The West is best

So says Douglas Murray in Britain’s Spectator.  His argument is that multicultural modesty may put in peril the freedom and tolerance that attracted  immigrants from other cultures to Britain in the first place.  Quoth Murray:

Recognition of the superiority of our values is made with people’s feet every day in the one-way human migration to the West. It is an admission which many make in private. But we seem to have become so comfortable with our rights that we no longer acknowledge their superiority, or the superiority of the values which gave them life.

Even a couple of generations ago, assertion of the superiority of Western values — the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equalities, freedoms of expression and conscience — was uncontentious. But we have become morally lazy. If other people live under tyranny, then who are we to ‘impose’ democracy on them? If others live in benighted societies in which half their population can be treated as chattel, then why should we disturb them? Like the multicultural edifice before it, this genuine prejudice — the refusal to discern or assert moral difference — is finally collapsing. It must do, when reality comes a-knocking.

And yet I read a story by Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie in the International Herald Tribune titled, “A Refugee From Western Europe.”  It concerns Hirsi Ali, originally part of that human tidal wave arriving in the West in search of expanded possibilities:  hungry for freedom.  She sought refuge in the Netherlands against a forced marriage, eventually becoming a member of parliament in that country.  Ali has been denied protection against the threats of Muslim zealots by the Dutch government, which has made it clear to her that everyone would be happier if she just left, and took her trouble-making ways elsewhere.  Ali agreed, and is now in the United States.

Hirsi Ali is the first person in two generations to reverse the tide noted by Murray:  she has voted with her feet by leaving the West — at least, the West’s European core.

It is important to realize that Hirsi Ali may be the first refugee from Western Europe since the Holocaust. As such, she is a unique and indispensable witness to both the strength and weakness of the West: to the splendor of open society, and to the boundless energy of its antagonists. She knows the challenges we face in our struggle to contain the misogyny and religious fanaticism of the Muslim world, and she lives with the consequences of our failure each day. There is no one in a better position to remind us that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.

Both stories, while seemingly contradictory, come to the same point.  Western life — yes, the American way of life too — rests on specific moral and political principles, such as equality, tolerance, and the protection of minority or unpopular views.  Either we summon the courage to defend these principles, or the way of life they support will disintegrate.  With regard to freedom, the West will become like the rest.  No one will lose more, in that case, than those who migrated westward in search of opportunity and decency unavailable in their home countries.

(HT Samizdata.)


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