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The Problem Of Backwater Barbarians
Theodore Dalrymple thinks the mono-minded, Qu'ran-toting "fanatics and bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle." I wish I could believe he's right.

...the problem is that so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they want a return to the perfection of the seventh century and to dominate the twenty-first, as they believe is the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If they were content to exist in a seventh-century backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry confers, without either the free inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion, or they remain forever in the rear of human technical advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension between their desire for power and success in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as bombs.

Unfortunately, unless we bomb the Middle East, as the joke goes, centuries into the future (bringing them up to about The Middle Ages), I don't see the barbarians dissolving away anytime soon.


UPDATE: In the comments section below this blog item, Jeff R recommended Howard Bloom's book, The Lucifer Principle, A Scientific Expedition Into The Forces Of History, as a key to getting background on the psychology at work here. Here's what I posted in response, with slight edits for coherence:

heh heh...I would like to recommend that, too. Bloom is a very good friend. That book reads like a great novel, but it's about science and history. There's a great chapter in it (p239, "The Importance Of Hugging") that references James Prescott's survey of primitive cultures, which discovered that the difference between cultures which took pleasure in "killing, torturing or mutilating the enemy" were those which were physically cold to their children. These societies produced, (in Bloom's words), "brutal adults." He notes how this plays out in Islamic society, with Islamic mothers, "warm and nurturing," and fathers treating their children "harshly, acting cold, distant, and wrathful." When an Arab boy reaches puberty, he is "expelled from the loving world of his m other and sisters into the realm of men. There "...physical affection between men and women is frowned upon. A vengeful masculinity stands in its place. The result: violent adults." Bloom supports his contentions in the book -- you'll have to read it. I'll put up a link (ABOVE).

(story link via Arts & Letters Daily)

Posted by aalkon at April 17, 2004 8:02 AM

Comments

"unless we bomb the Middle East, [...] I don't see the barbarians dissolving away anytime soon."

Maybe I'm just a liberty-hating terrorist at heart, but something seems a little illogical about that one.

Posted by: Jihad Lena at April 17, 2004 7:44 AM

Believe me, I'm no war lover, but somehow, I don't think sitting them down for a chat about their disgusting behavior is going to get us too far.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2004 7:54 AM

Perhaps a good, firm spanking would do the trick. May I suggest Auntie Lena's "Bare Butt/Bare Hand Special"?

Posted by: Lena at April 17, 2004 10:12 AM

Amy, you've been reading a lot of good stuff lately. (James Earl Jones voice: "FEEL the POWER of the DARK SIDE of the force!")

Posted by: Crid at April 17, 2004 10:55 AM

"I don't think sitting them down for a chat about their disgusting behavior is going to get us too far."

Are you suggesting that chatting and bombing represent our only options?

Posted by: Lena at April 17, 2004 7:11 PM

Well, what did you have in mind?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2004 7:27 PM

(Was kinda wondrin' what 'Auntie Lena's "Bare Butt/Bare Hand Special' meant in practical terms)

Posted by: Crid at April 17, 2004 9:51 PM

"Well, what did you have in mind?"

Amy, I know how much you ADORE Noam Chomsky, so let me offer a quote from him in answer to that (Even if I worded it myself, I'd just be hiding behind his ideas).

"When a federal building was blown up in Oklahoma, there were calls for bombing the Middle East, and it probably would have happened if the source had turned out to be there. When it was found to be domestic, with links to the ultra-right militias, there was no call to obliterate Montana and Idaho. Rather, there was a search for the perpetrator, who was found, brought to court, and sentenced, and there were efforts to understand the grievances that lie behind such crimes and to address the problems. Just about every crime -- whether a robbery in the streets or colossal atrocities -- has reasons, and commonly we find that some of them are serious and should be addressed."

And if this lawful and orderly approach doesn't work, there's always Auntie Lena's "Bare Butt/Bare Hand Special"!

Posted by: Lena at April 17, 2004 10:20 PM

Or IS there a connection between OK and Osama?

http://www.laweekly.com/ink/02/35/news-crogan.php

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0225/ridgeway3.php

All of Montana is not out to get us. Much of the Middle East is.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2004 10:55 PM

I vote for giving Osama Auntie Lena's "Bare Butt/Rocket Propelled Missile Special"!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 18, 2004 12:21 AM

Without lube.

Posted by: Lena at April 18, 2004 12:42 AM

Great minds think alike.

PS And I'm sure we're both thinking of a certain friend of ours right now!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 18, 2004 1:25 AM

There it is, that same sorry melody! Chomsky demonstrates how lefties like to think the whole world is built like the United States, which itself is like the leftie's own family, wherein a stern Dad must administer punishments not only to Buffy and Jody... But sometimes face the music himself, too. Chomsky panders to a naive reader who's incapable of imagining a different worldview.

> ...there was no call to obliterate Montana and Idaho...

There was no call to "obliterate" any other part of globe, either. In Slate's message board after 9/11, a pseudonymous Glenn Reynolds noted that we could wipe Islam off the face of the globe and no one could or would do much to stop us, but that NO American had suggested this, even in jest. Instead, GW Bush should go down in history as one of Islam's great liberators.

And for the record: Montana and Idaho are States in our Union, Noam. Sure, they're miles away from Boston, but why would we want to obliterate them?

> ...and there were efforts to understand the grievances
> that lie behind such crimes and to address the problems...

I don't remember that part. I remember the part where the shit-filled, undersocialized murderer McVeigh was put to death at the banks of the Wabash in my dear ol' Indiana, and to Hell with him. If memory serves that was May 2001. It's not like in the next four months, newspapers were full of stories about how citizens were 'addressing his serious concerns.' Nope. We all pretty much moved on, confident that a monster had been extinguished, and his pathetic name was to be forgotten.

Chomsky is the epitome of a tweed-coated, elbow-patched academic fucktard. He thrives in the cowardly recesses of tenured academe, but pretends to be daring and masculine through infantile impudence. As in the passage cited: 'It's not fair! It's not fair!'

Puh-leeze.

> Just about every crime -- whether a robbery in the
> streets or colossal atrocities -- has reasons...

No. And even if it were so, the murder of thousands on 9/11 cannot be reasoned away. Never forget that the attackers were almost all middle-class. They came mostly from Saudi Arabia, an epically lazy and fucked-up nation. [Yes, we know this because we fucked them up.] We need not pretend these men were courageously defending an exotic formulation of civility from which we might someday need to draw succor and example.

You want a comfy, feels-like-family metaphor? They're six-year-olds throwing shoes into the punch at their sister's 13th birthday party, and should be punished. And sent to bed, if ya falla.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2004 7:11 AM

"Chomsky is the epitome of a tweed-coated, elbow-patched academic fucktard."

I know that you prefer your men a little more portly and short, swathed in cigarette smoke, with PBS-like British accents. There's no arguing with taste.

Crid, our resident social psychologist, explains 9/11 for us: The hijackers were lazy, fucked-up, middle class kids. Of course!

PS: Amy -- I'm hoping to see Ms. Lubeless Fuck in NYC this week. I miss her so!

Posted by: Lena at April 18, 2004 9:05 AM

> There's no arguing with taste.

I HATE that guy.

Posted by: Crid at April 18, 2004 11:20 AM

I would like to suggest Howard Bloom's book "The Lucifer Principle" to those who are willing to take a more pragmatic look at the forces of human nature that drive much of the chaos in the world today.

The quest for status, power and domination are ingrained in human nature. You can't 'educate' them away. Those who want world peace tend to be living in communities or countries that are economicaly comfortable and high on the list of the world's pecking order.

The most violent and anarchistic tend to be on the bottom. Religion has always been a unifying call to arms for those wanting to move up the pecking order. The religion of choice for those on the bottom of the heap tends to be Islam right now.

Please note that I express no political or religious solution to world violence, except that to note that, as an American, I must recognize that there are people out there who hate us just for being high on the world pecking order, both economically and militarily, and are willing to use violence to try to take that away from us.

The question is not how they justify their acts of violence, but are we willing to let them do that that to us?

Posted by: Jeff R at April 18, 2004 11:43 AM

heh heh...I would like to recommend that, too. Bloom is a very good friend. That book reads like a great novel, but it's about science and history. There's a great chapter in it (p239, "The Importance Of Hugging") that references James Prescott's survey of primitive cultures, which discovered that the difference between cultures which took pleasure in "killing, torturing or mutilating the enemy" were those which were physically cold to their children. These societies produced, (in Bloom's words), "brutal adults." He notes how this plays out in Islamic society, with Islamic mothers, "warm and nurturing," and fathers treating their children "harshly, acting cold, distant, and wrathful." And, he writes, "physical affection between men and women is frowned upon." Bloom asks: "Could denial of warmth lie behind this Arab brutality." He supports his contentions in the book -- you'll have to read it. I'll put up a link.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 18, 2004 2:28 PM

Quick update from Idaho-

We have a kook here named Richard Butler that sometimes runs the arayan nations. His compound WAS just a few miles from my house, in one of the most pristine and beautiful areas, a few miles from Hayden Lake. A few years back one of his thugs got out of hand, and he was sued and lost all his land and property. Thank God for the Southern Poverty Law center! What used to be his compound is now being converted, primarilly with local donations, into a community center for tolerance and racial understanding.

Anywho, Idaho had gotten a reputation for these kooks, who are no more prevelant here than in any other part of the country. There are about twenty of these aryans running around here, in a county with a population of over 100,000. Every summer they get a permit to have a parade, as is their 1st amendment right. 99% of my fellow Idahoans find these people repugnant, and here it is not really a big deal. It usually last about 30 minutes.

But when this event occurs, the national and international media descend upon Couer D'Alene, and portray this area as a hotbed of political fanatics. The reporters outnumber the demonstrators 100 to 1. In the last parade we had about two dozen skinheads with their wives and kids show up, but made all the national TV news.

The medias truth can not really be farther from the truth. It is true that this area is extremely conservative and primarilly Christian. But we have very little crime, so the paranoia I see in the people who live in the big cities does not translate into racial animosity. My Fedex man (and good friend) is black, and he has had only a few incidents of people calling him names or making rude gestures- he tells me far less than when he lived in Baltimore. My wife is Jewish and proudly displays a Star of David on her necklace, and has never received a rude comment.

I moved here 12 years ago from Los Angeles, and the difference in friendliness and neighborliness is remarkable. Montana and Wyoming are very much the same.

My point is just please stop thinking that the Pacific Northwest is a haven for nazis and other scum. Also- it is a great place to visit- but please don't think of moving here. We are already getting crowded- two months ago I actually had to slow down to 50 mph on the freeway due to traffic.

Have a groovy day...

Posted by: eric at April 18, 2004 3:01 PM

"Those who want world peace tend to be living in communities or countries that are economicaly comfortable [...]"

They also tend to betray a weakness for snap-crackle-pop psychology with ridiculously trite rhetorical questions such as "Could denial of warmth lie behind this Arab brutality."

Posted by: Lena at April 18, 2004 9:46 PM

Actually, it's pretty well backed up in that chapter. I'll show it to you! I just couldn't quote the whole thing.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 18, 2004 10:41 PM

"The importance of hugging" as a way to understand terrorism? It sounds VERY MUCH like the kind of tender-headed feminism whom I know you hate with all your heart and soul.

Posted by: Lena at April 18, 2004 11:32 PM

It's actually not warm and fuzzy in the least. The chapter title is actually a bit tongue in cheek -- ie, touch as a cure for terrorism. But, I'll show it to you - then tell me what you think.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 19, 2004 12:30 AM