Sunday, February 05, 2006

My imaginary friend can beat up your imaginary friend

Let's, let's stay together
Loving you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
It's interesting how one's life can briefly develop an apparent theme, or synchronicity. In the last week, I have seen Munich, Syriana, and I've been reading See No Evil, the non-fiction book that inspired Syriana. In the latest Palestinian elections, Fatah (Arafat's militant organization) was tossed out on its ass, while Hamas, the Islamist organization that grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now in charge. And there are those cartoons of Muhammed that have caused extremely heart-felt responses in parts of the world. (The cartoons are actually genuinely offensive and racist, in my view and in more educated views.) And Iraq rages on, while some Americans consider it controversial to say that things are genuinely bad in Iraq.

Every day is surprising to the previous one, and this day, at least, I will not be foolish enough to predict anything long-term. In terms of the short- to medium-term, I have to agree with this Israeli Military Intelligence officer, the Middle East is going to the Islamists far and wide:
But look around, Harari said: “In Jordan, too, wherever there are free elections––trade unions, student unions, professional guilds––the Islamists have the upper hand. If the Hashemite kings”––Hussein and Abdullah––“had not played all kinds of tricks, the Islamists would have had a large representation in parliament as well. And when Egypt held its American-inspired parliamentary elections recently, the number of seats won by the Muslim Brotherhood rose fivefold. Throughout the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood is the main power with grassroots support. The Islamists are less corrupt. They are the ones with integrity and compassion. They are of the people and they speak for the people. Today in the Arab world, the choice is clear between democratically elected Islamists and Western-leaning dictators.”
Where will this trend lead us, globally? The current situation is so unstable that any new configuration seems possible.

We, the west, support corrupt, unelected dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Islam Karimov because they are useful to us in one way or another. Their opponents are, in part, religious fanatics who would either keep to themselves, or who would gleefully torch the rest of the world for their infidel beliefs, depending on precisely which fanatics get to be in charge.

These choices are depressing. We can continue to support monsters who boil people to death or who torture prisoners on our behalf. These are our allies against "terror." Alternatively, we can support people who let little school girls burn to death because their arms and heads would be bare if they went outside, or who insist on a legal system that prescribes amputations for thieves, and stoning for adulterers. Mubarak has gotten support from four different U.S. presidents, and 2-3 billion dollars every year by threatening, basically, unleashed democracy that would lead to Sharia.

If I can just be briefly offensive, in parallel, to my Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Hindu friends. I wish you guys would cut it out. Really. My imaginary friend can beat up your imaginary friend is no way to run a world. Can't you collectively take on a real problem, like, say, Malaria? It causes three hundred million illnesses a year, and one million deaths. Isn't that more important than, say, whether condoms are present on penises at the appropriate time?

There are extraordinarily beautiful and valuable lessons in each of these religions, but if those lessons do not lend themselves more or less directly to more fun, food, and fucking, then count me out. (I was going to say movies, music, and, uh, muu-muus, but I felt that, in this case, alliteration was not my friend.) I am a secular humanist, and accordingly, humanity is my only concern. Your imaginary friends can drop by anytime they like.

Meanwhile, into this powder keg that is the Middle East, wandered the newly-elected George Bush in 2001. Like an angry, unattended toddler at the toy store, he wanted a war and he wanted it right fucking now, even if he had to lie to get it.
The memo also makes clear that Bush and Blair had already decided to go to war no matter what, regardless of the United Nations Security Council. Bush had "pencilled in" March 10 (was it an item in his social calendar?) Blair committed to the plan, though he preferred a second UNSC resolution. That he committed in advance is embarrassing to him, since he only received British parliamentary approval to so commit on March 18, a month and a half later.
So, bang. Americans get a president elected by our religious fanatics, and the world suffers a dreadful war with dreadful consequences. As I said, I wish you guys would just knock it off. We're dying here. We're dying here.

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