Friday, February 18, 2011

Middle Eastern Unrest

Of all the countries having demonstrations in the Middle East, I'd say Egypt would be the most likely to come out of it with something resembling western style democracy. It is, in many respects a very westernized state, and it doesn't have a particularly strong or virulently radical muslim force. The muslim brotherhood is not nearly so radical as most such groups. In fact, the brotherhood has been castigated by al qaida and other radical islamic groups particularly because it has renounced violence.

On another but related note consider this. Islam is about 500 years younger than christianity. Look where most christian nations were 500 years ago. Hell, christians were still burning people at the stake less than 300 years ago here in the U.S. The overall influence of christianity is waning throughout the world - particularly in Europe where it had ultimate power for hundreds of years. Today, most Europeans maintain a blase' attitude toward christianity and religion in general. There are far more atheists and agnostics throughout much of Europe than anywhere else in the world, as far as I'm aware. Despite recent and current efforts to ebb this flow by christian fundies in this country, the US is following Europe's lead if not quite fast enough for my taste. However, the move away from religion and toward secularism in the U.S. is persistent if somewhat glacial, moving in fits and starts

Islam has not evolved nearly as far as either judaism or christianity. That most islamic countries are poor and generally well behind much of the west in modernization and technology - with the perhaps spectacular exception of Dubai and a few other middle eastern cities - that the social, economic and cultural lives of many middle easterners remains much the same as it has been over the past several hundred years, major change comes hard. The relatively recent and sudden flood of western religions, culture and social graces  into much of the middle east, dating back primarily to the dubiously glorified years of the British Empire, has fostered a good deal of chaos in the area. It's rather like in Star Trek, the Federation's "prime directive" stating that indigenous planetary cultures were to be left unaffected by and unaware of the existence of other worlds. (Of course, that being said, virtually every episode had the intrepid Star Trekkers laying waste to that very directive.)  The west never guessed how difficult it would prove to be to enculturate the middle east and elsewhere - say in Africa and parts of the far east - with western mores. And then, of course, there's oil. Oh yeah. Oil.

While it's very difficult to find a supposed "benevolent" dictator, many of the middle eastern countries may in fact not be ready for western style democracy. Look at what took place in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia, and many of the former satellite nations, remain in many ways steeped in corruption and chaos. Most of those people have never lived and functioned in anything resembling a free society. They often don't understand even the basic rules, let alone any of the nuances. What happens in the middle east over the next weeks, months and years will be very interesting. If you buy into Glen Beck's theory, this is the beginning of the end. Happy days. :)

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