Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Noble Savage

An edited version of this letter appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine 12/10/12:
At first sight the message seems incontrovertible: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man."  But on second thought, maybe this slogan, that is being placed as ads by the American Freedom Institute in the New York City subway system, needs further scrutiny. 
When at the end the ad says "Support Israel, Defeat Jihad" I can find no fault.  As far as I am concerned the Jews were another minority group that was decimated by European civilization, to which they made major contributions, and so we should support Israel.  Further "Jihad" has been shown by Andrew Bostom in his encyclopedic compilation, "The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims," to be a destructive war against all other civilizations but the Muslims.   
But, who is to say who is in fact "civilized."  After all, weren't the so-called American Indians (native Americans or "first people" in Canada) civilized, didn't they have their own civilization, that was no match for the power of the European civilization, that overwhelmed them and destroyed their culture? The British led the imperial charge in the 1800s, taking over and destroying the civilizations of the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, the tribes of Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. The Aborigines of Tasmania put up minimal resistance and they were virtually wiped out by 1879 only ca. 70 years after contact with European white civilization.  In these wars between the "civilized" man and the "savage" perhaps the distinction was not so clear.
The theme of "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley is precisely that - technological civilization with all its advances is not necessarily morally superior to the savage, perhaps even less so.  Let us defeat jihad, but let us spare a thought for the "noble savage."
Yours etc.
Jack Cohen


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