Ron Rosenbaum

Must Reading:Part 1

From the newly revived World Affairs Journal which also features important essays by George Packer and Alan Wolfe, the must-read is called “Backbone, Berman and Buruma”, a polemic that skillfully puts paid to the cowardly moral relativism that uses terms like “Enlightenment fundamentalism” to bash brave activists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and liberal political historians like Paul Berman.

It turns out, in the account by Peter Collier of the near-pathological need for certain British intellectuals to attack and/or condescend to Hirsi Ali that their reflexive intellectual appeasement is not shared by all European intellectuals.. “The Swedish intellectual Lars Gustafson,” Collier writes, “was disturbed by the rancid implication [of “Enlightenment fundamentalism” as a term of abuse] that the Enlightenment was just another set of dogmas, in no way different from, and no more universal than those of Islam.” (or of any religion, I’d add).

It’s sad there are so few defenders of Enlightenment values to be found especially among those who most benefit from it. The essay is heartening but also dispiriting in the sense that one knows it is the exception rather than the rule and to my mind, the fatal weakness of the Enlightenment, the license it gives to deaf, dumb and blind moral relativism that excuses the stoning of women and the hanging of gays under the banner of multiculturalism, will doom the brief reign of the Enlightenment to defeat by fanaticism.