Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The other side of the See-saw

I've strongly argued that Islam itself is not the problem. In its current instantiation among sadly far too many, it is also not the answer.

I've criticized the Bush administration as well as liberal movements (in the US and Euro) for all failing to grasp this issue holistically.

I've argued that another way of viewing the issue beyond a Clash of Civilizations nor a simple Western imperial oppressive model, is needed. [and have offered a sketch of that plan].

I've even argued that our continued hypersensitivity around terrorism is hurting us--throwing far too many resources into unnecessary and wasteful projects (see: Dept. of Homeland Security the biggest pork-barrel of 'em all).
--Bin Laden's vision, which he learned fighting the Soviets, was simply to bleed the great powers dry. Ask yourself how much money was lost economically by the attacks of 9/11 and how much has been spent, for exaple in Iraq, as compaed to what it cost al-Qaeda to organize/execute the terrorist plot of 2001?

But just to balance any cosmic ledgers, if needs be, this photo to remind us how deep the problem of fundamentalist Islam (major emphasis on the qualifying adjective) is:

That is a picture of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at a rally with a Swastika superimposed on the Star of David. Translation pretty clear: The Israelis are Nazis.

No immediate jumping to conclusions about how they are Nazis are saying the Jews are Nazis. I'm frankly sick of anybody being called a Nazi--unless they are in fact a Neo-Nazi. Like a skinhead, with a swastika, seek a return to pagan German ideology of the soil (as opposed to say a transcendent God).

Just sit with it. Contemplate and feel into the mindset that can so unconsciously, so matter of factly, so arrogantly, and so ignorantly make such a statement. With no taking of the others into account, being totally lost in one's egocentric/ethnocentric space. The wounded pride, the self-loathing projected, the crushing narcissism.

First feel a way of embracing that mercifully. Not condoning, not excusing, but loving beyond it. Don't fall into the same unconsciousness and do unto them as they have done unto others. Neither look away from the depths of hatred involved. Don't write it off with some line about they couldn't know any better. Don't deny their humanity so easily just to assuage your conscience.

Look long and hard.

The West for now is losing the so-called War on Terror where it has always ever mattered for now and for the next decade or so--the "war" for hearts and minds. We won the Cold War not just with more bombs but because we had better ideas. Because we created a vision for people on the other side of the Wall (Havel, Sharansky, Walesa). We are not doing that with the Muslim world.

Some, many of a certain age, disposition are unconvertible. So be it. The real struggle always involves the young whose minds are open. What are we offering them to break the aura of this hateful image?

[PS: Check out this article by Flynt Leverett on Iran-Syria and failings in the Bush agenda for a New Middle East. As well as his criticisms of the surging anti-war left].


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Travis W said...


Good to see you blogging again. Your Integral World article on Chalcedon and non duality caused a couple of light bulbs to go off. I check your blog everyday.

You said:

"Just sit with it. Contemplate and feel into the mindset that can so unconsciously, so matter of factly, so arrogantly, and so ignorantly make such a statement. With no taking of the others into account, being totally lost in one's egocentric/ethnocentric space. The wounded pride, the self-loathing projected, the crushing narcissism...Some, many of a certain age, disposition are unconvertible. So be it. The real struggle always involves the young whose minds are open. What are we offering them to break the aura of this hateful image?"

I guess my question is: How can we blame them?

With Bush acknowledging there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq the official excuses for going to war have been completely swept away while their true intentions stand revealed. As it stands now I think there have been 2,611 American soldiers killed in Iraq. What is not mentioned is that recent studies estimate Iraqi civilian casualties to be around 250,000. Lets think on that for a minute...250,000...Americans should really let THAT sink in. But is this of any concern to the American press or politicians? Of course not. Republicans wont even acknowledge a problem while the idiot Democrats simply think they could have done a better job. If any tragedy related to Iraq is mentioned its only that 2,611 Americans have died. Is this not racism of the worst, most abhorrent kind? Plain and simple: we don't give a shit.

As many have said there will be no peace without justice. The biggest issue for most Arabs is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - here again how can we blame them? The fact is that a large indigenous population was kicked off their land and was simply expected to live with it. The most common defense being the Holocaust. What kind of racist logic is that? The atrocities that have and continue to take place in the West Bank and Gaza strip are well documented but no one cares. Take the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. When two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped the event was completely severed from its greater context: the thousands of Lebanese rotting in Israeli prisons and the events in Gaza. Was this mentioned anywhere in the mainstream? Of course not except once on British television:


Only in the Western media was this viewed as anything but a proxy war and attempt to accelerate an attack on Iran. Which is being built up and justified the same way Iraq was.

The Middle East has been under constant military invasion for more than 200 years. How the US was a midwife for political Islam is well documented from militarily backing the oppressive Saudi regime to using the Afghans to create a Vietnam type war with the Soviets to undermining democratic processes in Iran and Egypt.

These people have lost everything and continue to lose everything. What do we continue to offer their young but death, death, and more death. All the while THEY are ones branded barbarians by the Westerners who have no problem spewing the most vile racist comments all over the airwaves.

I guess my point it that the Western imperial oppressive model IS the big issue. There will always be "terrorism" and low violent social order until these people are respected as human beings, western powers give up their imperial ambitions in the area and they are free to govern themselves (not the puppet governments beholden to Western interests).

When the history of our involvement in the area is taken into account along with the horrors that continue to be inflicted upon these people every single day who are we to say "bad form" to them when they accuse us of being that which we scapegoat onto them? More than anything right now America needs to truly look at itself and this beastly shadow that continues to grow as its culture declines into obesity and trivia and its government continues beating the war drums- before we really do start WWIII.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


Thanks for the comments.

I definitely share your pain and sympathize with the horrible plight of the Middle East. The history of colonialism, the mistake of creating Israel without a Palestinian state, and the common right-wing ignorance around Islam in the US.

But I can't support many of your conclusions. I certainly think your heart is in the right place, but I think your off-base on this one.

Like I said in the psot I want a moratorium on calling people Nazis--both Arabs and Israelis.

as I have stressed throughout in my writing, I think not to sound too corny, but if this viewed as a broken relationship, everyone is at fault, some more than others to be sure. And the discussion is always one-sided. Either it's all been the Arabs fault, or all the West/Israel's fault. It's just too simplistic either way.

I think in a deeper sense it is very prejudicial to say that these people have suffered and what else can we expect of them?

I think that pov (consciously or unconsciously) veers towards it's own subtle forms of racism. To me, it views people as helpless little children who don't know any better and therefore aren't responsible. I see rather a proud people who need a chance to determine their own destiny, but one that needs to be forward thinking not submersed in the past.

I think if we can't hold one another to account then we don't really love each other. Not to say we shouldn't hold our views ligthly, with humility, and always seek greater mercy and understanding.

But to me it's just too easy to say, who am I/are we to blame? I think that view acts as a moral cover for an underlying desire not to want to be in relationship, not to realize we are already in relationship with all others. Not to want to be held accountable by God, even, to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

I'm not going to get into a big long thing about the history of atrocities the other way round--like how everywhere the PLO went (e.g. Jordan, Lebanon) it had very little concern for the states within which it was residing and their citizens. Took advantage of that opportunity--under the cover of being oppressed--and proceeded to create states within states, launching attacks into Israel, that brought on an Israeli onslaught and was deeply complicit in the deaths of innocents, in other countries.

If some pro-Western Iranian regime residing in the US launched a sneak-attack (without our authorization) on Iran who then responded by killing a bunch of
US troops in Iraq, bombing Israel and W. Europe killing a number of innocents, would we say about the Iranian dissidents that we can't blame them, they had been oppressed by the Islamic Revolutionary Regime, it's not their fault?

That's not to say Iran isn't authoritarian and brutal. It is. Israel certainly has been to others. So are Arab politics if you haven't noticed. But we don't make that victimization alone into a legitimation for any nymber of stupid, even destructive actions.

I recommend PBS' The Fifty Years War, if you haven't seen it already. It is such a sad tale, with so much evil committed by both sides. As even a presentation of the Arab-Israeli conflict as I imagine can be achieved.

But I just want to make clear, I criticize attitudes, beliefs, actions, not peoples. That's why I suggested a more contemplative pose, to feel the part of ourselves that respond in ways analogous to holding a Star of David with the Swastika---with the Swastika for God's sakes.

So we see these as people, as brothers and not immediately jump to all the blame-game, fixed perspectives, sides, allegiances, zero-sum mentality.

It will literally never end as long as that is the thinking on both sides of the divide.

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Daniel O'Connor said...


FWIW, i whole-heartedly second your proposed moratorium on calling people Nazis... and not just Arabs and Israelis.

All too often in online discussions, people who are (i infer) outmatched in a tough political debate will pull out the "Nazi" card in a desperate ad hominem against their opponents.

Thus, for just one memorable example, those who questioned (not opposed, just questioned) the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq and topple Hussein were dismissed as no better than those who appeased Hitler before WWII. Not quite Nazis, but then these were just the people who questioned the decision.

It's the same mentality at work, the same logical fallacy, the same demonization of one's opponent, the same destructive implications for the dialogue that must ultimately happen whether we like it or not.

Tolerating such extreme forms of ad hominem in any forum, rationalizing it as acceptable from some people and not from others, sounds like moral relativism to me.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

Amen brother.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Travis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Travis said...


I misinterpreted aspects of what you were saying and see that my post came off rather spirited. I hope you didn't take it as an attack and forgive me if you took offense. To clarify my perspective then you originally said:

"Just sit with it. Contemplate and feel into the mindset that can so unconsciously, so matter of factly, so arrogantly, and so ignorantly make such a statement. With no taking of the others into account, being totally lost in one's egocentric/ethnocentric space. The wounded pride, the self-loathing projected, the crushing narcissism."

I wouldn't disagree with what your saying but it seems to me that can allow a dismissive attitude that doesn't allow us to contemplate as to WHY they would compare Israel (& West) to the Nazi's. Only when these questions are forced into the national spotlight will Americans begin to question the blatant propaganda of the government and corporate media. Only when we begin to question and empathise will we be able to love our enemies. This is critical. Many commentators and human rights groups have pointed out that there is little difference between the actions of Germany, the US and Israel- land/resource grabs, racial and cultural genocide etc. Aside from the Holocaust being seen as the supremely evil act of humanity, these things happened all over the 20th century and in much worse numbers. While we didn't engage in this sort of thing directly we have with full knowledge empowered others to do it for us. Contrary to what modernity likes to think, the barbarism of our past never ended we just brilliantly suppressed it. One historian has pointed out there is no difference between what Germany did and Western colonial genocide all over the world in the last 500 years and that Hitler's true sin (in the eyes of the European elite) was using the same tactics on the West.

That is not to say that atrocities haven't been committed on both sides and by other powers East and West. Only to say that in our situation we are the superpower and Israel the fourth largest military in the world and that it is we who have done much to arm the Wahhabists and Jihadists to the teeth. And that it is we who attempted to use and manipulate their religion to serve our political needs against the Soviets. Our sins are great and many.

I'm not supportive of escalating violence and demonizing 'the other' either and truly believe non-violent resistance is the Middle East's great hope but the West (US & Israel) is the overt power in the situation and I feel we have a prophetic responsibility to urge our fellow citizens ask these questions. Only when America (& the ME) looks at itself and accepts its shadow will resolution and relationship be possible. To sum up I wouldn't disagree with you but feel there must be a absolutely urgent sense of introspection here in a time when so MANY are suffering and dying.

In Christ, Travis


Post a Comment

<< Home