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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Public/Private Order/Chaos  

Two comments to yet another incisive post by Wretchard have sparked some thoughts for me. First a sample:
Anarchy is self-defending, as the failed United Nations relief mission to Somalia in 1990 discovered to its cost. It will appropriate relief supplies, money and aid workers themselves as gang property, the economic basis of its system. Anarchy absorbs violence just as it absorbs relief and even gains strength from it when weapons, designed to disrupt ordered societies, are unleashed on it. Countries like Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran are defended less by frontier fortifications than by the sheer toxicity of their societies.
RTWT, as always.

The first comment was from Shrinkwrapped (another always-informative daily visit):
[O]ne place the left-wing elites in the West intersect with the Islamists is in their (unconscious) support for anarchy. The elites typically support the free expression of instinctual drives (eg, there should be no controls on people's sexual behavior, "anything goes", revolutionary violence is admirable, etc.) When young men are raised without being civilized (learning restraint, frustration tolerance, delayed gratification) they become agents of anarchy, taking what they want when they want, as long as they are able.
And somewhat later in the thread, this from Wolfen:
What's not clear to me is where radical Islam fits into this anarchic scenario. Although the Islamist program might benefit from localized chaos in the short run, Islam itself is not chaotic or anarchic. Is Islam being used for criminal purposes, or are criminal gangs being used for Islamic purposes? If the latter, religious leaders must assume that they will be able to step in and restore order, once the damage has been done. I wonder.
What's missing here is the distinction between the public and the private spheres. Islam and socialism both flourish in conditions of public order and private chaos. (As do all forms of totalitarianism, come to think of it.) Public order, the 'peace' of the ummah, is maintained by the external power of the temporal ruler, while the specificity and complexity of sharia law indicates a certain interior lack of control. And the centrifugal path of the Soviet empire shows how little internal unity was developed under the blanket of strict social control.

What's the difference, after all, between the Soviet nomenklatura and the Saudi royal family except the size of their wallets and the toys they can buy? Saddam's Iraq was a stifling nightmare of order, but Uday and Qusay's private lives seemed even more chaotic than Dad's. On one level the masses are kept under control so that the rulers may frolic, but on another the rulers are the only ones with sufficient wealth and power for their internal chaos to become visible.

Wolfen is thinking about the establishment of totalitarian states, which does tend to involve public disorder and intensely focused private order, bordering on asceticism, on the part of the radical founders, whether Lenin or Mohammed or al-Saud's Bedouin Wahhabis. (See the attempts to depict Osama's spartan, spiritual lifestyle.)

It is the genius of liberal civilization that it doesn't split these realms, but has a mixture of order and chaos in both public and private spheres. A government of laws also allows the creative destruction of capitalism, and a free society requires self-governing members.

It may even be that a certain proportion of each is necessary, for a person or a society; as order increases in one place, chaos leaks out in another. Have Europe's Muslims taken on the role of chaos-sinks for an increasingly bureaucratized EU? (Or is this simply the internally chaotic nature of Islam acting out in the absence of externally-imposed public order?) As Europe grows more chaotic - and oh how it will - perhaps we shall find out.

posted by Kelly | 4:05 PM link