Saturday, October 23, 2010
Steyn vs Freud... Who Would've Thunk It?
When Macleans magazine published an excerpt from America Alone entitled "The Future Belongs to Islam", it eventually led to the magazine being subject to a human rights complaint.
Various Canadian Muslim groups objected to the excerpt, and feared it would stir up public hostility against Muslims. There may have been fair reason to worry about this (although the Human Rights complaint itself was clearly frivolous).
But part three of the Century of the Self presents a theme that puts an interesting twist on the Steyn thesis: as a spin-off off an ancient showdown between psychiatric quacks.
The quacks in case are Anna Freud -- the daughter of Sigmund Fruend, who considered the human sex drive to be dangerous -- and Whilhem Reich, who considered a healthy sex life to be the definitive factor of human mental health.
A decidated life-long virgin, Freud was considered to be something of a prude. When Reich's theories came to her attention, Freud took it upon herself to destroy her career.
Reich believed that human sexuality wasn't merely the key to human flourishing in terms of demographics alone. He also believed that orgasm was central to human mental health. By modern standards, it stands out as a lunatic idea, but it's implications for Steyn's argument are intriguing, to say the least.
In the excerpt, Steyn argues a very basic and intuitive thesis: the Muslim world is reproducing at a far faster rate than the western world. In terms of sheer numbers alone, this could put the Islamic world in the position of being able to overwhelm and envelope the rest.
This is certainly a terrifying prospect for many of Steyn's most fervent admirers, who fear Muslims.
Western and Muslim attitudes toward sex are remarkably different. Through innovations in birth control, the western world has embraced sex for pleasure like at no other time in human history, perhaps exempting the height of Roman decadence. The increasing cultural focus on sex becomes most apparent through an examination of pop culture.
Meanwhile, the (at least stereotypical) Muslim attitude toward sex is considered far less enthusiastic.
As individuals, the western world has far more sex than the Muslim world and produces far fewer children. Some may say that birth control is to blame for this state of affairs and while they would be correct, any proposal to eliminate birth control is unequivocally not the answer.
If one were to judge the comparative mental illness of the western and Muslim worlds based on Reich's theory, one may be drawn toward the issue of suicide bombers. It takes a particularly fervent individual to commit to killing themselves as a means of attacking their enemies -- some could consider this to be a symptom of some sort of mental illness.
The irony is astounding: the Muslim world has less casual sex, but more children (whom some would, rightly or wrongly, consider to be candidates for future suicide bombings). If Reich's theories had any merit at all, it would be ironic that the innovations that have allowed the western world to enjoy the mental health benefits of casual sex have also led to a state of affairs in which they've put the western world at a disadvantage.
This is, of course, assuming that one grants credence to Wilhelm Reich's theories (one should not), and that one agrees with Mark Steyn (one may not).