Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Culture, on The Face of it

On a recent exchange at Webutante's site (you've got to see the comments by Australia’s Prime Minister Howard at the end! Fantastic!), in which she defended Howard, and had some scorn for the Bush administration who had their women scarf-up for a visit to a muslim shrine, a commenter took her to task for 'fearing' to respect (translation: kowtow to) muslim sensibilities. Vienna VA asserted "...Muslims will never be able to impose Sharia law here.”

To which I responded by asking "Why not?"

Vienna VA also found it reassuring to note that "...most Muslims don't even want to live under Sharia law..." That is likely true. Including in those places where it currently rules. And how is that supposed to be reassuring? Again, to the refrain "it couldn't happen here", I ask, why not? Why couldn't it happen here? What would stop it? Politely acquiescing to their eagerly offended sensibilities? Please.

Vienna VA further responded "Uh, I don't know. I'm guessing because the 295 million people who live here and aren't Muslim won't accept it?", and asked for one citation, law, etc of sharia law passed in our history, to justify our being being 'fearful' or I suppose contemptuous of the scarfed Bushies.

Quick recap. No matter the name of the 'War on Terror', it is a war on Islamic Fundamentalism. That our Administration would appear at an Islamic dedication, decked out in deference to its sensibilities - in disregard of our sensibilities as a nation attacked and wounded by those who REQUIRE their females to wear scarfs and potato sacks, is I think INEXCUSABLE, DISGUSTING and all around unacceptable.

Is it likely that our 295 million people are going to bow to sharia law anytime soon? Perhaps not. Frankly, that's so far from the point as to not even make the target range. The point is, that that picture is going to be viewed by numerous gunny sack attire imposing islambies, and they will be heartened by it. That alone is outrageous.

The obvious interpretation of the picture is that we seek their approval, seek their acceptance of us, seek to have them acknowledge that we have pleased them and are perhaps nice people after all.

In a time of War. Asstounding.

But we've got worse problems than the islambies to worry about, we've got ordinary people running around thinking things will never change, and all change is good, just be nice & be happy. Our real problem, is that this viewpoint is the one most prevalent among the cultural media, is the face of our popular culture - and That is something to worry about.

Numbers Don't Mean Squat
What Vienna VA and other members of the culturally clueless don't seem to grasp, is that a culture is not led by the opinions of its majority. A culture is led by those who effectively position themselves as its public face. It doesn't take a majority to impose the rules. It only takes an active, vocal minority to make demands and threaten those who disagree with them, to denigrate them - to put their face forward as THE Face, into your face, and with a majority who will not only let them do so, but will accept the denigration and embarrassment over their disagreements ("Gas guzzling, SUV Driving...", "Energy hogs.", "More concerned with comfort...", etc) in order to just get along, to not make waves, with just that and no more, the vocal minority will easily be able to rule - they will be perceived as the public Face of the Culture.

Webutante said "... to me political correctness and appeasement is generated by a deep and unacknowledged fear not to confront and make waves."

Yep.

What leaders, good and bad, have always understood - and what the rest of us never seem to grasp, is that those who make up the culture, are only a very small slice of the population. Those who appear to be the guiding lights of the culture make up an even smaller slice of them. They are the ones who set the tone, or seem to, which the entire population will then seek to march in step with - even those who fancy themselves as the 'counter-culture' busily take note of the popular beat, in order to be out of step with it - making themselves if anything even more slavish than the simple follower.

For those who take comfort in the reassuring nods of their leaders and the accompanying phrases such as ‘it can never happen here’, just what is it that they think secures the 'culture' they live in? Numerical advantages? How many people are aware that the US Revolutionary war was supported by only a fraction of the populace - a third at best? That Hitler was voted into power by a small percentage of the population - which nevertheless was larger than the opposition groups? It wasn't because the majority of the people agreed and was with them, it was because a majority of the people weren't aware that they were the majority, and so they just went along with those few who they mistakenly took to be the majority.

Something discovered and put into practice by activists (left and right) has been the tactics of abrasively vocal minorities presenting themselves as majorities with a claim to the moral high ground. Ideally, that claim to the moral high ground will be legitimate, as with Samuel Adams when he was a pioneering practitioner, but all they really need to succeed is for there to be a majority who don't want to confront such people, and who will shruggingly accept that square-peg-into-the-round-hole-ifying phrase:"...No, I don't like them either, but still, they do have a point...."

Yep, I'm sure they do... and they're going to poke you in the eye with it.

The proregressives reached positions of power in this country, and successively achieved their agenda's, not because the majority of The People agreed with them... but only because the people either accepted that they had a point, or were willing to accept that they knew better and had "more proper larn'in" than they did, and most of all were afraid to have them appear to the public face as 'square', 'out of touch', 'old fashioned'.

The great sin of the MSM is that they not only allow this Face, this thinness of culture to continue, they propagate and participate in it (yes, there is more, much more to it than that – see some of my earlier posts – but this is how it appears on the face of it). In many ways, the last well balanced debate in this country was over the original adoption of the constitution. The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers were marvels of principled thought coupled with passionate reasoning. Nothing like that has occurred since. Not the Lincoln vs. Douglas debates, not the civil war or Slavery, not over westward expansion or acquiring territories in Hawaii or the Philippines, not over either of the Roosevelt’s 'Deal's' or the world wars bracketed by them or anything else since.

Since that time we've mostly had to make do with a culture no deeper than its Public Face - an expression, a smirk, scowl or sniff – perhaps with an accompanying sound byte, which substitutes for, and wins all arguments. By talking down, over & shouting down an unamplified opposition.

But what few of the top leaders consider (publicly at least) - yet which I think all secretly fear - is that their power rests entirely upon the populations willingness to accept that their leaders know best, and that they themselves know very little, it rests on their willingness to feel embarrassed that they don't themselves know or have an interest in learning all the claptrap that the leaders profess, and that they will willingly bow to their threats and demands. It rests upon Nock’s & Isaiah’s Remnant not discovering that they are more than they think.

The leaders dread and fear this, because one single well placed refusal, can bring all their posturing and power lunches to a screeching halt. If the population hears one among them say 'No', listens to what's behind that 'No', realizes that there are others who think their same hidden thoughts and who also takes note of those same 'silly' and 'simplistic' facts and pick up on them, then the leaders positions are doomed.

Moral, Immoral or Not Even
On the face of it, you'd think that Westerners in general and Americans in particular are Immoral on the whole, or amoral at the very least "5% of the population but use 25% of the worlds resources!", "SUV Driving, gas guzzling, over concerned with their childrens sports teams", etc. Someone on another site had asked 'What one word would you use to describe America?'

My answer was: Moral.

But embarrassed about it.

And though the will to be moral is deeply ingrained in us, even still today, its verbal understanding is for most of us, exceedingly thin and is easily swayed; we can be led around by anyone who has a sense of conviction, a claim to wider understanding who can sell us that he has already done the research so we don't need to, and has found that 'it is the right thing to do'. The leader who can consistently and sincerely proclaim that, appear confident in that - wins.

It takes a lot of blatantly contrary facts piled up to make us open our eyes and think it through ourselves, and go through the distracting work of determining that he's wrong, and to realize what needs to be done, must be done, after all, we've got families & jobs & hobbies we'd much rather spend our time on. Churchill said Americans are a people who will inevitably do the right thing - but only after exploring every available alternative. He knew us well.

Culture's like ours don't fall by force of arms or decree - they fall by acquiescence, acquiescence to some small set of ideas whose far reaching implications and importance they completely fail to grasp. Usually catch phrases that seem to mean one thing, but are use to smuggle in something quite the opposite. "Got to be able to laugh at yourself", "Don't be Selfish", "Who am I to judge?"

Case in point, the much lamented state of civil discourse.
Most people didn't even realize that manners, civility and respectful behavior had been ejected from the public sensibilities until the late 1960's and early 1970’s, when their children began to curse them out and give them the finger while at the same time demanding that they have their holey jeans or college bills paid for.

As a culture, we were comfortable seeing ourselves as people like the Hardy's of the popular 'Andy Hardy' serials in the early 1930's with Mickey Rooney, where the kids were somewhat mischievous and precocious, but good, civil and respectful and where Dad was the wise Judge Hardy who could be counted on to help put things right in the end.

From there, the Dad's began to become more bumbling, the kids more and more ill-mannered, the elderly and authorities more and more infantile. There can be traced a very gradual, but nevertheless dizzying descent from the Hardy's to 'Ozzie & Harriet', to 'Father Knows Best' to 'I Love Lucy' to 'Andy Griffith' to 'Family Affair', to 'Happy Days', 'M*A*S*H', 'Mork and Mindy', 'Roseanne', 'Married With Children', 'The Simpson’s' and 'The Family Guy', and it happened in an Historical blink of the eye.

It was accomplished largely through one of a small set of Ideas, through the eye-rolling, scowling, admonition "Oh, come on, you've got to be able to laugh at yourself! Don't take yourself so seriously.' With no deeper consideration of what that could mean, the public bought it. It seemed to have a point, sounded ok, ‘what’s the harm in that? and besides, that mocking, eye rolling glare they give me when I object – I don’t like that, and laughter is the best medicine’. But the public didn't realize that they didn't mean laughter in the healthy, uplifting manner they all imagined, but laughter in the derisive, digging, cutting, destructive way of mocking all that you hold above you, that you admire and revere - laughing in that way that secretly says 'I don't have to live up to that, I only need to pull it down and step on it.', and get away with it with a laugh.

People who aren't taught to thoroughly examine their ideas and beliefs - won't. They are open to rule by the facial twitch of those in the fore face of the culture.

There is a reason that the schools do not teach the Federalist & anti-Federalist papers. As Aristotle says, a Liberal Arts education is best for a people who seek to be free and govern themselves as free people. A different Gov’t, such as an Oligarchy or Tyranny, would require a different people and a different sort of education in order to produce a different type of people, a people better suited to that Gov't's needs ('Hello Dewey, well Hellow Dewey!' – and Peabody, Allcot, Wundter… look them up, you’ll be aghast).

The Catch-22 in the Face of Culture
The still beating heart of American character, together with our incessant self questioning and freedom to do so, are still in a position to change the face of Culture in this land. The guiding lights of Culture are in power only as long as those charged with upholding them - We The People - believe and respect them, defend them over and above the murky and embarrassing alternatives (such as studying the issues for ourselves – yech!)... but when enough suspicion is raised that the majority is actually right in what they secretly suspect... then trouble is a brewing for the leaders.

When the silent majority stirs to an issue, the 'leaders' of that culture quaver and cave in, and the recent amnesty bill is a case in point. The difficulty We The People have, and which those same leaders well know, is that the We The People will go back to sleep once we see that things have been put right, and we will be difficult to stir us up again (or at least it has always been that way… in the past). That’s why they were so surprised that after dropping the issue for a week, We The People were still pissed off when they tried to revive it again the following week.

Still though, we do tend to go back to sleep to things which don’t interest us, and it is difficult to rouse us to their relevance.

Difficult, that is, unless we listen to and discuss things that the Faces in our faces might otherwise have wished that we had. Hence the special anger directed towards Talk Radio and the Blogosphere (on either side). Vocal Minorities, in order to seize and keep a hold on power, require that communication be as limited as possible to a one way conversation - from them on high, to you down low.

Any sign of actual two-way communication, public dialog, is anathema to those who seek and wield power for powers sake.

Talk Radio, the Internet and the Blogosphere flies right in the Face of that. They aren't used to us getting right back into their face. When you see the kowtowing, PC-speaking, West abandoning and America deriding fools peddling their crap with a straight face - stick yours right back in theirs. For the first time in history the remnant doesn't need to wait until after their culture is gone, they can asert themselves in realtime for eachother to see and recognize before it's too late.

Talk Radio, the Internet and the Blogosphere are tailor made for flying right back in their Faces.

Ain't that a shame?

26 comments:

Webutante said...

Way to go, Van. I couldn't say it better, and you took it much further.....I want to link to this post at the top of my scroll.

Van said...

Thank you Webutante, I appreciate it.

Mizz E said...

One of the reasons I like your passionate, well written posts is because, like you, I've been through the Objectivist school of thought, which for me cuts to the chase with no pussyfootin' around on identifying and exposing the tomfoolery that passes
for rational and moral thinking.

Those who have been given the privilege of governing us need to themselves first get the data before they presume to lead and instruct us. Bush and his dhimmi administration who have listened to the Karen-religion-of-peace-Armstrong types have failed our nation in this regard. Unbelievable.

Van said...

Thanks MizzE, and I certainly agree, Unbelievable.

Vienna VA said...

Van, really. Culturally clueless? Sorry friend. That may describe some of the readers on this site, or Webby's, but not me. Anytime you want to talk to me about living in an Islamic country, you let me know. I can tell you first hand what it's like.

Van said...

Vienna VA said "Anytime you want to talk to me about living in an Islamic country, you let me know. I can tell you first hand what it's like."

Heh, you reaffirm my assessment. You don't seem to understand that what particular places you have or have not lived in are completely irrelevant to how cultures in general, and our culture in particular, are influenced and how they are led or lost.

On this question, forget about where you have lived or are living now, and look at how men have lived, and have lost their way of life, throughout history. Then perhaps you'll begin to get a clue.

Vienna VA said...

Thanks for the comment Van.

Wow. Here I thought my experiences as a military spouse living overseas in an Islamic country might somehow shed some light on the ongoing debate about head scarves (not "scarfs"), the role of women in middle eastern countries, etc. I thought I could give you some insight into how the country I lived in continues to be led, how the people are yearning for a better life, how that country got to be where it is today. It's obvious that adding whatever first hand observations I have would have absolutely no impact on your super heightened cultural awareness powers.

Rock on dude!

p.s. Your blog headline improperly uses the apostrophe s ('s) after school. It should be "schools" not "school's".

Van said...

Vienna VA said... "It's obvious that adding whatever first hand observations I have would have absolutely no impact on your super heightened cultural awareness powers."

I certainly have no heightened cultural awareness powers, but am farily good at seeing what is relevant and what isn't. The point is that whether or not head scarves, gunny sacks or anything else are appropriate attire are of no more relevance than whether a yarmulkes or a Cassock or for that matter even business suits or kimonos are appropriate attire in their place.

I wouldn’t give a fig if Bush himself wore a yarmulkes or a Cassock or a Kimono – or even all of them at once. But if he wore them while we were at war with extremists from either of those cultures, I’d be screaming for his head.

The issue is whether a culturally significant item, in this case attire, is something that should be worn by high ranking members of the administration at a time when we are at war with a people who are intent, among other things, on forcing the entire western world to wear that same attire. It is a symbol, and one that is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States Government to promote in any way, shape or form.

I guarantee you that many an islamist saw that picture and felt some equivalent to an 'At a Boy! Yeah!" surge through them. I also guarantee you that I am not the only American who felt revulsion and WTF?! on seeing that picture, and neither is the type of impression the Bush administration should be promoting. Failure to see that is yet another indication of how woefully inept the Bush administration has been in communicating the essential purpose of this war, and it is eating us alive.


"p.s. Your blog headline improperly uses the apostrophe s ('s) after school. It should be "schools" not "school's". "

Sigh. Unfortunately, as a student I paid little or no attention to punctuation and grammar. It was only in my thirties that I realized how important such rules in general, and grammar in particular, truly are. I've been trying, but apparently it’s too late to become second nature for me – so far at least. Thanks for the catch.

Vienna VA said...

Van, we obviously have different ways of looking at things. I don't think too many "Islamists" looked at the picture of Karen Hughes, et al, and high fived each other at the realization that they've begun the first inroads to all American women wearing a head scarf. I wore them when I lived in Egypt, but only in Mosques because I could respect their religious traditions. I didn't wear one while walking down the street, shopping, driving, or any thing else.

You'd be right to be up in arms if any one in the Bush administration showed up wearing a hijab (like they wear in Saudi Arabia) or a burka (like they wear in Afghanistan and tribal areas in Pakistan), and I'd totally agree with you.

I guess I just don't see how Karen Huges wearing a head scarf is eating us alive, leading to our eventual downfall and/or submission, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Van said...

(No time to spell or grammar check - read at your own peril)

Vienna VA said "I guess I just don't see how Karen Huges wearing a head scarf is eating us alive, leading to our eventual downfall and/or submission, yadda, yadda, yadda."

In sales, there's a tactic called "breaking it down to the ridiculous", where if a prospect says they don't want to extend their budget, the salesmen says "Bob, you ever buy a soda during the day?" Bob nods (and is lost), "Did you budget for that Bob?", Bob shakes his head, "Bob, while this WII is $250, that amounts to just .68 cents a day, which is actually less than what you paid for the soda, isn't it Bob?" Bob nods his head, "and the WII isn't going to add to your waistline, in fact playing the tennis game will actually reduce your waistline, and playing it with your family will actually bring you all closer together, won't it Bob?!" Bob nods his head again, "Bob, isn't a the enjoyment of the WII, a closer family, AND increased fitness worth MORE to you than a soda?" Bob nods, "Sign here Bob".

"Sign here Bob" wasn't the closing statement the salesmen used to get Bob to buy the Wii, each of 'isn't it' questions, called tie-downs, were. The first time Bob nodded, the salesmen knew he had him, and with each successive nod, the sale became even more certain. No Salesmen walks up to you with a product and says 'sign here', its through a series of small closes, with which he closes the sale. Could Bob still walk away? Sure, but it becomes more and more unlikely, with each and every nod, Bob is putting himself into the sale, he's visualizing that Wii in his gameroom, he's buying the product - even if he doesn't sign now, he's sold. Sooner or later, he's gonna be a buyer.

Is the salesmens reasoning valid? No, not at all, but once you agree to bring the vertical principle (in Bob's case 'I live by a budget', in ours 'We are Americans, and ours is a Greco/Roman-Judeo/Christian culture') down to an even comparison of worth with horizontal particulars - you're lost.

Saying "I guess I just don't see how Karen Huges wearing a head scarf is eating us alive, leading to our eventual downfall and/or submission, yadda, yadda, yadda.", is an attempt to break it down to the ridiculous, and if you buy into it, you take your attention off of what is important, and you're lost.

You, as a person on the ground, wearing a headscarf in Egypt, is simply good manners, it's not a statement of principle. It's the equivalent of buying a soda. There is a vast difference between that and Nancy Pelosi or Karen Hughes, high ranking members of the United States Government, being photographed wearing something which is a symbol of the enemies culture - a symbol of submission.

I'm sure they justified it by a chain of reasoning similar to yours, breaking it down to the ridiculous, but that is unacceptable for people in their position - they bought into the the goods of the enemy in a time of war.

And if you really don't think that those photographs weren't huge propaganda wins, then I can't help but think that you are impossibly naive.

Vienna VA said...

I'm naive I guess. Or submissive. Or clueless. Or use invalid reasoning. Or lost because I don't use horizontal particulars. Fine. Whatever.

For a middle aged rock star, you sure are long winded.

Van said...

Vienna VA said...
"I'm naive I guess. Or submissive. Or clueless. Or use invalid reasoning. Or lost because I don't use horizontal particulars..."

Nah, probably just ideologicaly snowed blind.

"For a middle aged rock star..."
(more like a rock spark)

", you sure are long winded."
Yeah, actually I think I'm more short winded but long fingered.

Vienna VA said...

Uh, no, you're actually long-winded. Hopefully your monthly blog bill isn't per word.

But I do look forward to a seven paragraph rejoinder regarding my incorect non-vertical, anti-linear interpretation of your windy responses.

Van said...

Vienna VA said...
"Uh, no, you're actually long-winded. Hopefully your monthly blog bill isn't per word. "

When speaking, brief. When typing, llloooooooonnngggg.

"But I do look forward to a seven paragraph rejoinder regarding my incorect non-vertical, anti-linear interpretation of your windy responses."

No need, you seem to have come to gripes with it.

Vienna VA said...

Gripes? You mean grips right? Too bad your spelling ability isn't up to your intellect.

On second thought...

Van said...

Vienna VA said...
"Gripes? You mean grips right? Too bad your spelling ability isn't up to your intellect.

On second thought... "

Ooh! You are so easy to set up, I really didn't think you'd fall for that.

No, I meant Gripes. Hard to read your last couple of posts and think any differently.

Vienna VA said...

Bwaahahahahaha. That was a good one Van! I've got gripes and I've come to gripes with it. Funny stuff. If you're musical ability matches your abitlity for witty banter, your walls must be filled with gold records.

There's really no reason to continue this battle of wits. I'm no match for your witty repartie, culturally astute obeservations, and general know-it-allness. I'll try hard to come to gripes with that, dud.

I mean, dude.

Van said...

vienna va said... "I'm no match for your witty repartie, culturally astute obeservations, and general know-it-allness. I'll try hard to come to gripes with that, dud."

Yes that was a bit of a dud, but don't worry about it, I'm sure you practice often so eventually you’re sure to get good at it (might want to start practicing on the puns first). Here, I'll give you a free lesson - worth every penny.

First thing you need to know about recreational slamming, is that to be effective, it needs to be directed towards something the person cares about. For instance, you seem to take some pride in pointing out faults people make, especially if it makes you seem more advanced by comparison, such as rules of punctuation, knowing lots of things about headscarves and such, which make you an easy mark. Problem is, you seem a bit too focused on knowing things, and so tend to miss the wider ideas behind them. That's probably why you think you can annoy me with Rock Star & Gold Record jabs... problem is, I only think of being a musician as an amusing thing I used to do when I was younger... kinda hard to embarrass someone with something that they already think is a bit silly.

So keep trying, I've given you plenty of clues for you to be able to zing me with something that might stick. Try to avoid sounding so biter though, makes you seem rather empty.

Ta.

Van said...

wooo-woooo-woooooosssshhhhh...
(long wind)

Vienna VA said...

Biter. 'Nother good one. I'm sure whatever comeback I write won't be as funny, witty, or brilliant as the many you could come up without even trying hard.

I never claimed to be an expert on headscarves, punctuation, spelling or anything else. Just thought my life experience could add some value to the discussion. I'm sorry if that came across as emptiness, shallowness or whatever other label you want to zing me with. Obviously I've wasted your time. I know you're wasting mine.

Life's too short and the weather is too nice to bother with this anymore, so let's just leave it where you see it: you're smarter, wittier, more observant, a better writer, etc, etc, etc, than I could ever hope to be.

Best of luck to you.

Van said...

vienna va said... "Life's too short and the weather is too nice to bother with this anymore, so let's just leave it where you see it: you're smarter, wittier, more observant, a better writer, etc, etc, etc, than I could ever hope to be."

Can you find anywhere that I've claimed such a thing? You've certainly got the passive aggressive thing down pat.

Sigh.

Obviously we disagree, and I won't attempt to sugarcoat that, but that should be a point to build a productive argument from, not to retreat into attempts at trite little digs ('head scarves (not "scarfs")' and so on), without ever even bringing to light a single item of substance.

I wish you had brought some of the insight you have to your comments, instead of wasting space trying to come off as snide and snarky (read your first two). I suspect that the direction I'm coming from, being the principles behind peoples behavior, will in the end trump any wealth of details you might bring, but I've been wrong many times before, and am Always thrilled to have my errors exposed.

It's not too late, if you want to argue the issue instead of ducking it with troll-lite irrelevancies, I will be thrilled to continue it.

Vienna VA said...

Van, in the first comment I left on your sight, I encouraged you to ask me anything about living in a middle eastern country. You blew that off and told me that "You don't seem to understand that what particular places you have or have not lived in are completely irrelevant to how cultures in general, and our culture in particular, are influenced and how they are led or lost."

Now your complaint with me is that I didn't spend any time bringing forth any thing of substance. So let me be very clear: I'm happy to talk about what a life altering experience living abroad in the middle east was like. I love talking about what our life was like there. I'll give you or anyone else my honest impressions. I don't claim to be the most knowledgable, the most intune to what's going on, but I guess I look at my family's experience abroad and think I could bring an interesting perspective to discussions about the middle east, the military, the role of the US overseas. But, then again, maybe not. And that's ok with me.

I mentioned one time you misspelled scarves as scarfs. Once. One time. You've now brought it up to me multiple times, as if I'm this spelling marm, running around constantly commenting on your bad spelling. Honestly, I was just trying to tell you that the word was spelled wrong. It happens to the best of us, myself included.

As for the passive agressive thing, you've called me naive, clueless, empty, bitter, ideologically snowed blind, and implied my reasoing is both ridiculous and lost. Usually it takes weeks for people to realize that. Ba-dum-dum.

I mean, I guess this has been somewhat entertaining, but I'm just moving on. Good luck.

Van said...

emmm... looking back through your first comment... I can see how it could have been made and received in different ways... maybe one of those exchanges where seeing a persons face & hearing their voice would have made it clearly a different intent - tell you what, my house, my error, if I took you wrong, I'm sorry.

Where were you at in the middle east and for how long? In what way do you think that a culture that can come unhinged over a cartoon, not also read huge messages into the image of the president's closest advisors, in their official capacity, wearing head scarves in a muslim ceremony?

Vienna VA said...

Against my better judgement, here goes.

My family lived in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt for two years. My husband is a career military officer and was assigned to the US Embassy in Cairo.

It's hard for me to answer your question the way you asked it. I honestly don't recall any protests in Cairo about the cartoon issue. There were probably protests near al-Azhar mosque, but not in my suburb or around the Embassy. We never got any sort of security message about whatever protests took place in or around Cairo related to the cartoons (I know because I went back through and checked my email). If anything, the Egyptian people live such desparate lives, most of them probably don't even know about it, even today. The protests that occured while we were there involved the Egyptian elections, the Iraq war, issues involving the Judicial branch of the Egyptian government, and general unhappiness with various aspects of Egyptian life (some religious, some economic, some political).

The issue with the cartoons is related to the prohibition in Islam from presenting Mohammed in human form. It's a sensitive issue, obviously.

I certainly can't speak for what the 1 billion Muslims in the world thought about seeing Karen Hughes in a head scarf, if for no other reason than I'm not a Muslim. My guess is a very small percentage of Muslims saw the picture. Not everyone has a tv, or access to the internet or newspapers, and that picture may or may not have even made the Arab press. Of the Muslims who did, maybe one-quarter (and that's being generous) thought it was a great propoganda coup, the other three quarters probably assumed she was wearing the scarf because she respected the traditions of the Mosque.

Those are my observations and thoughts. I'm a pretty truthful person (if you knew me you'd know that) so I've tried to answer as honestly as possible. Feel free to interpret my responses as you wish.

Van said...

Vienna VA, glad you gave it another try, thanks. Interesting to think about what is and isn't publicly known, isn't in the public awareness in different parts of the middle east.

I suspect that the vast majority of Muslims would on their own see nothing more in Karen Huges in a head scar than polite behavior. But my point, is that the vast majority of reasonable people are led by the few adjutators among them. There's this from last year, where in Turkey, a Journalist stoned for not wearing a head scarf:
"A group of protestors insisted that Aliye Cetinkaya get off the bus where she was reporting the march, as they claimed she was provoking the crowd. At this moment, somebody started reciting the Koran into a microphone. Approximately 30 people then started throwing stones at Cetinkaya, seated with her legs dangling from the back of the vehicle and taking notes. They claimed that her clothes and way of sitting was inappropriate while the Koran was being read, and shouted words of abuse at her."

Fortunately for her, she rescued by her colleagues. There's also the Miss World contest of 2002, which was relocated from Nigeria after people were killed in riots over bathing suits. Or the 10% of muslims here who answered a poll that wouldn't object to suicide bombers. Why? Because they find some justification for it in the koran, and the few vocal leaders (there only seems to be vocal muslim leaders on the islamist side) urge and demand such behavior.

It is easy to look at our culture and say that could never happen here, but there are many things which were thought could never happen here - just a short while ago - and are now routine.

There was a time that husband and wife were not allowed to appear even laying on the same bed in the movies - not because of laws, but because of the perceived public outrage that would follow, perceived and vocalized by several self appointed groups of keepers of decency. Now, on TV you can see in prime time unmarried couples simulating (presumably) having sex in bed, and many other places - and if you wait till after 10:00(?) you can see some flesh to go with the action.

This didn't happen all at once, but through many incremental 'advances'. If you were to take any episode of 'The Simpson's' back and show it in a theatre in the 1920's, there would have been a secularized equivalent to the Turkish stoners right here on the streets of America. But when you cook a frog, you do it slowly - it takes awhile, but it'll sit there and before it knows it, it's cooked all the same. I see members of a presidents administration wearing symbols of importance to those we are fighting against, as a click upward on the stove.

I agree it is unlikely that America will take to the gunny sack fashions or sharia law anytime soon. But 50 years ago a thong bikini would have gotten the wearer and designer thrown in jail. 50 years ago the current democrat chatter for withdrawing from iraq would have been met by public uproar and fear of lynching. Change happens, it happens slowly, but unless met with opposition, it does happen and it isn't always good.

lance said...

Wow, I haven't seen anything by Van generate this much action in a long while. It was most interesting reading.