-hood, assuming the personal responsibility for their own body and soul - a thing impossible to achieve in a totalitarian group.

They may be fighting for the rights that a sole individual requires to survive: inalienable, universal, negative rights, leading to limited government, a public space not filled with the plasma of the tribe.

Liberties are negative rights that are inherent in human beings. It has two corollaries: free market capitalism and limited government, that is a government that protects the inalienable rights of the sovereign people.

For some, as we saw in "2001: Obama's Principles for a Socialist State (Analysis)" - these negative liberties are not enough; they cast them aside as "just the stuff that government cannot do to you", or - in our context - what the tribe cannot do to its members to prevent them from surviving on their own wits as free spirits.

The positive rights as advocated by President Obama, are the rights the tribe generously bestows upon its members, in lieu for their promise not to wander off the reservation on their own.

We see that the principles of negative and positive rights are markedly different in nature and in principle. They are opposites. Negative rights liberate individuals from the suffocating oppression of tribal existence. Obama's positive rights on the other hand, newly enslave individuals to the collectivism of the state.

We don't appreciate by half how rare and precious individual liberties really are. Wherever they exist, they are lone stars in oceans of collectives that seek to enslave free spirits to the suffocating risk-free safety of the tribes.

Each nation and each generation has its own battle with the tribes. Today, it is the Tunisians, the Egyptians, the Libyans and the Bahrainis rising up in rebellion. As Thomas Jefferson said, "From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots."

The reform process which would ensure the continuation of Islam as a faith, would have to consist in practicing it as a collection of individuals, rather than as the oppressive 'living organism' of the Ummah.

We wish the defenders of liberty all the strength they need to win their battle with the religious collective and hope they have the wisdom to resist the temptation to foist upon themselves a Socialist government that bestows and retracts positive rights. In that case they haven't found freedom, but have mere substituted one totalitarian tribe for another.

Long Live Liberty!


- NRO: "The OIC and the Caliphate", by Andrew McCarthy

Related dossiers

- "The Dystopia of Paradise"


James Higham said...

Some even say wits do not exist at all, and that humans live by instinct, or by synapses and secretions, or that they are steered by God, or by a fate determined in some parallel universe.

The very nub of the matter is that in Christianity, [John 3:16], the only way in is to make a rational and conscious decision to believe. This presupposes a rational mind.

The whole Sermon on the Mount thing was an attempt to persuade. Persuade. Recognizing that a person has the ability to say no.

Real Christianity, from its source, has never been about coercion - that is the spin put on it by its hijackers, in the upper echelons - for highly politicized reasons.

Cassandra Troy said...

Thanks, James. Stands to reason: the crux of morality is free will. What's hard to get about it?

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