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Lee Harris has developed the notion of the fantasy ideology ("Our World-Historical Gamble," TechCentralStation, 3/11/03) specifically to apply to radical Arab and Muslim world-views which have been enabled to flourish because of the unexpected (not to say miraculous) windfall of western money and technology into the Middle East in the past half century. This windfall is the result of our need to extract and distribute oil, over half of the world's proven reserves of which happens to lie under the otherwise dauntingly arid and forbidding landscapes of Arab countries.
The beneficiaries of oil riches are overwhelmingly tribal leaders and political and religious dictators who have been able to negotiate positions of power for their "nations." (The western notion of nationhood, though widely applied, is a bad fit in the region: Saudi Arabia, for instance, although formally recognized as a kingdom since the early 1930s, is still largely an agglomeration of more than 20 million tribespeople, some 6,000 of whom are members of the Royal family.) The nations of the region have, because of the unimaginable wealth generated by their privileged, though unearned, positions as oil magnates, been empowered to nurture the most absurdly unrealistic and destructive fantasies about what being a member of the world community is all about.
A similar phenomenon can be observed on American college campuses. The political world-views perpetuated in these environments have, in most cases, virtually nothing to do with what it takes to thrive in the real world. There's not a college professor in a thousand who isn't a product of the American educational incubator, which insures that people of relatively high intelligence will, if they choose a career in academia, never be forced to confront what most of us know as reality. And while there is, theoretically at least, the potential for some sort of intellectual purity embodied in the idea of a scholar's following his or her intellectual pursuits wherever they may lead, the fact is that these days such pursuits seem somehow always to end up having strong leftist political overtones and to be characterized by intellectual arrogance and the dictatorial promulgation of fantasy ideologies.
A fantasy ideology, then (to generalize Harris' definition somewhat), is the result of the evolution of a set of ideas in a kind of privileged vacuum which obviates the need to test that set of ideas in the real world. One definition of "college professor" is "a person who finds something in practice and wonders if it works in theory." The fact that socialism continues to be a watchword of the political left, especially in colleges and universities, is a case in point. The twentieth century proved, if nothing else, that socialism is not a viable real-world political and economic philosophy. The abject (though contemporaneously unadmitted) failures of Chinese and Russian socialist governments to provide even the basic necessities of life for their people — the evidence for which is the tens of millions of deaths caused by the application of socialist principles in these two showcase Marxist "republics" — are all the confirmation needed to seal the case against socialism.
Real-world socialism invariably results in a degenerate and counterproductive centralization of power and decision-making; in the sapping of the creative and competitive "juices" of the people living under such a system; in the suppression of the human spirit; in the reduction of the very "people" whom socialism professes to represent to unwilling footsoldiers in an ideological war not of their choosing. Socialism is an ideology whose time has not only come and gone, but whose time never should have been given the time of day.
A comparison of American colleges and universities with Middle Eastern tribal/religious societies is instructive. Invariably both communities are characterized by a dominant class. In colleges and universities, that class consists of professors, in tribal societies of Imams and Sheikhs. In both, the dominant class can dictate how their subjects (relatively naive and unformed 18-, 19-, and 20-year old students in colleges, subject tribespeople in tribal societies) must think, and they brook no cogent or supportable arguments in return. Can you imagine, for instance, the crap a student of, say, an Alan Dershowitz or a Noam Chomsky would receive for daring to contradict the fatuous and untested liberal dogma mouthed by one of these gasbags? Such a student would, like his counterpart in a tribal society, be branded a heretic, have a fatwa issued against him or her, and be ridden out of Riyadh (oops, I mean Cambridge) on a rail.
It's no wonder that American colleges and universities are united in their opposition to the war to liberate Iraq. The outcome of such a war has profound implications for professors and students alike. Indeed, if it is demonstrated that the people who have suffered for decades under the tyranny of the Iraqi dictatorship actually want to be free to think for themselves and contribute to the governance of their own country, American students will by extension be confronted with their own subservience to the tyranny of the leftist intellectual autocrats under whose thumbs they subsist. And if the Iraqi people have the good sense and the good fortune to reject, with our assistance, the tyranny of an absolutist regime, perhaps American students will be spurred to do the same.