Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Opiate of the disrespected

Religions perpetually and consistently deliver simple, noble sounding promises about what people should do and what the world could be like. Governments are both less consistent and held more accountable because they can be changed. Confusing or conflating the role and workings of government with those of religion is a pernicious mistake that takes generations to undo and has, throughout history, brought mankind to pathetic low points of widespread violence and suffering. Yet simple, noble sounding messages pounded in your ears all your life will make you oblivious to the source of your suffering.

Slackman gives a further reading of the political fallout as the dust settles around Israel's contended borders and there is no comfort in it at all for the US. Our clumsy, phony claim to be delivering democracy is just noise and tears lost under the rubble from Beirut to Baghdad.

In my readings and travels, I observe of Arabs that their outlook is marked by a long history of being poor in money but rich in pride. Pride is an uneven tent that easily encompasses a family or a tribe, can be stretched to cover the identity of a nation but under pressure from outsiders, will do for an entire linguistically distinguished culture. The symbolic humiliation of a people and a culture that scenes from Abu Ghraib represent will be redressed even though our government and its talk-show lackeys persist in saying "whats the big deal?". It is a hideous possibility that if our soldiers had simply shot those prisoners and taken no pictures, less damage might have been done to the process of restoring peace in Iraq. Recurring offenses to Arab character and Arab pride will go on because they arise from cultural myopia...not the conscious clash of cultures foreseen and welcomed by Osama Bin Laden and the neocons, not a religious clash, but one that is just dumb cultural miscommunication brought on by forcing the two cultures into contact through miscalculated military campaigns. But the real damage will be the way the pride of the culture will be restored through the ascendancy of the religion as a political force. "Death before dishonor" was a slogan that once meant more to Americans, say in the days when men dueled to the death over an insult or other matter of honor. But its meaning has slipped away from our relatively sybaritic western minds and it is not much heard except in tattoo parlors near Camp Pendleton and in grotesque caricatures like the 1987 movie with that title. But certainly, "Death before dishonor" fits a suicide bomber better than his vest full of plastic explosives.

The people in the grip of this Islamism are not unintelligent about its workings even as they ignore its impact on the peace in their region.
"We need an umbrella," said Mona Mahmoud, 40, Jihan'’s older sister. "In the 60'’s, Arabism was the umbrella. We had a cause. Now we lack an umbrella. We feel lost in space. We need to be affiliated to something. Usually in our part of the world, because of what religion means to us, we immediately resort to it."
And the pundits of the region see clearly enough that Arab pride has been consistently damaged by western meddling and do not seem alarmed at the price that present regimes will pay for the restoration of dignity:
"The losers are going to be the Arab regimes, U.S.A. and Israel", said Dr. Fares Braizat of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. "The secular resistance movements are gone. Now there are the Islamists coming in. So the new nationalism is going to be religious nationalism, and one of the main reasons is dignity. People want their dignity back."
The only Arabs Bush ever dignified were the princes who would sell him oil. I think $70 per barrel does not begin to account for the real price we will pay for that oil.

Beware Arab pride, it is so thick it could cut you with a knife.
This was a bit of "wisdom" I have always considered unacceptable for posting because, like all generalizations, it is wrong in some ways. It could be read as inflamatory and even cowardly. But if, by speaking in their own language, it would give my crusading neocon administration a clue about the way they are stomping on the sensitivities of the hearts and minds they so desperately need to win, it is worth risking the ways it can be misread. It is politically incorrect but then our present course in world politics is in even more dire need of correction.

We Americans have our pride too of course. And the wanton destruction visited on us by al-Qaida in 2001 damaged that pride. Now, does anyone see how productive and beneficial our measures to restore pride have been? Where the hell is the world going, folks? [clue: the answer was in the question.]

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