The Germans have some interesting words that encompass deep philosopical ideas. The ones that spring easily to my mind are Weltanschauung (“a comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it“); and Weltschmertz (“Sorrow or sadness over the present or future evils or woes of the world in general; sentimental pessimism“).
It turns out that the East Germans invented yet another phrase that encompasses deep philosophical ideas. Although I don’t have the German word here, I know that it which translates into English as “preemptive obedience.” Amir Taheri explains what preemptive obedience is, and why it matters now, even though East Germany is long gone:
In Communist-ruled East Germany, they had a term for it: pre-emptive obedience. This meant guessing the future orders of the politburo and obeying them before they were issued. East Germany was thrown into the dustbin of history a long time ago. However, “pre-emptive obedience” is making a comeback in re-unified Germany and several other European countries.
It was based on “pre-emptive obedience” that the German Opera in Berlin decided to cancel its production of Mozart’s Idomeneo after the managers decided that it might anger Muslims. The opera had already been shown in 2003 without incident and no Muslim group had called for it to be withdrawn. Thus, the managers were obeying orders that had not been issued.
A few days after the Idomeneo scandal it was the turn of French philosopher Robert Redecker to do a bit of “pre-emptive obedience” by going into hiding after publishing a newspaper column that some of his friends feared might anger Muslims. The fact is that quite a few Muslim writers have published essays more daring than Redecker’s without going into hiding under police protection, thus resisting “pre-emptive obedience” of orders that might come from “Islamofascist” groups.
“Pre-emptive obedience” was also at work when the Whitechapel Art Gallery, one of London’s major art exhibition venues, decided to withdraw a number of paintings by the surrealist Hans Bellmer. The reason? The management decided that the erotic paintings might “hurt the sensibilities of the Muslim community” which is strongly present in London’s East End of which Whitechapel is a part. Again, no Muslim had seen the paintings or would have been able to interpret them as “an erotic assault on the Quran”, let alone demand that they be withdrawn.
Read here as Tahiri gives myriad other examples of European fear-driven self-censorship, and what that means for the world as we know it.
Taheri’s article has special resonance for me today for two reasons. The first is personal and the second, which I by coincidence appears in today’s news, precisely illustrates Taheri’s thesis.
The first reason I care about the fact that Europe is racing to delete its identity is that we’re trying to plan a December vacation. Mr. Bookworm is pushing for Europe, especially London and Paris, because of the cheap flights. I’m loath to go there, though. I’m so sickened by the way those countries have become actively and passively Islamicized that I don’t want to go there at all. I’d prefer to remember England as English, rather than be exposed to “Londonistan,” as Melanie Phillips so accurately calls it. Nor do I want my money to support these economies. I really hate the idea of giving money to France, the same country that treated Yassar Arafat’s death as a national tragedy.
And before you say that I’m exaggerating, and I’ve read too many right wing blogs that magnify ridiculously what’s going on over there, let me get to the second reason Taheri’s article is timely. Not in Londonistan, but in Manchesterabia, an English girl was arrested after she objected to being placed in a discussion group where none of the other members — called “Asians” — spoke English (hat tip: LGF):
A teenage schoolgirl was arrested by police for racism after refusing to sit with a group of Asian students because some of them did not speak English.
Codie Stott’s family claim she was forced to spend three-and-a-half hours in a police cell after she was reported by her teachers.
The 14-year-old – who was released without charge – said it had been a simple matter of commonsense and accused the school and police of an over-the-top reaction.
The incident happened in the same local education authority where a ten-year-old boy was prosecuted earlier this year for calling a schoolfriend racist names in the playground, a move branded by a judge “political correctness gone mad.”
Codie was attending a GCSE science class at Harrop Fold High School in Worsley, Greater Manchester, when the incident happened.
The teenager had not been in school the day before due to a hospital appointment and had missed the start of a project, so the teacher allocated her a group to sit with.
“She said I had to sit there with five Asian pupils,” said Codie yesterday.
“Only one could speak English, so she had to tell that one what to do so she could explain in their language. Then she sat me with them and said ‘Discuss’.”
According to Codie, the five – four boys and a girl – then began talking in a language she didn’t understand, thought to be Urdu, so she went to speak to the teacher.
“I said ‘I’m not being funny, but can I change groups because I can’t understand them?’ But she started shouting and screaming, saying ‘It’s racist, you’re going to get done by the police’.”
Codie said she went outside to calm down where another teacher found her and, after speaking to her class teacher, put her in isolation for the rest of the day.
A complaint was made to a police officer based full-time at the school, and more than a week after the incident on September 26 she was taken to Swinton police station and placed under arrest.
“They told me to take my laces out of my shoes and remove my jewellery, and I had my fingerprints and photograph taken,” said Codie. “It was awful.”
After questioning on suspicion of committing a section five racial public order offence, her mother Nicola says she was placed in a bare cell for three-and-a-half hours then released without charge.
She only returned to lessons this week and has been put in a different science class.
Yesterday Miss Stott, 37, a cleaner, said: “Codie was not being racist.” “The reaction from the school and police is totally over the top and I am furious my daughter had to go through this trauma when all she was saying was common sense. ”
“She’d have been better off not saying anything and getting into trouble for not being able to do the work.”
Miss Stott, who is separated from Codie and her 18-year-old brother Ashley’s father, lives with her partner Keith Seanor, a 36-year-old cable layer, in Walkden.
School insiders acknowledge that at least three of the students Codie refused to sit with had recently arrived in this country and spoke little English.
But they say her comments afterwards raised further concerns, for example allegedly referring to the students as “blacks” – something she denied yesterday.
The school is now investigating exactly what happened before deciding what action – if any – to take against Codie.
Headteacher Dr Antony Edkins said: “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark by one student towards a group of Asian students new to the school and new to the country.”
“We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards people and pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form.”
You can read the rest of the article here. The phrase “preemptive obedience” applies perfectly to a situation in which a teacher and a school reacted so violently to anti-Islamist perceived insult that they sicced the police on a child, even though it does not appear that the “Asian” students themselves objected.
And as you read this article, please keep in the back of your mind the school’s Orwellian Newspeak. Thus, after having a 14 year old arrested and placed in solitary for (a) objecting to being placed in a work group where no one spoke the language in which the class was being taught and (b) perhaps calling the students “black” behind their backs, the head of the school states with a straight face that “We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards people and pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form.”
That last bit of New Speak wraps around to a war of words, or a one-sided war of words we are now seeing fought regularly here in America. I’ve already pointed out the fact that, to the Left, any verbal attacks from private citizens entitle them to play the government censorship card. In their view, words from the Right are deadly weapons (perhaps because, in the war of words, they have no weapons with which to answer back).
Today, Peggy Noonan notes in the Opinion Journal that, in addition to crying out in pain at words challenging their ideas, the liberal media and liberal academic institutions are busy shutting down any effort even to speak those challenges to liberal dogma. After pointing out four well-publicized instances in which the liberal media and academia worked to silence those who offended them, Noonan has this to say:
It is not only about rage and resentment, and how some have come to see them as virtues, as an emblem of rightness. I feel so much, therefore my views are correct and must prevail. It is about something so obvious it is almost embarrassing to state. Free speech means hearing things you like and agree with, and it means allowing others to speak whose views you do not like or agree with. This–listening to the other person with respect and forbearance, and with an acceptance of human diversity–is the price we pay for living in a great democracy. And it is a really low price for such a great thing.
We all know this, at least in the abstract. Why are so many forgetting it in the particular?
Let us be more pointed. Students, stars, media movers, academics: They are always saying they want debate, but they don’t. They want their vision imposed. They want to win. And if the win doesn’t come quickly, they’ll rush the stage, curse you out, attempt to intimidate.
And they don’t always recognize themselves to be bullying. So full of their righteousness are they that they have lost the ability to judge themselves and their manner.
And all this continues to come more from the left than the right in America.
You see, just as in England, the vocal on the Left trumpet the fact that they’re all about “caring and tolerant attitude[s] towards people,” except that they’re not. Any deviation from their norm (and you can define their norm however you wish), results in violent and comprehensive efforts to silence that deviation. For those of you familiar with Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” you should be reminded of that far away planet, overtaken by evil, in which “It” forces all of the planet’s citizens to think and speak a single way, or suffer severe punishment and reeducation. I certainly know I’m reminded of that cold, dark, drab place, and it makes me shudder to think it may one day be my home.