Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Kos Kommenters are also ageing hippies

Front page photo in the Canberra Times, 19 Sep 1970.
Your humble blogger, with pipe.  Leftie of old...
Those dreadful Kommenters over at the Daily Kos are not just frat boys and sorority gals, as I thought. A reader who knows them much better than I says they are also "ageing hippie types".  Well, that coulda been me too, folks, as I was certainly a hippie in the sixties, when the movement was born and burned brightest.  As they say, "if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there", or words to that effect.  For they truly were times of Sex, Drugs and Rock & roll, and lucky to be at Uni at the time, we partook of each and every one of those "S-D-R".
Reminds me of the copper Gene Hunt in "Ashes to Ashes", who's leading a raid into some villain's house.  To his troops he says "Right.... now, about police brutality,.... lots of it!".  For us, sex -- lots of it -- drugs -- lots of them --  rock and roll -- lots of it.  Remember, if you can, that this was when the groups like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Them, The Animals, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Keef Hartley, Procol Harum,  etc, etc, etc, were new.  New!  (Holy Mackerel, even just writing them down, the sheer brilliance, all new, makes me breathless still).
And we'd go out and buy their albums the day they came out.  Big, bright vinyl albums, with wonderful, artsy covers, sometimes hallucinatory, to go with the times, Surreal man! And play and play and play them, until someone at some booze and drug-fueled party stubbed a roach out on it, the sad demise of of too many of those vinyl visions of magic. Well, of mine, anyway.
Hauling myself back to the topic at hand: the Kos Kommenters. Well, as I said, that could've been me, with the same leftist views that we all had back then, in the sixties.  For that's what we all were, we imbibed leftie-cum-socialism with the Kool Aid (which was indeed laced...).  The great Neville Wran, Premier of NSW, a Labor man, was to talk dismissively decades later, of "chardonnay socialists".  Well, we were "toke socialist" (or, more cruelly, "token socialists"; middle class kids calling for "dictatorship of the proletariat"). We were against the Vietnam war -- of course! -- we thought America was "Amerika" -- Yippie-cute! -- supported freedom fighters the world over, no matter how dictatorial: the Viet Cong, Che, Mao, the whole grisly montage.
But over time, I changed my thinking on some of these views.  So while I'm certainly in the "aging" category, I's a hippie no more.
First to go was belief in Socialism. This happened as a result of experience: I went to China to study Mandarin for two years in 1976-77 and worked there in the Embassy until '83 (later was to work again in China in the nineties and am still in Hong Kong).  That was still the time when China had "closed doors", and I only got to study there because I was sponsored by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.  If I had any illusions about socialism, they were shattered by the experience in China, which still called itself socialist at the time. The flagrant corruption of the system, the way it kept people under its boot, the inefficiency of the economy, of food distribution (we had to have ration coupons for all our daily food needs from rice to meat), of factories (we went to work at two factories as part of out education), the sheer futility of so much of daily life, the grindingness, the tedium of it -- all in such huge contrast to what I've seen since in China.  All that made me change my mind about socialism and plump for good ol' capitalism as the way to generate the best for the most (paraphrasing Churchill, "the worst system; except for all the others").
Other quaintly or fondly held beliefs of my hippiedom days also went by the board, as I trod along life: like the sanctity of trade unions. Having been a TU member and then later in life, in Hong Kong, the boss of a business, I reached my conclusion that they're an anachronism, at least the way they're currently structured; they more often impede progress and welfare for workers of the world than help them "Unite!" under feeble banners.
And now to my favourite subject: Islam.  My views on that changed, as for so many people, in the wake of 9/11.  I've described elsewhere how that came to pass; not immediately after 9/11, but after hearing the repeated claims -- by W. Bush, amongst others -- that Islam is a "Religion of Peace".  How does that gel, I wondered eventually, with the ongoing attacks after 9/11 and the inflammatory rhetoric of Islamic opinion leaders, who I learnt were "imams". "sheikhs" and "ayatollahs".
So I read the texts, the core documents of Islam, the "Trilogy" and then got onto blogs about Islam.  And there you have it.
What seems to have happened to these "elderly hippie types", the Kommeters on Kos, is that they haven't modified their views one jot.  And they're proud of that!  They shouldn't be.  I recall a saying, I think by John Maynard Keynes, when confronting in debate someone who appeared to be proud of his unwavering views on such-and-such a topic.  "How often do you change your shirt, Sir?" asked Keynes.  "Why, once day of course", replies the fellow. "And how often do you change your views?", asks Keynes. "Never!" says the man proudly.  "How unsanitary", says Keynes.  One should change ones views on the basis of changed evidence.  That's only sanitary.
And that's what I -- and millions like me -- have done on the issue of Islam.  If I had a view of Islam before 9/11 it would've been something like Islam is just another religion, like the others, full of fairy tales, and not for me, atheist that Iv'e been since age nine. Just like all the others, equally uplifting, equally silly, as the case may be.
Oh, how I learnt the opposite!  Islam is unique, is very much different from other world religions, from all of them, especially the two most often lumped with it: Christianity and Judaism.
But the Kommeters at Kos?  No, no, they've hewed to the deluded comfort of the sixties, kumbaya, Islam is the "religion of peace" and all that. Views unchanged, unruffled, by reality.
 "How unsanitary", as Keynes would say...
A reader has sent me a note about the issue of: "is there a moderate Islam"?
This exercises a lot of minds Muslim and non.  It's critical to whether or not we manage to get on with Islam.
My own view is that there is one Islam, as defined in the Koran.  And also reflected in the Sira, the life of Muhammad, as he's revered as the "perfect man" in Islam. And that these reveal a violent ideology.  However, that's not to say that there aren't many millions of peaceable Muslims, even "secular" Muslims, if that's not a contradiction in terms (it is, but let's leave it for now...).  But there's no really moderate Islam. I've often quoted Turkish PM Erdogan on this: "... there is no moderate Islam; Islam is Islam, and that's it".
Nonetheless, strategically, I think we have to act as if there is.  We have to deal with, and make common cause with, those Muslims who self-identify with moderation.  Otherwise the task of trying to get on, to share the world, is simply too big.  I've said a bit more about this before.