Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lessons From France

Political Philosophy

Four principles of democracy common to western nations have allowed nations like Canada, the U.S., and western Europe and the British Commonwealth to achieve social and economic prosperity, at least to some degree, Lorna Salesman writes: “Putting aside ecological integrity for now, I believe they boil down into four categories: universal human rights; respect for international law; an accessible equitable justice system; non-violence except in the case of self-defense. Few countries, if any, can be said to possess or observe these to a satisfactory degree, but there is little doubt that some countries come closer than others, especially with regard to the treatment of their own citizens (as opposed to foreign countries).”

by Lorna Salzman

Bernard-Henri Levy, known as BHL in France, a French philosopher and theorist, wrote his book Left in Dark Times, not as a farewell but as a bereavement over the condition of the French and European left, which is now repeating, with Islam, its earlier egregious error of ignoring or rationalizing the crimes of Stalin and the Soviet Union. French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has also written powerfully about this moral capitulation of the left in Europe. In this country, except for Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman and Michael Berube, we still have not seen their equal in the broad intellectual community. The timidity of progressives is reprehensible. Into the void created by the moral absence of the left, the right has stepped in.

Levy still regards himself as a truer leftist than those who embrace post-modern Political Correctness, cultural relativism and the mandatory revulsion at the United States. His closest political allies end up being those usually associated with the right, which alone in the USA has taken on the task of confronting what he calls “Fascislam.” It is depressing to acknowledge that the defense of Enlightenment values and human rights comes today only from the right.

Contrary to the leftist notion of cultural relativism, moral philosophers, ethicists and political theorists do not appear to dispute the existence of universal moral principles. Religions have always asserted these but only as a means of social domination and retention of power. What are these principles?

Putting aside ecological integrity for now, I believe they boil down into four categories: universal human rights; respect for international law; an accessible equitable justice system; non-violence except in the case of self-defense. Few countries, if any, can be said to possess or observe these to a satisfactory degree, but there is little doubt that some countries come closer than others, especially with regard to the treatment of their own citizens (as opposed to foreign countries).

In the case of the USA, most of western Europe, and the British Commonwealth, the existence of one or more of these characteristics makes possible the existence or potential existence of the others. The American Constitution and its Bill of Rights, the Enlightenment, the advance of scientific inquiry and rationalism, the separation of religion from public life, gender equity to a large degree, accompanied by a sturdy legal system, have allowed western Europe and the USA to achieve a level of social and economic development unknown in most of the world. Whatever imperfections and malfunctions exist, they have not yet substantially weakened society. In fact, the continued emigration of foreigners from Asia, Africa, the middle east and Latin America to this country belies the leftist propaganda today, which persists in its absurd accusation that we are now living in a fascist state. Like its blind support for that fanatic terrorist group called Hamas , the American left is Clueless in Gaza (and elsewhere).

We tend to think that our own failures regarding Wall St. and the corporations will destroy our society. By themselves they will not. But there are external factors that capitalism and secular democracy have not yet included in their prospectus of America's future. These are two in number: the ecological crisis (including global warming, loss of biodiversity, and food and energy policy), and the threat from political Islam, or Islamic Jihad. The accelerated ecological threats and the subtle insinuation of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offspring groups such as CAIR and the Muslim Students' Association on behalf of Hamas and Hezbollah must be confronted and halted, using all necessary tools and laws at our disposal.

Where has the left failed?
  • Universal human rights: it still turns a blind eye to the enslavement and oppression of women in the Muslim world, to honor killings, to forced child marriage, to the deprivation of women in education and health, to domestic abuse, to the persecution of Muslim gays and the absence of civil liberties.It has aligned itself with right-wing anti-Semites and neo-Nazis, and while it opposes "offensive speech" that might disturb Muslims it has nothing to say about the steady growth of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence against individuals and buildings all over the world or the anti-Semitic propaganda broadcast as a matter of course by Muslim governments, educational institutions, mosques and media throughout the middle east, or the murder of Christians and the burning of Christian churches in Egypt and elsewhere. 
  • International law: instead of supporting the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, the left has supported the Muslim-controlled UN Human Rights Council which has made the rooting out and punishment of all critics of Islam its top priority, with Richard Falk as its hatchet man. The left had nothing to say about the UN HRC's shift from guaranteeing universal freedom of speech to its new witchhunt against anyone speaking ill of Islam.
  • Justice system: instead of pressing for international and global action to stop the persecution and murder by Arab Muslims of black minorities in Darfur, the left has created the myth that Sudan's problems are due to Zionists. In the former Yugoslavia, at the behest of apologists like Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark, it defended the fascist assassin Slobodan Milosevic and attacked NATO for bombing Serbia, which was killing Croats and Bosnian Muslims without cease. It has had no comment on the appointment by Pres. Obama of Scott Motian as special envoy to Pres. Bashir, the criminally indicted president of Sudan (!!!!).
  • Non-violence: while the left attacks the USA for its invasive foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, it proudly defends the use of any and all means of resistance, armed and otherwise, on the part of the USA's adversaries, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. To underscore their support for Islamist terrorism, they wear shi'ite headscarves prominently at public rallies and propose (sometimes overtly, sometimes indirectly) the destruction of Israel and "Zionists", today's euphemism for Jews.
Until the left and its liberal allies acknowledge the overarching threats of the ecological crisis and Islamic Jihad to our society and the world at large, we will be focusing our attention on what are arguably the easiest parts of our society to change. As we hold our finger in the dike and hold our breath about the collapse of capitalism, the waters of eco-collapse and radical Islamism are rolling over the top.

The author, a graduate of Cornell University, has been an environmental writer, lecturer and activist since the 1970s. Her articles on environment, energy, biodiversity and natural history have appeared in leading journals here and abroad, including The Ecologist, Index on Censorship, Resurgence, New Politics, and Business & Society Review. Her professional career began when David Brower, the leading conservationist of the 20th century in the USA, hired her as mid-Atlantic representative for Friends of the Earth, where she worked on wetlands, coastal zone and nuclear power issues for over a decade. In this period she was instrumental in the preservation of two key wildlife habitats (Swan Pond and Maple Swamp) in Suffolk County, NY.

Later she became an editor at the National Audubon Society's journal, 
American Birds, followed by directorship of the anti-food irradiation group, Food and Water. In the mid 1980s she co-founded the New York Greens, later the New York Green Party, on whose state committee she served for several years, and became active in the national green movement.

She worked for three years as a natural resource specialist in the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection, focusing on wetlands and coastal zone protection. In 2002 she was the Suffolk County Green Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1st CD on eastern Long Island, and in 2004 she was a candidate for the U.S. Green Party's presidential nomination. Her hobbies are mushroom hunting, classical music and birding around the world with her composer-husband Eric. They have twin daughters, one a pop composer and lyricist in NYC and the other a poet and writer based in England. They live in Brooklyn Heights, NY, and East Quogue, NY, and have lived for extended periods in Italy and France.

Copyright ©2013. Lorna Salzman. All Rights Reserved. It is published here with the author's permission. More of her writing can be found at www.lornasalzman.com.

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