part three in this series of reflections.
As I went to these remote tribal societies and saw what was great about them and what we have lost, and how their cultures were in various degrees of contact with and stages of being destroyed by the outside world, the delicate balance was tipping and they were fighting for their livelihoods and way of life, many were already living in a state of demoralized degradation, and I learned how they have been fucked over repeatedly by the white man, to me social justice and cultural survival were inextricably linked. But I was just a visitor, the Suitcase, to these cultures. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman who grew up in Somali culture, has a completely different view. To her the traditional society is the oppressor, in her case fundamentalist Islam and the male-based clan, family, and political and economic systems, the source of social injustice. A most interesting woman and heroic narrative. From her Wiki bio one gleans that she was the daughter of a prominent member of the Somali revolution, who was imprisoned for opposition to the Siad Barre dictatorship, a progressive who nevertheless had the “traditional procedure” performed on his daughter’s clitoris when she was five. In exile in Kenya she attended a fundamentalist Islamic school and was very devout. She was the niquab and agreed with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Then she goes to the Netherlands and speaking six languages is hired by the immigranation to translate for the immigrants and refugees and asylum petititoners who don’t know Dutch. She herself gets asylum by giving false stories about her abuse and living in daily terror in Mogadishu, which she had left when she was eight. She sees the plight of Somali women and begins to doubt Islam and influenced by one of her professors at the University of Leiden, Herman Phillips, author of The Atheist Manifesto, becomes an atheist and embraces modern Western culture with the same fervor than she had embraced Islam. She sees how her fellow exile Somali women are kept almost like prisoners or slaves by their husband. I have seen this myself, in Every, a suburb of Paris. An apartment house of nothing but Sudanese. All four wives and their children and the husband crammed into flats meant for one nuclear family. The men go out into the larger society and work, but the women never leave the premises.
Ayaan enters Dutch politics and declares that Islam, Ayaan is “a bankrupt religion, “the new fascism.” This vision of a new caliphate is like the Third Reich. Where little girls and boys have their genitals mutilated, women who have sex before or during marriage with someone else are stoned to death, “and apostates like me are killed.” Mohamed himself was a pervert because he married a nine-year-old girl and immediately started having sex with her. Some cultures are better than others, says, and the culture of the West, of the enlightenment, where a woman can get to be a supreme court justice and not be condemned to be one of the fourth wives of some man her parents gave to her, is better. She became a big booster of assimilation, chucking the baggage of your culture of origin and getting on with it. Multiculturism (the mosaic of ethnic groups and cultures that exists in Canada instead of the American melting-pot approach), she declared in a recent op ed piece, only “postpones the pain of letting go of the anachronistic and the appropriate.”
Not surprisingly, Ayaan got death threats, and the Dutch government was obliged to provide her with bodyguards. But then it was discovered that she had gotten asylum under false pretenses, and her citizenship. But her new pro-Western, assimilationist politics were music to the ears of the American Entreprise Institute, a conservative think-bank, which made her a fellow, and she moved to Washington.
So where does this woman fit into the scheme of DVW and the Tidebuckas ? She is a very important voice for women oppressed under Islam, and her social justice campaign is sponsored by the right. Her commendable social justice cause is in conflict with our cultural survival cause, and it has nothing to do with the environmental preservation and biodiversity conservations. But we are now going to embrace these sorts of social injustice issues. Is this not sending a mixed message, further muddying waters already muddied by the large amount of content that has nothing to do with biocultural preservation, our stated mission ? The relationship between environmental and biodiversity preservation, cultural survival , and social justice is obviously variable. Sometimes they are completely unrelated, sometimes they are even in conflict. But we embrace all three types of causes, because ultimately what we are concerned about is improving the quality of life for all sentient being, including humans.
I asked my wife about this contradiction, and she said, “without conflict, there is no advocacy, and without advocacy and educating people about the real situation, there can be no improvement or change.”
Obviously the material quality of life is much better in the West, and you can get somewhere if you work hard, which is why there is a constant flow of immigrants to the U.S., Canada, and Europe from places that to the Suitcase who is just passing through seem great like Mexico, Brazil, Peru, India, Mali. These places have something that is missing from the West, which is why I go to them. My wife, a clinical social worker specializing in the psychological problems of immigrants, brought home a documentary one day about a Somali family who belong to a Bantu sub-clan (as opposed to Hamitic, which most Somalis are, although these racial terms are no longer used because they are fraught, so let’s say this family’s ethnic group looked more central African) so it is being slaughtered by the North Africa-looking majority. The documentary opens with the family in a UNHCR refugee camp. They are going to be resettled in Atlanta and are learning English. Then they come Atlanta, and marvel at their first escalator, etc. And are given $1100 a month to live on. But this is impossible for a family of six. The mother, for the first time in a society where you have to pay for everything– housing, food, electricity, water, cable t.v., clothes, health care– is overwhelmed by all the bills and becomes so depressed she can’t even get up from her livingroom sofa. Shaking a stack of bills in her hand, she asks, “And this is freedom ?”
She became a rabid integrationist.