Friday, March 11, 2005

Nuance

Inspired by Dan's post on the bad reading of the Lebanese situation, one more thing on the complexity of the "Middle East Situation." Two nights ago on Scarborough, Joey was up in arms about an Amnesty International report that women in Iraq were in worse shape than when Saddam was in power. JS just couldn't believe it. Now usually, I give Joe the benefit of the doubt and consider his rantings just plain evil, but here I think he was actually being naive.

While the lady from Amnesty talked mostly about American troops' mistreatment of women, she didn't say what I think could have made the whole business clearer. Which is that there should have been no doubt that women were at least for a time going to get fucked by the fall of Saddam and the rise of a Shia ruling majority. Orthodox Islam is just not going to treat women the way we in the West (and Amnesty International despite its internationalist outlook is certainly a child of Western thinking) feel that they should be treated. This gets us back to the problem we were facing in a pre-911 mentality, before America decided to manifest its most fascist inclinations. Indeed, right now, the problems we are dealing with are not East vs. West problems. They are America vs. various Arab groups problems (Saddam certainly wasn't a "radical Islamist" -- the enemy that the war-machine tries to define for itself). The "East vs. West" problem is or was and still is a collision of a number of very different outlooks.

At a certain point, we in the "West" may just disagree with the way certain peoples in the "East" do things. And the question remains how a global community can be erected amid these swirling ideologies and ways of life. I don't mean to make it seem as if there is a monolithic western way of thinking and a monolithic eastern way. Recent events, including both factions within Arab states and the total disconnect between the US and Europe, prove this. Nonetheless, there are older, deeper conflicts. Perhaps, in the end, you have to plump for something like Rorty's affirmative relativity (my phrase not his) where you acknowledge that different groups hold different views, and you just have to draw a line in the sand and say in a community which we can call "ours" certain stuff will not be tolerated. I don't know what I think about this one way or another. But such foundational issues are being pushed into further obscurity rather than further elucidation by our current, irrational monochromatic foreign policy outlook.

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