Arts & Opinion.com
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 15, No. 3, 2016
 
     
 
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
  About  
 
 
  Submissions  
  Subscribe  
  Comments  
  Letters  
  Contact  
  Jobs  
  Ads  
  Links  
 
 
  Editor
Robert J. Lewis
 
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
 
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Louis René Beres
Lynda Renée
Nick Catalano
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
Farzana Hassan
Betsy L. Chunko
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
 
  Music Editors
Nancy Snipper
Serge Gamache
 
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
 
  Graphics
Mady Bourdage
 
  Photographer
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
 
  Webmaster
Emanuel Pordes
 
 
 
  Past Contributors
 
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
 
     

BEWARE THE CHERRY-PICKER

by
ROBERT J. LEWIS

___________________________________

Our culture is the predominance of an idea
which draws after it this train of cities and institutions.
Let us rise into another idea; they will disappear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

a man hears what he wants to hear,
and disregards the rest
Paul Simon

The first cherry-pickers were instructed to pick only the ripe and ready during the harvest season. Since then the appellative has come to mean choosing the best from a group of things or people. In op-ed or advocacy journalism, the designation is usually accusative and/or pejorative, referring to “the suppressing of evidence, or singling out data” that confirms a particular position or point of view. When one journalist accuses the other of cherry-picking, you can be near certain that he/she is also a cherry-picker from the other side of the fence.

Our opinion makers, almost all of whom are quickly forgotten once their time has passed, routinely resort to cherry-picking in stating their case or argument. Where the greater truth lies, typically lies outside their concern. For this reason, journalists are often very clever, persuasive and influential, but rarely, if ever, wise. If they were interested in the whole truth and nothing but, they wouldn’t be journalists.

Unlike lawyers who are hired to argue and defend behaviour with which they might be personally opposed, cherry-pickers believe deeply in the perceptions and positions they support and defend, and where the means – cherry-picking – justify the ends, their aim (in the pre-cloning age) is to convince their readership to think and feel exactly as they do.

In the wide wake of a quarter century’s worth of Islamic founded and funded terrorism, journalists, en masse, have been quoting (indicting) the Quran, arguing that it is – at its essence -- a manual of war, especially compared to the more ‘benign’ Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist holy texts. That Christianity is responsible for more deaths than all other religions combined is a fact that does not interest the cherry-picker.

No wonder many Muslims regard the cherry-picking journalist with the same suspicion and contempt many of us have for lawyers.

Joke: What’s the difference between a dead snake and dead lawyer on the highway? There are skid marks in front of the snake.

Based on their quotidian, Muslims know, as lived experience, that the Quran is much more than the sum of its intolerance citations and wrath directed towards the infidel. Having personally spent ten months of my life traveling and living in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco, I can unreservedly state that Muslims are more God-fearing (Ten Commandment bound) than Christians/Jews/Buddhists, that, in times of peace, it is safer to travel in the above three countries than any western country. If the measure of worth of a religion is revealed in its ability to instill the fear of God – the believer believes trespassing entails very real theological consequences -- Islam is by far and away the word’s most successful religion. Would I rather that my car break down in a poor village in a Muslim country than anywhere in Catholic Peru? Categorically, yes.

Should the cherry-picker, for whom there is a direct link between the Quran and Islamic terrorism, be made to account for the millions upon millions of decent, well-intentioned Muslims who go about their day with little else on their minds but paying the rent, raising kids and dressing or undressing for inclement weather? If we agree that good Muslims haven’t accidently lurched or lucked into their goodness, their views must have been shaped by other well-intentioned Muslims who cherry-picked the Quran for good? Which means the Quran can serve both good and evil, an assessment that surely approximates its truth more than either one point of view or the other.

"the taking of one innocent life is like taking all of Mankind . . . and the saving of one life is like saving all of Mankind" - Holy Qur'an, 5:33.

“Avoid Cruelty and injustice . . . and guard yourselves against miserliness, for this has ruined nations who lived before you.”
“(God) has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another.” Riyadh-us-Salaheen:1589

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab. . . Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.” Prophet Muhammad (s), Last Sermon.

However well-intended and anxious are those journalists railing against the teachings of the Quran, accusing it in the court of public opinion of being an accessory to terrorism, they are wittingly (worrisomely) non-being (peripheralizing) millions of decent Muslims who, no less than the twisted terrorist, have been informed by the Quran.

According to Trevor Phillips (What British Muslims Really Think), and it wasn’t so long ago the numbers approached 100%,

only "39 per cent now think a woman should always obey her husband; 18 per cent sympathize with people who take part in violence against those who mock the Prophet; and 4 per cent have sympathy for people who take part in suicide bombing to fight injustice"

which leaves a lot of very decent, law-abiding Muslims unaccounted for, especially in North America where they are more efficiently integrated into their communities than in class-divided, exclusionary Europe.

That the western leaning, secularized Muslim should be lumped together with the jihadist is not only simplistic, it is counterproductive and exposes western journalism at its reductive nadir. There are millions of Muslims, like Christians, who identify as Muslim or Christian, but are thoroughly secular (code for heathen) in their behaviour. Surely the West can do better than alienate millions of like-minded, potential allies simply because they are Muslim? You don’t cut off an arm to relieve a finger infection. Which isn’t to say that immigration policy, in the name of political correctness, shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the innate incompatibility between Christianity and Islam. But in respect to the growing number of Muslims who are no longer there for their holy texts, for whom the law, and not God, is the ultimate authority, they should be embraced and their members made to increase. The Islam of the Hadith and Sura is on its way out: in the Muslim heartland, in desert communities and along camel routes the traders’ first and second priorities are water and an Internet connection. In the cities, especially among the young, jeans are replacing the djellaba, and the voice of the second sex is no longer an inaudible whisper in the winds of change. The writing is on their Wailing Wall, just as the war ISIS and jihadists are waging against modernity is more of a Last Stand than any offensive.

Normal, decent cherry-picking Muslim parents, looking to instill the equivalent of the Ten Commandments in their children, merely have to open the Quran or look to the speeches of The Prophet for confirmation of their private beliefs and guiding principles in raising their families. Which begs the question: Since the Quran can be used for both good and evil, how should we receive the basket of goods offered up by the cherry-picking journalist? With measured skepticism because by the nature of his mandate the positions he stakes out take precedent over according the truth the respect and disinterested coverage that is its due.

In this same vein, not only the Quran but the Bible can be mined for all sorts of defective, tendentious thinking. If you believe in women’s natural inferiority, the cherry-picker will find a bumper crop of edibles throughout the Bible:

Ephesians 6:9: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord . . . as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

If you’re an indignant Cypriot Turk or Athenian with a long memory looking to shape your children’s view of the nation of Zorba, how about this:

Titus 1:7: Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.

And before we sanctimoniously indict Islamic law, where the thief must relinquish the hand that has stolen, we should pay heed to the wisdom of,

Matthew 5:21: And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.

In respect to injunctions regarding the child’s obedience towards a parent, and every demographer's' secret wish, the Bible doesn’t mince its words:

Matthew 15:19: Anyone who curses their father and mother is to be put to death.”

There are of course instances where we wish the cherry-picker had been able to make a more effective case. The totally discredited, pedophile wracked and wounded Catholic Church would be in seventh heaven had the following injunction been implemented:

I Corinthians 7:16: Now to the unmarried . . . if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

From its humble beginnings until the 12th century (the 1139 Second Lateran Council) -- the golden years of Catholicism -- celibacy wasn’t a condition for the priesthood. Since then more than a million children (conservative estimate) have been sexually abused by pedophile priests. Pope Francis was alleged to have said that 2% of all priests (the leprosy within the church) are pedophiles.

With all due respect to the sum of facts and arguments eloquently laid out by the cherry-picker, the very existence of jihadism and ISIS tells more about human nature than the Quran. The real issue driving the clash of civilizations is power. Islam is on the wane, and the old guard, comprised of literalists and androcentrics, are desperately trying to cling to power: the Em-pyre Strikes Back.

Does it not reflect poorly on the cognitively challenged West if it can’t distinguish between good and bad Muslims, between ally and enemy? We are not at war with the world’s billion Muslims, but with a fringe group of frustrated, renegade misfits looking for a cause. The ISIS declaration of establishing a world wide Caliphate is fatuous if not outright delusional, and the witless West has bought into this narrative, into ISIS’s megalomaniacal terms of reference even though not an inch of western territory has been ceded, and never will. Empowered by the Internet and social media (western inventions), ISIS fomented terrorism is doubtlessly lethal, costly and psychologically destabilizing but it is not waging war in any real sense.

If the pleasure principle remains the great predictor of human behaviour, Islam cannot compete with secularism, western hedonism. With instant electronic access to the pleasure zones of the world, fewer and fewer Muslims are there for their holy texts. Holy writs and rules notwithstanding, freedom is the pain no one can refuse, and once enjoyed cannot be wished away. “Although everybody knew it as freedom from the laws of Islam, no one was quite sure what else Westernization was good for,” writes Ohran Pamuk in Istanbul: Memories and the City.

With secularism in full ascendency (all toll roads lead to the bacchanalia), this turning away from God to the gods, for the Muslim and not the Christian, will be necessarily fraught with peril, and there will be casualties, some of whom will be vulnerable to radicalization. In the West, this turning away -- that began with the separation of Church and state -- was very gradual, when authority was incrementally devolved from God to “the law,” at which point if there was no hiding from God you could always circumvent or rewrite the law. In Islam, religion and law have always been intricately intertwined, and there is no avoiding the inner turmoil and dislocation that ensue when abruptly confronted with (by consent) a radically dissimilar value system. In the wake of this tectonic collision between East and West, a huge nowhere zone must arise, where the nowhere men (the rootless and disenfranchised) gather, sandwiched between the past and modernity, torn between the call of the muezzin during the day and Happy Hour at night. Coming to their rescue, their succour, providing them with purpose, self-esteem and community, is the cherry-picking jihadist for whom the Quran is merely a means to an end, the birth of nation, the noble struggle for survival in the face of insurmountable odds.

Be chary of cherry-pickers from both sides of the aisle; 82% of all terrorist victims are Muslims.

 

YOUR COMMENTS
Email (optional)
Author or Title

COMMENTS

stocasti@rogers.com
Very impressed with your very objective and well reasoned article.

user-submission@feedback.com
This will definitely get you on the goods with the Muslim. However, I disagree with many of your tenets.
The measure of a religion is NOT FEAR OF GOD. (Certainly not of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism). Though it is absolutely the measure of the Muslim religion.

Deaths? Yes many. But why blame the religion for man’s obtuseness and pride.
(Nothing in the Gospels, which few nowadays bother reading, incites/preaches ‘hatred’). And so, for example, the Spanish Inquisition was State sponsored and not Vatican backed. The Papacy was against it from the get-go. But, the times being what they were, try as they might, Spain being a mighty power, weak Popes – not all popes -- to protect their own (yes, Vatican had its state interests as well . . . it wasn’t all squeaky clean) yielded to the butcheries, but certainly did not fuel the horrors, encourage the massacres from the pulpit.

The Spanish State persecuted Lutherans and other non-Catholic groups as well as converted Muslims and Jews. (I say converted as non-converted groups, non-Christians, i.e. Jews and Muslims could not be persecuted. I suspect few know this fact).
It persecuted all militant, unrecanting dissidents in order to instil fear of the state, maintain power which would later bring them to the Americas. So no, not fear of God but fear of the state. Catholicism was the glue used to keep the Spanish state together. And do you really think Hitler did what he did on ‘religious’ grounds? Do you think he was an altar boy? Do you think he gave a care about Christianity? No. He was a racist. That he was born Catholic is incidental to his being. Christianity was a means to that end.

In Ireland, North and South killings were the result of political allegiances. North went with Britain, South wanted independence. It just so happens the South is Catholic, north Protestant, but the fighting is not, as many seem to suggest, the result of religious ideological differences. Religion is just a way to identify the other guys. If you’re Catholic your a Paddy, and that is that.

My point being that comparing Islam and Christianity on death counts is misleading. Compare the ‘theology’ and the ‘teaching.’

The cherry-picking reader will not be inconvenienced by your views.

also by Robert J. Lewis:
Once Were Animal
Islam is Smarter Than the West
Islam Divided by Two
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
1-800-Philosophy
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034

 

Help Haiti
Film Ratings at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
2015 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 07-18st, (514) 844-2172
Montreal World Film Festival
Lynda Renée: Chroniques Québécois - Blog
Andrew Hlavacek - Arts & Culture Blog (Montreal)
© Roberto Romei Rotondo
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
2013 Montreal Chamber Music Festival
Photo by David Lieber: davidliebersblog.blogspot.com
SPECIAL PROMOTION: ads@artsandopinion.com
SUPPORT THE ARTS
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis