maandag 13 april 2009
by Amit Ghate (April 9, 2006)
In reacting to the Islamists' ongoing cartoon Jihad, most commentators have focused on the issue of free speech. This is natural, and necessary, since eradication of free speech is the most immediate risk; and certainly without free speech there can be no defending other values. Nevertheless it is also vital to take a step back and to view the events as part of a larger pattern, a pattern which poses a grave threat to our core Western values and system of government -- and to their primary consequence and beneficiary: the free individual.
To see why, and to appreciate what we stand to lose, we must begin by understanding what is meant by "Western". Let us be clear that "Western" refers to a set of ideas -- it is not a racial or ethnic epithet. Anyone can embrace the ideas, just as anyone can reject them, regardless of his race, country of birth, or upbringing. Thus we can speak of Japan and Hong Kong having adopted "Western" principles as accurately as we can speak of Canada having done so.
In the broadest and most essentialized sense, the term "Western" denotes a set of fundamental ideas first discovered and adopted by the ancient Greeks. It was they who, for the first time in history, challenged the age-old notion that only the life of a society's rulers and/or priests was important -- to instead assert that every man's life is of crucial value. It was they who turned their focus from an obsession with death and the after-life -- to instead seek success and joy in this life. It was they who dispensed with all-encompassing superstition and from cowering before the supernatural –- to instead assert that the world was knowable, that no question was off-limits, and that the questioning mind was among the most revered of attributes. Finally, and as a consequence of all the others, it was they who cast away the resignation of living as unhappy subjects in an unknowable world -- to instead realize that with freedom to live, happiness on earth was possible for every man.
Read the rest at Capitalism Magazine