Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Diversity, Fukuyama and the Non Sequitur

The mom of the bomber, in the middle of her ridiculously implausible "denial tour," said if her son were executed "I will say Allahu Akbar!“

Somehow this fits. In fact all of this seems a non sequitur. Nothing leads from one point to another.
A family flees to this country and is welcomed and protected. The family goes on welfare support. They become comfortable and the children pursue their educations. One marries a local girl and has a child. Then they blow up countless strangers. Afterwards they go to several social events.

Any of these episodes might be individually coherent, even reasonable. But together they are more like that charming boy on the bus trip from Florida to Washington State, Ted Bundy. Except we know Ted was quite mad and these boys are not. They are just vicious. But purposelessly so to the Western mind. Any connection to the world of politics or religion is more senile than symbolic; there just is no obvious reason, at least to us. Is there a new social madness, like the obscene phone caller, made possible only by some innocent modern circumstance?

So what is going on? Is it really beyond reason?

A great worry is the tremendous variability of social norms. American prisons, as an isolated culture, look nothing like the culture its constituents came from. Pirate ships demonstrated a democratic structure that was not present in any of the cultures the pirates left. The savagery of the western American farmer in the Indian Wars had nothing in common with the east coast of his origin. Shards from shattered societies like the Symbionese Liberation Army or Jonestown or Amish communities look fantastic to the rest of us but are, nonetheless, quite well ordered and often of great integrity.

Solzhenitsyn thought the American inclusiveness was charmingly naive on a local level and blunderingly stupid internationally. At his 1978 Commencement Address at Harvard, Solzhenitsyn said, "Every ancient and deeply rooted self-contained culture .....constitutes a self-contained world, full of riddles and surprises to Western thinking.....But the persisting blindness of (Western) superiority continues to hold the belief that all the vast regions of our planet should develop and mature to the level of contemporary Western systems....such a conception is a fruit of Western comprehension of the essence of other worlds."

George Bush was an evangelist for democracy. Almost all Westerners believe the progress the West has made is towards a preordained ideal.  Francis Fukuyama wrote about it as "The End of History." All was fulfilled in us.

Imagine, then, that all the behavior we see as so strange and inconsistent is being viewed through a distorted Western prism, that bombers are not indoctrinated or "brainwashed" but progressing along their cultural norm, that the acceptance of adult-on-children violence is not acceptance at all but rather the norm, that their connection to Western development is tangential, not incremental.

Maybe these cultural "divides" are rather ancient schisms and have more consequence than we ever thought.

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