I wrote this the other day but didn’t push the “publish” button. But with Andrew Bolt having put up a post today on The West attacked: killers to the right, ferals to the left, which begins with the sentence, “Islamists on the Right, anti-capitalists on the Left”, I will just have to buy in. The rest of this was written on Tuesday.
There are no two people in politics I agree with more consistently than Andrew Bolt and Peter Costello, so if I bring up one of Andrew Bolt’s posts in which both feature, it must be understood that I don’t disagree with a single point they make, only with the terms they use. Andrew’s post is titled, The Left now sounds just like the Islamist Right, in which Peter is quoted as saying:
Australia is one of the most successful, open, prosperous, accepting societies that the world has ever known. Being born here is one of the best things that could ever happen in a person’s life. That is worth explaining as part of immunising the young against the false political claims of extremists.
Andrew began the post with this where I will begin myself:
One of the most disturbing developments in public debates has been the Left giving cover to Islamists of the far Right.
There is, I must insist, no such thing as “Islamists of the far Right”. The right-left divide in politics is between those who value individual rights above collective rights and those who do not. The only person who ever correctly thought of Hitler as to his right politically was Joseph Stalin who introduced this notion into our political direction finder. To think of racists and extreme nationalists as part of the right is merely to defame those of us who see ourselves on the right, far or otherwise. It is we members of the right properly understood who almost alone have been willing to take the fight up to Nazis, fascists, communists and Islamists and have been able to do so without missing an ideological beat. To describe Islamists as “far right” wrongly aligns people such as ourselves with people such as themselves, and introduces a confusion of terms since the right-left divide then becomes less clear cut than it ought to be. No one on the right is ever described by those on the left as anything other than “far” right. To be on the right should be seen as a badge of honour.
Same with the word “conservative” who are people, again like ourselves, who find the open and tolerant society in which we live one we would like to see preserved, and therefore are very careful about the nature of change, and are never in any great hurry to see things radically altered. I am at one with Edmund Burke in believing in “the general bank and capital of nations and of ages”* as the great repository of common sense and social morality. It is being worn away as the left has continued its march through the institutions, but it has a powerful hold even still.
And then there is the quote from Peter, where he wrote, “the false political claims of extremists”. The word “extremists” is commonly used about Islamists. But calling Islamists “extremists” makes it seem that these views are well beyond some kind of norm, a thousand miles from the political centre. And so they are, if we restrict the frame of reference for other people’s political morality to our own view of things as found in our own culture, whose traditions travel back in time through to the British Isles and the values that have developed as part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. These are the great bequest we have inherited and we must do everything we can to defend this history from the ignorance of the fanatics in our midst. To call our enemies “extreme” is to misread how they think of themselves. They are perhaps on the more aggressive side of their own value set, but they seem to be far from “extreme” within the communities in which they live. The extremists in such communities are more likely to be the people who agree with us, the ones who would like to share in our own cultural tradition and make common cause with us. Even living here in a Western nation, it is still not easy for them, as the life of Ayaan Hirsi Ali has shown. The proper word to describe Islamists is “barbarians”. If the left chooses to side with them, that is what they are as well.
*”You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree, and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.” From Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p 145.