Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Model of Quiet Determination and Courage

Two people I admire greatly: Christopher Hitchens writing in support of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Her book is riveting - an inspiring story of her determination to live her own way, and her courage to continue this in the face of very real, very credible threats against her life. I'm outraged that she doesn't get more support. I'd certainly be willing to contribute to a fund to protect her from the very real danger she is in.

And then I read this post. Having read Ayaan's story, and having seen her and listened to her, I'm thinking that the practice of Female Genital Mutilation is something that all reasonable people could agree should be stopped. Feminists would think it is an outrage. Western defenders of human rights would think it is an abomination.

How shallow of me to think that! Apparently, this writer, someone who claims to be a "radical theoretician", says we should, perhaps take a different view of the practice. The way I read it I'm getting the message that my view on this is of absolutely no value because of who I am.

I don't know if the world is going insane, or I am. There seem to be no fixed moral certainties anymore.


jeff said...

Did you happen to catch Hitchen's presentation at AAI? At one point he notes that the center of creating a free and rational world is the liberation of women.

I'm pretty impressed with him, though disappointed on his oversimplified view of the Iraq war, which seems to not be as rational a take on the world as many of his other takes. I tend to like Sam Harris' style more--though I disagree with some of what he says too.

As far as feminist positions on FGM, they are pretty varied, but my general take is this: Such practices can be condemned, but care must be taken to listen to the women themselves...both those who have suffered from it and those who perpetuate it. That doesn't mean that we have to take as gospel the words of the women themselves, but their opinions should count. The mistake some people who condemn particular instances of FGM make is to not take into account these voices at all.

Sweating Through fog said...

Thanks for your comment and the Hitch link - I'm listening to him now.

I consider myself a Christian, yet this atheist is perhaps my favorite author. I came to enjoy him when he started writing about the shamelessness of the Clintons, and that enjoyment grew to admiration when I read his book on Mother Theresa. I disagree with him on many, many things, but I have great admiration for his raw courage in taking very unpopular positions, and his great skill in advocating for them.

I have no problem listening to voices that have very different perspectives from my own. I actually seek them out.

But some of these voices, once heard, will now be ignored by me. Like the "radical theorist" author I referred to. I think - and she tends to be a bit incoherent - is that she was saying that FGM could be considered a reaction to colonialism, and that such mutilation is intended to ensure that woman would be prevented from the temptation of receiving any possible enjoyment from their oppression. I'm reminded of Orwell's point that there are some things that are so plainly wrong on their face that only intellectuals can believe them. So I find I need to avoid "radical theorists" like this to preserve my sanity.

Sweating Through fog said...

I forgot to mention that he is awfully funny too! i just head his characterization of North Korea's worship of their dead leader as a thanatocrasy, or a mausaleocracy. Funny!

jeff said...

I just got Hitchen's book on Mother Teresa in the mail the other day. Hopefully I can get to it at some point.

I enjoy watching him debate (though as I mentioned, I like Sam Harris, who has some of the same takes on things, more), in part because he doesn't back down from bullies. Of course, he turns into a bully himself from time to time, which isn't as interesting to me...