May 31, 2010


Berman, Paul, The Flight of the Intellectual (Brooklyn, New York: Melville House, 2010) ("To the Western intellectuals, the poorest human beings in the poorest regions of the world appeared to be, in sum, better than other human beings, even if lacking in Western sophistication or other complexities. They were Noble Savages. Fantasies, in short. And the grand left-wing intellectuals of the Western countries never seemed to notice that, in conjuring those many fantastic images of people far away, they had ended up replicating the worst and most horrendous prejudices of the European imperialists of the past, except in a version that pretended to be admiring instead of hostile. The intellectuals pictured themselves as the enemies of racism, but somehow they had ended up as racists. They felt contempt for people different from themselves, and they packaged their contempt as compassion. They looked down, and described it as looking up. And why do they do those things?" "[Pascal] Bruckner detected a familiar pattern: the rebellion against old and disreputable values that willy-nilly lapses into a conformism to the old and disreputable values. Third Worldism, he reflected, had set out to express a fitting and proper European feeling of culpability and repentance for the crimes of European imperialism. Repentance had hardened into dogma, though, and dogma had, oddly, enough, yielded a pleasure. This was the pleasure of self-hatred. And self-hatred had joyously expressed itself by elaborating a utopian theory about the superior and scarcely human virtues of the exotic populations who were thought to inhabit the previously colonized regions of the world. A European who hated himself because of the crimes of the European past could revel in the satisfactions of imagining superior societies arising among Europe's former victims. And the satisfactions of utopian reveling led back to the even keener and more intimate and intense pleasures of despising oneself." Id. at 269-270. From the bookjacket: "Twenty years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini called for the assassination of Salman Rushdie--and writers around the world instinctively rallied to Rushdie's defense. Today, according to writer Paul Berman, 'Rushdie has metastasized into an entire social class,' an ever-growing group of sharp-tongued critics of Islamist extremism, especially critics from Muslim backgrounds, who survive only because of pseudonyms and police protection. And yet, instead of being applauded, the Rushdies of today (people like Ayan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq) often find themselves dismissed as 'strident' or as no better than fundamentalist themselves, and contrasted unfavorably with representatives of the Islamist movement who falsely claim to be 'moderates'." "How did this happen? In the Flight of the Intellectuals, Berman . . . conducts a searing examination into the intellectual atmosphere of the moment and show how some of the West's best thinkers and journalists have fumbled badly in their effort to grapple with Islamist ideas and violence." Also see Dwight Garner, "In Pursuit of Prey, Carrying Philosophy," NYT, 5,3,2010; and Anthony Julius, "The Pretender," NYT Sunday Book Review," 5/16/2010.).

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan, The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam translated from the Dutch by Jane Brown (New York: Free Press, 2004, 2006).

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan, Infidel (New York: Free Press, 2007).

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan, Nomad: From Islam to America--A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations (New York: Free Press, 2010) ("There are three values I would like to share with you from my journey of freedom, and one pitfall to avoid." "The first one . . . is the value of responsibility. . . . [W]hen I find a moment to think about my actions or inactions I find that most of the time I am the only one to blame." "Related to responsibility is duty. . . . There are things in life that are not exciting, that are not fun, that are not fair and do not feel right. But we must do them. . . . Duty might seem selfless, altruistic, but the outcome, at least for me, has been a selfish pleasure." "The third value is that of critical thinking. I learned about it at the University of Leiden. My professors there gave us the works of different men and women to read. They called those works theories, ideas that could be right or wrong. Our main task for five years was to sort the good ideas from the bad ones, not only to learn to refute the theories of others but to come up with better ones ourselves. The process was to teach us to think and to recognize thoughts, even big complicated ones, as the product of the human mind. There was nothing divine in Leiden except the human faculty of reason. . . . But . . . beware of professors who confuse teaching students how to think with teaching them what to think." "Many people in your life will tell you of all the emotional pitfalls that lie waiting for a young girl to tumble into. Let me touch on one: the trap of resentment. It is probably the worst mental prison in the world. It is the inability to let go of anger and the perceived or real injustices we suffer. . . ." Id. at 272-273. Also see Nicholas D. Kristoff's review, "The Gadfly," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 5/30/2010, where makes the following observation: "Hirsi Ali is at her best when telling her powerful story. She is at her worst when excoriating a variegated faith.").