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The Left, particularly the cultural relativist Left, object loudly to the spread of what they consider (derogatively) ‘Western cultural values’. They consider things like human rights, a free press, equality for the sexes and even industrialisation as luxurious vices, tolerable in the West, but which the rest of the world should be spared at all costs. In this spirit (with a Starbucks cup in hand and clothed in a Gucci winter coat) they protest all available cases of ‘cultural imperialism’ – the opening, for example, of a McDonalds in Marrakesh, or of a Gap in Kabul. They are willing – grudgingly they would have us believe – to put up with the benefits of modernity themselves, but insist that the ‘Neo-liberal’ project to extend such advantages to the third-world be shut down.
If someone asks them if they would hold the same view were they a woman in Saudi Arabia, or a starving child in Mali, their answers almost always rely on crazed speculation. What if Saudi women like wearing Veils? What if they like not leaving the house? Maybe they are the free ones, and we are the prisoners – what with all our shallow material riches, festive coffee cups and boundless freedom.
It is too easy to write off these demonic numbskulls as ‘stupid’. Easy and – I think – inaccurate. They are not stupid, not even ignorant. They are rather the purest kind of immoral bourgeoisie. They adore imperfection, variety, living history, strange customs and exotic religions – all provided they are someone else’s everyday reality. For them the world is a kind of nature reserve; a museum they may learn about at their leisure, keep books about on their glass coffee tables, and visit in the summer or as part of their gap years.
We neo-liberals are very different. We do not see the world as a nature reserve, but as the terrain of a single species, our own species – humanity. If we see a bad thing happening, we feel compelled to intervene. For us, Sunnis killing Shias isn’t the same as lions killing antelope. The veil obscuring the face of Arab women is not like the plume of a strange bird. None of it is an inevitable display of the ‘cruel beauty of the natural world’. Those Shias and those women could be carrying festive coffee cups and laughing with friends were it not for the injustices we lazily allow to continue.
It is important to remind oneself of this periodically. Though they claim contrariwise, the moral high ground belongs to the Islamophobes. Those who would insist on the perpetuation of a demonic condition merely out of ‘respect’ for ‘diversity’ have no moral grounding to speak of. If you tolerate Islam, you hate Arabs. You hate Pakistanis, Iranians, Indonesians and Southern Thai. You are racist, arrogant and killing the world with kindness. Wipe that smile off your face.