by Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity
School, Mr. Havel believed the shopkeeper does not believe the
sign. He puts it up because it was "delivered from the headquarters
along with the onions." The grocer thinks nothing is at stake
because he understands that no one really believes the slogan.
The real message, according to Havel is "I'm behaving myself
… I am obedient, and therefore I have the right to be left
Havel shrewdly points out that even a modest shopkeeper would
be ashamed to put up a sign that literally read "I am afraid
and therefore unquestioningly obedient." He is, after all,
a human being with some sense of dignity. Havel concludes that
the display of the sign "workers of the world, unite"
allows the green grocer "to conceal from himself the low
foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the
low foundations of power." (As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German
Christian theologian hanged by the Nazis for conspiring to try
to kill Hitler observed: The failure of the people to speak small
truths leads to the victory of the big lie.)
argue that this Czechoslovakian parable of the self-deceiving
green grocer goes a long way to explaining the decision of most
American news outlets not to re-publish the Danish cartoons currently
stirring up so much of Islam.
As of yesterday
afternoon, the following is, I believe, a complete list of major
U.S. daily newspapers that have republished any of those cartoons:
The Philadelphia Inquirer.
been intense debate in the blogs and elsewhere on whether newspapers
and television networks should republish or not. The quite plausible,
expressed argument against re-publishing is that: 1) just because
one has the right to speak doesn't mean one must, 2) restraint
is often exercised, particularly when being respectful of other
religions or cultures, 3) tensions are particularly high amongst
Muslims now, 4) only a madman or, if there is a difference, those
who want to instigate the "clash of civilizations" would
pour gasoline on that already raging fire.
would be not only plausible, but persuasive, if the cause of the
violent Muslim reaction to the cartoons was merely a transitory
phenomenon -- a brief, spontaneous, bizarre overreaction.
In the same
way, if Hitler's demand for Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland in October
1938 had in fact been his last territorial demand, then Britain's
decision to appease that demand would have been sensible -- if
selfish. But, of course, the appeasement did not buy peace, it
only encouraged further Nazi aggression -- because Nazi demands
were unlimited and non-negotiable.
the reaction to the Danish cartoons is merely the latest predictable,
intolerant response of radical Islam to any opposition to their
view of man and God. (In fact, I did predict a Muslim insurrection
against blasphemous European art in the first chapter of my recent
book, "The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?").
argue for republication of the Danish cartoons are not "instigating"
a clash of civilization. Nor are they pouring gasoline on a fire.
Rather, they are defending against the already declared and engaged
radical Islamist clash against the Christian, Secular, Jewish,
Hindu, Chinese world by expressing solidarity with the firemen.
case, the firemen, perhaps surprisingly to some, is the European
press. French socialist newspapers, The BBC, and other major secular
European media stand shoulder to shoulder with a right-wing Danish
newspaper against what they correctly see is an unyielding demand
by radical Islam that Europe begin to start living under Sharia
media is proud of its alleged tradition of speaking truth to power
and reporting without fear or favor. Every year journalists give
awards to one another under those banners. But in truth, it doesn't
take much courage to criticize a president, corporation, Catholic
priest or labor union boss in America. A president is powerless
to adversely effect a reporter or news organization that criticizes
the Danish cartoonists are in hiding. Many who have spoken out
against radical Islam -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike -- are dead
or in hiding. Instant Muslim boycotts of Danish products already
threaten Danish prosperity.
the black, Muslim, female co-producer of assassinated Dutch film
maker Theo van Gogh, talked about western journalists to Der
Spiegel this week, while in hiding: "They probably feel
numb. On the one hand, a voice in their heads is encouraging them
not to sell out their freedom of speech. At the same time, they're
experiencing the shocking sensation of what it's like to lose
your own personal freedom. One mustn't forget that they're part
of the post-war generation, and that all they've experienced is
peace and prosperity. And now they suddenly have to fight for
their own human rights once again ...