Islam, Charlie Hebdo, the CBC…what would Dale Carnegie say? Here’s what he wrote.

Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” slyly excoriates religious hypocrisy in one of the best movie scenes of all time: “Blastphemer!” “No one is to stone anyone at all, even – I want to make this perfectly clear – even if they do say ‘Jehovah.'” While every minute of “Life of Brian” might have been at least as offensive to Christians and Jews as the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were to Muslims, no one died as a result of the making of this comedy.
 “I now know with a conviction beyond all doubt
that the biggest problem you and I have to deal with –
in fact, almost the only problem we have to deal with –
is choosing the right thoughts.
If we can do that, we will be on the highroad to solving all our problems.
The great philosopher who ruled the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius,
summed it up in eight words – eight words that can determine your destiny:
‘Our life is what our thoughts make it.’”
–Dale Carnegie[1]
 
Healthy, mature human beings have both the freedom and the responsibility to choose their thoughts. It’s not a “maybe” proposition, as in “If everything goes well and people treat me kindly, maybe I can choose to be happy. If life is difficult and I don’t like the way things are going, I might choose to be miserable.”
It is incumbent upon us to choose our thoughts in all circumstances.
This is not bad news. In fact, it’s the greatest news ever: you get to wake up every day, and choose your thoughts and your attitude. You cannot control what happens in life; but you get to choose how you respond to it. This is worth celebrating!!
The freedom and responsibility to choose our thoughts applies equally to all people. Some cultures support and celebrate it, enshrining it into the very institutions that propagate the society.
Other cultures fear and despise this freedom, and use their institutions to repress it.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described an incident in a Soviet gulag: he was the target of abuse by one of the nastiest prison guards. One day, the prisoners were working in a field and the guard came by to heap abuse on Solzhenitsyn and make his life even more wretched.
One of Solzhenitsyn’s fellow prisoners silently walked by him, pausing only for a moment to draw an image in the dirt with his hoe: a cross. Then he kept on walking.  
That image, and the thought it represented, was all Solzhenitsyn needed to endure that moment. The prison guard could threaten or even control Solzhenitsyn’s physical body; but he could not imprison Solzhenitsyn’s mind. No one could; the Soviet government spent decades trying.
Nelson Mandela sat in prison for 27 years, and when he got out, he forgave his jailors.
Anne Frank, locked away in an attic for the final years of her too-short life, wrote “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.
Throughout history, human beings have proven that they possess the power to choose their thoughts, and can choose helpful thoughts if they so desire.
Surely, followers of the faith of Islam possess this power too.
To believe otherwise truly would be damning an entire religion, a billion people, with the tyranny of low expectations.
“What do I mean?
Have I the colossal effrontery to tell you to your face –
when you are mowed down by troubles, and your nerves are sticking out like wires and curling up at the ends –
have I the colossal effrontery to tell you that, under those conditions,
you can change your mental attitude by an effort of the will?
Yes, I mean precisely that!”
–Dale Carnegie
 
Muslims can choose their thoughts in exactly the same way every other human being on the planet can. If a Muslim can choose to believe that drawing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed is an insult, a Muslim can choose to believe that drawing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed means nothing. A Muslim can choose personally never to draw a picture of the Prophet Mohammed, and he can choose to ignore pictures drawn by others. Or, he can choose to pick up a Kalashnikov and wipe out 12 people.
Westerners don’t offend Muslims; Muslims choose to take offense. This is great news! Because Muslims are in control of their thoughts, they can choose to have different thoughts.
To pretend and to behave as though Muslims cannot choose their thoughts demonstrates contempt for Muslims.
 
“If half a century of living has taught me anything at all,
it has taught me that nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
–Dale Carnegie
 
When news outlets such as the CBC claim they are not showing images of the Prophet Mohammed because they do not wish to offend Muslims, they are feeding the myth that the CBC has the power to offend Muslims. It does not. Muslims have the power to choose whether or not to take offense.
Intelligent Muslims do not need the solicitous molly-coddling of CBC executives. I daresay that if my friend Abdel saw an image purported to be Mohammed on the television screen, he would still be able to eat dinner, sleep, and make it to work the next day. All of the Muslims I know personally work exceedingly hard and are focused on paying the bills and enjoying their families. I doubt any of them would need to call in sick if they saw an image of Mohammed. MUSLIMS can decide whether or not to be offended. The CBC really has nothing to say about it, much as they might like to.
It’s as though the Thought Control Police at the CBC, and the Thought Control Police who enforce Sharia Law[2], got together and made an agreement: “Let’s pretend that what we believe is true. And let’s insist everybody else should believe as we believe. Otherwise, the inevitable outcome will be offense leading to violence. If violence occurs, we both agree it will be the fault of the people who caused offense, not the people who chose violence.”
Canadians should not buy into this. Nobody should.
“Concern means realizing what the problems are
and calmly taking steps to meet them.
Worrying means going around in maddening circles.”
–Dale Carnegie
The idea that the CBC made its decision not to show the Mohammed cartoons because of “respect for the tenets of the faith” is a bunch of hooey.
The CBC – and in fairness, virtually all the media in the western world – has NO problem trampling on the tenets of every other faith. They are only worried about trampling on the tenets of the one faith whose members are statistically most likely to storm their offices and shoot them. Let’s just be honest about that.
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which published the Mohammed cartoons in 2006 – and has been under threat of violence ever since – announced that it would not reproduce the Charlie Hebdo images out of concerns for the safety of its staff.
This was an honest assessment of the situation. Jyllands-Posten is not pretending that its decision is as a result of its deep respect for the tenets of the faith of Islam. It is a security issue. Temporarily at least, terror and violence have won out over free speech at Jyllands-Posten. This is an important statement for the paper to make, because the world is currently grappling with how to deal with and prevent acts of murder and violence by Muslim terrorists, and we should be able to think and speak clearly as we do this.
Pretending a security issue is actually a religious issue, as the CBC is doing, confuses the situation and encourages fantasy thinking when we most need to be thinking clearly.
Let’s not pretend that the CBC has suddenly developed a deep respect for faith and the tenets of faith, any faith. Here, check out the CBC’s graphic visual image “Piss Christ.”
As Rex Murphy writes, “In the domain of the laugh-generators…Christ gets a pie in the face every 10 minutes while Mohammed is awarded the incense of silence, becomes ‘he whose name must not be spoken.’”
Why are we making such a big deal out of drawings? Considering the major and more minor transgressions of the tenets of faith that are possible, Islam’s wish that people would not depict the Prophet Mohammed in art is roughly comparable to Christians’ wish that people would not take the Lord’s name in vain: nice to have when you can manage it, but really not worth murdering someone.  
The Lord’s name gets taken in vain so often, so casually, that it almost seems futile to defend it. Steve Martin had a great routine about what it would be like when he got to heaven and God reminded him of how often he had taken His name in vain. “Oooooh, a million six? Really?” Martin winced. “Jesus Christ!”
Christians, by and large, have learned to live with this reality. They may not like it, but they live with it. Muslims can do the same. They’re tough; they can take it.
2000 years ago Judaism’s laws against blasphemy were absolute and brutal. Somehow, over the centuries, they softened to the point that now people say the word “Jehovah” without worrying about being stoned to death, and in fact Monty Python’s depiction of the logic underlying Judaism’s enforcement of its blasphemy law stands as an all-time classic in its simple, brilliant incising of hypocrisy. Maybe 1000 years from now, talented artists of the 31stcentury will create something equally funny and harmless for Muslims. Hopefully sooner.
Islam can make progress. The western world can support this progress, by speaking the truth instead of indulging in pandering. Canada’s national broadcaster should be leading the way.
 
 
“Here I was, wanting to change the whole world and everyone in it –
when the only thing that needed changing
was the focus of the lens of the camera which was my mind.”
–Dale Carnegie
–Rita Smith


[1]All quotes in this blog are from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” If you do not own a copy of this book, you should order one immediately. The Kindle version on Amazonis $8.99.
[2]Don’t get sold into the media fantasy that all Muslims want Sharia Law. When we finally defeated the idea of implementing Sharia Law in Ontario in 2005, I was surprised to see that there were far more men than women at the victory party. I mentioned this to one of the men who replied, “We left home to GET AWAY from Sharia Law! We know what it is. We hate it more than anybody.”

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