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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leo Strauss, Sayyid Qutb and Creating the Big Myth

The above video is Part one of six, from the award winning BBC documentary: Power of Nightmares.

In it they attempt to connect the recent struggles between Christian extremism and Islamic fundamentalism, to two men.

The Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Qutb, who is believed to be the founder of the current terrorist network, including Al Qaeda; and Leo Strauss, the German political philosopher who was the man behind the neoconservative movement, that includes the Harper government.

I don't think it's quite that cut and dry, however. There were many contributing factors, on both sides. But one thing is clear: religious extremism is fueling both sides.

What I did find interesting from the video though, was Donald Rumsfeld's role in creating the fear around the possibility of a nuclear attack by the Soviets, during that Nixon administration. His arguments sound eerily like those he made to suggest that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Leo Strauss and Creating the Big Myth

Both Leo Strauss and Sayyid Quth, were profoundly affected by what they perceived to be the moral decay of society, and blamed it on liberalization. And both men set out to find a solution.

But the solutions they found, ended up being far worse than the original problem, because ultimately they validated barbarity; the end result of religious fervour and too much power.

And for Straussians, they also created a regime that necessitated extreme secrecy if they had any hope of maintaining what he called the 'Big Myth'.

It's hardly surprising then why Strauss is so popular in an administration obsessed with secrecy, especially when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Not only did Strauss have few qualms about using deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity ... Strauss believed that societies should be hierarchical – divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses who should follow.

... According to Shadia Drury, who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss believed that "those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior."This dichotomy requires "perpetual deception" between the rulers and the ruled, according to Drury. Robert Locke, another Strauss analyst says,"The people are told what they need to know and no more." (1)

And is this not what we are seeing from the Harper Regime? We are all on a need to know basis, and while his government is proving to be perhaps the most corrupt in Canadian history, this 'elite' leader struts around like he hasn't a care in the world, treating us to photo-ops and edited video, paid for by the taxpayer.

And the trick to creating this wall of secrecy, was also inspired by the founder of Harper's party, William Aberhart, who learned his skills from Adolph Hitler. And like Aberhart's, the Harper government has created a culture of fear.

Before Stephen Harper seized power, Donald Gutstein wrote of the "noble lie."

What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement. Strauss, who died in 1973, believed in the inherent inequality of humanity. Most people, he famously taught, are too stupid to make informed decisions about their political affairs. Elite philosophers must decide on affairs of state for us.

... A ruling elite of political philosophers must make those decisions because it is the only group smart enough. It must resort to deception -- Strauss's "noble lie" -- to protect citizens from themselves ... philosopher Jeet Heer recently wrote in the Globe and Mail. "For Strauss, the art of concealment and secrecy was among the greatest legacies of antiquity."

It's interesting that Paul Wolfowitz, who became "a major architect of President Bush's Iraq policy", was a student of Strauss. He has certainly mastered the big lie. It is also worth noting that Wolfowitz is "... currently a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. David Frum is also a member.

Time Magazine has suggested that violent factions of Islam, were the result of the followers of Sayyid Qutb, teaming up with Saudi militants being sent "... off to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan." As a result, they "... believed that the time for jihad against infidels and the neocolonialist West was now." (3)

Again, a bit too simplified, but one thing is for certain. Both sides couldn't be more wrong.


1. Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception, Jim Lobe, May 19, 2003

2. Harper, Bush Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy, Donald Gutstein, The Tyee, November 29, 2005

3. Wahhabism: Toxic Faith? By Bruce Crumley/Paris; David Van Biema, Time Magazine, September 15, 2003

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