The African Scene

November 28, 2015

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Perhaps the change is just another example of the extreme mutability of human affairs. But change must have its causes besides a general propensity to mutability. What could those causes be?

One of them, possibly, is the downfall of the Soviet Union. Although Marxists often claimed that the deficiencies of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with Marxism, the ignominious dissolution of a regime that had long claimed to be Marxist nevertheless dealt an all-but-fatal blow to the ideology.

I met a number of so-called Marxists in Northern Nigeria. They were young and confused, but they believed in a vaguely Marxist explanation or analysis of their discontents. They were not militant, except mentally. If there was a demonstration they might have joined it, but they would not have killed. They were content with mere words.

With the downfall of the Soviet Union there was an ideological vacuum for people seeking a total explanation of their discontents, people who”€”thanks to the spread of semi-education”€”were probably more numerous, and therefore more desperate, than ever. The only alternative on hand, and one with much deeper roots than Marxism, was fundamentalist Islam. Islam rushes in where Marxism can no longer tread.

The intellectual content of Islamism”€”the idea that a return to Islamic practices of the past (apart from the use of Kalashnikovs, etc.) is the solution to life’s woes everywhere”€”is so nugatory and contemptible that it is not worth an intelligent person’s efforts to refute it, any more than it is worth trying to refute the idea that the moon is made of blue cheese.

Alas, nothing is so foolish that some philosopher has not said it, and no utopia is so absurd that people cannot be found to believe in it and, worse still, fight for it. Islamism would form yet another chapter in Walter B. Pitkin’s A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity (nearly 600 pages long) had the author not died in 1953.


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