Monday, August 15, 2011

Real Life Heroes

I recently watched a film that was released in 2009, and as I sat down I wondered why I had never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago. After all the film was highly rated and advertised to have all the elements that generally send the media into promotional hyperdrive. It's a true story with racism galore and an oppressed minority fighting the government in ways that can only be described as heroic despite beatings and death threats from the racist majority. I'm not exactly immersed in contemporary culture so I thought perhaps I had missed all the publicity about it and didn't give matter much more thought.

As the film unfolded, however, a dark suspicion overtook me. I tried hard to fend it off, I really did, but I couldn't help it.

The suspicion was that the film didn't receive much notice because though it had all the elements that are catnip to the media, those elements just didn't fit the left's preferred narrative. The heroes of the story are white, and worse, the racists are black. The tyrannical government is actually putting socialist principles into practice, and, ensuring complete media silence about the film, the heroes happen to be Christians with a strong, unabashed faith in God.

The movie is a documentary, much of it filmed surreptitiously, of the horrific treatment suffered by white farmers in Zimbabwe at the hands of a clearly racist black government that's confiscating white-owned farms that have belonged to those families for generations and giving them to political cronies. The government, under the execrable Robert Mugabe, offers no compensation for the confiscated land and beats and/or murders those who refuse to leave.

One family, the Campbells, was resolved to withstand the intimidation, and the film documents what the elderly Campbells, their daughter, and their son-in-law had to endure as they fought their government in international court in 2008. Their courage, tenacity, and faith are absolutely remarkable, as is the almost preternatural absence of bitterness and desire for retribution against their persecutors.

It's a film that should be watched by those, like Nancy Pelosi, who think that it's racist to oppose Mr. Obama's policies. They may learn what real racism looks like. It would also be salutary viewing for some of our liberal academics who think that racism is an exclusively white malaise.

The film is titled Mugabe and the White African. Watch it with a liberal friend, especially if he or she is a secularist. It'd be a fun evening were the story not so terribly tragic.

Why Are They So Angry?

It's an interesting question, laden with psychological overtones, as to why academic Darwinists get so angry with those who disagree with them about evolution, especially those who dissent from the view that natural processes and forces are sufficient to account for the vast panoply of life we see in our world.

David Klinghoffer offers an interesting and plausible explanation, but I think it's only part of the answer. Here's a portion of what he writes:
You may have wondered why Darwinists in academia get so worked up about intelligent design. Reading what they write about our scientists and their work, you picture these guys turning red and sweating a lot. Alternatively, they try to mask their rage by getting all sarcastic and pseudo-witty -- a man of mature age like Larry Moran, for example, calling other adults "IDiots."

Clearly, it's irrational because anger is almost always irrational. (I should know.) But even irrational fury typically has a trigger, and you might reasonably doubt whether the publications of scientists associated with the Discovery Institute are really, in a direct sense, that trigger.

[These people]aren't driven to their fury directly by the scholarly work of Michael Behe, Doug Axe or Stephen Meyer, but rather indirectly every time a student brings it up in class. Every year a new cohort of young people comes through the lecture hall and some number of them -- probably a growing number -- have been exposed somewhere to ID's critique and alternative to neo-Darwinism. Every time a student puts her hand up and politely asks something along the lines of, "But what about irreducible complexity?" it throws the class discussion down a totally different corridor of the mind than the professor meant it to go.

The professor can either dismiss the student with a hand wave and a casual invocation of "creationism," which makes everyone else wonder what this is all about, or he can explain the issue and try to refute Behe or Meyer, but that just raises more questions in the minds of some students who are inclined to doubt his authority.

Either way, how annoying for him! That's not on the syllabus! It's not supposed to be the program at all. It really puts our professor into an uncomfortable position. This explains P.Z. Myers's undisguised outrage when questioned in a non-academic setting -- a pub in Glasgow -- by a young person fresh out of college and on his way to grad school. The young man, our Jonathan M., was a stand-in for other students that professors encounter in their own classrooms and whom they, in that setting, are generally disallowed from abusing the way Myers abused Jonathan.

The thing is, these challenges from students are something that keeps happening year after year and class after class. It's a persistent irritant to our [professional academics], with personal and professional consequences for them. It's like having an ache in your neck or back that keeps coming back and you can never seem to rid yourself of it no matter what you do. Physical discomfort like that drives people to irritability that can seem both irrational and inexplicable, until you understand what actually drives it.

The intelligent-design movement is reaching these students and thereby their teachers, throwing the latter into chronic peevishness that we, in turn, see manifested in their public comments.
The other part of the explanation, I think, is that these challenges and questions have only somewhat to do with science and mostly to do with religion. Most of the acidulous, angry Darwinians are metaphysical naturalists, they believe that nature is all there is. Naturalism is, for all intents and purposes, their religion and Darwinism is a critical support pillar in that religion. Students with the temerity to doubt Darwinism call into question the naturalist's deepest beliefs, but not only that.

They also call into question the intelligence, competence, credibility, and authority of professors who have invested their lives in preaching the Darwinian gospel. These people have egos, and to be questioned by a mere novice in front of a class full of postulants preparing for initiation into the sacred rites of Darwinian orthodoxy is humiliating and insufferable. The querulousness they display is directly proportional to the affront to their egos and professional reputations.

Unable to make a convincing case, at least a case that's convincing to someone who's not already a believer, they lash out in anger against anyone who puts them in that embarrassing position. It's not the man who's confident in his convictions and able to defend them compellingly who resorts to rudeness and insults. It's the man whose noetic structure is fraught with insecurity and a sense of his own inadequacy in making a case for ossified dogmas that never before had to be defended who gets "peevish" when confronted with the need to do so.

Fatal Attraction

Denis Prager, a devout Jew, uses the attempt in San Francisco to ban circumcision as a springboard for wondering what it will take for American Jews to realize that the progressive left is not their friend:
So, then, given my profound support for circumcision, what good could possibly come from San Francisco passing a ban on it?

If the most left-wing major city in America starts arresting Jews who have their children circumcised there, some American Jews might awaken to the threat to Jews posed by the left. Obviously, San Francisco's already existing bans on toys in Happy Meals, on soda in city-owned places and on plastic bags, and the city's proposed ban on the sale of pets, even goldfish, have not moved many Jews (or non-Jews) to begin wondering whether left-wing governance is dangerous. But perhaps a ban on circumcision will.

Of course, not everyone who is on the left -- and certainly not the traditional liberal -- is an enemy of the Jews. But, aside from Islamists, virtually all the enemies of the Jews are on the left.

The worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel (i.e., to pave the way for moral acceptance of Israel's destruction) is virtually all on the left. Universities in America and elsewhere in the Western world, as well as the mainstream news media outlets around the globe, are all dominated by the left. They drum into their students', readers', listeners' and viewers' minds that Israel is one of the worst societies on earth.

The anti-Israel propaganda on the left is so great and so effective that according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "Many of the youths who survived the (Norway) massacre said they thought the killer, dressed as a police officer, was simulating Israeli crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories."

Yet, most American Jews still walk around thinking that Christians and conservatives are their enemies when, in fact, they are the best friends Jews have in the world today. From the present conservative Canadian government, which is probably the most vocal pro-Israel country in the world today, to every major conservative talk-show host in America (including the fiercely pro-Jewish and pro-Israel Glenn Beck, who has been libeled as an anti-Semite), to the leader of Holland's Party for Freedom and member of the Dutch parliament, Geert Wilders (one of the most eloquent pro-Israel voices in Europe today), to The Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- the right is where the Jews' friends are.

What will it take for this generation of Jews on the left to realize what Arthur Koestler, perhaps the most prominent Jewish leftist of a previous generation, came to realize: namely, that leftism is "the god that failed"?
Prager makes an important point. Too many Jews, like too many blacks, live in thrall to the myth that progressives are looking out for their best interests. They believe the myth that to be conservative is to be an anti-semite (or racist). They believe that to be a Christian is to see Jews as "Christ-killers," and they believe that to be a Christian conservative is to be an anti-intellectual yahoo.

None of this, of course, is true. As Prager writes, the exact opposite is the case, but myths die hard. Blacks still think after seventy years of fealty to the Democratic party that Democrats will someday solve their problems. Jews who support the progressive left are just as blind to the fact that almost all the non-Muslim anti-semitism in our society today is found there.