Saturday, April 02, 2011
PC MC in 1917
Apropos of a recent article put up at Gates of Vienna (Occam's Scimitar) wherein Baron Bodissey graciously framed my thesis about PC MC front and center and penned an introduction that largely explicates the thesis well, I thought I would reprise this essay of mine from many moons ago (March of 2007 -- not sure how to calculate how many moons ago that was) -- an essay which examines an example of PC MC thinking in a Western scholar from 1917.
The facet of Politically Correct Multiculturalism (PC MC) we are primarily concerned with here is that crucial facet which pertains to the Problem of Islam.
The prevailing sense today is that PC MC is only two or three decades old—or at the outside, approximately fifty years (usually starting with those damned Sixties). It is a rather odd experience, therefore, to read an academic scholar in Orientalism in 1917 expressing PC MC sentiments very similar to those that, from a position of mainstream privilege and dominance, offend and plague us today most especially with reference to the Problem of Islam. And yet there it was in a dusty old article from a dusty old journal from a dusty old time almost a century ago.
Two observations may be made about the PC MC of the scholar in question, T.W. Arnold:
1) from his own words, there seems to be an indication that his sentiments go against the grain of his surrounding society at large;
2) he nevertheless could be mistaken in this perception—for, even in our day of full-blown PC MC dominance, it is not rare to hear a Leftist complain, in quasi-paranoid fashion (and, more importantly, absurdly out of touch with the actual situation) about the supposedly dominant sociopolitical forces that are suppressing the Leftist truth and stifling genuine debate.
A third may be added, tongue in cheek (since to take it seriously would be to succumb to the disease):
3) it is highly unlikely that Prof. Arnold was an agent of some Gramscian cabal.
Seeing as Prof. Arnold was writing in 1917—and, pending more data to the contrary—I think it would be reasonable to suppose that #1 above is more or less accurate (while #3, of course, is obviously the case).
This means, in effect, that in a Prof. Arnold, we are seeing the first signs of a nascent PC MC, with the concomitant annoyance he expresses at the ignorance of his surrounding society due to the weak and minority status of PC MC at the time. It would take another forty-odd years for PC MC to begin to gain its foothold of dominance in Western societies, and we can see people like Prof. Arnold as pioneers of a sort -- at least pioneers of the era when PC MC became mainstream and dominant (roughly the 1960s to the present). Other older pioneers exist: I have discovered a comment about Islam by Rousseau in his The Social Contract of 1762 that has a remarkably post-modern ring of PC MC, and I have analyzed at length the PC MC-ish sentiments of Montaigne who wrote as far back as the 16th century. These older precursors (and others to be discovered) need to be studied by historians to trace trends that may explain the slowly increasing prevalence of PC MC in the modern West. For now, we examine someone closer to our own age, yet still sufficiently old to surprise us.
The article that is the focus of today’s blog essay is titled “The Study of Arabic”, an article by Prof. T.W. Arnold published in Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, Vol. 1, No. 1, (1917), pp. 112-121. Quotes from that article will be in italics. My comments will be interpolated in regular font, usually in square brackets. (Note: Arnold refers to himself as “the Lecturer”, as this article is evidently his summary of a lecture he gave at the School.)
The Lecturer first emphasised the importance of the study of Islam in view of the large number of Muhammadans in the British Empire, amounting (at the lowest estimate) to 90-1/2 millions, and implying a problem of great importance to the statesman, the politician, the educationalist, and to all persons concerned with the larger problems of the globe.
Arnold is correct, of course, about the momentous importance of the multitudes of Muslims in lands in which Western powers have interests—a problem which perdures to this day. Where he begins to err, as we shall soon see, is in his estimation of the nature and dimensions of that problem.
What follows, first, are interesting observations by Arnold about the comparative role of religiosity in Islamic vs. Western Christian societies:
The Lecturer showed by illustrations how religious considerations enter more largely into the daily life of Muhammadan people than in Christian society; the religion of Islam claims to speak with authority in the domain of law, politics, and social organisation, as much as in the sphere of theology and ethics...
In the immediately following phrase, Arnold alludes to one reason why this preponderance of theocratic religiosity is a problem with Islamic societies:
...the wisest and most carefully considered plans of statesmen and reformers run a risk of being wrecked upon the rocks of fanaticism.
But Arnold throughout the remainder of his article does not draw the logical inferences from this propensity in Islamic societies for fanaticism, nor does he seem to show—despite his scholarly erudition in the general subject—any knowledge of the prodigious amount of texts and traditions in Islam which systemically nourish such fanaticism. Indeed, as we shall see, he rather sweeps such inferences under a rug in the interest of a kind of naive proto-multiculturalist Wilsonianism with regard to “getting along” with the Muslims in the world and, more particularly, those under the purview of Western interests (which in his day, in the context of a British Empire still a few decades away from falling apart, were considerably more intimate and invasive, at least in certain respects, than they are in our day).
Arnold continues to explain the theocratic tendencies of Islamic societies:
In the world of Islam the foundations of society have been set in religion, in a manner that is hard to understand for the average European Christian who has entered on the inheritance of ancient Greece and Rome, and the institutions of the barbarian invaders who swept the Roman Empire away.
This sentence—whose deficiency Arnold does nothing to salvage anywhere in his article—is remarkable for at least one reason indirectly related to our essay today. The first thing that leaps out at the reader is his sweeping encapsulization of Western Civilization utterly absent of one major factor: Christendom. In Arnold’s nutshell, to be Western—indeed, to be a “European Christian”!—is to be culturally constituted of pagan Greece and Rome, and of the “barbarian invaders”, and that’s it: no mention of Judaeo-Christianity...! Otherwise, the sentence underscores his previous observation about the unusual hold that theocratic religiousity has upon the Muslim peoples—which he continues to explicate:
Islam has accordingly been well described as a Church-State—not a State-Church, i.e. a church upheld by, and consequently dependent on, the state—but a state whose very constitution is ecclesiastical, in which the church comes first and the state rests upon it.
In the West, tendencies in this theocratic direction have been referred to by historians with the term Caesaropapism; but while the West wrestled with these tendencies, it did so long ago, and long ago ironed them out—not without much violence and acrimony, to be sure, but nevertheless successfully and progressively and ultimately humanely, or as humanely as possible given the imperfection of human nature. At any rate, Arnold goes on, putting his foot in his mouth again:
Much of this, no doubt, represents an ideal, and Islam has not been strong enough to wipe away the differences of race and tribe, or to overcome all influences inherited from an ancient past; and the history of Islam, like the history of Christianity, is largely the record of the failure of an ideal to attain realisation.
First of all, besides trying to subtly take back what he has asserted—namely, that Islam is significantly more theocratic in nature and composition than the West—Arnold here is also asserting that the forces explaining why that “ideal” has not been realized in Islam are the same as those by which Christianity’s ideal proved to be unrealizable; and yet, he characterizes those forces in Islam as being “differences of race and tribe”, which surely any historian worth his salt (rather than a tendentious revisionist who wishes, in his prejudicial cynicism about Western greatness, to reduce the West to the level of the barbarians out of which it epochally differentiated) would not equally ascribe to Christendom as being the central forces that frustrated its theocratic ideal. Indeed, any historian worth his salt—particularly one as beholden to the Enlightenment progress that sociopolitically informs and supports his academic freedom and intellectual luxury, and one as casually ungrateful to the legacy of Christendom, as Arnold is—would rather distinguish the West’s inability to attain its theocratic ideal from that of Islam’s in the most important and crucial way, by pointing out its amazing capacity for reform, progress and secularist enlightenment over the past two centuries. Aside from more overt symptoms of a proto-PC MC in Arnold, then, we also detect that curious tendency toward what I call a double-helix inconsistency—an inconsistency twisted doubly, not just simply.
We continue with Arnold, where in his next sentence, as predicted, he again backtracks subtly from his qualification of Islam’s theocratic ideal:
But the marvel of the Muslim world is the large extent to which Islam has succeeded in imposing its special characteristics [that would be its fusion of Church and State] on the widely differing races that make up the Muhammadan world.
The above sentence also helps to give the lie to those whitewashers of Islam who disdain any hints of detecting cultural uniformity throughout Islam, dismissing such putative uniformity as “monolithic”.
Arnold later in his article begins to take more direct aim at the West’s supposed intolerance, and taking potshots at Western Christian influences in the same breath:
But there is still a certain amount of literature on Islam in the English language that is vitiated by the influence of an active clerical intolerance. [That’s Christian clerical intolerance, of course, not Islamic clerical intolerance.] The Lecturer then gave examples from popular textbooks on Islam and biographies of Muhammad, and continued: This is not the way in which a Dutch, a French, a German, or an Italian scholar writes, and we in this country are singularly unfortunate in the meagre supply of good books on the subject of Muhammad and his faith, and the Muhammadan world generally; even in a great series like that of the Hibbert Lectures, avowedly devoted to the sympathetic exposition of the various religions of the world, Islam is the only one that receives intolerant and harsh treatment. Instances might be multiplied—in the careless utterances of politicians, the ignorance, often the insulting ignorance, of our daily press—but enough has been said to emphasise the need of a more sympathetic knowledge of Islam in this country, and (what is more to the immediate purpose) of a wider knowledge of Arabic among our fellow-countrymen.
A number of things may be noticed from this complex deposit of steaming shit Arnold dumps on our plate: First, he blames what he claims is a general English intolerance (not only in Academe, but in the public at large) for Islam on “clerical” forces.
Next, he almost involuntarily lets slip the interesting, parenthetical observation that this supposed “intolerance” in England is not directed at any other culture, except one: Islam! If this were really “intolerance” (and a “clerical” one at that), one would think it would manifest itself in more general ways. Perhaps what Arnold complains is “intolerance” might actually be a reasonable capacity for discernment in Academe, politicians, the media of his time, and the public at large (and the “clerics” who are supposedly behind it all)—a discernment by which they can more or less tolerantly embrace all other cultures, but recognize sufficiently pernicious and offensive features in Islam to exempt that one culture from an embrace that no civilization is obliged to proffer indiscriminately, and therefore irrationally. Indeed, one specific source of that “intolerance” Arnold gripes about emanates from within the heart of his world of Academe in what he admits are the “great” Hibbert Lectures!
Next, Arnold uses this complaint of “intolerance” as a springboard for his call to Academe—and his society at large through its governmental institutions—to be more “sympathetic” to Islam. Though Arnold never quite elucidates in what this “sympathy” should consist, he does allude somewhat more substantively to it later on.
Finally, we note in the above quote that the Academics of countries other than England earn Arnold’s approval: whether this is due to their comportment with his proto-PC MC, or whether he is erroneously characterizing their comportment, I cannot say for sure; though I would tend to guess it is the former. If so, this would indicate (given a margin of error due to Arnold’s possibly mistaken assessments to one degree or another) that proto-PC MC had already begun to take root in certain circles of the countries he mentions approvingly—Holland, France, Germany and Italy.
More from Arnold:
...I return to the thought with which I began this lecture—namely, the importance of a knowledge of Arabic literature to this country, as part of an empire that contains so vast a Muhammadan population. In the immediate future we shall be closely concerned with Muhammadan questions; one of the many problems that will face us after the war [World War I] is over will be the relations of the powers of Europe to the Muhammadan world. Germany will certainly not neglect it, and she does not look to her clergy for enlightenment as to the spirit and meaning of Islam. Her scholars arouse interest in Islam and spread knowledge by a ceaseless stream of publications.
Perhaps Germany’s “correct” interest in Islam had something—either directly (by laying the ground for a “sympathetic” appreciation of Islam), or indirectly (by laying the ground for a critical misapprehension of the perniciousness of Islam)—to do with the intimate collaboration of the Hitler regime with influential Muslim clerics, and with Hitler’s own avowed admiration for Islam’s martial spirit, within a few years after Arnold delivered this lecture (and continuing right through to the end of WW2)...?
At any rate, we continue with Arnold:
This country [England], in spite of its larger interest in the Muslim world and the vaster Muhammadan population within the British Empire, has not given serious attention to Islam. It should be part of the service which this School of Oriental Studies will do for the state, to train administrators who are at work among Muhammadan peoples in such a way that they may learn to appreciate whatever is excellent in Muslim culture, and approach Muhammadan problems with intelligent sympathy. If the last two generations of English officials had only known something of the historic past of the Muhammadans they governed—more of their ideals and of the sentiments that appeal to them—much trouble might have been prevented, and the task that lies before the coming generation would have been rendered so much the easier.
Of course, the first thing that strikes the politically incorrect reader here is Arnold’s call for Academic activism—for Academic entities such as the School of which he is a part to actively inform government administrators who will work directly among Muslim populations and institutions throughout the Empire. And with what will they inform them? Why, with PC MC “sympathy” for the good aspects of Islam, which would not fail to facilitate—indirectly but significantly, by default of Arnold’s appalling ignorance of Islam—at least three pernicious aspects of Islam:
1) the strengthening of Shari’a law (which itself indirectly nourishes and stimulates Islamic supremacism);
2) various sociopolitical means to strengthen Islamic institutions in addition to Shari’a law that would be likely to impinge upon the non-Muslim populations in the midst of the Muslims whom the Muslims in the not too distant past proudly slaughtered, subjugated and oppressed;
3) a general more amorphous stimulation of the hatred, intolerance and physical violence against those same non-Muslim populations which the supremacism inherent to Islam whenever and wheresoever it is encouraged and supported inculcates.
Arnold’s last statements express an inability to connect the dots properly: specifically, he seems oblivious to the probability that the “much trouble” which could have been “prevented” by enlightened PC MC administrators might have been more due to innate and inherent institutions and propensities nourished by Islam itself, rather than to our Western ineptitude and intolerant unwillingness to be “intelligently sympathetic” to the wonders of Islamic culture.
And, of course, it never seems to occur to Arnold that the anti-Islam ignorance and bias he perceives in English culture is not “in spite of its larger interest in the Muslim world and the vaster Muhammadan population within the British Empire”—larger than the interests of the Germany whose scholars he finds so “sympathetic” to Islam—but rather precisely because England had had such a broader and deeper familiarity with Muslims.
To continue with Arnold:
Especially in connection with educational policy may be seen the harmful results of this contemptuous disregard of that historic past of Islam, which has bequeathed to the present generation of Muslims the circle of ideas in which they live, and in which they find the inspiration of their noblest actions. The scornful ignorance of Macaulay’s famous minute on education in India is typical of such detached theories of administration.
Aside from more of the same from Arnold, we have here an abysmally outrageous ignorance of history in India: the “contemptuous disregard of that historic past of Islam” he is lamenting would be corrected, we are forced to assume, by a rosy myth that ignores the actual history of India where succeeding waves of Muslim conquerors of that subcontinent did not massacre over 60 million Hindus and other Indian subpopulations, did not desecrate and destroy thousands of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, and did not afflict the remainder of people they did not kill with humiliating and oppressive treatment as little more than slaves. Once again, we are reasonably led to conclude that the “contemptuous disregard” Arnold complains about in English adminstration of Muslim populations (including most eminently its “Crown Jewel”, India), and the “scornful ignorance” of the historian Lord Macaulay (who spent four years in India as a member of the Supreme Council there from 1834-1838) might well have been perspicacious assessments of the pernicious recalcitrance of Islam to progressive values, rather than expressions of intolerant and inept hostility as Arnold would have it.
Perhaps Arnold has in mind the “intolerant” statements expressive of the “scornful ignorance” of Winston Churchill, who in 1899 had written:
“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”
[from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899]
More from Arnold, and now we get to some really interesting stuff:
We are apt to forget that the development of a people proceeds upon lines largely determined by its past history, and a violent breach with this historic evolution results in a loss of stable equilibrium and a certain mental confusion (men’s minds become bewildered through the break with the ancient landmarks, and run into extravagances, or fall a prey to violent reactions), or else, in the case of peoples on a lower level of culture, they suffer a profound depression in the presence of a civilisation and a circle of ideas for which their intellectual antecedents have not prepared them. Illustrations might be given of either of these unhappy results among Muslim peoples who have come under British rule. An acquaintance with Arabic literature would have enabled English administrators to recognize that they were dealing with the heirs of a great civilisation to whom had been bequeathed ideas of law, ethics, and social order, that have played a great part in the world, and are still capable of acting as regenerative forces. These ideals should be fostered and encouraged; —but to know them, and to enter into the point of view of those who can be swayed by them, we must learn Arabic. Through this knowledge, it is possible to attain to an appreciation of Islamic civilisation, and touch the hearts of Muslim peoples.
Although Arnold begins his explication of two interesting observations of how Muslim behaviors become a problem with a vaguely generalized reference to “a people” and “peoples”, it is safe to assume that he is thinking primarily of one particular people, since nowhere else in this lecture does he mention any other peoples. And these two observations will sound very familiar to readers today who have been reading the news and otherwise educating themselves to advance up the LCPOI (the Learning Curve of the Problem of Islam).
The first one describes patterns of expression and behavior we have seen too often among Muslims, particularly when en masse in crowds: their minds “run into extravagances, or fall a prey to violent reactions...” We have seen in our era, time and time again, Muslims become possessed by rampant and ludicrous paranoia and panic, just as we have seen, with sickening frequency, Muslims acting out violence in one form or another.
Of course, Arnold is trying fix a causation for this psychological and behavioral problem among Muslims, a causation that would ascribe most blame to the West in its colonialist invasions and occupations—namely, the “break with the ancient landmarks” of Muslim culture which we in our Colonialist incursions have caused, which “bewilders” the poor mind of the Muslim so much that he just cannot help himself and passively “falls prey” to paranoid delusion, mass hysteria, and violent outbreaks. In locating the cause outside of Islam—or at the very least, in failing to note intra-Islamic factors to these Muslim pathologies he is describing—Arnold is perpetrating yet another symptom of the PC MC disease: treating the Third World peoples (and most especially, the Muslims) as Noble Savages whose disorders cannot be helped by the peoples themselves through an individual exertion of will and decency and self-control as well as through the cultivation of a culture that is conducive, rather than destructive, to such personal maturity and its social expansion, but must always be helped by their condescendingly crypto-racist superior, the West.
The second Muslim pathology that Arnold describes also sounds eerily current to our ears:
“...they suffer a profound depression in the presence of a civilisation and a circle of ideas for which their intellectual antecedents have not prepared them.”
We recognize here, among other things, the Muslim psychology in its cognitive dissonance with Western atmospherics and values, characterized not only by depression but also by confusion, disarray, anxiety, disgust and even stirrings of anger and resentment. It is amusing to notice Arnold differentiate the peoples “on a lower level of culture” from those on what one must assume is a higher level of culture, where the latter would tend to respond to a novel situation of becoming radically dislocated vis-à-vis his cultural tradition by “running into extravagances, or falling prey to violent reactions”...! Obviously, there must be something else explaining how these wonderful Muslims of a “higher level of culture” would be so vulnerable to pathological deterioration, including (let us not forget), the “risk of being wrecked upon the rocks of fanaticism”.
But Arnold has closed off his mind from even raising the question, let alone pursuing the thread that might at least investigate something within Islamic culture itself as providing some explanation. Arnold’s hand-wringing concern for the Muslims verges into the preposterous as he further characterizes these same “higher culture” Muslims as “heirs of a great civilisation to whom had been bequeathed ideas of law, ethics, and social order, that have played a great part in the world, and are still capable of acting as regenerative forces.” The moral Arnold would have us draw here is clear: We the West (particularly we the British), through our “intolerant” Colonialist administration, have managed to separate the Muslims of “higher culture” from the “ideals” of that very same higher culture, causing these same Muslims to behave in pathological ways that portend a global problem; and it is these “ideals” that could help to “regenerate” and heal those Muslims, and help stave off that serious global problem, if only we could become more “sympathetic” to the greatness of those same “ideals”. While theoretically such an analysis and prescription could be constructive and salutary—and would be a workable model for just about any culture in the world other than Islam—, it would doubtless have the opposite effects if that culture’s ideals and that “civilisation”which we would be touting, praising and concretely supporting were not so grand after all, but have in fact proven for the most part throughout history to be destructive, illiberal, regressive, inhumane and dangerous for us Infidels. And in this spirit, Arnold devotes a little paragraph to blame the West for the mess of Egypt, the Sudan and Nigeria while, of course, finding no fault in the Islam their leaders and peoples were so devoutly following.
Arnold’s closing paragraph recapitulates his themes, with further offenses to common sense and rationality, let alone to his chosen field of study. I shall break it up into bite-sized pieces, the better to chew them up and spit them out:
A body of opinion is needed to counteract the common, ignorant and hostile judgment of Islam and Muhammadan civilisation, which is so unfitting in a people responsible for the good government of vast Muhammadan populations.
Again, if Arnold’s estimation of his surrounding socipolitical culture is accurate, then that culture was demonstrating a healthy suspicion and a rational criticism of Islam, despite his anxious concerns to the contrary.
If we expect them to accept our guidance in the arts of peace and civilised life, we must show generous feeling enough to recognise their virtues and excellences.
That would be all well and good if Muslims actually had sufficient virtues and excellences to offset their considerable evils and depravities, such that this ambitious Wilsonian enterprise Arnold has in mind would be realistically worthwhile; but it should have been evident to him in 1917 what is even more evident to some of us almost a century later, after thousands of additional atrocities of varying degrees have been perpetrated by Muslims—that the answer seems to be no. The bitter rue we few who understand this problem must swallow on a daily basis is that the PC MC Arnold was purveying against the grain is now dominant and mainstream, and the current President of the U.S.A. is not only deformed by that PC MC, he is also pursuing a neo-Wilsonianism—to civilize the Muslims world based upon largely groundless assertions that their own Islamic culture predisposes them very well to such a civilizing project—as deluded and ludicrous as the proto-Wilsonianism of Arnold.
On the basis of such recognition, a common activity towards noble aims becomes possible; for nations only come to respect one another when they have learned to understand each other's ideals.
Again, there is ample evidence from the Muslim world and from areas of the non-Muslim world where Muslims have impinged, to indicate that Muslims are programmed, by their foundational texts in which they fervently and literally believe, to ignore this kind of mutual respect and understanding Arnold is envisioning—except insofar as the Muslim might at any given juncture feel weak in power and wish to dissemble and deceive in order to buy time.
In the midst of much that is sordid and ugly in daily life and intercourse, ideals become obscured, and they can be seen more clearly in literature than in the market-place.
Once again, we see Arnold unable to help himself from alluding to pathological problems in Muslim societies—the high degree of things in the Muslim “marketplace” (what our media now calls “the Arab street”) in India that are “sordid and ugly in daily life and intercourse”. Does Arnold ask why it is that the supposedly noble “ideals” of Islam have become so easily lost in the “marketplace”? Well, he has asked why, only to quickly answer that it is, of course, entirely the West’s fault, and has nothing to do with Islam. In failing to pursue the question past his dogmatic PC MC givens, Arnold, like the PC MC pundits of our time, will inevitably come up with grievously wrong prescriptions for the problems which raise the question.
Now, the student of Arabic who cares to learn what the ideals of the Muslim world are, comes in touch with a circle of thoughts which excite admiration and sympathy. I cannot attempt here to analyse these in full. But among them is included a theory of an organised system of human society, with a detailed body of laws and institutions—a corporate life, in which the functions of the various sections of society are defined and developed...
We must conclude here that Arnold finds in Shari’a law much to “excite admiration and sympathy”. His reasoning for this includes its ability to foster social cohesion; perhaps, then, Arnold would find in the similarly cohesive society of Hitler’s Nazi Germany much to excite his admiration and sympathy—if all he is admiring is the cohesion itself, and that “corporate life in which the functions of the various sections of society are defined and developed”, and not bothering to probe and analyze the morals that guide that cohesion, nor the morals underpinning those “functions” which “define” and “develop” those “various sections of society”.
Arnold continues his praise of the ideals of the Muslim world:
...in the intellectual sphere, an ardent love of learning, and a thirst for knowledge that has left no field of human investigation untouched...
Aside from seeing here an echo of the later inflation of the Islamic role in Western science and philosophy, we also see, again, the failure to adjudge such learning and thirst for knowledge in a proper moral context: does it not matter if these civilizational qualities flourished and flexed their muscles at the expense of multitudes of peoples massacred and multitudes more subjected to humiliating second-class citizenship and oppression?
...in the moral sphere, a stern sense of duty, more akin to that of our Puritan ancestors (it is true) than that of the present generation, implying a serious outlook upon life and its responsibilities—and permeating all this, a sense of the Divine Presence, ever recognised in the commonest acts of daily life, and adding a dignity to human life, where (as Doughty has put it) "religion is a devout and genial remembrance", and the believer faces the varying changes of fortune with a calm resignation to the Will of God.
Here we begin to see that double-helix contortion that has become so typical of the PC MC mind: the very same Arnold who has shown us such a fastidious disdain for the “clerics” of his own society who have for the most part long since evolved away from their former theocratic and puritanical tendencies, is here the Arnold who suddenly shows such “admiration” for the “ideals” of a culture that are by his admission “more akin to that of our Puritan ancestors (it is true) than that of the present generation”. Just as with our PC MC Leftists who so annoy and exasperate us in our time, it is safe to say that, were Arnold presented with European Christians going around trying to sociopolitically wax Puritan, he would not become “excited” with “admiration” and “sympathy”. More subtly, notice the gingerly way Arnold handles his description of the fanatically and schizophrenically puritanical pathology of Islamic culture: he says it is “more akin” to the Western Puritanism of yore than it is to the Christianity of his present time, which is something like saying that the surface of the Sun is “slightly warmer” than the burner of a stove. Note too that priceless parenthesis: “more akin to that of our Puritan ancestors (it is true)”—sort of a begrudging, and oddly myopic, admission of features of Islamic culture that should give a fastidiously anti-clerical agnostic secularist like Arnold far more pause than it does.
Arnold closes with this lofty sentiment that swells the sails of his lecture as a whole:
This is part of the ideal of our Muslim fellow-subjects, and it is in order that we may the more recognise and appreciate this, that I have ventured to comment to you the study of the Arabic language.
Our “Muslim fellow-subjects” have become, in our time, the multitudes of Muslim immigrants whom the West is obliged to assimilate as fellow-citizens by accomodating their own inherent hostility to assimilate our Western values.
The proto-PC MC of Arnold, in its presuppositions and in its prescriptions to concretize those presuppositions, would facilitate that invasion of a foreign cultural virus and would seek to do everything in its power—a power no longer marginal, as it was in Arnold’s day, but now, through a massive proliferation of Benedict Arnolds, dominant and mainstream—to inhibit or even suppress the natural organic anti-bodies the West has in its tradition of virtues with which it could resist this allopathy: the prescription of PC MC, in its belief that more “sympathy” and “admiration” and “respect” for Islam will, curiously enough, cure the pathology of that same Islam, is only aiding and abetting that same pathology.
In a nutshell, Arnold’s suggestions are based in one crucially erroneous supposition, essentially the same as that held by most PC MC people today:
Namely, that Islamic pathologies, which are noticed and admitted to exist, are not caused by anything Islamic per se, but rather by Western sins of commission or omission, and therefore any problems arising out of Islam must be solved by Westerners in sympathetic and respectful cooperation with Muslims—which cooperation perforce includes and augments their growing presence and role in our societies.