Why do young westerners hate western culture

Terrorist attacks brought down the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th. More than three thousand people died in the rubble. Not only residents of Islamic countries felt a secret joy about the attack. But what did they cheer and why did they do it? An analysis of what makes the murderous power of religion possible in the first place


In 1942, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of ultra-nationalist Japanese philosophers met in Kyoto to discuss Japan's role in the world. The congregation pursued the project of "overcoming modern civilization," as they put it.

Since modern civilization was synonymous with western civilization, the conference could also have been called “Overcoming the West”. In a radical departure from the goal formulated in the 19th century of “leaving Asia behind and joining the West”, Japan was now waging a “holy war” in which Asia was to be freed from the West and its spirit purged of Western ideas .

The cleaning agent was a mystical mixture of ethnic nationalism, which was nourished by German sources, and an idea of ​​ancestry, which was based on Zen and Shintoism. The Japanese were a "world historical race" of divine descent whose divine mission was to lead all of Asia into a new age of Great Harmony - and so on.

But what was “the West” from which one wanted to purge oneself? What had to be "overcome"? The question is gaining in importance again today, because central characteristics of this Western enemy would have sounded quite familiar to a Ussama bin Laden and other Islamist extremists. They are (in loose order): materialism, liberalism, capitalism, individualism, humanism, rationalism, socialism, decadence and lax morals.

These evils were to be overcome by a demonstration of Japanese strength, and that meant not just military strength, but strength of will, of spirit, of spirit. The key qualities of the Japanese or “Asian” mind were self-sacrifice, discipline, toughness, submission of the individual to collective good, worship of divine leadership, and a deep belief in the superiority of instincts over reason.

Of course, Japan's war against the West was about more than that, but this was how the Japanese war propaganda was philosophically underpinned. The central document of the Japanese claim to national divinity was entitled "Main Principles of National Politics".

In this document published by the Ministry of Education in 1937, the claim was made that the Japanese were "essentially completely different from the so-called citizens of Western nations" because their lineage of divine imperial blood was never interrupted and "because we in the emperor are always the source of our life and look for action ". The Japanese mind is “pure” and “flawless,” but the influence of Western culture tarnishes the mind and corrupts the soul.

This thinking also goes back to Western ideas, especially ideas from Germany. A famous right-wing scholar, Uesugi Shinkichi, who was initially a Christian, studied political science in Wilhelmine Germany and wrote when he returned to his homeland in 1919: “Subjects only know the spirit and will of the emperor. Your individual self is absorbed in the emperor. If they act in the spirit of the emperor, they can realize their true nature and attain the moral ideal. ”This is the stuff of which holy warriors are made.

German National Socialists and other European fascists used a very similar language - but without the neo-Shinto echoes. They too fought against all the “soulless” traits commonly associated with liberal societies. One of the first critical books on the thinking of the Nazis - it was written by Aurel Kolnai, a Hungarian refugee - was entitled "The War Against the West".

Nazi ideologues and Japanese military propagandists fought against the same Western ideas. The West they hated was multinational and multicultural, but the central symbols of hatred were republican France, capitalist America, liberal England and - in Germany more than in Japan - the rootless cosmopolitan Jews.

Japanese propaganda primarily targeted the "Anglo-American monster" as portrayed in caricatures of US President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill wearing plutocratic top hats. For the Nazis, "the Eternal Jew" represented everything that they loathed about liberalism.

The war against the West is in part a war against a certain conception of social coexistence and political community. Decades before Hitler, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the spiritual godfather of Nazism, described France, England and America as hopelessly "Judged" countries. In these countries citizenship had degenerated into a “purely political term”. In England, as Chamberlain put it, every “Basutonegian” could get a passport. Later, in his book “In England und Deutschland” (1915), he complained that the country “fell entirely into the hands of Jews and Americans”.

According to Chamberlain - and his friend Kaiser Wilhelm II - Germany was the only nation that still possessed enough national spirit and racial solidarity to save the West from sinking into a sea of ​​decadence and degeneration. Chamberlain's “West” was not based on citizenship, but on blood and soil.

Oswald Spengler warned in his book "Years of Decision" in 1933 of all places about the main threat to the West from the "colored peoples". He predicted, not entirely without reason, huge uprisings among the angry peoples in the European colonies. He also claimed that the Russians had become "Asian" again after 1918 and that the Japanese Yellow Peril was about to devour the civilized world.

More interesting than that was Spengler's view that the white “master peoples” were about to lose their position within Europe. Soon, according to Spengler, France, which was already inundated with black soldiers, Polish businessmen and Spanish farmers, would no longer be ruled by real French. The West will go under because the whites have become soft, decadent, safety-addicted and comfortable. In his words: "Jazz music and nigger dances celebrate the death march of a great culture."

The half-baked ideas that influenced criticism of the West came from Germany, but more positive attitudes towards the West were also influenced by German ideas. Slavophiles and Westerners, who held opposing views on the West in 19th-century Russia, were equally inspired by German currents of thought.

Indeed, pro and anti-Western thinking is everywhere. The east does not begin at the Elbe, as Konrad Adenauer believed, nor does the west begin in Prague, as Milan Kundera once said. East and west are not necessarily geographical areas. "Occidentalism" is a bundle of images and conceptions of the West in the minds of its enemies.

Occidentalism was also involved in the 9/11 attacks. For us, the term “Occidentalism” is a sarcastic analogy to Edward Said's concept of “Orientalism”, under which this influential author in his book “Orientalism” (1978 in the English original, last published in German 1994) the systematically hostile misunderstanding of the Orient by the Wants to be understood occidentally.

Occidentalism, in its different versions, usually consists of four elements: the city, the bourgeois, reason and equal rights for women. Each of these points includes a number of attributes - such as arrogance, weakness, greed, depravity, and decadence - that are cited as typical Western or even American characteristics. What Occidentalists hate in the West and what fuels hatred of the United States are not always exactly the same. The two subject areas should not be mixed up. A friend once asked astonished: “Why does he hate me? I didn't even help him. "

Some hate the US because the US supported it and others because it didn't support it. Some resent the US for helping their own hated governments come to power or stay in power.

For some, the very existence of the US is a humiliation; others feel humiliated by US foreign policy. For some leftists, hatred of the US is all that's left of being left; Anti-Americanism is part of their identity. The same goes for cultural Gaullists on the right wing. Anti-Americanism is a matter of great political importance, it is related to Occidentalism but it is not the same.

Revolts against liberalism are almost always associated with a deep hatred of the city, with a hatred of everything that belongs to urban civilization: commerce, people of different origins, freedom of art, sexual freedom, scientific endeavors, leisure time, personal security, prosperity and the power that usually comes with it. Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Hitler, Japanese agrarian fascists and, of course, Islamists have all extolled the simple life of the honest peasant, who is pure in heart, not spoiled by the pleasures of the city, used to hard work and self-denial, down-to-earth and obedient to the authorities . Behind the idyll of rural simplicity is the desire to direct large crowds, but also an old religious zeal, at least as old as Babylon, the great power of antiquity.

The saints of three monotheistic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - have denounced Babylon as the sinful city-state that posed an overbearing challenge to God with its politics, military power and entire urban civilization. The legendary Tower of Babel was a symbol of arrogance and idolatry: “Well, let us build a city and a tower with a top that reaches up to heaven; so that we can make a name for ourselves ”(Genesis 11: 4). And God actually saw it as a challenge to his greatness: "Now nothing can be denied them from everything they have decided to do." That is, the citizens of this great city power will live out their fantasies in order to be like God become. “He does not love the haughty ones,” the Qur'an tells us (sura 16, verse 23), and goes on: “Then God started their building on the foundation walls, and the ceiling over them fell down on them. And the punishment came upon them while they suspected no harm. "

Already the prophet Isaiah foretold “God's judgment” against Babylon: “The most beautiful of the kingdoms” would end like “Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19) and the haughty one would be overthrown so that “even Arabs would not pitch their tents there nor let shepherds camp their flocks ”. And the Revelation of John (17,5) says about the great Babylon, "the mother of fornication and of all abominations on earth": "She has fallen, she has fallen."

A subject that one gets to see again and again in films from poor countries is the youngster from a village who goes to the big city, either because of the circumstances or because he is looking for a new, better and freer life. Things will go wrong soon. The young man (or woman) is isolated, goes astray and ends up in poverty, crime or prostitution.

The story then usually ends with a violent gesture of revenge and an attempt to bring down the pillars of the arrogant, indifferent, strange city. There are parallels to this story in the biographies of Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao - just think of their years in Vienna, Paris, Beijing - or among many young Muslims in Cairo, Haifa, Manchester or Hamburg.

In the world we live in, you don't even have to go to the city to feel its permanent presence - through advertising, television, pop music and videos. The modern city, embodiment of all the sparkling things that are inaccessible to us, all the arrogance and dissolute lifestyle of the West have found their icon in the Manhattan skyline, as it is depicted millions of times on posters, photographs and pictures all over the world.

You can't escape it. You can find them on dusty jukeboxes in Burma, in discos in Urumchi, in student dormitories in Addis Ababa. It arouses longing, envy and sometimes blind anger. The Taliban are trying - just like the Nazi provinces horrified by "nigger dances", like Pol Pot, like Mao - to create a world of purity in which they would be safe from visions of Babylon.

Of course, the Taliban have virtually no idea what the West’s meat pots really are like. For them, Kabul was already a den of iniquity: girls were allowed to attend school and women romped about in public without covering their faces. But like all purists, the Taliban are also very concerned about privacy.

In the anonymity of big cities, the separation between the public and the private leads to hypocrisy. In Occidentalist eyes, the city-populated West presents a picture of artificiality and hypocritical hypocrisy, in contrast to the honesty and purity of the life led by a Bedouin shepherd. Riyadh and its magnificent Arab palaces are the epitome of hypocrisy.

The people there behave like Puritan Wahhabis in public - and like greedy Westerners at home. For an Islamic radical, the hypocritical city carries the West within it like a worm that rots the apple from the inside.

The big cities are usually also big marketplaces. For Voltaire, a large part of what he admired about England took concrete form in the London Stock Exchange: “The Jew, the Mohammedan and the Christian trade one with the other as if they all professed the same religion, and only the bankrupt are considered Unbelievers designated ”(“ Letters from England ”, 6th letter).

Whoever hates what Voltaire respected for, and regards the marketplace as a source of greed, selfishness and foreign depravity, also hates those who are supposed to benefit the most from the market: the immigrants and minorities who can only improve their fortunes through trade. When it comes to restoring purity and freeing the local earth from foreign elements, these are the people who have to be got rid of: the Chinese in Pol Pots Phnom Penh, the Indians in Rangoon or Kampala and the Jews everywhere.

Sometimes such defilements can extend to entire nations or even to great powers. In their proclaimed endeavor to restore genuine Asian values ​​to the East, the Japanese warlords promised to kick out the white imperialists in order to "overcome unrestrained market competition". No matter what Israel does, it will be the foreign sand in the eyes of Muslim purists.

And the US will always be unbearable for its enemies. Bin Laden speaks of an ominous "alliance of the US-Israel led Jewish crusade". The hatred is unconditional. In 1998 he said in an interview with the Arab television station Al Jazeera: “Every adult Muslim hates Americans, Jews and Christians. It is our belief and our religion. I have been at war with the Americans since childhood and hatred them. ”The September Angels of Revenge chose their target carefully. Since the Manhattan skyline is a provocation, its Babylonian towers had to collapse.

What did Hitler actually mean by “Jewish science”? And how is the deep disgust of Christian fundamentalists for the evolution theorist Charles Darwin explained? Nazi propagandists have maintained that scientific truth cannot be obtained through such “Jewish” methods as empirical research or hypothesis formation and experimental verification.

Natural science must be “spiritual”, rooted in the natural spirit of the “people”.Jews, it was claimed, have access to the natural world only through reason, whereas true Germans gain higher knowledge through their creative instinct and through love for nature.

Mao Tse-tung coined the slogan: "Science simply means acting daringly." In the 1950s he eliminated trained scientists and animated fanatical supporters of the party to crazy science experiments, which were inspired by the equally absurd attempts of Stalin's pseudoscientist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko. "There's nothing wrong with building nuclear reactors, cyclotrons or rockets," says Mao. You just need strength of mind to feel superior to everyone, as if there were nobody else. "

All the resentment-laden inferiority that Mao and his party comrades from the provinces felt towards people with higher education is contained in these words. Instinct, intellectual strength, willingness to make sacrifices ... In 1942 a Japanese university professor claimed that a Japanese victory over Anglo-American materialism was certain because Japan embodied the "spiritual culture" of the East. Like those Babylonian Towers of New York, the “Jewish” notion that science is international and that human reason, regardless of ancestry, is the best instrument for scientific research, is viewed as a form of hubris by enemies of liberal urban civilization.

Science, like everything else, must be filled with a higher ideal: the German people, God, Allah or whatever. But there could be something else behind it, which is far more naive and primitive. Those who worship tribal or even universal gods - as Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Jews do - sometimes tend to believe that unbelievers are psychologically depraved or have no souls (Christian missionaries don't speak of salvation for nothing). In extreme cases, this can be used to derive the right to kill unbelievers with impunity.

The soul is a leitmotif of Occidentalism. In the 19th century, the Slavophiles led the “great” Russian soul against the mechanical, soulless West. They claimed the deep feeling and profound understanding of suffering for themselves. Westerners, on the other hand, were doomed to mechanical efficiency and had only an uncanny sense of utility and calculation.

Whoever stands up for the soul is always suspicious of the skeptical intellect. Occidentalists glorify the soul or spirit and despise intellectuals and intellectual life. In their eyes the life of the intellect is fragmented, a higher form of idiocy with no sense of "wholeness", no sense of the "absolute" and of what is really important in life.

The belief that the “others” do not have the same feelings as we do is probably widespread among all peoples. One of its variants is the view that life in the Orient is of little value or that coolies feel no pain or that people in the West are dry, rational, cold and do not know warm human feelings - a view we have in China, India , Japan and Egypt have heard many times. This, of course, shows limitation and ignorance, but it also reflects a system of order.

In the enlightened Anglo-Franco-Jewish-American West people have a different self-image: they are governed by secular political institutions and the behavior of citizens is bound by secular laws. Religious beliefs and other spiritual matters are private matters.

It is not that our policies are completely unrelated to common values ​​or moral beliefs, and some of our leaders would like to see more religion in public life; but the West is not yet ruled by spiritual leaders who act as mediators between us and the divine order above. Our laws are not of divine revelation, but are designed by lawyers.

In Stalinist, monarchical or Islamist societies, in which Caesars are also high priests or act as idols, a different political language is spoken. Another revealing example of this from the Second World War: While the Allies, led by the USA, fought against the Japanese in the name of freedom, the Japanese holy war was waged in Asia in the name of divine justice and divine peace.

"The fundamental aim of Japan's national policy is to establish world peace in accordance with the sublime spirit in which the country was founded: the whole world under one roof." So said Prime Minister Konoe in 1940. Islamists also have the goal of the world under one to unite a peaceful roof, once the unbelievers and their towers have been destroyed.

When politics and religion merge, collectivist tendencies, often promoted in the name of love and justice, tend to spread to the whole world, or at least large parts of it. The state is a secular construct. The brotherhood of Islam, the Church of Rome, the whole-world-under-one-Japanese-roof, world communism - they all had religious or millenarian goals in their own way.

Such goals are not unknown in the supposedly secularized states of the West either. In the United States in particular, right-wing Christian organizations and other religious lobby groups are trying to infiltrate their religious values ​​and agendas into national politics by means that would have shocked the founding fathers. The fact that the American Reverend Jerry Falwell described the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington as a punishment for our worldly sins shows that this thinking is not too far removed from that of the Islamists.

But the idea is that the USA and other Western democracies are an example of “society” in the categories of Ferdinand Tönnies ’book“ Society and Community ”(first published in 1887): a way of socialization that connects its members through a social contract. In contrast, the "community" is based on a common belief, blood relationship or deeply rooted feelings of various kinds. Tellingly, the German publicist Edgar Jung described the First World War as a struggle between intellect (West) and soul (Germany).

As a rule, enemies of the West also have the ambition to be heroes. Italy's fascist leader Benito Mussolini admonished his new Romans: “Believe, obey, fight!” Islamism, Nazism, fascism and communism are heroic creeds. Mao's ideal of permanent revolution was about incessantly setting everything in turmoil; it contains the blueprint of a society hardened by heroic violence.

The common enemy of the revolutionary heroes is the well-to-do citizen, the city dweller, the little clerk, the well-fed stockbroker who goes about his business; in short, they are people who might have worked in an office in the World Trade Center. It is a peculiarity of the bourgeoisie, which (according to Karl Marx) is perhaps the most successful class in history to date, that it is so bitterly hated by its most notable sons and daughters (including Marx himself).

This has a lot to do with the fact that the bourgeois ethos lacks heroism, that it fails to do great things. The hero challenges death. The citizen is addicted to personal safety. The hero counts deaths, the citizen counts money. Bin Laden was asked by an interviewer in 1998 whether he feared traitors among his people. He replied: "These men have left everything worldly behind and gathered for jihad."

Intellectuals, who, for their part, are rarely heroic, have often shown hatred of the citizen and instead adored heroism - heroic leaders and heroic beliefs. Under Mussolini, Italian artists celebrated speed, youth, energy, instinct and daring contempt for death. In Germany, social scientists before the Second World War were fascinated by the hero as an opponent of the citizen: Werner Sombart's work “Merchants and Heroes” and Bogislav von Selchow's work “The bourgeois and the heroic man” are just two examples of this genre.

Von Selchow was one of many, by no means all, Germans who took the view that bourgeois liberal society had given way to life, that it had become cold, fragmented, decadent, and mediocre. The citizen is always hiding in a life without danger, he wrote, the citizen is careful to exclude "the fight against life", "just as he lacks the necessary strength to master it in all its nakedness and harshness in a manly way" .

For Selchow, Ernst Jünger and their ilk, the First World War showed a different, more heroic side of man. That is why the Battle of Langemarck, a particularly horrific episode of the war year 1914, in which Jünger himself took part, became such an object of hero worship. More than 145,000 men died in a series of completely senseless attacks.

But the young heroes - many of them came, like Japan's kamikaze pilots thirty years later, from elite universities - are said to have sung the song of Germany as they stormed into their early grave. In commemoration, people often intoned the famous words that Theodor Körner had written a century earlier: "Only in sacrificial death does our happiness grow."

During the first week of the war in Afghanistan, a young Afghan was quoted in an English newspaper: "Americans love Pepsi-Cola, but we love death." This corresponds entirely to the emotions of the Langemarck cult.

Even those sympathetic to the democratic West, such as Alexis de Tocqueville, stress the lack of size, intellectual uniformity, and cultural mediocrity that are supposed to be inherent in our systems of government. Tocqueville warned that democracy could easily become the tyranny of the majority. He observed that there were no great writers in America or anything that could be called great.

A common but somewhat dubious complaint. Because it cannot be taken for granted that the artistic and cultural life in New York is more mediocre than in Damascus or Beijing. Much in our rich, market-driven societies is indeed mediocre, average, and luxury does not deserve admiration per se, but when contempt for civic well-being becomes contempt for life, one should know that the West is threatened.

This contempt is drawn from many sources, but it mainly appeals to those who feel powerless, marginalized, excluded or treated with disregard: the intellectual who feels misunderstood, the untalented art student in a city full of brilliant people, the opportunistic everyone, who does not stand out in the crowd, the young man from a third world country who sees the indifference of the superior West as a mockery. The list of potential recruits for a death cult could go on and on.

Liberalism, as one of the early Nazi theorists, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck defined, is “everyone's freedom to be mediocre”. The way out of mediocrity, say the sirens of the cult of death, leads through the dissolution of his little self in a mass movement that releases sublime forces in order to create something great in the name of the leader, the ruler, God or Allah. The leader personifies all the desire for greatness one has.

What is the bare life of one, two, or a thousand people when it comes to higher things? This is the license to use violence against others: against Jews, infidels, bourgeois liberals, Sikhs, Muslims or whoever needs to be eliminated in order to pave the way for a bigger and grander world. An American chaplain named Francis P. Scott tried to explain to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal the excessive brutality that Japanese soldiers had displayed during the war. After many conversations with former combatants, he came to the conclusion: “They had the firm belief that whoever was an enemy of the emperor was worthless; the crueler they treated their prisoners, the greater the loyalty they showed to their emperor. "

The real holy warrior, however, is not the torturer, but the kamikaze pilot. Self-sacrifice means the highest honor in the war against the West. The kamikaze is the absolute opposite of the citizen who fears for his life. The greatest willingness to sacrifice acts can be found among young people. Most of the kamikaze had barely finished high school. As bin Laden said: "The age group between fifteen and twenty-five - these are those who are suitable for holy war and sacrifice."

Aurel Kolnai wrote in 1938 in “The War Against the West”: “The tendency towards the emancipation of women is very pronounced in the West.” This somewhat blanket assertion could have sprung from the feelings of Kolnai's enemies. Alfred Rosenberg, for example, the propagandist of the National Socialists, wrote in his book “The Myth of the 20th Century”: “The emancipation of women from women's emancipation is the first demand of a female generation, the people and race, the eternal unconscious, the basis of all I want to save culture from ruin. ”Whatever this muddlehead might have meant by the eternal unconscious, it is clear what it is about. Women's emancipation leads to civil decadence. The real role of women is to raise heroic men.

For bin Laden, masculinity and women are an obsession. One of his favorite Occidentalist beliefs points out: “The rulers of this region (the Gulf States) have been robbed of their masculinity,” he said in 1998, “and they think people are women. By God, Muslim women refuse to be defended by these American and Jewish prostitutes. ”He knows that the West is determined to“ rob us of our masculinity. We consider ourselves men. "

Few modern societies were as dominated by men as Japan was during the war, and the brutal measure of recruiting Korean, Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese girls equally for military brothels was a sign of the low status women held in the Japanese Empire.

Still, strangely, and to a certain extent unintended, the war brought about the emancipation of Japanese women. Because most of the men fit for war were needed at the front, the women had to look after the families, trade on the black market and work in the factories. Unlike the men, who experienced defeat as a deep humiliation, many Japanese women viewed the Allied victory as a step towards their liberation.

One of the most important changes in postwar Japan was that women were given the right to vote; as early as 1946 they noticed it in large numbers. Most of the draft constitution came from US lawyers, but the articles on women's rights were largely the work of Beate Sirota Gordon, a remarkable figure who represented almost everything that enemies of the West loathed. She was European, educated, a woman, and a Jew.

To all those who regard military discipline, self-sacrifice, austerity and worship as the highest social ideals, the power of female sexuality appears to be a threat. It has always been women who donate and protect life. Woman's freedom is incompatible with a cult of death.

When female sexuality is exhibited, it is indeed a provocation, not just for holy men, but for all the oppressed, for whom death for a higher cause is the only way to experience exuberance and enthusiasm. Images of western women, half-naked and in sexually provocative poses in advertisements for Hollywood movies, drinks, or whatever, are seen around the world, as are images of the Manhattan skyline, and they can be frustrating, angry, and confused as well make in the head: They too are the promise of a sinful, instinctual world of limitless pleasure that is out of reach for most people.

There is no such thing as a “clash of civilizations”. In almost all, especially in the monotheistic religions, the poison of enmity against the West can develop. And forms of secular fascism can occur in all cultures. In any case, the current conflict is not between East and West, Anglo-America and the rest of the world, or between Judaism / Christianity and Islam.The cult of death is a deadly virus that, for a variety of historical and political reasons, is currently thriving in the extreme forms of Islam.

Occidentalism is the creed of the Islamist revolutionaries. Its aim is to create an Islamic world under Islamic law, the Sharia, interpreted by recognized scholars who have proven themselves in jihad (read: revolution). This is a call to cleanse the Islamic world of the filth of the idolatrous West as America embodies it.

The goal is to shake America's pagan sanctuaries and to show in the most spectacular way possible that America is vulnerable, a "paper tiger" as it is called in revolutionary jargon. This "propaganda of action" against the haughty USA is supposed to unite the forces of jihad and then force the revolution on the whole Islamic world.

Ayatollah Khomeini was a “Stalinist” in the sense that he first wanted to carry out the revolution in an important country, Iran, and only then thought about how it could be exported. In contrast to this, bin Laden is a “Trotskyist”; he regards Afghanistan as the basis for the immediate export of the revolution. There are tensions between "Stalinists" and "Trotskyists" within the Islamist movement.

September 11th brought the Trotskyists forward. Al-Qaeda is making a serious attempt at an Islamist revolution that could topple governments from Indonesia to Tunisia. It has not yet succeeded. We can look forward to further “propaganda of deed” actions against the USA and American institutions, accompanied by crude Occidentalist tirades.

The West, and not just the geographical West, should respond to this with all the strength and intelligence of cool, calculating bourgeois antiheroism. Auditors who are suspicious of suspicious bank statements and undercover agents who pave their way with bribes will achieve more in the long run in this battle than special military forces that bomb their way through the caves of Afghanistan.

But if one thing is clear in this dark war, it is this: we should not respond to Occidentalism with hateful orientalism. If we were to succumb to this temptation, the virus would have struck us too.

Copyright:New York Review of Books,2002. From English - made for the magazineMercury- by RUDOLF HELMSTETTER