Sunday, July 10, 2005

Reason Is Not Treason

With the recent London bombings, Tim Bray quotes from CNN,

“Authorities across the United States worked to increase security on subways, trains, and other potential targets...”.

then goes on to comment, "That’s really, really stupid. If someone wants to kill you so badly that he doesn’t mind dying in the process, chances are he’s probably going to get you, and a few more cops on the subway aren’t going to help."

Here we disagree. Cops help. Surveillance helps. There is a considerable amount of technology and human resources one can apply to secure mass transit systems. XML, for one. We of the markup community created the core technology for the systems to be applied to global terrorism. Will our technology stop all of the terrorist acts? Never has, but it reduces their severity, intensity and frequency. A sad fact of war, and this is a war, is that it isn't about saving everyone; it is about denying an enemy their chosen target.

My friend goes on:

"My other radical suggestion—which some will denounce as treason—is to work harder at figuring out the “Why?” of it."

Reasoned inquiry and learning is never treason. If one believes the published writings, reasons range from reestablishing a worldwide Caliphate under Muslim law to driving the US out of the Middle East. To the first, that won't happen so we are beyond reason here. To the second, that will happen anyway.

"...when something is driving enough people into insane belief systems that we see regular explosions in our cities, it would be smart to care—a lot—what that something is. Because, on the evidence, I don’t think the leaders of the Western world have a clue."

This is the nut of it: I don't think it is one thing. I believe on the evidence one will find it is many reasons, some fantasy, some an expression of deep discomfort with life as they lead it now. Which is to say, it is not that people adopt insane belief systems that mystifies me. That is common enough. It is that sane people give them support, and for our leaders in the West to change this, they must find and work with these people and change their attitudes about the worthyness of supporting the insane actions of the few.

When the reality of the Palestinian living conditions are brought to the screen, they are compared to the Israeli lifestyle. The Israelis built their country of their own effort. Whose effort improves the conditions of the Palestinians? One thing I've observed in my half century on this rock, when living conditions are made better by the effort of those who live in a place, they seek to keep that place safe. Golda Meir said it best: "When we love our children more than we hate each other."

Some think the Middle East is a culture committed to its own destruction. That's baloney. That is the mote in the eye of the West, and by our own experience, we know that this can change. Thirty years ago, the Russians and the Chinese were a Red Peril. Today they are cagey economic allies working to get a bigger slice of the global economy. The streets of Beijing are not filled with soldiers. It is filled with businessmen. One doesn't read about Great Leaps Forward. One reads about pressuring the US Congress to allow the sail of UNOCAL to Beijing. One reads about the reforms in the banking systems.

Where the West and George W. Bush are blowing it is in creating extra-Middle Eastern terrorists. The next wave will be Caucasians, Western European, the dissatisfied of the well-off seeking a purpose and finding it in the call to worship and the slums of the inner cities. Terrorism is cheap, and as warfare goes, not that challenging. Slaughter of innocents is the easy means to stay in the game. But that game builds no dams, improves no banks, feeds no hungry, frees no prisoner. It is only death come to speak for the disgrace of hunger and powerlessness through the acts of the demented.

This can change for the better. It always has. Through the long slog from global threats of anilhilation to this taste of terror as we board a bus, the one constant has been when someone has more to lose, they work harder to keep what they have. It is a simplistic analysis, but I believe by experience, it is the surest path to a day when we will be able to turn off the cameras.

But until that day comes, be prepared for a world where every act on every public stage is real time hyperdistributed, cataloged, indexed, and analyszed. May we, if we learn nothing else from this experience which is new in human history, the truth about ourselves.

Comment Policy

If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."