Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Name of All That's Holy...

Geez. A quite snotty, if correct in its overall conclusion in regards to free speech, article here from the Calgary Herald. (How/why was I reading the Calgary Herald? Short answer: thesising is driving me batty. Long answer: checking Slate every 20 minutes meant I read this post from Rachel Larrimore referencing the article. It was a not particularly bad post for the increasingly gormless posts on the XX Factor, but I digress.

The thing annoying me about the Calgary Herald piece is the presumption it carries that Muslims should "clean up their own house", one of my FAVORITE wackaloon fuckwit notions of all times. Besides the fact that many Muslims are already engaged in trying to do just that, there are several unasked questions that really aren't discussed, and the at least arguable viewpoint that Muslims individually hold some responsibility for the actions of others within the religion or hold responsibility to outreach to the more diverse communities many of them are living in in Europe and the US (or if not diverse, different non-Muslim communities) slides into blaming Muslims as a whole for the actions of some. When is the last time we blamed Catholics for the sins of some of them? White people? Republicans? Democrats? Oh, wait... Nevertheless, the sophistic reasoning that Islam is some kind of inherently violent brutal religion, despite millions of negative examples, is ridiculous. Any group containing one billion people is going to have a lot of very violent ones within it. Notwithstanding that, during the Middle Ages and for times after that, they were the ones carrying the torch of tolerance and knowledge for Western/Middle-Eastern civilization. It quite seems from the historical evidence that, on the whole, you'd be better off as a Jew or Christian in many of the Islamic-controlled areas than, oh, say, SPAIN? (Achem, Inquisition, achem.)

Anyway. I needn't remind everyone again that many Christians have done horrific things in the name of Christianity. And though I enjoyed Bill Maher's movie Religulous, my friends and I were all horrified by his equating of religion with extremism. His basic point in the end was that religion = war = nuclear armageddon. Now, don't get me wrong, it'd take a severe... replacement with a wholly different person for me to join an organized religion at this point, and I may agree with Maher that much of it is senseless, but I think if religion disappeared from the world today, there would still be violence, threat, strife, and possibly from the exact same people. Religion doesn't, on average, cause irrationality -- it serves as a rationale for many. It is a channel for energy, be it goodwill, love, and a feeling of greater than yourself, or your hate, dissatisfaction, and longing for direction. Islam didn't cause terrorism, just as Christianity didn't cause the Holocaust. Religion is an abstraction, and abstractions don't do anything -- it's the people that choose how to use them. (Well, kind of, but it sounds rhetorically nice so we'll leave it.)

Anyway. Lost train of thought.

There are many legitimate and interesting questions to be asked about religion, animosity, modernism, liberal/secular values, etc. But they musn't and can't start from a presumption of inferiority, of this ridiculous "your religion must've caused this and ours is the way of liberal democratic peace" bullshit. All religions -- all peoples -- have histories that have involved violence. If we want to talk about, seriously talk about how to address violence in the modern era, we should all start with a look inside and ask how we've stopped killing those different than ourselves as we did in the past, and hope that we're even correct in the presumption that we've gotten that far. If we look to our own cultural baggage first, and then at another's in an attempt to understand it as a real lived human experience and not an existential threat from a hot mess of an abstract nonsensical conglomeration (Islamofascism, I'm looking at you), then we may find ways to address things and appropriate and reasoned questions to ask. If we don't understand ourselves, we can't understand others, and deflecting soul-searching in favor of crude generalization and cultural blaming will only keep things the same. Is our goal to feel good about ourselves, and superior to others? Or is it to actually stop the present strife? Because I guarantee you, we will never do the latter if we embrace the former.


Daktari said...

And you nearly make my case for a global conversation. Nationalism, regionalism, religious'ism all lead to group think and group loyalty.

Unless and until we understand one another, we are pissing up a rope here, J.

J said...

Amen to that -- so to speak.

I'd much rather, if called upon, piss down a rope. And a global conversation is just the way to do that. That is, I mean to say... um, something that makes sense.

I don't mix metaphors. I mash them up and serve them with delicious toppings.