Sometimes I scribble down thoughts on books I’ve read. They’re not reviews, they’re just thoughts.
If you want to understand the outrage many muslims feel when their religion is criticised, imagine walking into the editorial office of the (once flagship) Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter and question the authority of Greta Thunberg.
I know, it’s a terrifying thought. There are more humane ways of ending your days, but before your last breath it may give you a clue of the hurt the islamic community might feel when their prophet is ridiculed.
Gad Saad, the enfant terrible of Canadian academia, is not afraid to criticise both of the mentioned religions in his book The Parasitic Mind: How Infections Ideas Are Killing Common Sense. It’s not a book about Islam, however, nor about the environmental movement. It’s a defense of rational thought in a time when free speech is continuously undermined by claims of hurt feelings.
Early on he puts his finger on what’s wrong:
”The ’I believe in free speech but’ crowd violates the foundational ethos of what it means to have free speech. Usually, what comes after the ’but’ is an appeal to refrain from hurting people’s sensibilities and feelings.”
If I would have read this book with no prior knowledge about Gad Saad, I’d be surprised to find that its author is a professor. Not because the author seems too unintelligent or uninformed to be a professor, but rather the other way round; having spent most of his life in academia, his writing seems to have come out uncontaminated by the laborious university jargon so prevalent among intellectuals. He uses satire and hyperbole to state his case; he unashamedly uses terminology such as ”postmodern bullshit”. It’s really refreshing, and very entertaining.
Gad Saad makes reference to Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow, in which the author argues that there are two systems of thinking at work in humans: the intuitive, emotional and immediate thinking on the one hand, and the deliberate, logical and conscious thinking on the other. Both are needed, but in different situations, Saad says:
”The problem arises when domains that should be reserved for the intellect are hijacked by feelings. This is precisely what plagues our universities: what were once centers of intellectual development have become retreats for the emotionally fragile. The driving motto of the university is no longer the pursuit of truth but the coddling of hurt feelings.”
I wish this were one of the cases where Gad Saad was being hyperbolic, but unfortunately it is not. The instances of truth being sacrificed at the altar of feelings are too many to be mere accidents. It appears indeed to be a pattern, at universities and elsewhere, in Sweden as well as in Canada and the entire western world.
One of many examples which Saad brings up is that of the humanities dean Jodi Kelly of Seattle University. She was removed from her administrative post for uttering the word ”nigger”. The fact that she did so when recommending a book of that title written by black civil rights activist Dick Gregory didn’t matter. Context doesn’t matter. Intentions don’t matter anymore.
It reminds me of a scene in the movie Meet the Parents, when Ben Stiller’s character gets into trouble with a stewardess on an airplane because he doesn’t want to check in his (much too large) luggage. After a prolonged discussion with the stewardess he says: ”It’s not like I have a bomb in here”.
Minutes later, he finds himself cuffed and interrogated by a police officer.
”You threatened her with a bomb”, the officer says.
”I said I didn’t have a bomb.”
”You said bomb. You said bomb on an airplane. You can’t say bomb on an airplane.”
It’s like the entire Western world currently is enacting this comic scene over and over again. Context is simply not our strong suit at the moment.
The problem that Gad Saad highlights is that a set of really bad, and factually wrong, ideas permeates the intellectual climate of the Western world. The many people who are not possessed by these idea pathogens tend to be lazy or cowardly or both, simply parroting buzzwords which we think will keep us out of trouble:
”Progressives seem to believe that if they say the words ’diversity, inclusion, and equity’ often enough, all problems will be solved.”
It really is a tragedy that people’s livelihood a lot of the time depends on tacitly accepting lies, and that it seems to take an extraordinary amount of courage to speak up against the madness. The last chapter of the book is called ”Call to Action” for this very reason:
”Instead of ignoring the problem, recognize that while it affects others today, it could reach you tomorrow.”
There are too many good bits in this book to mention, such as his coining of ”Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome” and his exposé of Collective Munchausen Syndrome. I love it how he describes the ”all roads lead to sexism” phenomenon. That is, how the woke ideology sets up certain groups (say, whites and males) as oppressors, whether they act kindly or badly. He unapologetically calls idiotic ideas for what they are, and he reminds us all why we should do the same.
And we really should. We don’t have to be as confrontational as Gad Saad, but at least we could try to start saying what we think is true. Just remember:
”There is no way to participate in the grand battle of ideas for the soul of the West without facing any threats.”
We’ll Call You
A regional office supplies magnate who yearns to be a poet.
A purchasing manager who sees big city life as the route to avoiding school reunion shame.
An interior design fanatic who needs to make up her mind about a contentious mug.
We’ll Call You is a book by Swedish author Jacob Sundberg. In nine short tales of job interviews, We’ll Call You recounts a range of facets of modern society. Often with pitiless humour and each story with an eye for the absurd in human relations.