Chimera of the "substantial void"

Not "how to fight ISIS?”, but “for the sake of what to fight ISIS?” – such is the existential question of Western civilization.

Alexander Maistrovoy

OpEds A. Maistrovoy
A. Maistrovoy

“France is at war,” President Francois Hollande said after ISIS attacked (as if it had not happened before - 9/11, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, Boston in 2003, Marathon bombing, countless acts of terrorism in Israel, Russia, Kenya, Nigeria, and finally "Charlie Hebdo"). Hollande has  awakened from a dream, like the rest of the West. Similar to the carefree and capricious Olympic Gods, the West has found itself in the epicenter of the storm and now repeats the same question feverishly and desperately: “How can we fight ISIS?”.

But the question is much more complicated and deep: “For the sake of what should we fight?”. Such is the existential question of Western civilization (with the exception, perhaps, of Eastern Europe and Israel).

People fight for certain ideas: Motherland, national dignity, religion (as Muslims do today), ideology – and in our case, liberal values and Democracy.

Motherland and national dignity are no longer values for the young generation of the West. They are completely cosmopolitan; patriotism for them is synonymous with nationalism, xenophobia and prejudice. They know practically nothing and don’t even want to know anything about their country, history and roots. Cromwell and Nelson, William of Orange and Charlemagne, Sherman and Bismarck, Louis the Great and Prince Eugene of Savoy, Lorenzo de' Medici and Alfonso the Brave don’t mean anything for them, or worse – represent something dangerous and unpleasant, associated with war and violence, alien to tolerance and pluralism (“Dead White European Males” , isn’t it so?).

Christianity has long been turned into something primitive, alien, an archaic relic of the “dark past”. In European churches you will find only a few old ladies or homeless who shelter there from bad weather. Cathedrals have long turned into museums, monuments of a far-away and gloomy epoch, and Christian confessions themselves carefully and diligently try to fit all the fashionable trends: from “human rights” to gay marriages and "Free Gaza ".

What should anyone fight for, if Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams believes that it is inevitable to recognize Sharia courts in Great Britain, if French bishops, like Monseigneur Ribadeau-Dumas, are ready to voluntarily turn empty churches into mosques?

Liberal values?

Liberal values in the vision of Locke, John Mill, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin were based, firstly, on the foundation of a national culture, secondly, on traditional humanistic ideals, thirdly, on principles of morality laid down by the Jewish prophets and Christian thinkers, and finally, on the concepts of Rationalism. In contemporary post-modern society, all these four pillars are either destroyed totally, or undermined.

National traditions are erased from the collective memory and remain only as historical relics in museums and monuments of medieval Gothic design..

The humanistic ideal of a person striving for self-improvement, praised by Socrates and Epictetus, Tacitus and Marcus Aurelius, Alberti and Coluccio Salutati, is castrated and crucified.

The religious-ethical code, espoused by the Hebrew prophes, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, has been denigrated and rejected.

Finally, the Rationalism of the 18-19th centuries was declared dead in disasters of the 20th century and was replaced by ridiculous eclecticism, relativism, irrationalism in an “independent approach” free from any restrictions.

The idea of Liberal values degenerated into the concept of “human rights” but rights of which “human” and for what purpose? What is displayed by those people that need to be protected so ardently, and do they deserve our protection, support and even condolencel?

Do fanatics, criminals, dregs of society, perverts deserve any support? Whose rights shall we protect? Those of Abu Qatada aka John Tuo - the leader of the bloody Mungiki sect in Kenya, who personally butchered 400 of his compatriots and was granted political asylum in Brittan? Or the rights of Sture Bergwall - the sadist and cannibal who was set free by a Swedish Court in August 2013? This was “a major failure for the justice system” according to Swedish attorney general Anders Perklev. Or the rights of pedophiles, or of the nine Islamists who were engaged in planning terrorist attacks in the name of "the liberation of Spain and establishment of the Islamic Caliphate" on the Iberian Peninsula and were declared not guilty in April 2012 by the Spanish Supreme Court?


Democracy itself is not something sacred, essential and significant. It is nothing more than a form of government derived from the mentality of the majority. It can confer powers to enlightened liberals like William Gladstone and Thomas Masaryk, strong public leaders like Churchill, Reagan and Thatcher, or to some mediocrity and even worse – to Erdogan, Hugo Chavez, Hamas, "Muslim Brotherhood", not to mention Hitler.

In the name of what will the new generation of Postmodern civilization fight? For the right to protest against global warming and demonstrations in the nude? In the name of “Positive Thinking”, public nudity, atheism, pornography, free sex, "Pride Parade", gay marriage, "Black Friday", smoking marijuana?

People don’t fight and don’t die in name of such ‘ideals’. And, of course, if they do, they don’t win, especially if they deal with religious fanatics.
No one should underestimate Islam. Islam is not only and not just a terrorist phenomenon. A patriarchal, archaic, rigid and non-creative religion, alien to both spiritual aspirations and the desire for internal development, at the same time, Islam possesses an unusual internal stability.

It gives a foothold, stability, ground underfoot to the small, confused, tortured, helpless, hopeless and desperate person (no matter who this man is - an artist, like Liam Neeson, Sean Stone, Richard Dart, a businessman like Richard Patterson, journalist, like Jean-Luc Delarue, a scientist, general, politician, student or a homeless). It is the saving and reliable firmament in the society of “the substantial emptiness”, as Ulrich Beck characterized Western civilization. The Right-wing Swiss politician and "Swiss antagonist of minarets" Daniel Streich explained the feeling in the best way: Islam offered him "logical answers to important life questions".

The West does not oppose ISIS. It opposes Islam as a religious-political doctrine, no matter in what form it is presented - ISIS, "Muslim brotherhood", "al-Qaeda", Salafis, “Hizb ut-Tahrir”, Shiite Iran and "Hezbollah". And the more the West repeats, like a mantra, that “Islam is a religion of Peace”, the sadder the fate it can expect. Confronting Islam as a dogmatic and relentless system which believes in its exclusivity is possible only if you have a deep awareness of your own values.

As soon as these values are determined, there will be solutions in the form of deportations of radical imams, their environment and families (collective punishment is a painful, but inevitable thing, given the importance of the clan in the Arab mentality), administrative arrests, total control over mosques and social networks, differentiated social assistance, etc.

And what is more important, the West should get rid of its "battered women syndrome", the ridiculous and futile guilt complex, because it is a one-sided game. It is not guilt and compassion, but unwavering thirst for power that makes up the essence of Islam.

The irony of it is that by taking such rigid, but forced measures, the West will do a great favor to the silent majority of Muslims. Because an average Muslim in Paris, New York, the 'West Bank', Chechnya and Cairo, same as any other person, dreams not about "jihad", the Caliphate, the revolutionary struggle and sacrifice, but about normal life, peace and prosperity.

In the absence of the priority of the West's own values, or even of the values themselves, there will be no victory. Moreover, there will be no war. It will be a surrender.

The writer is author of the soon to be published book "Agony of Hercules or a Farewell to Democracy (Notes of a Stranger).”