Best Of Intentions Trashed

Pictured: Anjem Choudary (right), a British Islamic radical who is currently in jail, speaks at a protest in London on March 21, 2011. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
Pictured: Anjem Choudary (right), a British Islamic radical who is currently in jail, speaks at a protest in London on March 21, 2011. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Much of the weakness we have identified in so many modern European states comes, ironically, from many of our strengths. We have much to be proud of. However imperfectly at times, we have replaced tyranny with democracy, guaranteed freedom of speech and the press, ensured rights for all citizens, provided legal and political foundations for the growing empowerment of women, struggled against racist and religious bigotry, brought homosexual men and women out of the closet, given protections to the environment and wildlife, extended healthcare provision to most people, abolished the death sentence in all European countries (and Israel), and instituted regulations to block and punish crimes such as people trafficking, slavery, and drug smuggling.

The best example of what this means is to be found in the state of Israel. It is precisely because Israel and a majority of Israelis have, from the beginning, combined Jewish ethical values with Western Enlightenment beliefs, that makes it stand out so sharply against all its neighbours. Human rights abuses in Iran, the Arab states, Turkey, and beyond guarantee that Israel, however much abused by international bodies and media, and however flawed, is, in fact, a bastion of democracy, human rights, equality under the law and the positive values that go with them.

The irony, of course, is that so many people, have adopted a way of interpreting human rights and liberal values in a manner that often undermines them. Political correctness, as it developed through the 1980s and 1990s began with good intentions. Words, political policies, and action that were either intended or inadvertently constructed to offend people on account of their race, disabilities, sexuality and so forth, must be replaced by “correct” terms that would not give offence. Much good was done by that, and today there are expressions that one would never find in respectable publications or hear on public broadcasts. They have rightly been set to one side in all decent discourse.

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