This applies at a personal level and at a national level.
The author, Lee Harris, was describing what happened after World War One. "The Great War" was so horrible, people would try anything to prevent it from happening again. They wanted conflicts between countries to be handled civilly — without bloodshed. But there is a Catch-22 embedded in that thinking: The more civilized people get, the more of an opportunity it presents for someone who is not civilized.
Apparently there is a famous example of civility often recounted in books on etiquette that epitomizes the essence of civility and good manners. The late Shah of Iran was sitting at a table with the Queen of England and many other guests. A bowl of rose water was presented to each guest so they could wash their fingers.
The Shah had apparently never been presented with a "finger bowl" and took it for a bowl of soup, so he picked up the bowl and started to sip it. Without hesitating, the Queen picked up her bowl and started to sip it, and everyone else at the table followed her example. Why?
The principle in civilized company — the prime principle of etiquette — is that you do not ever make someone feel they have done something wrong. You never make someone feel embarrassed or offended. You never let them think that they are not civilized.
But what if they really aren't civilized? The rules of etiquette assume the other person cares as much about courteous relations as you do. But what if they don't?
I want you to try something: Google "sociopath" and read about the strange and frightening phenomenon of sociopaths who live among us, not as serial killers, but as ordinary-appearing people who heartlessly use, manipulate, and take advantage of people without the slightest twinge of remorse or regret — and all the while, fooling their victims by imitating human empathy, deliberately giving the impression they have normal human feelings.
One of the articles has a "comments page" and a huge number of people have written their stories — painful, heartbreaking stories of being married to a sociopath, for example. And after 25 years of a nightmarish existence, they finally found out such a thing as sociopathy exists! They never knew it and tried their best to explain their husband's lying, cheating, remorseless behavior in some other way, like blaming themselves, or trying to help their husband "work through" his childhood issues. And the sociopath, of course, goes along with the process because it means he can keep getting away with his lying, cheating, remorseless manipulations.
But sociopathy isn't the result of a hard upbringing; it isn't the result of an "anger issue" or a lack of opportunity, or anything else. It is the result of being born as a sociopath — a person who has no capacity for human empathy, no guilt, and no feeling of sympathy for others.
Now, for a wife who doesn't know such a thing as a sociopath exists, they explain their sociopathic husband's behavior in some way. They don't leave it unexplained. It is almost impossible for a human being to not explain something. So they explain it. They think it's because their husband had a bad childhood, or they themselves are not a good enough wife, or whatever. But they come from the idea that "deep inside, everyone is basically good" and this assumption prevents them from grasping the true nature of their husband's character.
They can't conceive of the real explanation, and because they can't, they become an ongoing victim.
I think the same is true on a global scale dealing with any group or country that is willing to be ruthless.
If you have ten countries and they all agree to be civil to each other and work out their differences in a civilized manner and to forgo using violence to solve their differences, they will all get along great. But they will also have created an ideal environment to exploit for someone who is willing to use violence to get their way. In fact, the more civilized those ten countries become, the more vulnerable they will be to exploitation by an uncivilized enemy. The more the ten countries disarm themselves, the more ripe they will be for the picking.
It is just a fact of life you can't get around.
I've been thinking long and hard about what it is that prevents people from getting simple facts about Islam. And I think I've actually finally struck bedrock. This is it. Just like the sociopath's wife who doesn't understand that sociopaths exist (and that her husband is one), our multicultural friends don't understand that some ideologies are sociopathic. Cultures can be sociopathic. Religious doctrines can be sociopathic. And this ignorance keeps them vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation, and ultimately subjugation.
If you don't personally think it's possible for someone to just be born bad, then you can't conceive of the existence of a born sociopath. And if you can't understand that a person can be born a sociopath, then maybe you can't conceive of the possiblity that a religion could be started by a sociopath and could create an exploitative, violent religious doctrine, creating a global movement of manipulative, dominance-oriented political action.
And the more people do not want to believe such a thing exists, the more easily they are defeated and subjugated by those who are following this creed. The more civilized people get, the more unwilling they are to make others feel wrong, the more easily they are bowled over and manipulated by those who are willing to exploit their ignorance.
Knowledge of sociopathy is the antidote to all our difficulties. Okay, I'm probably overstating my case. But if people understood that sociopaths exist, and if they understood that a sociopath can't be changed or improved, and if they understood that some people are just born that way, then they could understand that not everyone is a good person "deep down" and then they could understand it's possible for a religion to be started by a sociopath, by someone who only wanted to exploit the features of a religion. And if they could get that, they might be able to listen to a description of such a "religion."
And if they could get that, they might actually be willing to defend themselves from it.
Once those spouses of sociopaths finally realize that sociopathy exists, and they finally identify their spouse as a sociopath, they have no problem at all ending the relationship and stopping their own victimization. Their realization and reversal is sudden and complete.
I think if these people to whom we've been trying to get through finally realized sociopaths exist, through this chain of realizations, they could ultimately stop being the foolish, exploited victims of Islam's ruthless aggression.
This is also posted on Inquiry Into Islam here.