Monday, September 19, 2005

To be or Not to Be: This, That, or Alive at All.

Life, according to someone who had us upset for a day or two, is 2 per cent what happens to you and 98 per cent how you take it. Yeah. Most things in life are a matter of attitude, and if one is ready to deal with reality on that basis things go better-- even without coke.

Attitude plays such a large role in life that most people refuse to see it. Attitude is too big and too simple to be loved by intellectuals and social critics. On top of it, most successful people are too deeply invested in their attitudes to be able to afford to give them up: it takes years to develop an attitude, and once one has one it's a thing in itself. And even if that attitude is miserable people are too attached to their own misery to want to give it up for hard work and the self-criticism that might lead to something better. One can have a positive attitude even in times of terror, or in times of plenty one can be a terrorist.

There is the attitude of self-reliance and intellectual independence, an attitude that comes at least partly and very importantly from Baconian induction, and there is insh'allah. There is Modernity, and there is fascist primitivism. Both kinds of mental life, of culture and social life come with attitudes built in. We make a fatal mistake assuming that all people base their lives on compatible attitudes toward the meaning of life itself.

Below we have two glimpses into attitude. Both stories deal with the conflict between modernist Israelis and primitive Muslims, but attitude also divides the whole of mankind between those who want to live and those who want to kill and die. Those latter are the majority, and their death worship, as odd as it is to modern men and women, odd to the point that most Moderns refuse to even listen to its airing by their fellow Moderns, is the norm in the primitive world. As hard as it is to understand that not all people think in the same general way, we must look at the minds of our opponents to see not what we think they think, that they must think at least more or less that they think and feel the same way we do, but what they themselves think. We must, in fairness to ourselves and to our enemies as well as to the very nature of Truth, look at what really is, never mind our assumptions and basic beliefs that everyone is exactly the same as we in all important respects. Stubborn and aggressive ignorance of others based on automatically assumed opinions, based on our investment in ideologies, resting on past practice we might fear to condemn as worthless after having held them for a lifetime, fear of ridicule and social ostracisation, all of those positions lead one to conclude that the person who will not change a wrong opinion and lay aside a worthless attitude, yes, that person is stupid. One must have an attitude toward ones attitude. One cares for the honest pursuit of truth or one doesn't. Those who do not are in the majority, and they are not all fascist primitives. How we approach truth will determine much more in our lives, our attitudes toward life and living with our fellows.

The fascist mind is one clouded by hatred of Modernity, and it is a death worshipping view of life that is prevalent throughout history. It is we who are the revolutionaries, we who have the odd ideas, we who have an attitude that strikes others as arrogant and unseemly. Our attitude toward our own lives and life itself is highly and deeply offensive to the primitives, and nothing we do is going to change their outlooks, their attitudes toward us. We have to change our attitudes toward how we look at our enemies-- if we want to understand them, to deal with them, to find a way to survive them. We have to change our attitude toward of own lives and culture and stop thinking in terms of past opinions that lead to nothing but more attitude based on past attitudes.

We think the way we think, and our attitude is that all men are free and reasonable just like us. How wrong that is. And until we use our cherished reasoning to seek out the truth behind our attitudes toward those entirely unlike us, this chaos of mindless attitude in place of objective truth is going to doom us to constant misinterpretation of others, making our attitudes meaner, our out-looks nastier, our responses harsher, and all because we simply strike up poses that are based not on clear understanding but only on attitude of the wrong kind altogether.

USCB Professor Visits Israel to Study Terrorism and Learn to Cope

By Geoff Ziezulewicz
The Beaufort Gazette
August 9, 2005
In June, Colin Pearce found himself in a prison yard surrounded by 30 Palestinian militants who had been convicted by the Israeli government for acts of terrorism.

It was unlike anything the University of South Carolina Beaufort political science professor had ever experienced or expected.

Halfway around the world, in the Gilboa Prison in Israel, Pearce heard from men known to some as terrorists and to others as freedom fighters.

But regardless of labels, what Pearce saw ran contrary to popular perception.

"I didn't know what to expect, but when you think of terrorist acts, you think of extreme violence, of shooting up a car or a suicide bomber," he said. "But these prisoners were incredibly mild and quiet. They milled around us and started explaining their point of view. You wouldn't associate their demeanor with the act which they are accused."

Pearce visited Israel with other professors from across the country for 10 days in late May and June as part of a program set up by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research organization that studies terrorism.

The prison visit gave Pearce one of many glimpses into Israeli life, its paradoxes and what parallels exist between that conflict, the war in Iraq and how the West views terrorism and security.

"There was a senior prisoner, and the other guys looked so young," he said. "It wasn't in any way scary."

Life in Israel is completely unlike any other society on earth, and through an array of lectures and field trips, Pearce saw it all firsthand.

He visited a man whose family was gunned down in their car years ago by Palestinian militants. Through a translator, Pearce said the man personified living under such danger.

"He was saying how he had to come to terms with the loss of his family, and how since then he has carried on," Pearce said. "It's a tragic story, a tragic life in a way, but he had risen above it and carried on."

With the dedicated objectivity of a career academic, Pearce said he saw different ways of living amid such conflict and how a society learns to cope -- all within a mix of modernity, tension and millennia of history that is squeezed together into one tenuous location.

"It all conveys an uncanny impression," he said of the Israeli experience. "We were in Jerusalem, a beautiful city on the hill. You ride the bus and then overlook the security wall that Israel is building and over to the West Bank. Then, next to the bus is some guy with goats. It's modernity and ancient times, all side-by-side in a country about the size of the Lowcountry."

Israel's status as the only modern democracy in the Middle East furthers those contrasts, he said.

"You have a modern, liberal, rule-of-law state with a Western style constitution and economic development," Pearce said. "Parts of Tel Aviv make you think you were in Phoenix or Atlanta."

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues through suicide bombings and military incursions, Pearce said Israeli society does not feel like a country under siege.

"It's more of a security-minded society, but it's not a fear state," he said. "It was just normal, people going into bars and clubs and going about their business."

Pearce grew pensive when asked what he sees as a solution to the conflict. Solving the dilemma is similar to working toward an end to the Iraq war, which he called an "intifada on steroids." Intifada is a common translation for "uprising" and has been used by the Palestinians to define their struggle against Israeli occupation.

"Everything in some ways hinges on the security factor," he said. "It's the same in Iraq. They've got a new government and all types of changes, but the withdrawal of U.S. troops all depends on whether you can have a secure state. Everything else is moot in the absence of those kind of conditions."

In terms of terrorism, Pearce said the West should look to Israel for how to live with such threats in light of Sept. 11, 2001, and the London bombings.

"Israel has been under these kinds of threats for many years, but they go about their business," he said. "They live under conditions that have certain risks, but they don't let them phase them. There are always risks at any time in any society, but they don't let it get to them."

The U.S. reaction to terrorism is different, he said.

"The U.S. approach tends to be kind of hyper and panicky," he said. "Here's country with 285 million people, the most powerful in the world, and they've had some incidents, but they seem to get more hysterical about things than Israel, which is a tiny little country surrounded by countries that want to do them harm."

Pearce said the perseverance he saw among Israelis is a lesson in which Americans can take comfort.

"If terror could never really cause a much smaller state like Israel to vacate the premises, how could it hope to defeat a superpower like the United States?" he asked.
Over the course of this blog's enquiry to date we have looked at various aspects of fascism as it is a personal outlook on life as held by our fellows throughout the past 5,000 years since the beginnings of the agricultural Revolution up to the time of the American, French, and Industrial Revolutions.

We have argued successfully that the world is bifurcating, splitting in two, one stream of Humankind moving into a life of intensifying Modernity and further reason, and the other, greater bulk of people fighting to maintain and even restore the primitive life of the times of most of Human history. How we approach this division, which side we choose to value and fight for, will determine the course of Human history for centuries to come.

We argue that many on the Left are dedicated philobarbarists, lovers of barbarians, people who hate Modernity because they are mediocre in themselves and cannot stand the recognition thereof to the point that they wish to destroy the world they cannot excel in. Much of the fascist Left attitude of valuing primitives is based on the classical tenets of Counter-Enlightenment, and it is that which we strive to expose here and combat. Much of what today is thought of as Left and liberal is simply confused and vaguely understood fascism. The attitudes people speak from are attitudes toward Humanity that are completely rooted in fascism, in feudalism, in pre-Modern social organisations of tribalist hierarchy. What most people think of as their deepest and most important convictions are simply ungrasped and unexamined fascism.

This conflict between Modernism and fascist primitivism is more clearly obvious in the struggle between Palestinians and Israeli than is any other. How one approaches the conflict, the attitude one has toward this conflict says more about a person than perhaps anything else in ones life. Progressive Modernists side with Israel, fascists, conscious or not of their fascism, take the attitude, not the reasoned response of rational people, that Israel is -- well, whatever the cliches of the day are this day. Those who are irrational, who are philosophical Irrationalists are:

"Blinded by ideology"


Those who let ideology and misinformation color their analyses and policies are doomed to failure. This is the Arab world's paradox regarding terrorism and Iraq, as well as Israel and the United States, socioeconomic development, human rights and democracy.

For instance, the typical view of terrorism comes from the head of Egypt's al-Azhar mosque-university, Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi. He is a pillar of mainstream, establishment Islam. In general, Tantawi will say nothing Egypt's government dislikes.

Tantawi is often called a moderate and, sad to say, in relative terms he is one. But he is also typical of a major trend in which mainstream clerics are increasingly influenced by radical Islamists. A decade ago Tantawi would probably have defined suicide bombing as heretical in Islamic terms.

In recent years, though, Tantawi gives a definition, by far the most popular one among Arabs, that justifies the vast majority of terrorist acts originating from the Middle East. There is no excuse, he explains, for any attack in Arab countries aiming to kill Muslims. But it is ok to blow oneself up among: "An enemy who came to kill me, and I have no way of defending myself except for blowing myself up among this enemy who came to kill me and my countrymen, or to attack what is sacred – in such a case, whoever blows himself up is a martyr" (MEMRI translation).

In other words, anything is permitted in self-defense. At times he implies this does not include deliberately killing civilians – that is what makes him a relative moderate – but this clause is played down. The three real keys to being a proper martyr are: being under attack, facing an evil enemy, and lacking any alternative.

One problem here is that anything can be justified if it can be called self-defense. Yet some deeds are criminal no matter what the rationale. Equally, once the door is opened to terrorism in principle many excuses can be used to justify it.

If al-Qaida and other extremists define as legitimate killing anyone they view to be opposing their rule (which they equate with God), the moderates can merely limit the appropriate victims to non-Muslims.

BUT THIS is just the beginning of the problem of the acceptance of this approach by the overwhelming majority of the Arab world. The most disturbing aspect is that it fits with the false characterization of Israel, the US, and sometimes the entire West. It becomes necessary to claim that the West is inherently aggressive and is trying to take over the Muslim, or at least Arab, world, leaving the "victims" no alternative to terrorism.

In reality, of course, Israel has basically been eager to make a deal to get out of the "occupied" territories for at least 12 years and would have been willing to do so even earlier in exchange for a real peace agreement ending the conflict.

Similarly, the US wants to get its forces out of Iraq as soon as the situation is stable enough there to do so. In short, the terrorists are ensuring the continuation of the very situations they claim as grievances, using them to block moderate solutions and to gain power. The charges of foreign aggression and ruthlessness, combined with a lack of alternatives to violence, are false.

The Iraq issue cuts to the core of the dominant discussion and politics of the Arab world today. In an al-Ahram article entitled "The end of Arab Iraq," Abdallah al-Ashaal, a former assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister, attributes the new Iraqi constitution to American machinations designed to destroy Iraq by stoking ethnic conflicts there.

Here again, critical facts are ignored. The Iraqi constitution is shaped by the demands for decentralization of Kurds and the Shi'ite Arabs – who are, after all, about 80 percent of the population. And that determination is the product of their ill-treatment by the Arab nationalist (and largely Sunni) dictatorships that ruled the country for 45 years.

Yet it is impossible for mainstream Arab nationalists (or Sunni Islamists) to admit that fact. They must blame this antagonism on American imperialist conspiracies. Just as in the failure to face terrorism or such problems as the Arab world's political-economic backwardness, a refusal to confront the real issue makes solving the problem impossible.

It is "ridding Iraq" of Arab identity which "really motivated the US invasion," al-Ashaal claims, inaccurately implying that Iraq might not even stay in the Arab League. Well, what about the universal Arab state support for the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the failure of anyone to lift a finger to help the Iraqi dissidents, the Arab world's failure to help post-Saddam Iraq, and its continuing sponsorship and applause for terrorists murdering thousands of Iraqis?

On this, not a word. Yet these are the kinds of experiences that make Iraqis want to rid their country of the type of Arab nationalism that subjected them to almost a half-century of dictatorship, war and suffering.

In contrast, visitors to the Kurdish north of Iraq describe a prosperous, stable area, with rising living standards. As Nimrod Raphaeli of MEMRI writes, summarizing these reports: "An environment of democracy and freedom appears to prevail across Iraqi Kurdistan."

Are people there, or in the Shi'ite south that suffered so greatly under an Arab nationalist regime, so foolish to reject this disastrous system and philosophy? As long as the current ideology of victimization and distortion dominates Arab decision making, the situation will not improve, and could even deteriorate further.

How we look at ourselves, not so much how we look at our primitive Muslim cousins, will determine the outcome of history for centuries to come. We could, as the Romans did, let things decay to the point the primitives overwhelm and destroy civilization as we know it. How this particular episode of history turns out is a matter of attitude. Ours.

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