When “liberal pundits” were raving over the concept of an “Arab Spring” last year, the facts on the ground were very often “unexpectedly” different from how the concept was sold to the rest of the world. Kate McMillan of Canada’s Small Dead Animals liked to quip at the time, “What We Really Need Is Democracy. With a totalitarian party to vote for.” At National Review Online last week, Andrew McCarthy wrote that from the so-called Arab Spring’s point of view, that’s a feature, not a bug:
Of course, conventional wisdom in the West holds that the Arab Spring spontaneously combusted when Mohamed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor, set himself ablaze outside the offices of the Tunisian klepto-cops who had seized his wares. This suicide protest, the story goes, ignited a sweeping revolt against the corruption and caprices of Arab despots. One by one, the dominos began to fall: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya — with rumblings in Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well as teetering Syria and rickety Iran. We are to believe that the mass uprising is an unmistakable manifestation of the “desire for freedom” that, according to Pres. George W. Bush, “resides in every human heart.”
That proclamation came in the heady days of 2004, when the democracy project was still a Panglossian dream, not the Pandora’s box it proved to be as Islamic parties began to win elections. Like its successor, the Bush administration discouraged all inquiry into Islamic doctrine by anyone seeking to understand Muslim enmity, indulging the fiction that there is something we can do to change it. Inexorably, this has fed President Obama’s preferred fiction — that we must have done something to deserve it — as well as the current administration’s strident objection to uttering the word “Islam” for any purpose other than hagiography. In this self-imposed ignorance, most Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for “freedom,” connotes “perfect slavery” or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept. Even if we grant for argument’s sake the dubious proposition that all people crave freedom, Islam and the West have never agreed about what freedom means.
Once again, a reminder that 1984 was a warning, not a user’s guide:
Winston was struck, as he had been struck before, by the tiredness of O’Brien’s face. It was strong and fleshy and brutal, it was full of intelligence and a sort of controlled passion before which he felt himself helpless; but it was tired. There were pouches under the eyes, the skin sagged from the cheekbones. O’Brien leaned over him, deliberately bringing the worn face nearer.
‘You are thinking,’ he said, ‘that my face is old and tired. You are thinking that I talk of power, and yet I am not even able to prevent the decay of my own body. Can you not understand, Winston, that the individual is only a cell? The weariness of the cell is the vigour of the organism. Do you die when you cut your fingernails?’
He turned away from the bed and began strolling up and down again, one hand in his pocket.
‘We are the priests of power,’ he said. ‘God is power. But at present power is only a word so far as you are concerned. It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery”. Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone — free — the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter — external reality, as you would call it — is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.’
Or to put it another way, “Islam fits me really well,” a 34-year old music teacher in post-Christian Stockholm, Sweeden was quoted as saying in the L.A. Times in 2010 after he converted. “I am completely against capitalism.”