Flawless is coming soon...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Western Christendom v. Islam? Part I

I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the books they read, the movies they watch and the music they listen to. That is why if I am engaged in conversation with someone who I recently met, within 15 minutes I will know these things about them. In the interest of full disclosure, you can find these things out about me by clicking on the “View my complete profile” under the “About Me” section to the right.

Books, movies and music can inspire people to act in ways that they ordinarily would not. This does not necessarily mean that these actions will be constructive, because they too often are destruction. Take a rap artist who inspires young people to spew hate out of their mouths by mimicking the lyrics of a popular song that debase women. Conversely, look at the patriotic songs that had Americans swelling with pride as they were repeated after September 11th. Or in an extreme 20th century example, how did Germans, who were otherwise at the pinnacle of Western culture and understood that murder, theft and adultery were actions of the depraved, come to believe that it was permissible to commit genocide?

I recall as a junior high school student when Roots was shown for the first time. It instilled a sense of black pride in me and most of my friends who attended the majority white Lord Baltimore Junior High in Fort Washington, Maryland. However, just like the rude youngsters who impersonate the latest hatemonger lyrics from a rap star, we were headed down a similar path to destruction. Me and about 10 friends were going to show white people that we were no longer going to be abused, so we challenged the white guys to a fight after lunch under the stairwell next to the metal shop class.

Expecting a dozen or so white guys, there were at least 100 of them; some not quite sure why they were there. Now five minutes before the black guys arrived, we had conjured notions of victory over what turned out to be more than half of the 8th grade, male population at Lord Baltimore. Of course, after seeing 100 or more white guys, discretion became the better part of valor; consequently, at the first opening, we bolted.

The point that I make in all of these examples is that social influences shape our thinking and motivate our actions to a large degree; notwithstanding that in some cases, like the Holocaust, people’s actions are influenced by propaganda, whether it be in the form of a book, a speech or a pamphlet. In fact, the most influential instrument throughout history has been a book – the Bible (the Old and New Testaments). It has contoured the mode of thought and actions of generations back to the BC period of the Pharaohs, and to this day, the Gospel message is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that is beamed non-stop around the globe through satellite television.

Unfortunately and ironically, the Gospel has not always been used as a tool of virtue. History is littered with examples of evil men using this book to peddle wicked schemes: The Holocaust, slavery and the Inquisition are examples of how the Bible has been used as a propaganda weapon.

There are numerous books that have helped chart the course of American history. Of course, the Bible and the United States Constitution have had the greatest impact. However, when one considers influential books in American history they must consider Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; Henry David Thoreau’s work on Civil Disobedience; Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom; Albert Einstein’s Relativity; Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; and Sigmund Freud’s The Ego and The Id to name a few. I believe 25 years from now The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and its sequel Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity by Samuel P Huntington will be considered two of the most influential books of the last past half century.

The Clash of Civilizations was initially published as a magazine article in Foreign Affairs in the summer of 1993. According to the editors of this distinguished journal, this article generated more discussion than any other article ever published. Three years later the article evolved into the book that cast a mark of distinction on Huntington as the most quoted authority on the events surrounding September 11th. In the post-Cold War world, he predicted, conflicts will no longer run along ideological – political, economic – fault lines, but along cultural – religious, language, ancestry, and customs – fault lines. Conflicts along these fault lines will create a clash of civilizations. This clash, in some instances, will be the result of long standing grievances that Muslim countries have with the Western world.

Many third world nations have developed the type of revenue, mostly through oil and manufacturing that is allowing them to purchase sophisticated military weapons. Although these same countries are not prepared to face any Western nation in a conflict, they are less likely to be intimidated by them. Huntington warned America of the potential for conflict with Islamic nations who believe that many of their difficulties are the result of American intervention into their domestic affairs. According to Huntington, these nations have a special incentive to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver them, because it will give them a shortcut to becoming a regional, military power and it will give them the means to deter intervention into their region and country by the United States. It is believed by many scholars if Saddam had waited to invade Kuwait until after he developed a WMD program, America would not have interfered with his incursion.

After September 11th The Clash of Civilizations became a best seller and Huntington emerged as one of the most insightful scholars in the country.

…to be continued

No comments: