Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sort of... but no.

I like Larry Johnson's writing in general. He offers great insight usually, but I have to take serious issue with how he simplifies why it was stupid for Condi to not have seen the Hamas victory coming. Yes, it was stupid and probably no one outside of the administration didn't at least know they were going to do well in that election. In a post at NO QUARTER he references an excerpt of his previous writing on the subject including this statement:

"We are unwilling to come to grips with a very simple truth -- the majority of people in the Middle East prefer an Islamic rather than a secular government. Economic development does not ensure a steady march towards a secular, diverse society. Heavens (irony intended) just look at us. Despite our economic prowess and alleged sophistication, religious fundamentalists in our own country have succeeded in bringing great pressure to bear on our government and our media."

No, a majority of the people in the Middle East do not prefer an Islamic government to a secular diverse government. A majority of people in the Middle East aren't seeing their needs met and the Islamic surge is fed off of a resentment of the West's role in that lack. Hamas won because it is concerned with the day to day needs of the population of Palestine. This is not to say that Hamas goes about acheiving this the right way or that Hamas gaining more power bodes well for the region, but if you want to take the teeth out of Hamas and resistance groups there are only two ways too it and neither has a damn thing to do with religion. The religion part is just a cultural rallying point, reinforcing a sense of belonging and moral imperitive to a cause. To slow down terrorist groups you have to either kill them all ('them' being the members of not just the organization itself, but the entire group, ethnic/regional/political/whatever that they are revolting in the name of), or you have to incorporate the population back into the community. In Israel, the Palestinians have been marginalized and divided and had much of their means of economic stability destroyed. Until those issues are handled, the resistance will only get increasingly heated.

This isn't because Palestinians want an Islamic government. It is because they see Hamas as fighting against and enemy who is standing in the way of their security. Give a Middle Eastern nation security and stability for a few years and see if the populace keeps voting in an Islamic majority.

And the same with this country. Yes, economic development does insure a march towards a more secular diverse society, but only in so much as all members of society are incorporated and involved in that society and that the economic development doesn't allow one group to accumulate most of the profit. No, Christians in this country are by no means the ones with the economic short end of the stick, but they sell their message as a reaction to being victimized.

They are not selling Jesus's message, but rather using the Bible as a cultural touch stone for rallying against the forces which they peceive as threatening them. Notice that the religious right attracts the most racist, bigoted folks you will ever meet. Not only the overt ones, but the message of protecting the world from this secular onslaught is also not so subtly as they would like to believe communicating a wish for a time when being white was more overtly advantageous. We aren't stupid; we know what is meant when they talk about the good old days and it has nothing to do with morality. It is about the world being organized in a way that white people and particularly a certain segment of the white population was on top and assured of staying on top.

The religious right makes a great noise about the country turning from its values, but this is what they mean. It is just a thinly veiled attempt at resurrecting social controls that keep people 'in their place'.

I am not so cynical to believe that all religious sentiment amongst people is so calculated and callous. Certainly there are true believers and those whose moral compass is aligned by their faith, be it Christian, Muslim, or other and certainly churches and mosques play central roles in many communities and that the idea of getting a feeling on belonging and purpose isn't only a negative thing or necessarily in opposition to a functional, diverse, accepting culture. But for these things to remain positive, people's basic needs must be met and they must feel secure and safe or their religious sentiment can easily be harnessed into knee-jerk political opposition, which in more extreme cases can lead to terrorism.

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