Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Robbing Jihadists of their Agency, denying them their shadow

Theories of causation and causality are everywhere, and no model of the universe is complex enough to describe ever fluid and ever changing reality. Most things have multiple causes, and its very hard to untangle them, as everything is causing and being caused simultaneously. The many attempts to link expressions of a carefully nurtured Islamic resentment* to Western violence in Islamic countries (for eg. the coalition's invasion of Iraq) may be part of the picture, but at the heart of this linkage is the "principle of false causation" - the false assumption that anyone can create hatred or love in the heart of another human being. Eleanor Roosevelt said it this way: "no one can humiliate you without your permission."

Large swathers of the Islamic world are characterised by a collective sense of inferiority re "the West", and a sense of resentment which is rarely challenged or called into question. Like "the West", the "Islamic world" is not so keen on owning its own shadow, its murderous underbelly, its aggression, its self justification. It prefers to see the evil in some other, rather than emenating from its own lack of integration and inherent contradictions.

While I personally lean towards the understanding that ultimately there is only One doer, and human beings do not have agency, in the maya of this world if we attribute agency to some human beings we "must" attribute agency to all of them. So paternalistic reverse prejudice attempts to deny the terrorists agency and explain that their resentment was 'caused" by some actor who does have agency - "the naughty West" - are discrimatory, infantilising, and do not allow people to take ownership of how they are thinking, and what they are creating or destroying. (You do acknowledge that "the system" seems to have a life of its own which makes us all victims of the momentum of the way things are).

Faisal al Mutar says it better - and more humerously - below:"

* Examples: Palestinians running over 75 year old school principles, or detonating bombs packed with nails and bolts in packed eateries in Israel, or Islamic supremacists mowing down randomly selected people in Kenya or Nigeria or Iraq or Paris or Lebanon. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


To what extent does a culture sanctify resentment? Much of the Islamic world, and particularly the Arab and Iranian Islamic world, revolves around an unstated sense of inferiority re 'the West." It is this sense of inferiority which fuels the resentment which manifests as acts of terror all over the world.

This ugly, aggressive sense of agrievement - of disowned psychic stuff - is palpable: just take a walk through the Arab section of the Old City of Jerusalem, with young men standing around in patriarchal clumps cursing passers by under their breath in Arabic, or making predatory comments about tourist women whom they consider "fair game"

Of course Moslems do not have a monopoly on terror...young white males - domestic terrorists like Timothy McVie - have killed more people in Australia and the US than Islamists, and we Jews are pretty good at resentment too...I don't think we have fully owned our own emotional pain and stuckness since the Holocaust, which can be seen manifesting in our knee-jerk reactions to even friendly and constructive criticism, or in the murder of Yitzchak Rabin z"l, or in the most uncivil discourse in Israel between different world views.

However re a collective sense of inferiority which permeates large swathes of the Islamic one is responsible for this except, perhaps, Moslems themselves, for believing untrue thoughts. They are as inescapably worthy as anyone else, but often don't seem to believe this. Eleanor Roosevelt observed " no one can humiliate you without your permission." I belive that Islamists characteristic inability to laugh at themselves or be self-reflective in any way and the "respect us or we'll kill you" approach stems from this internal suspicion that somehow they are not respected, and perhaps are not even worthy of respect? And hence the elaborate acting out - "take us seriously or else." (and this is just as true of Jewish, Hindu, Christian or Bhuddist fundamentalists, but they are perhaps - hopefully - a little more marginalised in their broader faith communities),

Certainly we Jews also struggle with a collective sense of inferiority - not surprising given our history and our focus on the'pain body" - the persecutions culminating in the Shoah, and the stuff that is often projected onto us. That's maybe why so many Jews name drop famous assert that we too are valuable, worthwhile, strong, contribute and have our part to play. Its a way of resisting the strong (often unconscious) thrust to devalue us which seems to be so often present in the majority cultures that surround us. Whether this tactic - of claiming our Mark Spitz's and Nobel Prize winners - really stops the gnawing self doubt is anoither question. What do you think?