New saints

Today there are 800 new official saints. They are the 800 men of the Otranto in Italy, murdered by Muslim invaders in 1480 for refusing to convert to Islam. Is it un-PC to remember this history?

I have been reading a very good book called "The Birth of the West." It is about the 10th Century. This was a bad time for the West. Vikings came from the north, killing and enslaving. Magyars came from the east, killing and enslaving and Muslims came from the south, killing and enslaving. The English word "slave" comes not from a Latin root, but rather from the Slavs, the people of Eastern Europe habitually enslaved by Islamic raiders.

It was about the 10th Century that things began to turn around. There is a good chapter on Muslim Spain. It was more "advanced" than most of Western Europe, but still backward and oppressive by subsequent Western standards.

It became fashionable to criticize Western civilization back in the 1960s, but I perceive a shift. I think it was easy to be anti-Western when we knew less about the others. The closer we look at other civilizations, the more we see that the West is not uniquely bad; in fact over the long run of its history it is better than most of the alternatives. I suppose you can say that it is generally true that in the the West man oppressed his fellow man, while in other civilizations it was the other way around.

We have progressed a great deal since those times. During most of the past, it was normal and even thought virtuous for victors to murder and enslave the vanquished. The massive crimes of Nazis and communists in the last century were horrible, but more or less in line with the last five millennia of human history and it was probably that way in prehistory too. Stone age people of more recent vintage were fantastically violent. (I recently read an very interesting book called Empire of the Summer Moon, about the Comanches.) I think the question is not so much why we are still so violent, but rather why we started to think this was unacceptable. For all its faults, Western civilization has brought us to a better and higher level. Most of our ancestors were certainty no saints, but compared with the others, not so bad.

Posted by Christine & John at May 12, 2013 7:39 PM
Comment #365754

I don’t think anyone has ever posited that Western Civilization was any more brutal than its neighbors. From my perspective, the West is just the victim of a game of “hot potato”. Various civilizations took turns as oppressors and oppressed and when the music stopped, the West was left holding the bag. On the other hand, only the West has directly experienced an “Age of Enlightenment”, which is why we might unjustifiably hold it to a higher standard than other cultures.

Posted by: Warren Porter at May 12, 2013 11:40 PM
Comment #365786


Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the local pinhead used to chant “hey-hey, ho-ho Western Civ has got to go”

We see it all the time. Watch any history documentary on TV. The Western people are usually portrayed in a negative light, compared to the wise people of the East or the noble savages.

I think we do hold ourselves to higher standards and are held to them. One reason the Brits could conquer India or even that Cortez could conquer Mexico is that the local despots were so horrible that Westerners could easily find people to help.

Islam is the big PC thing now. Back in 1000, Islam was probably more advanced than Western Europe, although most of their wisdom was from Greek and Latin sources. Arab civilization produced very little of lasting value. It copied others. BUT around the year 1000 the intellectual balance began to shift. Islam stopped advancing and began to fall behind relative to the West, until by today they are primitive compared to us in every important way. This is one of the sources of friction and we deny it, as they do, but Islam has not produced decent science or innovation for a thousand years. What happened should be a more common intellectual pursuit, but we won’t look hard.

Posted by: CJ at May 13, 2013 5:51 AM
Comment #365792

CJ: “BUT around the year 1000 the intellectual balance began to shift. Islam stopped advancing and began to fall behind relative to the West…”

I think a decent society needs a good balance between faith and art and science in a Venn Diagram kind of way. Some would say that Islam as a culture began to shift more toward faith and away from the other two pieces exactly at the time of al-Ghazali about 1,000 years ago.

This sort of early fundamentalism should be a warning to the Christian Right in America that has elevated faith to the highest level while spending the last few decades attacking modern and post modern art as something crude and perverse while attacking science as an affront to narrow biblical interpretation of creation.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at May 13, 2013 9:33 AM
Comment #365795

I’d say go ahead and do it. Quietly. If they raise objections then, you have only to say, “why were they all killed?”

But don’t get on any high-horse, because Muslims can claim their martyr’s, too. Whether we’re talking Christianity or Islam, folks have shed blood on behalf of their faith. We don’t make a point of poking people in the eye of it, because if you’re trying to be diplomatic, you speak of what you have in common, and you apologize for past offenses.

Spinning everything around the axis of favoring political correctness or opposing it is foolish, and will blind us to the moral dimensions of our current position, and what headway we can make if we decide we wish to.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 13, 2013 11:58 AM
Comment #365830

Perhaps I missed something but I fail to remember any major PC movement rejecting western civilization. I also must have missed the “Islam is the big PC thing now.”

Sure, some have rejected the colonial excesses of the West in modern times. The American revolution is a good example. But, that falls under the “we should have known better” category that Warren eluded to with his comments about the Western “Enlightenment.” A more recent example is the Vietnam war where we stepped into the shoes of the French colonialists.

As for Islam being the current PC thing, I think that you are mistaken. As Adam points out, it is fundamentalism that is the problem, regardless of religion. So, some may say that it is not Islam per se that is problematic but fundamentalist sects within that religion. Wholesale rejection of those of those of the Islamic faith is unjustified. If that’s being PC, so be it.

It would be naive, however, not to recognize that Islamic fundamentalism has achieved a substantial degree of social and political control over many Islamic faith countries and supports many internal civil disputes, e.g., Chechnya. Vigilance of such Islamic countries and followers of fundamentalist sects wherever they may be is properly justified.

Posted by: Rich at May 13, 2013 6:37 PM
Comment #365836


We don’t need to ask why they were all killed, beheaded actually. They were all killed because they refused to accept Islam.

Re apologizing for past offenses. This has been a one-way street of late. Do you recall Islam apologizing lately? Remember, they invented jihad and the Crusades were just more of the same, a counter Jihad.

Rich & Adam

Re fundamentalism - I am with you. You can always tell fundamentalism by what you are not supposed to ridicule or criticize.

Think of Hillary and Obama claiming that a video might set off murderous violence. If a video can cause some people to kill, those people are rotten sons of bitches, don’t you think?

Posted by: CJ at May 13, 2013 7:25 PM
Comment #365838
Do you recall Islam apologizing lately?

Yes, I do.

Posted by: Warren Porter at May 13, 2013 7:42 PM
Comment #365842


For their past “sins” i.e. attacking Spain, France, Italy, Poland …

Posted by: CJ at May 13, 2013 9:03 PM
Comment #365846

I see your point.

Posted by: Warren Porter at May 13, 2013 10:09 PM
Comment #365854

CJ: “If a video can cause some people to kill, those people are rotten sons of bitches, don’t you think?”

Think of the LA riots. If it can happen in parts of America it can happen almost anywhere. Heck, it only takes a soccer match to touch off riots in some places in the world. I don’t know if that makes anybody rotten but it certainly makes the conditions rotten.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at May 14, 2013 7:59 AM
Comment #365902


The people who rioted in LA and attacked people were indeed rotten sons of bitches. I condemned them too and all those who tried to justify their “anger.”

I can understand anger and it can be misplaced. But anybody who attacks innocent people after being “provoked” by something like a video is rotten in the soul. They should repent, not have their actions explained and justified. A properly religious person would say that such a person risks hell if he does not repent. Lots of our Muslim friends are hell-bound, as are those misguided individuals who almost beat Reginald Denning to death. I make no distinctions.

Posted by: CJ at May 14, 2013 6:33 PM
Comment #379956

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