Resumption of Hostilities

Posted: July 16, 2007 in Politics

I’m approaching the end of Curtis O. White’s book, The Middle Mind. Lots of good ideas in there. This bit from page 178 struck me:

“… if there is to be a global culture — and telecommunications and digital technology have made that appear inevitable (if also inevitably unequal) — that culture will be understood, rationalized, and administered in keeping with, in faith with, the ‘trust’ we have in Western institutions. We simply do not know how to ‘trust’ under other circumstances. It is a nearly imponderable dilemma; it is a religious dilemma, and a dilemma of spirit. How do we interact fairly with other people who do not share our faith in Western institutions? Unhappily, some perceive only one adequate response to it: the imposition of Western paradigms.”

White goes on to say that our current struggle with Islam is really the resumption of a 1000-year struggle that was temporarily forgotten while we were preoccupied in the 20th century with communism. But we’ve returned to the ancient feud, at once reminiscent of the Crusades, except that instead of being motivated and protected by the “divine puissance” of Christian faith and virtue, this resumption of hostilities is defined to a greater degree as an administration action — taming (and exterminating) the brutes — and our troops are protected by our technological superiority and the troops’ own “Nintendo-hardened reflexes.”

All of this is of course a lens through which to filter very broad historical trends. I’m very intrigued by the idea and impressed with White’s framing and ability to coin especially apt phrases. There’s not a lot for me to develop, as he does a pretty good job stating his case.

  1. presentpeace says:

    Here’s where I stand on this one. Most things begin and end with a decision and appropriate commitment. If I’m correct, there’s a neo-soul song out now that mentions waiting for the world to change. What I’ve noticed is that that’s what most people like to do: wait on others to do something. They’re waiting until the waters are calmer so that they can come in and calm the waters. They’re twiddling their thumbs, waiting for a bit more peace so that it’s safe for them to come in and be peacemakers. People make the decision not to make a decision each day that the worst element among us humans makes decisions that change lives.

    One problem as I see it is that those who are making the right decision, to connect and live with people and nature in peace and harmony, are not being lauded or even noticed by those who project onto the cave wall for the rest of us. Another is that not enough of us are managing our own growth so that we are psychologically and emotionally adult enough to collectively create and function within any system other than what we already know and wish to impose on others.

    We have models of our growth potential right under our noses, people who have formed communities with dissimilar folks. We just don’t see or value these people. They’re the people who are too weird, too open, too far out there for us and we would rather not be “them.” Still, they live!

  2. presentpeace says:

    Here’s something else over which I’ve been on an internal rant: people who use the negative to get others to create positive change, particularly when it comes to saving the earth.

    These kids are walking around now in downtown Chi-town, the concrete jungle, with clipboards trying to get people to contribute to Greenpeace by guilting them with, “Can you spare a minute for the environment?”

    My idea for them is to hand out really beautiful, full-page pics of the environment and just say, “Would you like to have this? We’re giving it away.” (As my friends know, I’m a fan of double entendre.) On the back of the pics is a form they can peruse at their leisure with Greenpeace/other org info that explains the devastation that occurred to that area and a website of before and after pics of that one and other areas with dates of each pic, Inconvenient Truth style.

    It’s always a good idea to see the beauty and value of what you will be saving, rather passionately fighting for.

    Gloom and doom prophesies, no matter how true they are, only go so far in motivating people to change their way of being in the world. Most people either tune them out because they are so ubiquitous, or embrace nihilism. It’s quite easy to descend, to spiral down the staircase if you’ve started walking in that direction.

    Our problem is an Adbusters one. We’re just too cut off from each other and from the natural world. Disconnection is our normal state now. Even many of the people who are talking about how we need to save the earth aren’t really connected to it.

    When is the last time that you climbed a tree or walked barefoot in a field or swam in the lake or watched a sunset while camping? You have to know intimately what it is you’re saving in order to give a damn. That’s my theory about why so many urban black people are not environmentalists.

    Most people don’t want to do the weird thing and hug a tree or touch a bush and just be with it for a moment. That’s not normal to this tech and concrete society. What they don’t realize is that we all must create a new normal that looks more like that kind of normal in order to save society.

    That was my rant for the day. We can all go back to being normal now, or not. Sorry for errupting in this space that was meant for blog comments. In a way I’m still commenting on the really great blogs of this space, I guess.

  3. greywhitie says:

    Bravo, presentpeace. Agree with you wholeheartedly.

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