Friday, July 9, 2010

This Blog is Medieval

In the minds of many contemporary "progressives" the word "medieval" has become an insult to hurl against anything that is barbaric and "insufficiently progressive." Tim Collard protests against this trend to defame the Medieval era in post called: "What is Medieval about Stoning People to Death?"
I was pleased to hear today that Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian lady convicted of adultery by one of that hellhole’s kangaroo courts, will not now be stoned to death, though it is still possible that she will be judicially murdered in some other way. (My reading of the Koran is that the Prophet demanded that four male Muslim witnesses had actually seen the act in progress before an adultery charge could be proved; but who am I, a benighted Anglican, to comment?)

Thanks are also due to prominent figures around the world who spoke up for Mrs Ashtiani, including our own William Hague. I don’t want to qualify my praise by carping, but I do take issue with Mr Hague’s choice of language. In condemning the proposed execution, he called death by stoning a “medieval punishment”. Following Mr Liam Fox’s dismissal of Afghanistan as “a broken 13th-century society”, one begins to wonder just what the new government has against the period.

As one who has enjoyed a lifetime love affair with the Middle Ages, I am pained by this. There really wasn’t a lot of stoning going on in medieval Europe.
This is a good point. As Collard goes on to note, it is not that the people of Medieval Europe were angels; there was violence in those centuries. But compared to the Dark Ages that preceded them and the modern era, the violence was not as extreme. There was law and order, peace, trade, the rise of universities, the beginnings of constitutional monarchy, the great synthesis of Aristotle (representing science and reason) and Augustine (representing Biblical revelation and Christian theism) into a unified and intellectually brilliant worldview.

Language matters. The way we speak is important. Even the term "The Middle Ages" (which I try to avoid in favor of "Christian Europe" or "Medieval Europe") was invented in the Enlightenment to describe the period between the "Dark Ages" and their own supposedly "enlightened" time (as they "modestly" saw it). They undoubtedly would have liked to label the entire period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance as "The Dark Ages" because of the influence of Christianity on Europe in that period, but that was a stretch even for the rebellious imaginations of the 18th century French Philosophes. The truth is that the period of the conversion of Europe was its true "Enlightenment" and the period of atheism and humanism in modernity that stems from the "Enlightenment" is an increasingly dark era of nihilism. The 20th century was the darkest, most violent and most fanatical of any century in Western civilization going back to the Roman Empire. The culture of death characterizes Enlightenment Europe, not Medieval Europe.

So I think we should stop allowing the use of the term "Medieval" as an insult or as a symbol of barbarism and backwardness to go unchallenged. The Postmodernists have made a good start on turning the term "modern" into an insult. Maybe we should build on that and start saying things like: "Stalin that dirty rotten murderer and arch-modernist . . . " or "The regime in Iran has adopted most of the worst of modern fascist techniques of repression." We can follow up by really ticking off the progressives by saying: "If only they could be more Medieval."

But hey, it would make a lot more more sense than calling the stoning of women "medieval" when it is done by a theocracy that lives in the 7th century desert and hates Christendom.

1 comment:

Gordon Hackman said...

In his book "The Gods of War: Is religion the primary cause of violent conflict?" Meic Pearse also discusses this issue near the beginning of the book, refering to a quote from Sam Harris about how news reports concerning religious violence around the world sound like they come "from the 14th century." Pearse observes that Harris makes no effort to offer any particular examples of religious violence from the 14th century and that it is hard to think specifically of what those examples might be. He goes on to say that, "Harris's campaign against religion is part of a wider tendency of Western secularism: the repudiation of the human past tout court. Whether the fourteenth century was or was not notable for religious violence is irrelevant to his argument. For as well as embracing geographical-cultural myopia, it would seem we need to be historical ignoramuses, too--on principle."