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Catastrophic Success

As if there weren't enough political opinionating out there, I, too, now sing the body bloglectric. Let me FEED you![XML]

Location: United States

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

If it walks like a duck...

Since the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, is it unfair that a fictional portrayal of an FBI Counter-Terrorism Unit would feature a predominately Muslim terrorist enemy?

I don't believe so, any more than fictional accounts of the mafia feature predominately Italian characters (although the Italian-American groups have long protested those as well). I'm no more offended by the portrayal of the Gangs of New York as Irish hooligans than these people should be since, historically, those gangs were MADE UP OF IRISH HOOLIGANS!

I know that the argument is that such characterizations perpetuate negative stereotypes, but they are NOT stereotypes if they are based in fact. The fact is, a very large number of Muslims around the world wish to destroy us, the Great Satan. They are willing to use any means necessary to do so, including throwing fuel-rich airplanes into shining skyscrapers on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning. Not all Muslims, and certainly few American Muslims, believe this way, but the fact remains that Muhammad Atta and his cohort lived and worked in the United States, living seemingly normal lives until their "sleeper cell" was activated from word on high to commit the greatest atrocity on American soil in modern times.

Therefore, it stands to reason that a screenwriter could credibly create a family-based sleeper cell as an enemy for a fictional television series centered around counter-terrorism. In fact, being an avid watcher of 24, I'm positive that since the family is given as the enemy in the premiere that it will be revealed by week seven that the real enemy is some French anarchist (or better, in Hollywood's eyes, a disgruntled former American intelligence operator) or something who is using this family's religious devotion to manipulate them into taking America down a peg and destroy the purveyor of cultural filth and poisonous individualism.

No one can credibly convince another person that all Muslims are terrible horrible people worthy of interment (or obliteration) based on the "evidence" of this fictional television show. On the other hand, people can be convinced of the need to protect American interests by spreading democracy in parts of the world where individual expression is unflinchingly quashed and dissent from received wisdom punishable by death based on the evidence of two falling skyscrapers and a burning office building with a hole punched in it from a speeding jet plane. Reality is reality and let's let the TV alone.

This does highlight the need, however, of an Al-Martin bin Luther. Where is the reforming Muslim with his 95 Theses to state that (#37)"Every true Muslim, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Allah and the Church; and this is granted him by Allah, even without letters of pardon;" or (#47) 43. "Muslims are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than blowing up Israeli coffee shops?"

Martin Luther did more than rail against the sale of Indulgences, the practice of removing the spiritual pain of a particular sin (after repentence and penance, by doctrine) for a fee. The historical narrative suggests that Luther nailed the theses to the Church door in hopes of reforming the Catholic Church through a bold maneuver. His intent is irrelevent in this case, though, as the result is what matters.

The Protestant Reformation is marked by the spread of the meme that "Man and God can directly communicate, and the relationship between them is a personal one, and that each Christian can interpret the Scripture through his own lens and intellect." This is tremendously powerful meme and its spread can be traced through the creation of hundreds (thousands?) of Protestant Christian denominations. There are many of them, yet only one Catholic Church (I don't count the Greek Orthodox as a Catholic Church - with the Schism they become a different church, like the Anglican Split). They are the result of people having a better different view of man's relationship to God.

The Shiites, Sunni, Baath only differ in the degree to which the believers must be subjugated and propogandized to; there is still no tolerance of a better different idea. Even though an imam supposedly can be anyone who has sufficiently studied the Qu'ran and applied his understanding to it, I haven't heard of an Imam that is preaching the benefits of treating women as full humans or of reaching in peace to their Abrahamic cousins, the Jews (or the Christians for that matter).

This lack of a Reformation is a key reason the Muslim countries have not and CAN not leave their third-world status behind them. There is no belief in the power of the individual to achieve. If an individual can not achieve grace through his own belief and interpretation of the Holy Scripture, how can he achieve any material success on Earth? The Protestant Reformation led directly to the Industrial Revolution of Adam Smith and the British, American and French Enlightenments (see: Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads to Modernity, reveiwed here on ChicagoBoyz.net). By stressing the ability of the individual to think for himself and reach God through his own reason, Luther ushered in an entire revolution of thought that brought Europe out of the Dark Ages and sowed the seeds of America's greatness.

The top-down belief-by-fiat structure of the Catholic Church ensured that only the annointed, the priestly hierarchy, could interpret the Word, and therefore, the Will, of God. This discouraged independent thought in one of the most important aspects of an everyday European's life - religion - which bled over into other areas of life. Work was done much the same as one's father did his work. There was heavy investment in tradition and "the way things have always been." Luther's founding of Lutheranism and the spread of the Gutenberg press encouraged indepedent thought, creativity, invention and, most importantly, reliance on the individual as the engine of success.

Without such distribution of power, the Sheikdoms and Mullocracies of the Middle East are doomed to fail, again and again, causing greater and greater frustration amongst their citizenry because they believe, due to the violent encouragement of it, that their governments are the only vehicle for change and success; that the only reason they can't change or succeed is because of forces beyond their control. There is no acceptance of fault for lack of improvement in their lives because they can't believe they have any power over their own lives. Without the meme of a personally founded relationship with Allah, through his prophet Muhammad, as given in the Qu'ran (much as Protestant Christians have a personally founded relationship with God, through his Son Jesus Christ, as given in the New Testament), Muslims can not accept that their lives are unpleasant through their own failure to act. They don't believe they have the power to act of their own volition and their sense of free will seems stunted. Debate about the interplay between Free Will and God's Will goes no farther than Inshallah (God willing) as compared with the historied debate in Christianity.

I am hopeful that like Martin Luther, the theses of Afghani and Iraqi democracy will revitalize the spirit of science, technology and modernity shown by the Moors in their time (although they were conquerors, but just about anyone who was anyone was getting in on the conquering game at the time).

[I have qualms about this post, but I'm pushed for time, so I'll clean it later].