Hermit's Weblog
everything your mother never taught you about how the world really works.

Mon, 06 Feb 2006

Muslim Outrage at the West - it isn't rational, so what is it.

Why do people riot? What is the psychological mechanism? We all endure (its part of being human) disappointments, personal attacks, slanders, lost loves and many other trials in life. A few of us will respond with extreme measures - carried away by our emotions, or perhaps under the influence of some darker inner demon.

But these riots, like many others, don't have a rational point. There is no objective. People haven't sat around and said: look lets have a riot so that the West will know we don't like them, and then knowing that we don't like them they will start to behave the way we want. In point of fact, what people seem to hate in the riots is not something real at all, but a kind of phantom, whether it is rich white people, or Americans or whatever.

In reality, what they seem to hate is something that they have made up. The blacks who rioted after the Rodney King trial had no objective, and given that they mostly destroyed their own neighborhoods, and their neighbor's businesses, they can't have had an expectation that this activity (random destruction and looting) would cause someone else to change their behavior.

The riot doesn't even seem to be a prelude to seeking some kind of justice. It rights no wrongs, nor does it make anything better.

Politicians, and other folks with no real convictions or fixed spiritual center, will bow before this hot wind. Already some Western leaders are calling for apologies from the creators of the cartoons and the newspapers that published them.

On one level it does seem a clash of values: freedom of expression versus a demand for not demeaning someone else's sacred icons. Yet, for decades folks who don't like America have been burning the American Flag and we don't see Americans running around in Washington burning down Iranian embassies as some kind of payback.

There has to be something more.

The writer Orson Scott Card, in his novel Xenocide, comes at the situation in a very interesting way. He puts us inside the mind of someone who starts a riot. The way Card sees it, for this person, who puts the match to the tinder of other souls, there is a kind of intoxication - a rush like a drug created by knowing we possess a power. They get caught up in this power, and so the words just sort of pour out, adding more and more fuel until all of a sudden a mass of people has collectively lost its mind.

For the riot starter this is a terrifying moment, because their intoxication was to the stirring up of emotion, and the power they felt in having everyone looking at them and following their words, drinking in their hate and reflecting the hungers and power in it back to them. But then all those minds, that the orator of hate has been controlling and felt were focused on him, turn from him, let go of their attachment to his words and become a kind of collective beast - no longer human at all. The fire our hate stirs in others always gets out of control.

In Card's novel, in the aftermath of the riot, the religious leader shames the community, uses their natural regret on their return to human status to make them face the terrible consequences of their actions - the deaths and the destruction.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Muslim riots, is was probably a few religious leaders in the first place who lit the flames. When cultural and political leaders cannot themselves maintain a moral or spiritual center, how will the ordinary people be able to do so?

This is, of course, not just a problem for Islam. Those who preach hate sow the whirlwind and all of us will suffer for it. How many of the attacks on gays and the homeless are rooted in the words of someone who hates.

Some political leaders in America keep trying to make criticism of their insanity out to be unpatriotic. Will they soon be preaching hate in frustration at their own failures?

These are dangerous times, and all of us will be confronted with temptations to hate and destroy as the chaos increases. Maybe we should be grateful to the Muslim rioters, who show us how easy it is to lose our own moral and spiritual centers if we listen to those who market hate.

[20:13] | [] | # | G

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