Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Bit About Sweden

Maybe other people thought Trump's comment came out of left field, but I was certainly aware of the problems they are having in Scandinavia, especially Sweden. I have a son who has lived in Norway the last five years, who is very aware of immigrants arriving and causing problems from the very beginning.  Chris is an immigrant himself - doubly an immigrant actually, having come to New Hampshire at age 13 and moving to Norway after he got out of the USMC. Thus, he compares his own behavior and work ethic with theirs, not to their advantage.  He is probably too easily irritated and jumping to conclusions when he talks about them arriving at the bus terminal and harassing the women or demanding apartments immediately, but his aren't the only reports.  And he is way, way up north in Tromso, where they are only beginning to have large numbers of immigrants.

Also, I am of Swedish extraction on one side, so I have kept half an eye on what is happening there since childhood. That has brought me in contact with websites that report what it is apparently not allowed to be reported in Sweden. (See Staffan on my sidebar, for example.  Or catch up on Hjernevask, the Norwegian 7-part series about inheritance and behavior.  There are subtitles, don't panic.) Crime statistics are not broken down by whether they are committed by natives or immigrants, and in the second generation you get classified as a native anyway.  But you can look at the cities that have had more immigration and compare crime rates, using only arithmetic. Thus, Malmo, right down on the southern tip and across from Copenhagen, now has a school population that is 52% 1st or 2nd generation immigrant. Coincidentally, this is where the bombs are going off.  Very unSwedish.

Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, are prone to attributing this to Islam.  I am not so convinced of this. Yes, I have read many of the quotes from the Koran about how observant Muslims are supposed to act toward the infidels and the rest of the world. But not all one billion Muslims seem to be putting much energy into obeying those particular passages. Certainly the terrorist attacks usually have some element of Islamic rhetoric.  But the crime and general violence I think is simply primitive.  For those who follow Pinker's subtext in The Better Angels of Our Nature, it is one specific area of the world that has low intracultural violence, while everyone else has higher (sometimes much higher) rates.  There's that Hajnal Line again. It is lack of violence which should surprise us, not violence.  If anything, I think that Islam has been a moderating influence on the deeply tribal Middle-East. Not enough, but some.


Grim said...

I think the discussion of what role Islam plays with regard to bad things could use some Aristotelian modification. When we Moderns talk about 'what caused X?' we mean something almost Newtonian -- this ball hit that ball, which then went that way at such-and-such speed. That's only one of Aristotle's four causes, the efficient cause.

So when people say that Islam doesn't cause terrorism or radicalism, they mean it doesn't efficiently cause terrorism. And that's true enough.

However, it's worthwhile to discuss at least human actions in terms of the other causes: material, formal, and final. Islam doesn't provide much to the material cause explanation either, but it is frequently important to the formal cause, and frequently is itself the final cause.

The formal cause is why a thing is organized or structured the way it is. ISIS's opening of sex-slave markets featuring minority women is formally caused by those parts of sharia that clearly endorse the practice. You could have slavery without that aspect, but it wouldn't look quite the same way. Islam often provides information on how to structure radicalism in this way.

The final cause is why you went about doing the thing anyway. Here I think is where the real sense of "Islam causing" bad things happens. The Muslim Brotherhood came together in 1928 as a response to Ataturk's purging of Islam from Turkish life -- banning beards, banning hijabs, banning the call to prayer or praying in the streets. It was about restoring Islam to that central role. Al Qaeda was about that. ISIS is about that. Iran's revolution was largely about that, although it has a Marxist side as well.

Not everyone -- not most -- who is a Muslim engages in bad things in order to establish Islamic rule or to restore Islam's place at the center of human life. For many who do, though, it really is the final cause. It's not the efficient cause, but it's the point of the exercise for them.

Texan99 said...

It's probably a bad combination: a violent culture, and a religion that too easily can be interpreted to justify the violence. It's not unique to Islam historically, of course, but their culture is really screwed up at the moment, so they get the rap today when they impose themselves on more peaceful cultures. I wonder if they feel as I would if I had to escape an explosively violent gang culture in my own neighborhood by escaping into a snooty gated neighborhood with 24-hour-a-day genteel tea parties and little old ladies constantly sniffing at my behavior? They'd be making the very reasonable point that my own accustomed behavior hadn't stood my old neighborhood in very good stead, and that they had scarcely begged me to come stomping into their tea party for asylum.