donderdag 14 juni 2018

Civilised contempt

Recently I read a book by Carlo Strenger. The Dutch title can be translated as "Civilized Contempt - A Guide to Defending Our Freedom". The message of the book is essentially this: according to the author western people are nowadays too afraid of criticizing certain habits and beliefs of people from other cultures. They are too politically correct and too much into cultural relativism ("all cultures are equal"). Strenger's method of "civilized contempt" is to clearly state what views or habits of someone one does not like (the "contempting" part of the title), while at the same time not attacking the person itself (the "civilized"part). Apart from the question whether this separation will be felt as such by the person I wonder whether the book title is a good one. After all, "contempt" is quite a harsh word. I liked to know what the author's view is and therefore I sent the following e-mail to the author on March 17, 2018. Up till now I got no reply.

Dear Prof. Strenger,

I read your book "Zivilisierte Verachting. Eine Anleitng zur Verteidiging unserer Freiheit", That is, in the Dutch translation.

It is clearly written which makes it easy to agree or disagree with you. I agree with the latter part. However, I have one main objection. One that even puzzles me.

It is that the title "Ziviliesierte Verachting" ("Beschaafde minachting" in Dutch) is thus harsh in my opinion that it will hamper people to agree with the book and/or method or even read the book at all.

I once read about research into predicting the breaking up of marriages. From taped recording of conversations of partners it appeared that contempt being present was the best predictor for breaking up.

I myself automatically relate "minachting" to irrationality, spitting on the ground and not being civilized. Instead of expressing disdain I would rather say that I do not agree with someone's views, reject them, see them as dangerous, unfruitful, etc. But I would never use "minachting".

An amusing case is yesterday's reaction of our prime minister's Rutte's reaction to the most recent campaign spot of Wilderds' party PVV. The spot starts with the words "ISLAM IS" and then continues with a few minutes of adding words like "DISCRIMINATION", "VIOLENCE", "TERROR", etc. See

Rutte's reaction was: "I believe I represent the vast part of The Netherlands if I say that I think this is distasteful."

Well, maybe a good politician is by definition politically correct.

Nevertheless, my question is: don't you think your book's title is counter productive?

Yours sincerely,
Jos Groot


I love this cartoon for the simplicity!

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