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Cultured Brutes 22 February 2006

Posted by VARANGALI in Culture, Philosophy, VARANGALI.


We are taught culture through tradition: clap politely in golf, scream in rock concerts, and stand silent at eulogies. This is necessary, for we are unable to question each one of our actions, and so rely on the collected experience of our forebearers to guide us. It becomes insidious, however, when we confuse culture for a moral compass.

Allan Bloom has noted that tradition begins to die the moment it is realized as such – when the original meaning behind the action dissipates, so does our adherence to it. Yet this collected wisdom suffers a surprisingly long decline: swords were last effectively used in war in the 1700’s, but new ones were being introduced in the British Army as late as 1908. Even today, students of Pakistan’s prestigious Aitcheson College are trained in equestrianism, as if preparing to lead the Queen’s next cavalry charge.

Just as Islam was introduced as the antidote to tradition-based jahiliyyah, Bloom reminds us that what matters is the original meaning of an action or behavior. The adoption of culture as a moral compass – i.e. accepting the permanence of tradition – erases our responsibility to examine each of our actions according to our faith and conscience.

“As now taught, accepted and carried out, are not the processes of culture rapidly creating a class of supercilious infidels, who believe in nothing? Shall a man lose himself in countless masses of adjustments, and be so shaped with reference to this, that, and the other, that the simply good and healthy and brave parts of him are reduced and clipp’d away, like the bordering of box in a garden?” (Walt Whitman)

There is something elementally good inside all of us – Allah (swt) created us so – cultivating it is our responsibility. Perhaps culture can keep us from straying – help us stay modest, polite, and respectful. But it also makes us refined, and refinement is the currency of elitist, spineless brutes. Let us be wild-eyed, hungry, and always moved by the ordinary. Again, Whitman:

“You can cultivate corn and roses and orchards – but who shall cultivate the mountain peaks, the ocean, and the tumbling gorgeousness of the clouds?”



1. The Turk - 22 February 2006

yes, agree with you there. The thirst and passion of new muslims back in the day of Hazart Abu Baker, Hazart Umar are long gone.

However, that is the progression of history. If look at the hieght of Islamic power, the islamic rulers were breaking every rule in the book. However, they were at their culture’s peak with poets and art and universities etc.

Then decline to jahiliyyah again. 1.6 billion muslims. How many can you say are educated. 10% at max. Everyone knows ayats and how to pray etc. However the essence behind it is not so much.

How can you as born muslim have the faith of a person who converted from pagan gods to islam with Prophet guiding him/her.
Islam unlike from CNN/Fox News is a very personal religon. We all required to read and understand. The Imam can guide and suggest but rarely can he command.

The Caliph of the days past were subject to oath of people. All had to swear the pledge. Hazart Umar was demanded how he got an extra piece of cloth before the people gave the plegde to him.
He explained his son donated his share to him. Then the people pledged to him. No one is held to that account today.

We take the dunda(stick) today. Nobody asks politicians why you doing this. They accept as the way of the world. Ask any person anywhere if he trusts his/her leader. I doubt you find many takers.

We are left with traditions; My dad was democrat or republican. If your Dad was pre-1960 democrat from the deep south. He probably be Republican now. If your family is from North and Republican from Lincoln and the Reconstruction days; they would the Democrats of today.

True ideaolgy is forgoteen is used to further the current purposes of the party and its leaders. GB Bush has done nothing to support state rights or small government. True ideaolgy today is simply for speeches etc.

Only the Founders had the true passion and ideaolgy with them. The rest copy.

There is no resolution to this problem. Humans are like sheep; keep them feed they won’t blah so much. Or if they do create wolves from them to be scared of. Thats why Russians were so popular in 50’s to 80’s. And then came us, the muslims. Its 1984.

2. VARANGALI - 27 February 2006


You note a connection between being passionate/ideological and being a founder/leader (American Founding Fathers or the Companions). I would say there is a causal link there: since these people were passionate, they accomplished remarkable things.

One does not, however, need to found something to channel his/her energies. Lincoln was no founder, and neither was Muhammad bin Qasim (two of many examples).

3. ballsy - 1 March 2006

I thought this entry was extremely relevant and moving–it captures my own sentiments better than I could have expressed on my own.

Living each day thoughtlessly, guided by culture and norms secures us from the discomfort of figuring things out on our own. There is solace in habit.

Yet, I cannot imagine that God created thinking human beings merely to become slaves of culture and habit.

4. yaar - 1 March 2006

You right and wrong there. Yes, they did not found it but passionitely reengerized it. However, at their deaths things returned to status. Men of honesty and intergity can by blessings of Allah(swt) can come revert back time.

To give an example it said when Umar(RA) ruled even wolf would not attack a sheep. After the 4 caliphs; things started to go awry. The tenth Caliph was decesandant of Umar(RA) and also called Umar(I think). He also ruled in similar fashion and brought back truth and passion of Islam. In his time wolf also didn’t attack the sheep it is said.

However people like this rare and far in between and even more rarely in power. And if they are; are too often murdered. Even then once they are gone. It backs to the old tricks.

5. other|matters » Tradition Good. - 2 March 2006

[…] VARANGALI’s post last week on Cultured Brutes raises the question, “Is tradition good for morality?” I think it is. Sure it curbs thinking, limits individuality and stifles differences of opinion. When you take the long view, however, that’s a not all bad. […]

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