The recent terror attacks in Paris brought to light, once again, the difficulty in reconciling the values of modern, secular societies like France and premodern societies such as those in much of the Arab world.This relationship is complicated by the past sins of the West, from the Crusades all the way up to the wars after 9/11, which, Jeff explains, “took the lid off Iraq, which has put the Muslim world in arrested development and even in a functional regression since”.
It may be tricky to claim the moral high ground when you’ve been alternately toppling and propping up regimes to further your own ends for decades, but between the attacks on Paris and the stream of refugees into Europe, the West cannot ignore what’s happening. Jeff sorts out the cacophony of voices and gives us some perspective.
The practice that’s available to us is to put ourselves in the shoes of “the other,” the hawks and the doves, the refugees and the terrorists. ISIS is not just a pack of psychopaths that want to see the world burn, (dubious consolation). They have a strict set of beliefs and they’re recruiting young people who feel like second-class citizens in their host countries, says Jeff. “There’s no place for them or their God, the animating principle of their lives.” This call to wake up and fight is very alluring, even romantic to young men at this stage of development. Jeff offers some insight into how modern and postmodern societies might offer them a path forward that is meaningful and healthy.
We could wipe ISIS off the face of the earth by the end of next week. The way we would do it is the same way we did it when we were fighting the Nazis and the Japanese. We’d fire bomb. We’d strafe. We could even nuke if necessary. Remember, it was only 70 years ago that we dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But you notice that in our modern world, there’s not one credible voice arguing for this. It’s simply out of the question. That represents astonishing moral progress. ~Jeff Salzman
The media is worked up into a frenzy, as usual, (“I wonder how CNN would’ve covered D-Day” Jeff says). But welcome to modernity, where ever smaller dangers trigger ever greater responses. While it’s progress, to be sure, Jeff qualifies his optimism and reveals the one thing that would completely change the game … and not for the better.
Also in the episode, Jeff answers a question from a listener regarding our recent podcast on soul. “If you believe in the unity of everything since the Big Bang, why do you still speak of soul as if it were a separate entity?”