More horrible than rape: Spengler

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The body of a 20-year-old Syrian woman, “Rokstan M.,” was unearthed from a shallow grave in the small Saxon town of Dessau last week. Her father and brothers stabbed her to death on her mother’s orders, after she was gang-raped by three men. The rape left her “unclean” and the mother allegedly demanded the killing to restore the family’s honor. German police are seeking the father and brothers. That by itself is not newsworthy; what is newsworthy is the news itself, which appeared in not one of Germany’s major daily newspapers or websites. The tabloid Bild-Zeitung ran the story, along with the regional press, while the arbiters of enlightened opinion buried it. Der Spiegel, the country’s biggest news site, and the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, the newspaper of record, made no mention.

The case of Rokstan M. is heart-rending. She had found work in Germany as a translator for the government, but she knew her family would track her down and kill her. “I am awaiting death. But I am too young to die,” she had written on a social media profile. Her story deserves a line or two in the quality press. But it’s one of many that German leaders want to ignore.

Political leaders in Germany—which may absorb 1.5 million migrants this year—are struggling to respond to reports of a sex crime epidemic among newly-arrived Muslims. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere urged Germans not to believe rumors of widespread rape at refugee centers, while Germany’s police union chief Rainer Wendt warned, “There is a lot of glossing over going on. But this doesn’t represent reality.” Wendt added, “It is understandable that there is the desire to calm things down politically.”

Germany’s elite knows perfectly well that the migrants bring social pathologies, because they have already seen the world’s worst sex crime epidemic unfold in Scandinavia. Sweden now has the highest incidence of reported rape outside of a few African countries, and nearly ten times the rate of its European peers—and all this has happened in the past ten years. Sweden ranks near the top of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, yet it has become the most dangerous country for women outside of Africa, with an incidence of rape ten times that of its European peers. Sweden’s political leaders not only refuse to take action, but have made it a criminal offense to talk about it.

Even in liberated, feminist, gender-neutral Sweden, there is something more horrible than rape, something horrible enough to persuade the political elite to sacrifice the physical and mental health of tens of thousands of Swedish women. That is the horror of social disintegration in the Muslim world. Sweden opened its borders to refugees twenty years before the migrant flood arrived on Germany’s doorstep, and the foreign born rose from 9% of the population in 1990 to 15.4% in 2012. Foreigners have a higher birth rate, so the percentage is higher including second-generation immigrants.

There have been protests, to be sure, and nationalist parties like the Sweden Democrats have gained support on an anti-immigration platform, but Sweden will remain supine as its social fabric unravels. So, I expect, will Germany. Europe is transfixed by the horror unfolding from Libya to Afghanistan, as one of the world’s major civilizations unravels in real time. In its moment of agony, the Muslim world’s most potent weapon is its own weakness. The human cost of the collapse of Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria is horrendous, but it is small thus far compared to the horrors that would attend instability in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The West can’t bear to look at it.

A month after the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers I warned that “radical Islam could win,” by the same methods that nearly won the last world war for Hitler:

Al-Qaeda wants no territory, no conversions, no loot, no slaves. It wishes to destroy the West and happily will sacrifice millions of Muslim lives in order to do so. Indeed, the mass sacrifice of Muslim lives may lie at the heart of its battle plan. It has more in common with the Dostoyevsky of The Possessed or the Wagner of Die Goetterdaemmerung than with the Muslim conquerors of the Middle Ages…

Horror is the great vulnerability of the Western. The Nazis understood this and undertook a campaign “des Schreckens” (to cause horror) and “Entsetzens” (terror, literally: dislodgement). Horror was not merely an instrument of war in the traditional sense, but a form of Wagnerian theater, or psychological warfare on the grand scale. Hitler’s tactical advantage lay in his capacity to be more horrible than his opponents could imagine.

That is why I have been writing on the subject these past fifteen years: to harden hearts and inoculate Westerners against this vulnerability.

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The incidence of rape in Sweden has tripled in the past ten years as the country became Europe’s premier destination for Muslim immigrants. Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Ingrid Carlqvist and Lars Hedegaard observe,

Since 2000, there has only been one research report on immigrant crime. It was done in 2006 by Ann-Christine Hjelm from Karlstads University. It emerged that in 2002, 85% of those sentenced to at least two years in prison for rape in 2002 were foreign born or second-generation immigrants.

A 1996 report by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reached the conclusion that immigrants from North Africa (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) were 23 times as likely to commit rape as Swedish men. The figures for men from Iraq, Bulgaria and Romania were, respectively, 20, 18 and 18. Men from the rest of Africa were 16 times more prone to commit rape; and men from Iran, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, 10 times as prone as Swedish men.

A new trend reached Sweden with full force over the past few decades: gang rape — virtually unknown before in Swedish criminal history. The number of gang rapes increased spectacularly between 1995 and 2006. Since then no studies of them have been undertaken.

Sweden not only stands by while large number of its women are raped, but outlaws public discussion of the causes. Michael Hess, a Social-Democratic population, was condemned by a Swedish court under a law forbidding denigration of ethnic groups. for writing in 2014, “There is a strong connection between rapes in Sweden and the number of immigrants from MENA-countries [Middle East and North Africa].”

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Why should Sweden inflict such damage upon itself and criminalize dissent against the policies which caused it? Ideology can’t be the whole explanation. Sweden is committed to a postmodern multicultural ideology, to be sure, but other ideologies have a voice, feminism. Yet the feminists are mute on the subject of Sweden’s rape epidemic. That is not because feminists condone rape, but because they believe that there is something even more horrible than rape.

There are rare moments in history where long-term trends impinge on short-term events, and we have the misfortune to be living in one of them. The world has become very strange indeed. In the past week alone we witnessed the murder by suicide-bomb in Ankara, with the likely complicity of Turkey’s government, and an epidemic of random killings of Israelis by seemingly ordinary Palestinian Arabs, incited by their clergy and their “moderate” as well as extremist political leaders. ISIS continues to horrify the world.

Israel has sustained terror attacks on a far greater scale; in March 2002 alone, 130 died in suicide bombings during the Second Intifada. The attacks were well organized, with networks of explosives experts, planners, transporters supporting the actual bombers. It took Israeli security three years to disrupt these operations and contain the threat. In some ways, the recent assaults are stranger and more disturbing. They appear to involve citizens with no overt radical history, such as the Arab employee of the Israel telephone company who drove his van into a group of pedestrians, then left his car and hacked a 60-year-old rabbi to death with an axe. The grisly affair was captured by a security camera, and is painful to watch. Israeli and West Bank Arabs with no previous history of violence, including young teenagers, appear to erupt into spontaneous rage and initiate attacks against Israeli targets of convenience, with the certain knowledge that they will die after inflicting harm on Israelis that is slight compared to the suicide bombings of 2002.

The ostensible provocation for the attacks is an urban legend, namely Jewish designs on the al-Aksa Mosque, despite the Israeli government’s vigorous enforcement of its ban against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an advocate of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, observes that Israeli police have arrested Jews there “on suspicion of muttering.” The supposed plot against al-Aksa is not the silliest nor the most destructive rumor to trouble the Muslim world. Polio has returned to Pakistan and Nigeria because local Islamic authorities have issued fatwas against vaccination, claiming that the vaccine is a Western plot to reduce Muslim fertility.

There have been many wars of extermination, but there is something uniquely horrifying about today’s terrorism. Never in the history of warfare have tens of thousands of individuals stood ready to commit suicide in order to harm enemy civilians. Never for that matter, has one combatant (Hamas in the 2014 Gaza rocket war) sought to maximize civilian casualties on its own side. The Japanese killed over 20 million Chinese during the Second World War, but committed suicide in combat in the attempt to sink enemy warships, not kill enemy civilians. The Nazis did not ask their soldiers to kill themselves in order to kill Jews.

Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal’s chief foreign policy commentator, calls this behavior psychosis. That begs the question: Which kind? DSM-IV doesn’t have a name for it. Perhaps we should call it “Social Death Derangement Syndrome,” or SDDS.

The fear of social death that comes with civilizational decline is unspeakably worse than individual death, and horror before the prospect of social death gives impulse to atrocious behavior. More precisely, it makes it impossible to say what is atrocious and what is not. “We cannot, indeed, imagine our own death; whenever we try to do so we find that we survive ourselves as spectators,” said Freud. That is not quite true: we often tremble at the prospect of our own death in fear and horror, which we would not do if we did not imagine it. Our consciousness, rather, is both individual and social, and we regard our own death with the inner eye of those with whom we share a common language and aspirations, which will not end with out physical existence.

Unless it does. That is the ultimate horror. It is one thing to imagine being a spectator at your own funeral, and another to imagine yourself shut into perpetual silence, cut off from all human contact, with no past and no future. That is a living death, a mental presence without consciousness. Imagine, for example, that on your deathbed you are the last speaker of a language that will become extinct upon your passing, erasing your memory and your history. That is a horror much worse than Hell, where at least you can chat with your neighbor in the brimstone pit. At least the shade of Achilles could gripe to Odysseus about the misery of the underworld; imagine how the son of Peleus would have felt if all memory of Greece along with its language were forever extinguished, and he sat in Hades alone and in perpetual silence.

That is how it feels to be trapped in a dying civilization.Rationality ceases to have meaning. Upon learning that you have an inoperable malignant brain tumor, you might cash in your insurance policy and go on a spree—but not if everyone who speaks your language and shares your memories already is extinct. In that case there is nothing to do with your money. You can sit at the bar by yourself and drink Chateau Petrus. Or you can go out and stab the next Israeli you run into.

The death of Muslim civilization is too horrible for the Germans to contemplate, because the bell tolls for them, too. And it is particularly painful for Germans to consider the possibility that the source of the terrible events that have driven millions to Germany is the character of the people themselves. Syria has torn itself to pieces not only because of the malfeasance of its leaders but rather because of the character of its people. Once the Sunni revolt against Shia-majority government in Iraq enlisted elements of Saddam Hussein’s army as well as the “Sunni Awakening” funded by Gen. Petraeus during the 2007-2008 “surge,” sectarian war to the death became inevitable in Syria, with both sides inflicting the most revolting atrocities imaginable.

The Assad regime has killed more people because it has the aircraft to attack Sunni civilians, but the Sunni opposition–including the “moderate,” American-backed Sunni opposition–has committed mass murder and bragged about it. Human Rights Watch in October 2013 that in one operation near Latakia in the Alawite heartland, Sunni “fighters killed 190 civilians. Residents and hospital staff in Latakia, the nearest city, spoke of burned bodies, beheaded corpses and graves being dug in backyards. Two hundred people from the area remain hostage.” Free Syrian Army chief of staff Salim Idriss, the poster-boy for “moderate opposition,” praised the operation in a video and took partial responsibility. ISIS has captured the world’s imagination and turned its stomach with public executions and the destruction of archaeological treasures, but that is how Muslims have fought wars for 1,500 years. Just ask the Christians of the Balkans or the Armenians of Anatolia about the Turks.

Very large parts of the Syrian population are complicit in the civil war’s atrocities, almost certainly by intent. Mass complicity in war crimes has two functions–first, to destroy the enemy’s will, and second, to make entire populations complicit in the atrocities. The Nazis made sure that the German population knew about the Holocaust in order to bind them closer to their leaders. There was a third function of Nazi terror as well: I suspect that their Schrecklichkeit also was intended to poison Christian belief: the Nazis also knew how to read Ivan Karamazov.

Horror does not deter Muslims, because Muslims see the world in terms of unconstrained will. Allah’s will governs the spin of every electron and the path of every bullet. It is unfathomable and arbitrary, like nature in the pagan world. Islam can endure horror, but not humiliation. But horror is the Achilles’ heel of the Christian world, whose founding premise is that God offers unselfish love and unmerited grace to mankind, and in a sense stacked the deck in favor of goodness. The perception that the universe is cruel and without purpose is poison to Christianity. That is the great paradox of salvation: If God’s unselfish love and unmerited grace offer salvation to all humankind, what are we to make of those to willfully reject it?

All the promises of heavenly bliss are not worth the torment of a single child, said Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov. But Karamazov spoke of the aberrant behavior of a few cruel people within the Christian world, whose actions the vast majority of Christians would condemn. The news photo of one drowned boy overwhelmed Europe. What does one do with a culture that routinely commits atrocities?

“The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz,” quipped the Israeli psychiatrist Zvi Rex, and there is deep truth in the joke. Auschwitz is killing off the Germans while the Jews flourish, at least in Israel. Israeli Jews have three children per female while Germans have less than 1.4. At current fertility rates, there will be more Israelis than Germans under the age of 25 by the end of the present century. The share of Germany’s population over 60, meanwhile, will rise to 45%.

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The impulse to open Germany to Muslim refugees is irresistable for Germany’s elite, prominently so in the case of Chancellor Angela Merkel. To understand her motives one must consider that she is not only a German, but also a Christian. “Belief in God and closeness to the church have molded me and occupied me since my childhood,” she wrote in an essay entitled “Why I am a Christian” just before her election victory. A pastor’s daughter, she grew up in atheist East Germany and maintained her belief despite the hostility of the state and her peers. “Since my youth I knew that I followed an inner compass through my commitment to God and his Church, one that was rejected by the [East German] state and the majority of the population. It was not always easy to stand by Christ. In contrast to most young people I went to Christian instruction and confirmation classes, rather than to the [state] ceremonies for youth.”

All the promises of heavenly bliss are not worth the torment of a single child, said Ivan Karamazov. The image of one drowned boy overwhelmed Europe. Only a few hundred thousand people have died in Iraq and Syria during the past fifteen years, but zeros could appear to the right of the death toll before long. Whether the migrant tidal wave arose spontaneously, or whether it was channeled by Turkey, is a secondary question. The Christian mind cannot absorb the horror of human suffering on an apocalyptic scale, and what we see now is tiny compared to what is likely to come next.

Judaism is more resilient in the face of horror, I think, because it assigns to humankind a higher degree of freedom, that is, the radical freedom to enter into partnership with the creator of the world and transform nature itself. The God that Judaism encounters in the world in which we find ourselves–this God, and not a God that satisfies the sensibilities of philosophers or theologians–left Creation intentionally incomplete so that man might have the freedom to become a partner in the work of creation. Chaos in the natural world and human wickedness are a divine challenge to humankind to rise to the status of co-creator. The possibility of radical freedom, of course, also implies the possibility of radical evil.

The Christian is reborn into the Church and enters its community as an individual. The Jew already was present in the congregation at Mount Sinai, where all Israel, including all future generations, heard the voice of God from the fiery mountain. The Christian ponders why bad things happen to good people; the Jew prays each morning in good times and bad, “How fortunate are we. How good is our portion, how pleasant our lot, how beautiful our heritage.” The deliverance at the Sea of Reeds is not a past event and Israel’s ultimate redemption is not a mere future: Judaism is simply the construction of a present in which all generations rejoice in Israel’s inheritance, and provide a context against which an individual’s suffering is measured. One might ask with Ivan Karamazov whether all this is worth the suffering of a single child. In the Jewish perception, it is worth it to God–not an abstract God, not a designer God to whom we attribute our own sensibilities, but YHWH with whom Abraham and Moses spoke.

The jihadists know just how to manipulate Western sensibilities. Catastrophic casualty levels are part of the program, at least in a number of theaters. Hamas in Gaza was the first combatant in history to deliberately maximize the number of casualties among its own civilians (by firing thousands of missiles at Israel during the summer of 2014 from densely-populated civilian areas). The Israel-Palestine conflict, though, is a sideshow in the Middle East; the disintegration of Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen and the latent instability of Pakistan and other Muslim countries.

Only a few hundred thousand people have died in Iraq and Syria during the past fifteen years, but zeros could appear to the right of the death toll before long. Whether the migrant tidal wave arose spontaneously, or whether it was channeled by Turkey, is a secondary question. The Germans–the best Germans, like Chancellor Merkel–cannot absorb the horror of human suffering on the present scale, and what we see now is tiny compared to what is likely to come next.

The choices are between a near-apocalyptic level of horror, and a somewhat more limited horror. Whatever you can imagine, it will be worse. If the West invites the horror into its own home, though, it is unlikely to survive.

(Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

David P. Goldman
David Paul Goldman (born September 27, 1951) is an American economist, music critic, and author, best known for his series of online essays in the Asia Times under the pseudonym Spengler. Goldman sits on the board of Asia Times Holdings.
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