Monday, February 11, 2008

More from Gracchi on Rowan Williams

Gracchi has a reply to my post calling for the Rowan Williams' resignation. I don't think he has quite addressed the issues I raised.

At first Gracchi cites a lecture he once heard Williams give about "the state of neo-scholastic art theory in the 1920s in France" that he really enjoyed. Apparently that is the reason Gracchi doesn't want him kicked out. I think my case that Gracchi can't distinguish between the qualities that make a good Archbishop and those that make a good university professor has been bolstered. If Gracchi wants to see more lectures like that he should hope Williams retires, returns to university and has the time and freedom to pursue such debates instead of trying to appease radical Islam from the heart of the British establishment.

Gracchi's central contention seems to be that the Archbishop is getting in trouble for being too intelligent for the British public debate. His opinions on neo-scholastic art theory in twenties France aside his lecture exhibited massive intellectual failings. Look at my original post - why were so many obvious concerns about the measures he had in mind not addressed? The same concerns numerous others including Matt D'Ancona have raised. Some intelligent people are wooly minded but being wooly minded and 'subtle' doesn't in itself make an argument intelligent. It wasn't an excess of brilliance that got Williams in trouble.

I'm afraid to say that Gracchi, and many others, are incredibly arrogant about why people were angered by the Archbishop's remarks. They leap straight to the view that the British people are reactionary simpletons, who are being easily sold lies by the media, instead of trying to understand why they are angry. This attitude is even clearer in some other defences of the Archbishop. I hate to sound partisan but it speaks poorly of many on the Left's attitude to ordinary people that they are so quick to call them idiots.

It shouldn't be so surprising that people are upset by attempts to finesse away the problems with a legal system associated with horrific illiberalisms and torture. It's like making the case for Hitler the dog lover. While the argument might be made for the best of reasons, and it is true that Sharia can be not so bad and Hitler did love his dog, it is still infuriating. People understandably see an attempt to decontaminate monstrosity. An overeager search for the good in a code responsible for a lot of real nastiness. You might think they're wrong but it isn't an illegitimate reason to get angry.

Equally, while radical Islamists are pushing for a different interpretation of Sharia it still rather rankles to see the Archbishop of Canterbury taking their side on the broader issue of Sharia or English law against the moderates. I'll quote Murray's excellent point again:

"I've just been speaking with a Muslim friend who has always opposed sharia law. 'Where does it leave me', he asks, 'when the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for sharia?'"

Next Gracchi advances the rather questionable idea that Williams was making a theological argument and not a political one so shouldn't be held to political standards. That while he might have some level of responsibility to politics "the Archbishop is making the case for the religious to be able to live according to conscience and thus save themselves from hellfire- in comparison with that no war or civil strife is important". This is very weak.

Look at the Archbishop's speech. He at no point even dicusses the question of whether someone will go to hell - it's a wise choice given that he's talking about someone else's religion - and refers to community cohesion - the absence of civil strife - as his prime objective innumerable times. In fact, his main intellectual - as opposed to policy - case is for community cohesion to be put above the principle of equality before the law. This is small minded appeasement. You can think that is a good idea - that the principle of equality before the law is not worth community friction - but you can't sensibly argue that it isn't political.

I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that your average tabloid reader actually has a better grasp of the big picture surrounding Williams speech than many of his apologists. They get fascinated with the trees and call anyone noticing the wood a simpleton.

P.S. I will write about another issue... eventually.

Update: Platform 10 provide the perfect example of the arrogance I identified in many left wing responses to this issue. I would take that as an indication that the problem infests both left and right but I've never read anything remotely right wing on Platform 10.

Another update: Giles Fraser does the same. No attempt to understand the Archbishop's critics at all. Plus, his assertion that the criticism has been ad hominem is weak. Even if you think that attacks have been hysterical or distorting they have been overwhelmingly directed at his call for a greater role for Sharia rather than his own person or character.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is some more nice arrogance: