Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Shadow Gift Exchange

There are times in my life where I'm glad that I can speak German well enough to be understood (sometimes with moderate effort), and usually vice versa. My grandfather sent me another political screed that's been passing between the very conservative in email (and fax machines, and ..) .. whoever said that computers were only tools for liberals? Anyhow, I suspected this particular one to be a hoax, because it claimed to be written by a German, was in idiomatic (American) English, and was grandstanding in that kind of conservative way that I normally only see in the most propogandic and least intelligent Christian propoganda. So... I hopped on IRC, entered a german channel, and talked with them about it. They offered to speak English, of course, but I insisted we speak auf Deutsch. Apparently, the paper in which he wrote the article is considered pretty far right and US-friendly, and he wrote it many years ago. He is widely considered a nut in Europe. Interesting to know.

I give shape to beefalo's bed, because it is me. Beefalo takes a special pleasure in lying on me when I have a blanket wrapped around myself -- I think it makes for a kind of hammock. This reminds me -- I slept on a hammock for many years. I wonder if now my sleeping on the floor is a reaction against that -- a greater need for stability/feelings of safety, perhaps? Hammocks are in some ways the opposite of the floor for a sleeping surface -- they can bend a lot depending on how one sleeps in them, they move a bit on their own, and they can apply a lot of force to a part of one's body if one moves certain ways.

I've recently been listening to a lot of "villain themes". One particularly wonderful song is from the Anastasia movie, "In the Dark of the Night". Nevermind that the movie is woefully historically inaccurate, it might help that the deaths of the Romanovs was, in my opinion, a societal good (and a necessity), making it easier to sympathise with their version of Raputin (rather than historical Rasputin, who had a more complex relationship with the Boyars and the Royals). I think right now, I'm looking for dramatic, stormy music, to match my recent dreams.

I thought I'd share my response to my Grandpa's previous mail too, because it contains a quick overview of one of the lines I trace through history in the light of the kulturkampf that's going on right now. See below, and comments are as usual, welcome.

Arguments don't quite break down that way. There is a cultural struggle going on, it is true, but the article oversimplifies it to having only two sides and accepts an unrealistic explanation (jealousy) as being foundational. The actual reasoning and history behind it are much more interesting, and if the author took the time to understand it, they would probably be considerably more humble and effective in what they propose. To lay a brief sketch, Islamic societies have, like Christian society in Europe, at least two major polar positions, a secular/scientific side and a religious/traditional side. The distribution between these positions have always been shaped by economics, levels of education, political desperation, feelings of destiny, etc. Feelings of persecution and danger tend to create an upsurge in religious passion. In times of plenty, religion and tradition historically, in both Islamic and Christian regions of the globe, tend to slowly loosen among most people. In Europe, this reached sufficient mass during the Enlightenment and the protestant reformation to throw off much religious control and influence over societies, creating modern secular government (which was and is somewhat to the dismay of the most religious factions in western society). This has not yet happened in the middle east, and so their relatively secular side is not shaped like ours -- it is still fairly religious in nature (although modernist). Iraq and Iran were examples of the two poles of Islamic society -- Iraq was a secular, fairly modern state that broke with traditions, took veils off women and put them in the workplace, and had a legal code that was not based on Islamic law. Iran, by contrast, was and is a deeply traditional theocratic state where occasionally music is banned as being a distraction from god (note that parts of Europe did this kind of thing too in days past).Iran saw Iraq as being hopelessly sinful and decadent in its liberalism (just as Al Qaeda, a representative of one flavour of pro-theocracy continually tried to assassinate Hussein and end any other insufficiently religious-leaning leaning government, from Algeria to Egypt). Again, these are mirrors of Europe's past before the reformation and enlightenment shattered Christianity's political control over Europe.

As noted above, religious fervor can be stirred by threats to civilisation. Unfortunately, Europe and (to a more limited extent) the United States have never been shy at provoking them, both economically and socially. Britain and the United States initially set up oil mines and other corporations in Iran, initially with the consent of the Shah. They paid minimal wages to local workers and made huge profits at home, and instituted rules to make Irani workers servile and second-class. Eventually, when the abuses grew great enough, the people forced a change in government, placing Mohammad Mosaddegh as Prime Minister. He nationalised most of the factories and mines and removed much of the American and British influence over the government. Britain and the United States used their intelligence forces to orchestate a coup in order to install a government that would serve their economic needs. Twelve years later, the people toppled that regime and, desperate from opression and eager to avoid further western meddling, established the modern theocratic state. Similarly, Europe and the US have done a number of political assasinations of leaders of nations that were not sufficiently in line with their business interests. Somewhat less government centric, traditional/religious leaders in the Islamic world (and also to a degree in the Christian world, e.g. Harry Potter book burning in some parts of the U.S.) are concerned over the effects of American culture influencing/overrunning theirs. Fundamentalists of both types have made calls to ban these influences in areas they can control. Both see it as protecting their culture and way of life from sinful and ungodly influences.

The other important thing to note is that while these poles may seem monolithic, they are not. Most governments in the sphere of Islam are actually not run by fundamentalists, and as a result those governments are struggling with forces aiming to topple them. Even Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Islamic states and the heart of Islam, is struggling to contain Al Qaeda and similar forces, as these groups have called for the death of their royal families and even stricter religious/traditional controls over their societies.

The situation with Israel is, along with economic/rights domination and cultural concerns, part of the three major sticking points with why there is so much .. tension in that part of the world with Europe. Israel is too complex to go into here though. Suffice it to say that for Middle Eastern people, I would find it exceedingly odd for anyone there who is well-educated to have much more than mixed feelings towards the west.

That's basically where things are. When commentators like the person you quoted completely fail to grasp the history, it's hard for me to take them seriously. If they at least know what's going on, they still might come to a number of conclusions on what should be done (if anything), and that would be fine, but the person you quote seems to me to be doing little more than echoing an excuse for some really stupid foreign policy.

Tags: politics

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