Monday, July 25, 2011

A Brief FB Dialogue on Extremism, Religion and Assumptions

This is a Facebook discussion between friends just after the horrific events in Oslo and Norway earlier this week. An effort to better understand the context of such acts of wickedness and the societies in which they occur. Do we make assumptions too quickly based on our fears and experience of those fears? Do we tend to look at the 'outsider' to be responsible for the evil we find within? Are news media responsible for exaggerating those fears? What responsibility does the media have to avoid snap judgements and exploiting social phobias? How much has history changed over time? How can the individual safely challenge society's assumptions? How do we learn to self-perceive our own assumptions?

FB: The [Oslo] attack comes only days after Norway indicted Mullah Krekar, the founder (with bin Laden) of Ansar al-Islam. Earlier this month, Krekar threatened to attack government officials if they deported him, as they indicated they might. The Islamist war against infidels continues...

KDL: We must be careful of our assumptions guiding our thoughts, as reasonable as they may appear to us without all of the facts in place. First, this is a horror and tragedy. Second, comes politics, which is still being assessed, right-wing maniac or foreign terror. Time, painfully, will tell...

ST: Ah, yes. It begins to look more like Oklahoma City . . . .

FB: It seems the NYTimes reporting that a terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad, claiming responsibility for the attack was premature. They've taken down the story so reporting. Their first cut at history was so wrong they couldn't leave any evidence of the error.

KDL: But your confident assurance, dear F., may be on FB for eternity...

FB: You are correct. I suppose I could delete my comment -- the NYTimes way -- to remove traces of my premature confident assurance, but I can live with it. Such mistakes serve to remind us -- just as others will -- when we make them. Cheers.

KDL: But, F., this really isn't about the NYT or Fox News or how long a post stays on-line in the digital age... this is about extremism, dogmatism, cruelty n obsession in the human mind. Some are obsessed by Islamic phobia, some by foreign phobia, some by arrogance of their self-perceived superiority in kulture, class, religion et al. This demented young man just shows us the rot that is in every society and religion. No one has a monopoly of perverse nuts who use violence n horror to express their beliefs and dominance. Thus, the religious wars against the other goes on as it has for 1,400 years, alas...

FB: Is it really an irrational fear, having persisted for 1400 years? Is it extremism or human nature -- dark as that may be. Homo homini lupus. As you rightly point out -- careful of our assumptions.

KDL: I think society always perceives an external enemy, often finding evidence w/in its own midst. Fear is an aspect of the human condition, in perpetuity. Every society has it's own extremism within that is projected out. Unfortunately, the children of the Judeo-Xian-Islamic G-d have spent more time fighting over their inheritance than appreciating the diversity of their interpretations of the original teachings.

Alas, empire, trade, resources and arrogance have defined the relationship for most of the time w/ those rare occasions of civility, mutual respect and self-interest permiting a more nuanced and appreciative relationship.

As my wise and thoughtful ten year old daughter, Leah, says, "just saying..."

FB: Is society at fault/responsible for man's inhumanity to man? Or is it just the followers of certain religions? That's a pretty broad brush. Some of the biggest atrocities committed by man against man were in the name of: Stalin, Mao, Hitler -- not exactly followers of the three Abrahamic religions. And does trade serve in opposition to civility, mutual respect, etc. Are you suggesting a return to subsistence existence (which is what we'd have without trade)? Interesting thoughts.

KDL: No, F., you greatly exaggerate. Trade is essential to society n has gone on for millennia. Society is man's necessary existence and a collaboration of his/her greatest triumphs and failings. As you know, economic expansion can be a form of competition which has often resulted in efforts at conquest, war and nationalizm. History is full of atrocities on all scales. The 20th C. may have refined it on an industrial, statist level -- but cruelty is a common refrain in such struggles.

I'm reading a 1,200 page history of Venice that offers a broad perspective on European imperial ambitions, trade relations and constant war. This isn't about a religion, but how religion serves the purpose of society and its ambitions. The war against infidels is a form of heresy that has been a tragic flaw in the Abrahamic religions since early on... a shared myopia witnessed time and again.

and so it continues...

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