I am a fan of Bill Vallicella’s blog. A few days ago I found a post of his which is worth reproducing [link to post now broken Jan 2011]. He led with a picture of a scantily clad and busty Mayra Veronica and wrote:
Don’t expect any more ‘eye candy’ on this site, but now that I have your attention I want to make a serious point. The well-endowed lass a picture of whom you see to the left has a name as beautiful as her body, Mayra Veronica. She was a guest on the O’Reilly Factor last night. She supports the troops in Iraq by going there and meeting with them, hugging and kissing them (that’s what she said!), signing photographs and posters, and distributing calendars. The ‘pin-up girl’ is of course nothing new — our fathers and grandfathers gawked at Grable — but one has to ask how much we have to teach the Iraqis. Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, but it is not clear that our trash culture is much of an improvement. If they think that our decadent culture is what democracy is all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble.
Militant Islam’s deadly hatred of us should not be discounted as the ravings of lunatics or psychologized away as a reflex of envy at our fabulous success. For there is a kernel of insight in it that we do well to heed. Sayyid Qutb (Milestones, 1965, emphasis added): “Humanity today is living in a large brothel! One has only to glance at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars and broadcasting stations!Or observe its mad lust for naked flesh, provocative pictures, and sick, suggestive statements in literature, the arts, and mass media! And add to
all this the system of usury which fuels man’s voracity for money and engenders vile methods for its accumulation and investment, in addition to fraud, trickery, and blackmail dressed up in the garb of law.”
A wild exaggeration in 1965, the above statement is less of an exaggeration today. But setting aside the hyperbole, we are in several ways a sick and decadent society getting worse day by day. On this score, if on no other, we can learn something from our Islamist critics. The fact that a man wants to chop your head off does not mean that he has nothing to teach you. The decadence of the West is a huge and many-sided topic. I’ll mention just two trends. One is the degeneration of popular music, especially black music. There is a huge difference between Sam Cooke and the rap ‘artists’ popular today. Another is the drive to push all vestiges of religion out of public life. Since religion is the means whereby most people learn morality, the assault on religion is also an assault on morality.
Of course, when I say that there is something to be learned from our Islamist critics, that in no way implies that their actions can be justified. They are murderous terrorists who need to be hunted down and killed, and the governments that support them need to be toppled. What I am opposing is a certain thoughtless attitude that says, “They are demons, I don’t want to understand them, and I shut my ears to everything they say.”