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February 06, 2007

Marriage Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Two Pakistanis suspected of being adulterous lovers have been stoned to death with bricks.

* In Saudi Arabia, a wife's family can initiate divorce proceedings between her and her husband. (Link thanks to Tim Worstall. As Tim writes: "If mothers in law can legally insist upon a divorce is anyone's marriage safe?" Tim tells about making the classic mistake of trying to soothe an injured dog here.)

* On the island of Orango off Guinea-Buissau, the women propose marriage and the men can't refuse. (Link thanks to Prairie Mary, who writes vividly about what it was like to witness open-heart surgery here.)

* Is sexual liberation something the West should be proud of? (Link thanks to Piotr.)



posted by Michael at February 6, 2007


A good post, Michael.

Am I alone in wondering whether both sides in the great conflict between the West and Islam have a valid viewpoint and that a compromise somewhere in between would be good for both?

The cult of the individual in the West seems to me to have reached a dead end. I'm not speaking as an outsider or as a Christian moralist. I've lived my entire adult life among the hippie, bohemian left. Divorce is too easily obtained in the West. People live like adolescents into their 30s and 40s. I'm not necessarily against sexual excess or fun. I've observed, however, that people who base their lives on these things become wrechedly unhappy, or worse, dead. And, I'm fed up with people who think that their sexual freedom and happiness trumps the needs of their children.

Belief in God seems essential to the human spirit and to the organization of the human community. God doesn't need us. We need Him.

The excesses of Islam are easy for us to see. Yes, it's a bad thing to stone to death adulterers and homosexuals. But, at least the Islamists believe in something besides self. The Islamic community makes some attempt to enforce the discipline of family and societal responsibility.

What we have here in the West is a free-for-all. Entertaining, yes. All too many of us are killing outselves with this freedom. The cult of the individual in the West has become dreay and stupifying. I'm not speaking of sexual morality when I say: What kind of moron society confers celebrity on a creature as dismal and spiritually ugly as Paris Hilton?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 6, 2007 7:18 PM

Am I alone in wondering whether both sides in the great conflict between the West and Islam have a valid viewpoint and that a compromise somewhere in between would be good for both?

Compromise between the West and Islam? Good luck with that. No, we're in a death match. Maybe we have a lot of moderate Muslims on our side, depending on how confident they are that we won't abandon them. Most likely, radical Muslims are going to kill a lot more of us as the Islamic world works out its internal problems.

No compromise will be possible if the radicals prevail, and if they do prevail they will come for us. And they will win unless we resist them. And the more self-doubt the West has, the harder and more painful it will be for us to resist.

The modern West isn't perfect, but in historical terms it is by far the best civilization that has ever existed. Its principal weakness is not sexual immorality but self-doubt, brought about by ignorance of history and by a profound lack of perspective on the part of people who think that peace and prosperity are the natural state of the world. Nor is our supposed foreign "adventurism" the issue. (If this country really wanted an empire it could conquer the Americas in a few months.) The moralistic Right and isolationist Left are both delusional on this issue. It's not about us and we are not being punished for our moral or political sins. We are being attacked because we exist. Our existence as free, prosperous people is an affront to the fascists and dark-agers. And we cannot stop the attacks merely by apologizing or cleaning up our moral act or negotiating (negotiate what?), or by engaging in other futile efforts to somehow reform ourselves or compromise without reference to our radical Islamist enemies. They won't compromise. We need to have the national and cultural self-confidence to squash them without qualms.

Posted by: Jonathan on February 6, 2007 11:57 PM

The post about sexual liberation reminds me that two of the emptiest ideologies known to mankind are Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism. That some (obviously not all) conservatives are now furiously grasping at straws is seen in Dinesh D’Souza’s idiotic new book which blames liberals for inflaming some Muslims.

As far as I am concerned, we should use sexual liberation to mock the self-deluded stupidity of Islamic fundamentalism.

RE: Belief in God seems essential to the human spirit and to the organization of the human community. God doesn't need us. We need Him.

While I acknowledge that some people still need the cosmic security blanket of a belief in a deity, I don’t see religion as essential to the human spirit or the human community. And the issue is always complicated by the question of exactly which God and which rules are supposedly right, and which are merely the attempts of tyrants to enforce their own rigid rules on everybody else. On my worst days, I sympathize with Denis Diderot’s prescription that “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

RE: But, at least the Islamists believe in something besides self. The Islamic community makes some attempt to enforce the discipline of family and societal responsibility.

At worst, Islam places the religion higher than the lives of its adherents, and willingly sacrifices the individual. The Taliban, for example, believes that women should not be educated lest family be threatened, and would rather see widows starve to death than establish their own businesses and take care of themselves if they have no husband or other male relative to take care of them.

Jonathan – RE: And they will win unless we resist them.

I agree with much of your post, but I don’t think we have much to fear from Islamic fundamentalists no matter how much they threaten us. Their dreams of jihad are as delusional as the past dreams of communists that they would bury us. No advanced modern Western nation has willingly converted to Islam, and Muslims lack the material resources to be a serious threat, and also lack the material resources to offer an attractive alternative to our way of life. They are locked in their impotent delusion that they could ever overwhelm us, either through conquest or persuasion, much like Baghdad Bob, Hussein’s comical information minister declaring that US forces were being routed even as Coalition forces tanks roared into the city behind him.

The West might indulge some Islamic radicals, but no one is much interested in what they are selling. Some of the sad problems of Islamic communities in Europe are the result of fundamentalist neighborhoods sinking into poverty because they cannot find their own compromise with assimilation and the maintenance of their faith, and instead isolate themselves into sullen, backwards ghettoes in which inhabitants try to convince themselves that the strength of their faith is an acceptable substitute for failure.

Moderate and clear-thinking Muslims probably understand that a catastrophic terrorist attack against the West might result in the retaliatory obliteration of much of the Middle East. Islamic martyrdom is ultimately a self-limiting strategy. If a someone says, “If you don’t capitulate to my will, I will blow myself up,” we should just put him in a safe corner and call his bluff.

Posted by: Alec on February 7, 2007 7:12 AM

Why didn't somebody tell me about the Island of Orango a long time ago? "Hello? Is Paul Newman there? I need him to meet me on the Island of Orongo, OK?" That old "isn't allowed to refuse" thing saves a lot of time and trouble!

Posted by: annette on February 7, 2007 10:25 AM

Can Paul Newman still get it up?

Posted by: ricpic on February 7, 2007 3:43 PM

RE: Can Paul Newman still get it up?

Viagra means never having to say you’re sorry.

RE: the marriage customs of Orango. I do wonder how this society evolved, and what, if any, advantages came about because of the women-centric courtship practices.

Here’s another CNN story tangentially related to themes of love and marriage (and a nod to Valentine’s Day), about two skeletons from the Neolithic period locked in a tender embrace and buried outside Mantua, just 25 miles south of Verona, the romantic city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale of "Romeo and Juliet."

Posted by: Alec on February 7, 2007 5:59 PM


Yes, the Islamists are nuts as well as militarily weak. What bothers me is that many westerners dismiss them as a threat, because such westerners are either more interested in blaming the West to suit some agenda or (more frequently) are unjustifiably complacent and cocky about our invincibility. The Islamists have a doggedly malign intent toward us (and particularly toward Jews and Americans). You are correct that they currently "lack the material resources to be a serious threat," but that changes if the bad guys get WMD.

I do not think the threat of our nuclear retaliation will deter them, because 1) they may be willing to accept the losses and 2) they may doubt -- reasonably, IMO -- that we really would kill millions of civilians in response to WMD attacks here. That's why I think we have to defeat them militarily before it gets to that point.

Posted by: Jonathan on February 7, 2007 7:36 PM

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