"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tolerating Intolerance

Cartoons, great wars and backward tribes. Responding to Kevin Myers latest article is a gargantuan task, not because it would take an encyclopedic knowledge and a saints patience, but because that's not the point. Mr. Myers doesn't want to understand Arab cultures or even amass a vague notion of them, his words are simply the dehumanisation of our new foe.

In the late 19th century Punch magazine portrayed the Irish as Neanderthals and described them as "the blight of their own land, and the curse of the Saxon." Savage and inhuman monsters are typical of any propaganda campaign, the ideas prey on our general ignorance, where simple facts such as the number of books translated into Arabic or the number of Arab intellectuals one can recall are offered as proof of barbarity. Selective evidencing at its finest, made all the more comical by Myers beration of Chomsky for the same thing.

There may be "millions of pious Arabs who know nothing whatever about the non-Arab world, and for whom the intellectual processes of enquiry, analysis, scepticism and logic are utterly alien," but having admitted this it would be prudent for one to admit there are also millions of westerns with the same deficiency when it comes to the orient.

Where Iraq is concerned, Iraqis are indeed fighting for freedom and democracy in Iraq, they are fighting a war against foreign occupiers, foreign fighters, foreign influence. They are fighting pseudo democratic officials in pseudo democratic institutions and this is all in addition to surviving from day to day. History is not just history, it is sanctions, it is torture, it is poison gas, it is war and it is playing out as we write. Democratic rights do not extend only as far as the ballot box. Dissent in a democracy is an obligation. We don't relinquish responsibility for our elected leaders once they are in power, because we don't always get what they promise. That is why we see discrepancies in Iraqi opinion polls and that is why occupation forces remain.

Thankfully there is an underlying hope in Mr. Myers diary. The Irish Times' tolerance of Kevin Myers ravenous intolerance is a sure sign that history is a clever teacher.

An Irishman's Diary

"Chomsky is a chump - a brilliant and dysfunctional genius, like the autistic child who knows the day of every date in 2001 BC, but can't explain why we have a calendar. He inhabits a fantastic world, in which cabbalistic covens in Washington ruthlessly control the world, conducting genocides here and massacres there, diverting rivers to cause drought, felling rain forests and driving entire species into extinction. These cabals can do this undetected because they control the media - which is presumably why he got an almost unprecedented two-page interview in this newspaper last weekend...."

© The Irish Times