a scene from Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll and Communism’
Dinesh D’Souza argues that one of the causes of 9/11 was the way the American cultural left exported a ‘decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies, especially (here it comes) those in the Islamic world that are being overwhelmed with this culture.’ (1)
Hmm… a morally dubious thesis think I. Because, for starters, the West imposes its culture on no one. The genius of Western, particularly American, culture is that it cannot be contained by national, religious, and ethnic boundaries. It is sought by hundreds, even thousands of millions of people across the world, and not only youth, who seek it out and willingly pay for it.
Western popular culture is a manifestation of cultural, intellectual, and political freedom. Its excesses, for there are admittedly many, are the price we pay for the joyful expressions of its more enduring creations, the songs of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, classics of Cinema such as Casablanca, Gone With the Wind or No Country for Old Men.
Tom Stoppard (2) claims rock ‘n’ roll functions not just as entertainment but as a potent weapon against totalitarian ideologies and I think he’s got something. Fun for the sake of fun, music for the sake of music, any activity for its own sake is something totalitarian regimes cannot cope with, thought Hayek and I’m certainly not going to disagree with HIM.
Lenin hated music. Khomeini hated music. Vaclav Havel wrote that attending a rock concert was a way to rebel ‘against being manipulated by the Communist regime.’ A way of ‘living in truth.’ And if Stoppard is right we need more decadent rock bands to bring down the latest totalitarian threat to our freedoms.
Curiously, D. H. Lawrence once pleaded:
‘If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don’t make it in ghastly seriousness,
don’t do it in deadly earnestness,
do it for fun.
Don’t do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.
Don’t do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.’ (4)
I can’t watch Billy Bragg or see Sean Penn in their righteous indignation without thinking of that poem – Get a life, you miserable bastards!
This embrace of fun is rejected in the Islamic world but it is a mistake to think we are hated because of something we have done and we must change our behaviour to appease those who hate us. Roger Scruton said ‘The illusion that we are to blame, that we must confess our faults and join our cause to that of our enemies, only exposes us to a more determined hatred…The truth is that we are not to blame; that our enemies’ hatred of us is entirely unjustified; that their implacable enmity cannot be defused by our breast-beating.’ (5)
Islamists are incapable of coping with the modern world, created principally by Western institutions and cultural values. By the ingenuity, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and energy of Western civilisation. The greatest of all civilisations.
The failures of Islamic civilisation at every level have left them with dangerous resentment, so they try to impose their ideology on the world. The grievances they express may change, but the underlying ideology remains the same.
I only wish our bed-wetting politicians could understand this.
(1) Dinesh D’Souza, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and the Responsibility for 9/11 ISBN-10: 1400103665
(2) Quoted by Tom Stoppard, Rock ‘n’ Roll: a New Play p. xv ISBN-10: 0802143075
(3) ibid xvii
(5) Roger Scruton Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation. Azure, no. 35 (Winter 2009)