AC Grayling (left) is a giant in the field of philosophy’s tall poppies. Who am I, a mere baccalaureate in philosophy and politics, to dare to try to cut him down? The simple answer is that I have lived a life of science, and am therefore gravely disappointed when an eminent thinker doesn’t allow the facts to get in the way of a cherished theory.
I approached his new book, Liberty in an Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values, with high expectations, and here be aware of my background. My ‘liberal’ protest against apartheid South Africa was to emigrate as soon as I graduated. I could not, in conscience, remain and benefit from the system. Neither, in 1961, was I willing to sacrifice my career and my life in a forlorn struggle which was not for my own freedom but because I happened to live there, by chance not choice. I was not naïve enough, as were Adrian Leftwich, Costa Gazidis and John Harris, to think that an underground insurrection could reverse apartheid. It took 30 years for WF de Klerk to realise its unsustainability, and to hand over to Mandela.
So I came to an Australia rooted in liberal British Common Law. Fifty years later, my country and that of my children and grandchildren is threatened by maniacal Islam and its spawn, terrorism. We face a determined enemy, rooted in a primitive philosophy, which divides the world in two: the dar-al-Islam and the dar-al-harb – a world ruled by Islam and a “world of war” not yet ruled by Islam. Of course, this is not new. Islam swarmed into Iberia. If not for its navy’s failure at Lepanto and its army’s failure at Vienna, it is doubtful that Judaeo-Christian Europe would have survived. But that very failure, with the collapse of the Ottomans and the repeated failure to conquer tiny Israel, has, through the world’s dependence on Arab oil, fuelled a revenge-seeking and world-threatening Islamism.
So I approached Grayling with high expectations. He was posing the question challenging my own thinking. How could I maintain my liberalism in the face of indiscriminate fatal attacks by religio-political extremists, from whom I, my family and my fellow citizens needed protection? Until his last chapter, I was swept along on his familiar mantra. My life has been dominated, both in apartheid South Africa and in Australia, by liberté, egalité and fraternité, the prince of which is liberté, Grayling’s concern. Without liberty, one can, as did Mandela, Solzhenitsyn and others, have the greatest plans in the world, but one can do nothing to achieve them. Grayling’s title resonated with my very core.
But we parted company in the last chapter. My life has been in science: initially biochemistry and then, more generally, medical science. Facts are what matter in life. If theories do not fit with the facts, the theories are wrong, not the facts. Regrettably, Grayling ignores facts. He posits an unreal world, something which can be done only by ignoring facts. Hence my disappointment.
The facts he ignores, as do many Anglophone thinkers, are those inherent in non-Anglo cultures and thinking. The British sterling Empire has been succeeded by the American dollar. British ethnolinguistic culture has been all but swept away by immigration from the world which it previously dominated. What, today, is British ethno-linguistic culture? The ‘melting pot’ United States, powerful only because of its millions of immigrants, has not, since the Pilgrim Fathers, had an ethno-linguistic culture.
Herein lies Grayling’s Anglophonic bias. Europe is characterised by resurgent ethnolinguistic pride, most evident, perhaps, in the battlefields of soccer arenas. Those clashes are portentous. They are between both the men on the fields and also, more relevantly, among the screaming, painted and festooned hordes of ethnolinguistic supporters. As Michael Galak has pointed out in these columns, these are sometimes separated on opposite sides of the stadium, and by phalanges of police. Perhaps, like me, Grayling has no interest in soccer and seldom watches television. But surely, when these crowds break out into violence, he must read about it in the newspapers. Yet his last chapter takes no notice of this reality.
He and I equally deplore war. But his pipe-dream of a supra-national world government is no solution to Islamist terrorism. His fantasy ignores the facts of current world politics and, of course, economics.
The facts are real. I experienced them during a ‘roots’ visit to Lithuania a decade ago. My ancestors and relatives lived there for five or six centuries until the last of them were murdered in the spring of 1941. Apart from a brief independence between 1920 and 1939, Lithuania has, since 1791, been under Polish, Russian, German and, again, Russian rule. With their unique language and tree-god culture, they deeply resent the Russians who were settled there in their hundreds of thousands between 1944 and 1991, when Lithuania gained independence from the USSR. Above all, Lithuanians want to preserve their culture: they are currently honouring their national heroes, despite those heroes’ complicity with the Nazis.
Throughout Europe, the facts are clear: all of mainland Europe wishes to assert its ethnicity and its language. The ‘right wing’ opposition to the recent Muslim invasion is visible, but many ‘internationalists’, like AC Grayling, are “so blind, they cannot (or will not) see.”