Camille Paglia on President Obama’s speech in Cairo:
Barack Obama was elected to do exactly what he did last week at Cairo University -- to open a dialogue with the Muslim world. Or at least that was why I, for one, voted for him, contributed to his campaign, and continue to support him. There is no more crucial issue for the future of the West, . . .
The Cairo speech is well-organized, ticking off central thorny issues region by region. But there is an unsettling slackness and even sentimentality in its view of history. . . . Obama’s lack of fervor may be one reason he rejects and perhaps cannot comprehend the religious passions that perennially erupt around the globe and that will never be waved away by mere words. By approaching religion with the cool, neutral voice of the American professional elite, Obama was sometimes simplistic and even inadvertently condescending. . . .
But before he can sway hearts and minds, the president will need to show that he understands the ultimate divergence and perhaps incompatibility of major creeds. At the finale, his recitation of soft-focus quotes from the Koran, Talmud and Bible came perilously close to a fuzzy New Age syncretism of "all religions are the same" -- which they unequivocally are not. The problem facing international security is that people who believe something will always be stronger and more committed than people who believe nothing -- which unfortunately describes the complacent passivity of most Western intellectuals these days.
I wonder whether that last bit hits the nail on the head with regard to the President’s view of the world. Are there any irrepressible conflicts in the world?
Ann Althouse posted that last bit on her blog, and one reaction to it:
[Paglia] is conflating fervor with belief and frenzied excitement with persistent character. Most fundamentalists aren’t acting out of real fervor for their chosen god, most are acting out of insecure egos who are attempting to manipulate the seen world so as to secure their own identity as dominating and secure their meager faith in some kind of obvious sign of their supposed devotion.
The religious passions of so many are not really religious at all, but are expressions of a deep-seated insecurity in the face of a rather dismissive world.
That’s the debate. Are the world’s great conflicts reduceable to such material or psychological causes, or do many of them grow from things of the spirit? Is conflict sewn into the human condition?
John Adams answered that question this way:
Wars are the natural and unavoidable effects of the constitution of human nature and the fabric of the globe it is destined to inhabit and rule. I believe further that wars, at times, are as necessary for the preservation and perfection, the prosperity, liberty, happiness, virtue, and independence of nations as gales of wind to the salubrity of the atmosphere, or the agitations of the ocean to prevent its stagnation and putrefacation. As I believe this to be the constitution of God Almighty and the constant order of his Providence, I must esteem all the speculations of divines and philosophers about universal and perpetual peace as shortsighted, frivolous romances.