Joseph Mintz

The moral vacuum at the heart of the West

The world forgot Daniel Pearl, beheaded, as a Jew, by Al-Qaeda in 2002. The world forgot Leon Klinghoffer, murdered and thrown over the side of the Achille Lauro in his wheelchair in 1985. The world forgot. The academics, and the woke left certainly forgot. Or perhaps more accurately they never wanted to remember. It didn’t fit the narrative. Or, as is increasingly becoming clear, the dogma. The simplistic dogma of white bad and non-white good. The danger with dogma, when taken to extremes, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, is that it obliterates the capacity to think and replaces it with a kind of arid nothingness, devoid of compassion or pity or humanity. The dogma becomes the point. Increasingly, in the democratic West, where we have always hoped that the opposite moral values hold sway, a stark split is slowly opening up between those who can still think and feel and make moral choices, and those for whom nothing is more important  than the “truth”, even as that truth becomes something devoid of content, eaten up from the inside, leaving just a moral abyss.

We have seen in recent days the leaders of the democratic free world come out, at least for now, in a show of moral force in condemnation of Hamas. Many many other voices in the UK, the US and more widely have also shown their understanding of what is at stake. They have not forgotten. But they have allowed a moral rot to fester, the rot that is always there when people think they have found an absolute truth, the simplistic key to the salvation of humanity. They have allowed this to take hold of Western society. It’s attraction, as Arendt also pointed out for us, is not that difficult to understand – the sweet fantasy of not having to deal with all the complexity and uncertainty of the world, the siren lure of just something simple and easy to hold on – A is good and B is bad.

Of course, the bedfellow in this space is always, always, the irrational hatred of the Jew or the Jew as nation, in Israel. In this irrational fantasy, real thinking dies, leaving only the dogma to slavishly follow, and in that dogma the Jew is bad. The Jew is Daniel Pearl. Unremembered. If so many fellow citizens in the West can see 260 innocent young people mercilessly gunned down and feel nothing. If they can hear of babies beheaded, of children murdered in front of parents, of parents murdered in front of children, of rape and worse, and then cheer in the streets… If they can see young children taunted and abused as hostages, of old people abducted, and treat this as nothing, if…..there are no words to finish, there is no thinking beyond the dogma of the Jew is bad.

Yet the right-thinking folk in the West have brought the spread of this terrible ideology, this absence of thinking, on themselves. They have let their universities and schools, what should be the cradle of aliveness and compassion and thinking in the young, be taken over by the “progressive” (but really dead) ideology of the left. The darkness has spread out from there in to the media, the civil authorities, the professions. We saw how close it came to taking over the whole body politic when Corbyn, who was of course friends with Hamas, came perilously close to government in the UK, much closer than we like to admit to.

And we know what is coming now. We know what is coming in our universities, in schools, in the media, on the streets. An inverted world devoid of thinking where the murdered, the beheaded children, the dead teenagers, the dead Jews, are the instigators of evil, and Hamas are the saviours. Perhaps we are kidding ourselves that there is hope for such a society. I don’t know. As many have said, perhaps all we can cling to, to give us that sliver of hope, is our faith, and prayer, and I would add our state. In the end it is all we have.

About the Author
Joseph Mintz is Associate Professor in Education at UCL Institute of Education. He engages in research on inclusion, special educational needs, teacher education for inclusion and has led research projects funded by government and national agencies. He has written for the Jewish Chronicle, the Algemeiner and Times Higher Education. He regularly presents on issues of inclusion and special education in a range of national and international forums. Follow him @jmintzuclacuk His views are his own and do not reflect those of his employers.
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