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Oct 18

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, October 18, 2007 10:27 AM 

 Back from New Haven where I spoke at a Master's tea to a pleasantly attentive group which--following my D of the G presentation about what happens when an infantilized society that PC-censors itself meets an expansionist Islam that demands such censorship as a point of law--surprised me. Where I expected to hear the undergraduates tell me that, say, Islam wasn't all bad, that I had oversimplified, what emerged instead was a consensus that the West wasn't all good, that I had oversimplified.
    As the Yale Daily News later put it, "Some students said West blamed Americans for censoring themselves in thought but ignored the censorship she exploys in her own speech by concentrating only on the positive aspects of Western civilization."
    As I pondered this--actually wrote this week's column on the topic--it occurred to me that for these students, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of conscience, and the like, don't symbolize the West. These privileged youths may enjoy all these things from their elegant digs at the center of Western influence, but they resolutely fail to associate such marvels with Western influence.
    So, cultural relativism is alive and well on campus--what else is new? Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind is 20 years old, and cultural relativism had been with us for some time before that. I picked up the book again recently, and homed in on the part about the contemporary moral virtue of "openness."
    Bloom wrote of students who couldn't defend their opinion, who instead pointed out other opinions and other cultures: "What right, they ask, do I or anyone else have to say one is better than the others?" He offered as an example a question he posed  "to confute them and make them think."  Such as: "If you had been a British administrator  in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?" The students, Bloom wrote, would remain silent or reply that the British shouldn't have been there in the first place.
    The polar opposite point of view was robustly and famously expressed by  Sir Charles James Napier, a real life British administrator of India in the early 19th century. As the British writer Douglas Murray related recently in The Spectator magazine, Sir Charles had a very different reaction on being confronted by this same Hindu practice of suttee--burning a widow alive at her husband's funeral.
    "When confronted with Hindu demands for a lifting of the ban on suttee," Murray writes, "the general famously replied: ‘You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.’ "
    Murray brought this British stalwart into an essay avowing the superiority of Western values, a proposition he later helped defend, along with Ibn Warraq (whose invaluable new book, Defending the West, is now available), at a recent public debate in London. Shockingly enough, it wasn't just campus relativism a la Yale that Murray trotted out dear old Sir Charles for salutary contrast.
    As Murray wrote: "At a school in east London recently, a student perfectly calmly expressed his opinion to me — and in front of his principal — that girls who did not cover themselves in 7th-century desert-garb would be raped."
    Obviously, such a student isn't masochistically (and mechanically) agonizing over the supposed evils of the West; he is brazenly advocating the bona fide evils of the East.
    Murray continued: "It was salutary to speak with his headteacher afterwards as he boasted of the broad range of opinions at his school."
     And therein lies the cultural relativism--the infinite openness to everything, including violent assault.
     The story went on: "Advocating the rape of fellow pupils strikes me as an unwelcome addition to the debate. But the principal’s desperate values-equality was an expression of a dying trend. In the face of one particular demographic which seems not at all afraid of being branded ‘culturally imperialist’, the West’s inability to assert the superiority of its values is beginning to look not so much coy as selfish."
    Advocating the rape of fellow pupils is no addition to the debate, of course; it is evidence that the debate has come to halt and the thugs are winning. And the West's inability to defend its values isn't coy or selfish but just plain suicidal.
     Maybe, if our Yalies just study the defects of the West hard enough, soon they will have just as "broad a range of opinons" as they have in English schools.... 

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