Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Culture Versus Culture

Joshua Allen, a fellow I have much respect for, asks if the West will stop attempting to cram our concepts of liberty and culture down the throats of others. That is a tough question.

1. When two different cultures meet with an asymetric balance of power, the result is not usually improvement of both; the typical result in nature is the extinction of the weaker culture. If we think naturally, we should be quickly and efficiently committing genocide. Whatever our concepts of liberty and culture may be, they don't include genocide, so perhaps imitating nature is not in anyone's best interests.

2. A point in the 9/11 Commission report is that the history of the West and the Middle East has been one of economic entanglement with very large infusions of wealth into the Middle East for access and control of the oil resources. We've not been very overt about how that wealth was spent except where we could sell big ticket items; think water plants, refineries, and armaments. As the flow of this wealth decreased, the entitlement society it created became dissatisfied. The response by the controllers of that wealth, the monarchs and the military, has been to allow the religious culture that is native to these societies to take major responsibility for the education of the society. Thus the rise in wahabism and other forms of regressive thought. Otherwise, the emphasis on education of those who could afford to go to the West has been on technical and financial subjects.

What emerged from this laissez-faire interaction was a generation of technically sophisticated, tribally-affiliated, and historically impoverished terrorists who have been educated to believe that the Western culture is responsible for their current conditions and that a return to a medieval Caliphate based on the Koran is their salvation. If that is their goal, selah, but it is accompanied by the message that the will of God is only achieved when the West embraces their beliefs.

It ain't gonna happen. So we find ourselves in the position of creating a massive and possibly ineffective defense system that forces us to monitor every piece of information produced anywhere by anyone and to attempt possibly also ineffectively to fuse that into a coherent picture of 'what's happenin'. As a species, we share signs, but the difficulty is we don't share interpretations. Fast reaction is the essence of wacamole and we will exhaust a lot of resources trying to figure out which hole the mole will pop out of next. Further, by not distinguishing between civilians and military targets, but issuing fatwas that proclaim it is the religious duty of every Muslim to kill Americans, they've made us all players.

If we are being strictly empirical (observing results and backward chaining to causes), our own survival might depend on exporting more of our culture. The trouble here, and it is very evident in the current American election, is that we don't really share a common vision of just what that is. Until we have clear policies and quit beating each other down in a lust for power and domination, I don't think we have any chance of exporting anything but the image of our own indecencies, our own inhumanity to each other.

If I were to hope for anything, it would be that the holders of the pulpits of my country's heterogeneous religious institutions speak long and forcefully on the topic of examining our own motives for our own treatment of each other. The creepiest statement I heard this year came from a friend of a former Soviet emigre who told him, "I was amazed after the last election how quickly the Americans begin to look over their shoulders when discussing the topic to see who was listening." Having been told at my own company by one individual that who I voted for could be a "career decision", and constantly reminded by his friends that I should be more conservative in my opinions, and as Beldar Conehead said, "adopt low tones", I believe it is time to get louder, more up front, and not just a little aggressive in this election.

Is the refusal of a company to rent space to an anti-war group a violation of the first amendment?Likely not. It can be construed as a commercial business decision. The outcome here is in the details of the contract and lawyers settle that.

Is it a violation of the spirit of that amendment? Matters of spirit are for individuals to decide, but I say yes, it is. It is a disease where the symptoms are to seek power by any means and to lose sight of the necessity of balanced and fair leadership.

Our country is in a dangerous time in which thinkers and doers on both sides must look for reasons to unite instead of reasons to divide. The mean spirited acts of media and their customers alike that attempt to suppress dissenting opinions in these times have become not simply a political feint, but a global psychosis that is penetrating every communicative act. It leads a Republic to fascism and historically, this is a very hard disease to overcome. It takes generations and it leaves permanent scars. Look to the history of Italy for an example.

When the voice of dissent is heard, the warranty of freedom is realized. Let it be as loud as the bells and fireworks that announce our independence.

6 comments:

Joshua Allen said...

You make a good point that we are currently in no position to present a unified view of our own culture. We export a view of America that is offensive even to many Americans, and makes it very easy for the Islamists to claim that we are a nexus of perversion and infidelity. Hollywood does not help America's foreign policy goals in the middle east.

However, I do not think we need to blame America and look for faults within ourselves when faced with such a clear and present danger. It's dangerously naive to think that these people would just go away if we pulled out of the middle east, or had a more friendly foreign policy, shut up the militant homosexuals, or had more dissent and dialogue at home. They will not stop until every woman on the face of the earth is wearing burkhas. Our goal should be to rid the world of Islamist thought, period. Islamist thinking is just as dangerous as Nazi thinking was, and should be removed and made illegal just as with Nazis. It's either that, or submit.

Mark Levison said...

A remarkable interesting post. After reading it I tried to subscribe, but I can't find a feed. How do we subscribe?

mlevison at gmail

Bringo said...

The feed can be found here: http://lamammals.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Kolya said...

If you turn around another comments posts - you get this:

You make a good point that we are currently in no position to present a unified view of our own culture. We export a view of Islam that is offensive even to many Muslims, and makes it very easy for the Americans to claim that we are a nexus of perversion and infidelity. Saudi Arabia does not help Islam's foreign policy goals in the middle east.

However, I do not think we need to blame Muslims and look for faults within ourselves when faced with such a clear and present danger. It's dangerously naive to think that these people would just go away if we pulled out of America, or had a more friendly foreign policy, shut up the militant fanatics, or had more dissent and dialogue at home. They will not stop until every woman on the face of the earth is not wearing burkhas. Our goal should be to rid the world of Western thought, period. Western thinking is just as dangerous as Soviet thinking was, and should be removed and made illegal just as with the Soviets. It's either that, or submit.


Just a thought as to how we all sound exactly alike - but argue for our own sides....

-Kolya
http://bcp.blogspot.com

Joshua Allen said...

Kolya,

We should be careful with moral relativism. Violence directed at women and children for religious purposes is not the same as threat of violence used by a police officer to apprehend a murderer. The battered wife is not equally culpable to the abusive husband, and the gay is not to blame for the violence of the gay-basher.

You cannot find a defense or argument for tolerance of the Islamist's violence in the words of Gandhi or Jesus; the closest place would be the words of a Hitler or Mussolini. Keep care of the company you keep.

Kolya said...

Joshua - I whole heartedly agree with your last post - it's just not what your first post sounded like. I was merely indicating that your first argument was too easy to twist around.

What I love: this country (and here I mean really most Western nations), lets us argue without fear of reprimand or punishment...there's nothing quite like freedom! I'm pretty sure there's no such place in an Islamic fundamentalist nation with a caliphate.

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