15 January 2018

The bloody twins

We find ourselves in the midst of a low-intensity but intermittently-deadly war which we can only fight effectively if we understand it properly.  It appears to be a war between the two "occupation zones" into which our civilization has been divided for more than a millennium, and the enemy, the real enemy, wants you to believe that that is indeed what's going on.

In fact, it's a war being waged by that enemy -- the "occupiers" in both regions -- against the mass of people in both regions.  But they also strike at each other's subjects, paradoxically, in an effort to inflame us all, and to drag us all down into the bloody morass of violence and slavery they seek to impose.

These "occupiers" are not physical armies but ideas, ideas possessing a terrifying power to take over and rule human brains, like parasites.  Today they are inflamed with hate and rage because more and more humans are breaking free of their toxic control.  They have names -- Christianity and Islam, the bloody twins.

Our half of the old world has been luckier.  Secularization began four hundred years ago in Christianity's zone, much earlier than in Islam's.  The barbarisms of the age of true belief -- the witch-burnings, the ghastly religious wars, the persecution of heretics -- are becoming dim memories.  Today much of the West is so secular that Christian extremism can no longer sway enough brains to form a major movement.  The exception, unhappily, is the West's leading country -- the United States.

The growth of violent Islamic extremism in the Middle East since the 1990s, like the growth of militant Christian fundamentalism in the US since the 1970s, is essentially a conservative reaction to increasing secularism in each society, especially among younger people. In both cases the religious hard-liners, alarmed at seeing "their" people turning away from age-old traditional religious taboos and prejudices, reacted with an all-out effort to re-assert control and re-impose the old ways.

The two reactionary religious extremist movements, in the US and in the Middle East, continue to lash out at each other, provoke each other, feed each other. Trump's recent Jerusalem move, the "Muslim ban", and various ill-considered military operations in Muslim countries (such as the Iraq invasion) help jihadists to demonize the US in the eyes of more mainstream Muslims. Jihadist terrorist attacks in the West and persecution of Christian minorities in the Middle East help American fundamentalists to demonize Islam in the eyes of Americans and, they hope, of Westerners generally.

Don't let them trick you.  Most of the victims of jihadism have been Middle Eastern people who either were not Muslim or were not Muslim enough.  The fundamentalists in the US who rant about the menace of SharĂ®'ah law seek ultimately to impose something rather like it, dragging us back to the days when their taboos were enforced by the state, upon everyone.  Both jihadism and Christian fundamentalism would use the masses of people in their zones as cannon fodder for endless, pointless battles against each other, like the phony wars between the superstates in Orwell's 1984, the true purpose being to maintain the state of fear, siege, and hysteria in which fanaticism can flourish.

The ordinary people of the Middle East and North Africa are not the enemies of the ordinary people of the West.  The enemies of both are the bloody twins, hungry to restore their faltering rule over us all.

[Part of this post is adapted from a comment here.]

3 Comments:

Anonymous PsiCop said...

Re: "The growth of violent Islamic extremism in the Middle East since the 1990s, like the growth of militant Christian fundamentalism in the US since the 1970s, is essentially a conservative reaction to increasing secularism in each society, especially among younger people."

While I don't dispute this at all, I'd like to point out the irony that most of the Islamic extremism is being carried out by young Muslims who've been recruited by older Muslims (some of whom are middle-ages, but many aren't really all that much older than the recruits).

This may be a case of a small, unrepresentative minority of young Muslims finding extremism appealing while the majority do not ... but I just have no way to know that for sure. Perhaps an occidental cognate is Jeremy Joseph Christian, a relatively young neo-Nazi who killed two people in Portland OR last year.

On the other hand, young people in the occidental world tend strongly against religious conservatism. It's reached the point where older religious conservatives distrust younger people generally and just assume them not to be religious conservatives at all.

Just something to think about ... !

16 January, 2018 06:56  
Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...

Good over view! You concluded, "Both jihadism and Christian fundamentalism would use the masses of people in their zones as cannon fodder for endless, pointless battles against each other, like the phony wars between the superstates in Orwell's 1984..."

Except the extreme danger of the orthodox conservative Muslims and Christian leaders is that unlike 1984's leaders, they aren't cunning opportunists (for the most part; except Trump who appears to be an opportunist carrying out the goals of the true believers).

The present warring Muslims of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc. and the warring Christians of the U.S. and elsewhere
REALLY, sincerely, think that they are doing God's will.

They are almost identical to the leaders of the American Civil War such as the Calvinist Stonewall Jackson and the fatalist Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln was raised Calvinist, but rejected the religion, yet kept the theistic fatalism!:-( 1864, he said that the war would have to continue because it was God's inscrutable will.

Both claimed it was not they who were slaughtering hundreds of thousands, wounding millions. On the contrary, both claimed that God was the one doing it:-(

In such cases, Eric Hoffer's analysis in The True Believer is so accurate. Nothing is more dangerous and destructive than the group egotism of the fanatic.

16 January, 2018 08:34  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

PsiCop: I think younger people have always been more easily recruited into extremism -- in most cases they haven't had time to develop a nuanced and complex view of the world. I certainly was more prone to simplistic and radical beliefs when I was younger than I am now. This pattern of the ardent young being recruited and sacrificed by the calculating old goes back at least to the time of the Old Man of the Mountain.

This may be a case of a small, unrepresentative minority of young Muslims finding extremism appealing while the majority do not

I think that's probably it. Younger people are more likely to question or reject religious zeal, but the ones who are zealots are zealots indeed. Class probably plays a role as well. Most of the Middle East is poorer than most of the West (though the gap is narrowing), so the underclass of young men growing up with little hope of a life of material success or comfort is larger. For such people, religious extremism can seem like a route to another form of self-worth.

Daniel: I do wonder sometimes just how sincere some of the highest-level leaders of religious extremist groups are. The behavior of the Catholic hierarchy is shielding child molesters and silencing victims, for example, seems more like the behavior of cynics protecting their power and position than like that of people who genuinely expect to be judged by a god after they die. Hard-line Islamic regimes like those of Iran and Saudi Arabia are similarly cesspits of hypocrisy. What such people really believe, who knows. I suspect that the lives they've led have made them used to holding multiple contrary beliefs at once, as necessary.

Certainly there are enough of them who really do think they're doing God's will to be dangerous.

16 January, 2018 09:14  

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