The missing man in the Middle East

With the Israel/Hizbullah War we are getting another round of interviews with Muslim leaders in the Middle East and commentary from various Arab and Iranian sources. The tacit background of the Israel Muslim debate is the continuing failure of Muslim societies and cultures. 

After all, the Arab and Muslim Middle East is not constrained physically, stretching as it does from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indus River, one of the great land masses in the world.  A good part of it is located around the Mediterranean, one of the world's great trading areas.  It owns a large part of the world's oil resources, one of the great deposits of natural wealth in the world.

So, why is it trapped in poverty, backwardness, hate and obscurantism?  What is missing?  I am struck by the absence of one person.  Can you guess who it is? I would say it is Isaac Newton.  No, not just because Newton is associated with the rise of Western science, although that would be a good reason.  It is because Newton articulated a physical principle — for every action there is a reaction — that is also a human principle.

But what one hears from Lebanese spokesmen, or Iranian spokesmen or Muslim spokesman in general, is 'things happen.'  There is no cause and effect.  'Israel invades Lebanon' without any recognition that Israel was attacked at home first.  Yes, there is always the orneriness of the human condition, and if you look closely enough there are always factors on one side and factors on the other.  But life works on reactions for actions.  If you turn your back on that, then the world is one of incantation, magic and confusion.

And, yes, I say that aware of the Arab contribution to mathematics, architecture and so forth.  But the 13th century is a long time ago.  We are now in the 21st century.  Somewhere in the last eight centuries, Muslim society turned its back on action and reaction in favor of... what?  Victimization.  It is always someone else's fault. 

We are running into that in Iraq. Yes, we have doubtless made mistakes, severe mistakes.  But in the end, we are either using too much force and offending the locals or too little force and not 'maintaining order'  There will always be something to criticize if your worldview is that you are a victim and it is somebody else's responsibility to set things right or to make you happy.

Hard as it is to say, if you live as a victim, on some level that is because you desire it that way, particularly if you are given the chance to step out into the light.  The Middle East needs its own Isaac Newton, it needs to absorb in its gut that for every action there is a reaction — and that cannot be short—circuited nor forestalled by bombast or pretend.  It is time for the culture in the Middle East to grow up. 

Greg Richards    8 05 06

With the Israel/Hizbullah War we are getting another round of interviews with Muslim leaders in the Middle East and commentary from various Arab and Iranian sources. The tacit background of the Israel Muslim debate is the continuing failure of Muslim societies and cultures. 

After all, the Arab and Muslim Middle East is not constrained physically, stretching as it does from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indus River, one of the great land masses in the world.  A good part of it is located around the Mediterranean, one of the world's great trading areas.  It owns a large part of the world's oil resources, one of the great deposits of natural wealth in the world.

So, why is it trapped in poverty, backwardness, hate and obscurantism?  What is missing?  I am struck by the absence of one person.  Can you guess who it is? I would say it is Isaac Newton.  No, not just because Newton is associated with the rise of Western science, although that would be a good reason.  It is because Newton articulated a physical principle — for every action there is a reaction — that is also a human principle.

But what one hears from Lebanese spokesmen, or Iranian spokesmen or Muslim spokesman in general, is 'things happen.'  There is no cause and effect.  'Israel invades Lebanon' without any recognition that Israel was attacked at home first.  Yes, there is always the orneriness of the human condition, and if you look closely enough there are always factors on one side and factors on the other.  But life works on reactions for actions.  If you turn your back on that, then the world is one of incantation, magic and confusion.

And, yes, I say that aware of the Arab contribution to mathematics, architecture and so forth.  But the 13th century is a long time ago.  We are now in the 21st century.  Somewhere in the last eight centuries, Muslim society turned its back on action and reaction in favor of... what?  Victimization.  It is always someone else's fault. 

We are running into that in Iraq. Yes, we have doubtless made mistakes, severe mistakes.  But in the end, we are either using too much force and offending the locals or too little force and not 'maintaining order'  There will always be something to criticize if your worldview is that you are a victim and it is somebody else's responsibility to set things right or to make you happy.

Hard as it is to say, if you live as a victim, on some level that is because you desire it that way, particularly if you are given the chance to step out into the light.  The Middle East needs its own Isaac Newton, it needs to absorb in its gut that for every action there is a reaction — and that cannot be short—circuited nor forestalled by bombast or pretend.  It is time for the culture in the Middle East to grow up. 

Greg Richards    8 05 06