Simple folk, those who make up most of the world’s population, tend to think in binary terms. If A and B are in conflict and people find something wrong with A, they think B can do no wrong and never mind the facts to the contrary.
This is unfailingly reflected in popular arts, such as cinema. The good-guy-bad-guy dichotomy adorns most Hollywood productions, especially those designed to play to mass audiences.
It’s pointless to argue whether this is a case of art imitating life or the other way around. A bit of both, I’d suggest, although the former is probably ahead on points. One way or the other, people noticeably transfer that black and white aesthetic of Technicolor films onto their feelings about real-life conflicts, either present or historical.
When observing a confrontation involving a side that displeases them for whatever reason, they expect, positively beg, the other side to please them no end. The other side usually obliges, which involves no hardship on its part. Whatever misdeeds it has committed will be dismissed as mere naughtiness, or a response to unjust provocation, or often as enemy propaganda.
This sort of thing may sound innocuous, and so it would be if it didn’t lead to appalling errors of judgement – and appalling actions caused by the errors. By way of illustration, consider the mass response of Westerners, mostly of the leftward persuasion, to conflicts between their countries and those differently civilised (is this PC enough?).
These thoughts, by the way, are immediately inspired by the crowds in all Western countries coming out in support of supposedly innocent, not to say sinless, Muslim victims persecuted by those ghastly Israelis.
It’s easy to dismiss such marches as mainly an outburst of pent-up anti-Semitism, and that is doubtless a factor. But a much more significant factor is an outburst of pent-up discontent with the West.
Our civilisation has failed to meet those people’s expectations, and it doesn’t matter that those expectations are silly and unfair. What matters is that they haven’t been met, which has activated the simple binary mechanism I mentioned earlier.
Israel, in addition to whatever sins she may or may not have committed, also carries the stigma of being unapologetically Western. Thus the protesters look at Israel’s sins through binoculars at point-blank range and see their immensity filling the lenses. They then reverse the binoculars, look at the other side’s failings through the other end and see them so tiny as to be negligible.
The perceived virtue of a country or a civilisation seems to be inversely proportionate to its proximity to the West. Though we are currently observing an especially malignant manifestation of that tendency, the tendency itself has a long history.
Having given a wide berth to every known fact, Rousseau’s romantic notion of primitive societies arrived at a destination hailed by his contemporaries and still credited by his descendants. Dismissing the notion of original sin as a reactionary superstition, Rousseau glorified the noble sauvage, whose primordial pagan purity was then sullied by civilisation.
The chief culprit, both textually and contextually, was specifically Christian civilisation that was already under frontal assault in Rousseau’s lifetime. That fanciful theory proved influential, as such theories invariably do when they cater to the public mood.
Step by step – and I’m talking about long strides reaching to our time – Western malcontents developed a peculiar concept of history. Within it only pagans had virtue even if they also had some minor vices. The West, on the other hand, showed a full compendium of vices even if it also had some minor virtues.
The pre-Christian pagan West had a relatively free ride. With the Battle of Salamis (480 BC), Western readers were encouraged to sympathise with the Greeks rather than the Persians. And even with the Punic Wars some 300 years later, few historians insisted that Carthage’s cause was just.
The Romans, whose chosen pastime was watching people disembowel one another on gladiatorial arenas and whose unwanted new-born girls were dumped by the roadside to be devoured by wild beasts, were still tolerable – and look, smirks The Life of Brian, how much they have given us.
Materialist historians did try to interpret Carthage in the light of fashionable anti-colonialism, but only half-heartedly. Yet typically hushed up was the salient fact about Carthage. Yes, it boasted a developed civilisation and packed a mean military punch. But it was also diabolical.
Carthaginians practised human sacrifice and cannibalism, which proved to be their undoing. The proto-Western Romans might not have used terms like Satanism, but they sensed something dark and revolting about Carthage. Hence they were prepared to fight to the last man, which resolve eventually defeated Hannibal’s military genius.
However, if we fast-forward to the present time and its take on history, the West has lost any claim to clemency on the part of ‘liberal’ historians. For example, the European colonisers of the New World are routinely castigated for their merciless cruelty – and the critics have a point.
The local Indian tribes were displaced at best, exterminated at worst. Since they resisted colonisation, the Europeans’ only choice was between fight or flight, and the latter wasn’t a viable option. But it’s true that many things they did were unnecessarily cruel, which was unforgivable – and not because the other side didn’t do the same things and worse.
The English, the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese were Christians. They ought to have known better because they knew what better was. Hence every time they tortured a prisoner, or killed an Indian they didn’t have to kill, they wilfully betrayed their own civilisation.
Point conceded, and I’m not even going to counter it with an appeal to progress and the superior quality of New York and Boston as compared to the wigwams of nomadic camps. In return, I’d rather be spared panegyrics for the sublime Aztec civilisation and the primordial purity of the Indian tribes.
It’s that binary fallacy again: every time the Puritan settlers or Spanish conquistadores went against their own civilisation they are supposed to have scored a point for the Pre-Columbian Americas.
Yet most Indian tribes, especially in the northern and western parts of the continent, were as diabolical as the Carthage of Hannibal. They, all those romantic Iroquois and Mohawks, also practised human sacrifice and cannibalism, persisting well into the 18th century.
When European missionaries tried to talk the natives out of eating people, the natives often ended up eating the European missionaries. All that is a time-dishonoured hallmark of Satanism.
The same goes for the Aztecs who did create some sort of civilisation replete with attractive artifacts. Yet there too cannibalism was practised as the culmination of ritual sacrifice and also, according to some sources, as a dietary supplement. Yet today’s historians, while derisive about Christians worshipping God, are magnanimous about Pre-Columbians worshipping Satan.
Such, I think, is the historical background to all those marches of millions screaming hatred for Israel, largely because it’s Western, and love for the Muslims, largely because they aren’t Western. If those malcontents dislike A, they are housetrained to love B, however unlovable it would otherwise be.
Yet savagery has a high adhesive value. It can stick to its champions, turning them too into savages. Given our inferior education and superior communications, such an outcome is well nigh guaranteed.