The clash within civilisation
Hate tore apart the world, different types of hate will bring it back together
I watched Come from Away just before Christmas, one of the most heart-warming things I’ve ever seen. If you’re not smiling from ear to ear by the end of the show, you’re a replicant and need to hand yourself in to the nearest bladerunner.
The musical, about the airline passengers stranded in Newfoundland after the 9/11 attacks, epitomises those aspects of the North American character that is most attractive to outsiders: their optimism, friendliness and belief that our common humanity will triumph.
Yet it’s striking how Come from Away, written about a decade years ago, recalls an era that already feels ancient. Only 20 years after the Iraq War, the Islamic and western worlds seem far less in a state of tension, and Arabic has a much less threatening tone in western minds (especially those nervous about flying). Words with troubling implications like sharia, fatwa and jihad used to litter the public sphere, but today it’s all just inshallah.
In case anyone reading this optimistic analysis thinks they’ve accidentally opened the wrong email, the downside of this trend is that the West feels far more divided within itself than in 2003, even with the threat of Russia and China. If western conservatives in particular seem more well-disposed to Islam than they were in the past, it’s because today the most dangerous ideology is thought up, articulated and spread not by Arabic but by English. Where global English goes, idiocy and insanity follows.
Just as globalisation helped spur the modern but anti-modern ideology of Islamism, so technology might be realigning the world, moving Islam and western conservatives towards a new understanding and sympathy. It’s just a theory, but stranger things have happened.