Days Of Swine And Roses

How utterly gormless has our moribund liberal Western culture become in its prostration before its nemesis?

A story making the rounds today should give you some idea. Here.

9 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    Having read only this article, and now having seen the video, I’m trying to figure out who, exactly, is prostrating before the nemesis, here. The naive, clueless couple who thought they were performing a vow-renewal ceremony? (I agree with the commenter who said they should have known better.) The writer of the article, who placed the blame squarely on the celebrant and his nasty cohort?

    I see the couple as the victims of a vicious prank that unfortunately went viral online (back home, wherever home is, they’re going to look like suckers), and I see the blame being quite properly placed, by the journalist, on the jerks who took advantage of an occasion of solemn joy to hurl insults at the oblivious.

    Does this incident qualify as an example of Islamic hegemony? The celebrant’s been arrested, the tourism bureau is publicly chagrined, and that resort is now the recipient of some very, very bad publicity, immortalized on YouTube (where copies of the vid will continue to pop up even if the original is removed).

    There are Koreans who assume most furriners can’t speak Korean, and think they can get away with snide remarks right in front of their interlocutors. Unfortunately for such Koreans, more and more foreigners speak the language fluently, which is forcing the culture to readjust some of its Hermit Kingdom mores. Perhaps the same thing will eventually happen in the Maldives.

    Schooling people in basic decency takes time. Americans are no exception; we also have a history of being insulting to clueless foreigners, and that’s about what this incident feels like to me. I’m just not seeing the correlation with the larger question of Western kowtowing to Islamism.

    Coming back to the reason why I think the couple should have known better: if the only thing you know of the world is what you read in tourism brochures, then I think you get what you deserve (somewhat similar situation: the feckless Korean missionaries taken hostage in Afghanistan). People who actually live abroad end up with a more realistic view of human nature, especially as applies to in-group/out-group situations. Such expats (if they’re not wasting their time getting drunk and catching STDs) develop some level of street smarts, and they don’t treat the world as one giant amusement park. I think it takes a special kind of dumb to get enmeshed in a prank like this one.

    Does this excuse the celebrant and his friends for what they did? Not one bit. It’s a shitty thing to do. But you’d think that people with the money to travel to far-flung, expensive resorts would be a bit more worldly. Or am I the one now being naive?

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    Sorry — my third paragraph needs a better concluding sentence so that the transition to the fourth paragraph isn’t so jarring. How about this?

    The Muslim culprits were arrested (and will be chastened) by fellow Muslims.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    I agree with you: absolutely the couple should have known better, and I don’t really blame the celebrant and his crew at all.

    No Western couple with a normal degree of cultural self-respect would have done such a thing in bygone days; it is the stupidest sort of multiculti naiveté, and from the Muslim celebrant’s perspective I’m sure it was seen as patronizing and offensive. It is prostration because it casually abrogates one of our (and any) culture’s most sacred rites, the wedding vow, to an alien and ideologically antagonistic religion. The contemptible, trivializing, self-abnegating absurdity of this was not lost on the locals, who responded with understandable, if ill-mannered, scorn.

    “Will be chastened?” With a nod and a wink, perhaps. Given that tourism is the island nation’s principal industry, the Maldivean (?) authorities obviously had to react.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Your Korean example is illustrative, but when the Koreans making snide remarks, or Muslims who see infidels as swine, realize that their comments are being understood by the objects of their scorn, nothing will change — except that they will learn to keep their mouths shut in public.

    I remember a similar thing happening to me when I was eating in a Chinese restaurant with a blue-eyed, blond-haired friend who was a professor of Chinese literature. After listening for a while to a flow of unflattering chat between the waiters, he turned and asked a question in the same dialect they were speaking. Priceless.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Kevin Kim says

    I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect much more than public politeness, at least at first. True civility often comes about through an outside-in approach, a bit like Giuliani’s “broken windows” policy. (Oh, I’m gonna be pilloried for invoking Giuliani.) It’s a bit like raising kids: left to a “state of nature,” kids don’t learn civility; it has to be taught, consistently and repeatedly.

    I have no idea how the Maldivians (looked up the spelling in the CIA World Factbook) are taking to globalization, but they’re going to have to face its reality sooner or later, and start catching up with the rest of the world. Koreans are wrestling with this very problem right now. They want to export their language and culture and make an impression on the world scene, all while somehow keeping their own society hermetic. Can’t happen. Something’s got to give, because awareness of how the world works (and the fact that the world is watching) can indeed have an effect on a culture. These days, I seriously doubt that Koreans would want to pull a Maldives-style prank on some unsuspecting foreigners, and have their joke uploaded on YouTube.*

    So I have high hopes that, one day, the Maldivians will be less like sneering natives and more like global citizens. In the meantime, keeping their racism and other prejudices to themselves isn’t a bad start, and is the basic requirement for tolerance, if not acceptance.

    ______

    *I know that some expats who’ve lived in Korea would beg to differ, and I don’t want to imply that Korea has wholeheartedly embraced globalization. It hasn’t; the resentment of foreign intrusion (or “imperialism”) remains a constant problem in South Korean society, and there probably are scattered YouTube vids showing Koreans being rude to foreigners in some way or other. My point, though, is that it would be a rare thing indeed for today’s Koreans to engage in a prank as crude as the Maldivian one.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Ah, but there’s another dimension here, which is Islam.

    It’s one thing to learn to show some manners in the practical interest of promoting tourism, or participating in globalism. But except at its fringes, Islam is not a modernizing, “globalist” ideology, in the sense of openness to transformative influences from external cultures and religions.

    As you say, I’m sure Korean culture would prefer not to be transformed by external influences either. (Indeed, pretty much all cultures, with the bizarre exception of liberal white Anglo-European culture, generally like themselves the way they are, and would rather transform others than be transformed themselves.)

    But steadfast resistance to external influence, and an outwardly directed commitment to the transformation of the world, are core features of Islam — and history amply demonstrates their adaptive value and enduring strength. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to change.

    You don’t lose any points with me by invoking Rudy Giuliani, by the way; he was a very effective mayor. (Don’t let our friend Peter catch you, though.)

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  7. Kevin Kim says

    Thanks re: Giuiani. Alas, I’m still not seeing how this incident is specifically reflective of a Muslim problem, nor do I see the couple as kowtowing to Islam. If anything, I’d say they were just looking for some new and nifty way to renew their vows, and their desire to be in the Maldives meant that they’d have to renew them in the Muslim way. Had they chosen a different destination, they might have ended up drinking each other’s blood or shaking penis gourds with the natives. In other words: without knowing more about the couple’s intentions, I’d be hesitant to conclude that they said to each other, “Oh, yes! Let’s renew our vows the Muslim way! What country shall we visit?” Until we know more, it’d be hard to say that the couple’s focus was on Islam.

    Regarding the Hermit Kingdom’s immune system: Korean culture’s resistance to global influences has its good and bad points, from an expat’s point of view. Xenophobia doesn’t exactly make one feel welcome. At the same time, the steady erosion of Korea’s Koreanness is saddening, if I may wax essentialist for a moment. But since I’m a non-essentialist at heart, I don’t approach the issue of cultural integrity from an essentialist angle. There’s nothing “purely” American about America, for example. I do, of course, believe that discrete phenomena exhibit continuity, so to that extent a certain conservatism is justifiable: my body might be in constant process, but this doesn’t mean I want to accelerate that change by standing next to an armed hand grenade.

    Switching gears, and thinking about the Bill O’Reilly flap on “The View”: I agree with Dr. Vallicella that O’Reilly wasn’t stepping over the line to claim “Muslims killed us on 9/11.” While I find the wording looser than it should have been, he was technically correct and not being inflammatory (except to those already primed to be offended). It’s impossible to look at global terrorism stats and then say that the 9/11 terrorists “happened to be Muslim.” Almost 100% of international terrorism is perpetrated by people who self-identify as Muslims. Local forms of terrorism (the IRA, for example) are almost never engaged in wide-scale, globe-spanning campaigns. It’s just Muslims. (Unless someone can give me a 30-year list of major international terrorist acts committed by the IRA, Hindu factions, etc.)

    But is this prank video somehow in that same ballpark? Is this another case where Islam is directly relevant? I don’t think so. In fact, I’m pretty sure that quite a few Muslims will see the video and cringe, groaning at yet more bad PR. I’d contend, based on the evidence of the article and the video, that the fact that the pranksters were Muslim is merely incidental. Surely we can imagine other jerks of different cultures and religions pulling a similar prank.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Oh, I don’t equate this at all with an act of terrorism, and I don’t see the prank in question as anything more than lowbrow japery at the expense of a pair of self-abasing, detested infidel idiots. It was juvenile, and ultimately unwise, but I don’t blame the jokesters for anything more than that. They were just doing what comes naturally.

    And I think you are probably right in your first paragraph: it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that this depressing act of public cultural apostasy was not specifically directed toward Islam, which in a way makes it all the sadder.

    But in the event, it was before jeering Muslims that this couple pathetically trivialized and abased their native culture’s most sacred ritual, swearing vows in a language they didn’t even understand. Even if it obviously was nothing sacred to them, I’m sure it made a strong impression of decadence and cultural weakness on those assembled — and now, around the world.

    If we so stupidly and ignorantly disrespect our own culture, why should anyone else respect it? For a civilization in ascendance, or in its prime, its rituals and traditions are a source of strength and pride, a bond between past and future. What we look like is a civilization in decay.

    Posted October 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  9. Dom says

    England’s Guardian saves the dayL

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/29/maldives-resort-swiss-couple

    Posted November 3, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink