The clash of civilizations, the collision between cultures, forecast by Samuel P. Huntington, has long since become an obvious fact in modern-day Europe, finding its clearest expression in the confrontation of Islam with the remnants of European Christianity. This collision not only is echoed in form of terrorist attacks but also in form of a bitter fight of ideals between two systems of values that could hardly be more opposed to each other, namely the archaic-totalitarian value system of Islam and the one represented by post modern European Enlightenment.
In the wake of this quarrel, the world of Islam has already achieved considerable partial success thanks to something we might call value indifference coupled with blind tolerance exhibited by European political elites which has already lead to a process of disintegration of both Europe’s ethic-religious foundations and sphere of rights. By the end, Islam may well emerge as victorious should Europe fail to rethink its occidental Christian roots.
Value Universalism of Human Rights
For a long time it seemed that in the world at large questions and discussions concerning guidelines as to right and wrong conduct had principally been answered and thus concluded. Starting out with the Magna Charta, established in 1215, followed by the Bill of Rights in 1689 and later by the American and French Constitutions in 1788 and 1791, respectively, the codifying of modern concepts of values regarding right and wrong finally lead to the Universal Human Rights Declaration proclaimed by the United Nations as well as by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe Final Act. The concepts of values expressed in those above-mentioned codes were considered universal and of unlimited validity for every human being, regardless of time, location and culture.
The equality of all people before the law, regardless of faith, ethnic origin, age, colour or gender, the freedom of assembly, thought and speech as well as the inviolable dignity of the individual guaranteed by constitutional law were the corner stones of a universal and undividable system of values agreed to as part of the United Nations’ Charta on 26 June 1945 with a voting result of 48:0, however, eight nations abstained at the time: the Eastern Bloc, the USSR, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. I shall elaborate on this at a later stage.
The most important intellectual basis for these universal standards of human rights is based on the contemplations of German philosopher Immanuel Kant as to the question of whether an ethical foundation valid for all human beings and for all times exists, and if so, how must it be formulated? Kant’s famous formulation, known as the “Categorical Imperative”, finally made its way into man’s history of legal and ethic understanding. In principle and until this day, Kant’s ethic formula shapes the UN’s foundation of a legal standard for conduct:
‘Act only in such a manner so that the maxim of your will could at the same time serve as a principle for universal legislation.’
Basically, Kant’s Categorical Imperative is a linguistic elaboration of the proverb ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
Hence, neither a thief would agree to theft becoming universal right, nor would a murderer suggest that murder become legally accepted since the murderer would not want himself to be killed and the thief could not possibly want to be a victim of theft.
Critics of the Declaration of Human Rights argue that it would not altogether differ from the concepts put forward by totalitarianisms – both governmental as well as religious – and would, therefore, be nothing more but a relative or arbitrarily defined system of values as far as its universal demand is concerned. However, these critics ignore a small detail which distinguishes the Universal Declaration fundamentally from those brought forth by totalitarian systems of values. It is the principle of reciprocity as part of Kant’s Categorical Imperative which necessitates a comparison in the sense of compatibility of a specific standard of conduct with all those affected by it. Thus, this principle helps to avoid standards of conduct proposed by single individuals or by a radical minority to become the foundation for legislative if they are not simultaneously accepted or wanted by the general public. In contrast to totalitarian systems demanding that each person “think and act as I want or else you are enemy”, the categorical imperative asks: “How can you and I find a common ground for our thoughts and conduct without harming ourselves and each other on basis which is wanted by both of us?”
Totalitarian systems force people to accept their system of values regardless of whether they agree with them or not. In contrast, value systems based on the categorical imperative in search for a definition as to right and wrong conduct confront each individual with the question as to how he or she wants to be treated (principle of reciprocity) before a standard of conduct becomes a universal principle of rights (legislation). The implication here is of a two-fold nature: to act towards any other person in such a manner that the other is not harmed [as a result of this action], and on the other hand to act in a manner that reflects the way in which oneself wishes to be treated. According to this formula, someone who is determined to force one’s own dogma upon another must automatically raise the question of whether it would be desirable if the situation were reversed. On the basis of reason, this can only be answered with ‘no’. At the same time it highlights the fact that any dogma or ideology ordering its members to force the system of values in question upon others is – viewed in the light of Kant – in the wrong.
The plausibility of the categorical imperative – both logical and in terms of content – was accepted by a majority of the then-global community in the middle of the 20 Century as basis for universal and indivisible ethics.
Value Relativism as Political and Religious Reaction
It is exactly this very principle of universality and indivisibility of values that became valid for the first time in history on a world-wide basis in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights formulated by the UN, and which advocates of so-called value relativism fight in the West.
It is important to note that this clientele originates from mostly Left-inspired campuses, the very forces that once upon a time took up the cause of indisposable rights and in the name of which no war against the old, feudalistic and absolutistic systems was shunned. Moreover, they represent the same forces that in 1949 objected to the vote of the universal validity of the UN-Charta. Without exception, the states that finally abstained were totalitarian dictatorships such as the USSR, the Eastern Bloc, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
From the point of view of value relativists, absolute values could not possibly exist but only those values that could be defined as relative to a particular way of life within a given society. No culture, so it was said, had a right to impress its values upon another claiming universal validity. No matter how sensible this argument might sound at first, it turns out to be a malicious one after closer examination. This problematic nature becomes clear by looking at the following – intentionally constructed – example. Let us suppose a culture as part of a global alliance were obliged – for religious reasons – to perform human sacrifice as part of its fundamentalist religious obligations. This case would immediately pose an insolvable problem to advocates of value relativism.
According to their philosophy, they would have to grant this culture freedom of religious practise, but this would at the same time make a case for allegations of supporting barbarism. However, if value relativists demanded a prohibition of human sacrifice, they would not only fundamentally violate their own principle but had to admit the incredibility of their position.
Due to the above-mentioned, discussions such as these are rare among value relativists since their battle is actually less of a philosophical nature than of a political kind. The battle is aimed at the Western system as such which is likened to capitalism and colonialism. In wake of the student revolution at the end of the 1960’s, the expression ‘Eurocentrism’ was coined by Western intellectuals, most of whom were associated with the Left. What was to be expressed was nothing more than a new Western ‘colonialism of values’ after the West had lost its actual colonies. This time – according to the accusation – in form of utilizing cultural ethics in the attempt to re-colonise the world with its system of values intrinsically made up of the old capitalist hegemony.
Behind all this hid, as usual, the insatiable Western capital, forced to win new markets in the Third World as a result of market saturation in the West. To achieve this, the rest of the world would first have to be won over to embrace the idea of a global market with international custom – and trade barriers removed in favour of Western – and specifically American – capital. The demand of the West – and, therefore, of capitalism – to establish democracy as well as universal standards within the constitution of any given Third World country was generally not viewed by left-wing critics as an ‘act of charity’ but rather as a malicious means by which capitalism were to gain permanent control over governments and markets in the Third World.
In the context of this general criticism, everything deriving from the West was questioned and made subject to relativism. Democracy and human rights had their place, if at all, merely as compatible models among others. It was hardly of interest to advocates of value relativism as to whether or not these other models harnessed totalitarian, anti-democratic or misogynist elements. Discussions were held at a purely formal level, contents were hardly questioned. In the case of e.g. Iran, there was no examination as to whether criteria such as tolerance, equality of all people, including equality of men and women, freedom of religion were guaranteed at all. In the opinion of value relativists, this kind of questioning was simply not deemed justified since discussing these points were seen as interference with matters concerning another religion, and it is exactly this kind of interference which is not desirable according to value relativism. To put it simply: value relativists invited people to come to Europe by the masses but refused to check their religious and philosophical backpack for hazardous contents because their immigration agenda was of quite another nature. Joschka Fischer [Minister of Foreign Affairs 1998-2005: ‘I am discovering more and more that I’ve remained a Marxist’ (Fischer 1998)] discloses the political intentions behind the politics of mass immigration. The book with the ‘appropriate’ title: ‘The Risk called Germany’ (English title given by translator to the best of her knowledge) 1994 was summarized by the ‘Welt’ as follows:
“Germany must be curbed from without, and from within made heterogeneous through influx, i.e. quasi diluted.” (Die Welt, February 2005)
In other words: the ultra Green politician had as little trust in the democratic spirit of his own people that he saw the necessity of ‘prescribing’ it a demographic i.e. homeopathic dilution in form of mass immigration in order to sideline it.
This is an unprecedented process in European history alongside the fact that this kind of politics was not rejected but rather rewarded by German voters when the Red-Green Coalition won the election in 1998 under Gerhard Schröder (‘Yes, I am a Marxist!’). Jürgen Trittin, former Minister of the Environment appointed by the Green Party (first time in the history of the FRG), and – like Schröder and Fischer – representative of the student movement of 1968 and follower of the Frankfurter Schule, disclosed in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (2 Jan 2005):
“I have never sung the national anthem, even not now that I am Minister.” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, January 2 2005, p. 6)
What young left-wing politicians obviously learnt from the old cadre is that an anti-German attitude seems to qualify for much. Franziska Drohsel (Franziska Drohsel: Federal Chairwoman of the Jusos (Young Socialists) in 2007 and former member of ‘Rote Hilfe e.V.’ (‘Red Aid’, transl.) which is observed by the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.) as a ‘left extremist organisation’.) gave the following politically correct statement in front of a running camera in August 2008:
‘German nation is something I do not refer to as positive, I even fight it at the level of politics.’ (Source: Cicero online, August 2008)
All these statements are typical of value relativists who have over the course of time taken positions of high esteem and prestige in the field of politics, jurisdiction and the social sphere, [and worse still], have let their anti-German words follow deeds with fatal consequences for Germany and Europe.
Read the full Essay here (PDF).