Monday, June 21, 2010

Political correctness and moral outrage

Shelby Steele is unimpressed with the response of "world opinion" to the Gaza flotilla incident, and especially the response of the West. He suggests one reason for Western demoralization in "Israel and the Surrender of the West."
.... Somehow "world opinion" has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the "occupation" of a beleaguered Third World people.

This is now—figuratively in some quarters and literally in others—the moral template through which Israel is seen. It doesn't matter that much of the world may actually know better. This template has become propriety itself, a form of good manners, a political correctness. Thus it is good manners to be outraged at Israel's blockade of Gaza, and it is bad manners to be outraged at Hamas's recent attack on a school because it educated girls, or at the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired into Israeli towns—or even at the fact that Hamas is armed and funded by Iran. The world wants independent investigations of Israel, not of Hamas.

...[T]he entire Western world has suffered from a deficit of moral authority for decades now. Today we in the West are reluctant to use our full military might in war lest we seem imperialistic; we hesitate to enforce our borders lest we seem racist; we are reluctant to ask for assimilation from new immigrants lest we seem xenophobic; and we are pained to give Western Civilization primacy in our educational curricula lest we seem supremacist. Today the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring constant dissociation from the sins of the Western past—racism, economic exploitation, imperialism and so on. .... [more]
That last paragraph reminded me of this from Bernard Lewis: "Imperialism, sexism, and racism, are not European inventions, but European words, without which the evils they refer to would never have been challenged." The West has been guilty of much evil, but also has been the source of much good, and there are few other cultures or societies with the historical standing to condemn it. All moral authority seems to flow to those who can assume the role of victim — and their objectionable behavior is seldom subjected to the same moral standard as that of the putative "oppressor."

Israel and the Surrender of the West -