Posts Tagged ‘violence’


April 16, 2013

imagesWhen President Obama said Americans are standing with Boston, I was reminded that we stood in solidarity with Boston before – before, indeed, there actually was a United States of America, in 1774 – also confronting a common enemy.

I’ve also heard much commentary that we’ll never feel safe again. That implies we did feel safe, before Monday. Well, if the 3000 dead on 9/11 had already slipped from our consciousness, surely even sooner will the three Boston dead. That bespeaks not callousness but resilience.

But what does feeling safe mean? Who on this planet has ever been “safe”? One woman on the radio said she now worried about her husband, walking to work, being victim of a bomb. Had she never feared his being hit by a car (vastly more likely)? And, no matter what precautions we take, death is not just a danger, it’s a certainty.

That’s the human condition, but we do carry on, we go about our business, live our lives, in spite of it. Fear of car crashes doesn’t paralyze us, nor do all the other myriad threats – including bombs. Bombs fell nightly on London during the blitz, but even then its citizens got out of bed each morning. That is the nobility of human life.

It also makes such terrorist acts so maddeningly pointless. Yes, these atrocities do terrify us, yet they cannot alter our human nature. If we got over 9/11*, what makes the Boston villains envision some different result? What could they hope to accomplish?

The will to harm fellow creatures is baffling. We are all in the same sinking boat (life), nothing we do can change that, but shouldn’t our joint fate engender compassion?

Well, it does, of course; and the acts of compassion in Boston dwarfed the bombers’ acts of malice. I go back to Steven Pinker’s book about the decline of violence (reviewed by me here). Violence has indeed been playing a diminishing role in human affairs, and a basic reason is that people have simply learned better ways to gain their ends. How tragic, though, that there are still some who didn’t get the memo.

* Well, admittedly, while we the people did get over 9/11, that being our nature, unfortunately the government did not; and that’s its nature; with thousands of people whose job it becomes to not get over it. America was harmed more after 9/11 by what government did than by what the terrorists did.

What is WRONG with Muslims?

February 9, 2013

thOptimists like me (and Steven Pinker) see a world in which violence is being progressively restrained. Naysayers point to a persistence of violent conflict in the world. But that’s not quite right. Violent conflict does persistin the Muslim world, mainly. While the rest of us really seem to be getting it together, Muslims are the most conspicuous exceptions. An unduly high proportion of the world’s violent conflicts nowadays involve Muslims.

Syria, with 60,000 dead, is an obvious case in point. Then we’ve had Iraq and Afghanistan, and the whole terror/jihad thing, and the Palestine thing. Muslims. When the Soviet Union collapsed, there was remarkably little bloodshed – except for Chechnya – Muslims again. And when Yugoslavia collapsed, we saw the Bosnian and Kosovo wars – Muslims again. Nigeria, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Danish cartoons, Theo Van Gogh, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Lebanon, You-tube protests, Mali, the list goes on and on. Muslims, Muslims, Muslims.

Now, admittedly, in not every case have Muslims been the aggressors or the bad guys. But still – why is it that when there’s a violent conflict, chances are Muslims will be in the picture? Is there some worldwide conspiracy to pick fights with Muslims? Or is it something about Muslims, and how they behave?

Egypt's Muslim Brothers

Egypt’s Muslim Brothers

This post is prompted by events in Egypt, where too many seem to lack basic sense. The 2011 revolution’s hopes have been traduced by a sad sequence of actions that have been just plain bloody-minded. Like those prosecutions of folks for running democracy workshops. And how the military made a hash of the presidential election by disqualifying leading candidates for nonsensical reasons. Then, for equally nonsensical reasons, judges (Mubarak-era holdovers) threw out the elected parliament. And when President Morsi acted to pre-empt any further such judicial high-handedness, he made himself appear high-handed. He and the Islamists are comprehensively reneging on past promises for self-restraint, and instead seem bent on monopolizing power and shutting out all other elements in society. Thus they rammed through a half-baked and very troubling new constitution. They’ve even started criminal prosecutions against leading secular political actors including the international figure Mohamed ElBaradei.

Another instance of bloody-minded lack of sense was the death sentence handed to 21 people involved in the Port Said stadium riot. A bit severe. And, in what starts looking like a national disease of senseless non-restraint, when people demonstrated against those sentences, police opened fire, killing at least 30. When their funerals turned violent, yet more were killed.

Then of course there’s Pakistan, which I’ve written about: “The F**ked-up Country.” And that was before the 14-year-old was shot in the head for advocating girls’ education, and another teenaged girl was tortured to death by her parents for talking to a boy.

imagesCertainly non-Muslims too can be bad; and not every Muslim is. Indeed, given the societal background, it’s almost amazing how many Muslims do have their heads on straight. Yet unfortunately they always seem outnumbered (or out-shouted, or out-gunned) by the bloody-minded ones, who just don’t seem to get the concept of civil society.

I don’t really want to go into whether Islam itself promotes violence.* The Koran does have a lot of bloodthirsty passages. But most Christians don’t put their children to death for talking back, as their “holy” book instructs. Muslims’ especial proclivity toward violence must have deeper cultural, psychological sources. And, as I’ve written before, that can be overcome, just as we Westerners have made great strides in overcoming such demons in ourselves.

But for now, I’ve had it up to my keister with Muslim violence. UnknownWhen my sister and I used to sit in the back of the car, and trouble erupted, our parents weren’t too interested in hearing, “She started it!” We’d both get punished. Unfair, maybe, but we learned to keep the peace.

When will Muslims learn?

* I’ve seen it claimed by Muslim apologists that the word “Islam” actually means “peace.” That’s simply untrue. “Islam” means “submission to God.” (Or else.)