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Closing ranks: The onset of a clash of civilizations

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by aelf, Nov 22, 2015.

  1. aelf

    aelf Noctis Lucis Caelum

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    I believe the neocons and the Wahhabis have successfully pushed the world to the brink of a cycle of conflict that may dominate the rest of the 21st century. All over, I see that the two sides are closing ranks: On one side, we have 'Western' right-wingers and conservatives who are more vocal than ever about closing borders and about how Islam means trouble; on the other, we have more and more Middle Easterners and Muslims who are convinced that ISIS is the West's creation or, worse, part of a Zionist plot to undermine Islam by portraying Muslims as barbarians.

    Meanwhile, the moderates are confused. Most of them want people to make distinction between Muslims and Islamists. However, not all can agree on to what extent Islam is implicated. Some say that implicating Islam as a whole invariably leads to bigotry and ignores the fact that the same criticisms can be made of other religions; others say that there is a need to recognise that Islam is part of the problem if solutions are to be found. So the moderates are arguing amongst themselves, and since they style themselves (and are indeed often sadly) the cooler heads around, I believe this will translate into a deadlock in actual policy debates - wherever the nutjobs have not hijacked a large part of the political debate altogether (like they seem to have in the USA).

    So is a clash of civilizations inevitable? If you think so, is it inevitable because there are simply no good solutions, or because people just can't be expected to put the solutions into practice? If you think there are solutions, what are they? And how you do envision them being implemented?

    Or, perhaps, you think a clash of civilisations is a good thing?


    ---

    Here's my take:

    Personally, I think people just can't be expected to put good solutions into practice.

    How so? I do think the moderates have something to offer, but they need to get their house in order. They need to realise that nuance or dialogue for the sake of it is not going to magically lead anywhere. They need to make a distinction not just between Muslims and Islamism, but also between criticising ideologies and criticising faith; the former is specific and the latter is all-encompassing. Trying to draw Muslims, especially moderate Muslims, into a debate on how Islam can be improved will likely only alienate them and lead to no resolution - most Muslims have no influence whatsoever on fundamentalist theology, and most would naturally refuse to see their faith as part of the problem. This is the exact same thing that would happen if you try it on Christians.

    So what can be done? First and foremost, moderates need to get behind moderate Muslims and focus on criticising interpretations rather than criticising scripture. Criticising scripture is just going to cause people to get defensive because they feel ownership over scripture, and therefore arguing that there is a problem with scripture implies that there is a problem with their faith. This is an unfair assertion to make about peaceful adherents and moderate Muslims, and naturally they will be indignant. You end up nowhere and, as a consequence, some would start thinking, "Hey, why aren't moderate Muslims agreeing to discuss this with me rationally? Maybe they're part of the problem."

    Now, the trouble is plenty of moderates who want to criticise scripture think of themselves as rational, nuanced thinkers. And so they believe that their criticism is right, that they should be listened to because they are making rational arguments, that the moderate Muslims who get offended are being irrational and unhelpful. The worst thing is people believe them, and so this group of moderates is likely to command an influential share of the rational debate.

    I guess we're screwed.
     
  2. Cheetah

    Cheetah Chieftain

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    There isn't a "Clash of Civilizations". We're witnessing the death spasms of authoritarianism when it is confronted with its rapidly shrinking power.

    What we are witnessing in the "Muslim world" is an Islamic version of a reformation. Following the traditional conservative policies is fast getting difficult, as most of the people in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and others are young. Young people have little patience and a lot to win by standing up for themselves. And while thousands heed the calling of Daesh and other Islamists, millions more are fed up with Islamism and politics governed by religion.

    As a response, their countries are ramping up the oppression and dealing out punishments even more frequent than before. In the short term, they can manage to keep the pressure on, and emigration can act as a safety valve. This is especially true if the oppressive regimes get foreign economic, political and technological support. But in the end, the regimes will not last. Handled badly, the regimes may end up replaced by civil wars or Islamistic regimes which will perpetuate the oppression, before they too stumble and fall.

    In the West, authoritarians scream about "Muslim invasions" and all the problems immigrants will bring, and seek to erect walls and barriers all over. However, while there is some truth to the fact that countries can struggle to cope with a huge influx of immigrants, and that the hundreds of thousands who are on the move all have their individual stories of oppression and struggle, all of it has a very small effect on the "clash of civilizations". For the Islamic Reformation, what matters is primarily what happens in the countries where the refugees flee from, and the countries where people are oppressed.

    What we in the West must look out for though, is the unnecessary destructions of our rights to privacy and freedom, done in the name of security. That is the real damage which all the authoritarian politicians can end up causing. Already it is extremely dangerous for people to be whistle blowers, and that will undoubtedly lead to situations where the public is not made aware of important things which concern them. Western people aren't yet in the situation of Chinese or Iranian citizens, but most of the tools are already in place to bring us closer to it.

    It is possible to handle this situation so that it turns out very good for a lot of people, but I doubt we will do so. However, even having some victories can be good enough.
    • We can use the Western authoritarian politicians' words against themselves, and perhaps bring trade sanctions to bear on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries. At least stop the sales of weapons and surveillance equipment.
    • We can pressure tax heavens to close the accounts of "terrorists and their supporters" - also hopefully including members of the elites in Iran, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait.
    • The combined desire to destroy Daesh can perhaps be used to find a peaceful resolution of the Syrian civil war. It will probably mean that Assad gets away with his crimes, but it will at least bring back a stable and, according to the latest plans, a democratic Syria. Syria was rather secular, so if it also becomes possible to speak freely there, we could have a second free, democratic Muslim country in the Middle East (the first being Tunisia).
    • If most of the refugees have a decent experience while in Europe, and Syria calms down, it is possible that many of them will take back with them strengthened, favorable feelings for secularism and democracy.
    • The changing political climate in the West is making it easier to confront oppressive voices within the Muslim communities. By giving more room for dissenting voices within those communities, it is possible that the radicalization and extremism we have seen will start to wither.

    All in all, I see the situation as glass-half-full, not half-empty. I think humanity at large will get through these troubles, and on the other side we will find secularism, liberalism and democracy holding even stronger positions than today.
     
    Mise likes this.
  3. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Challenge accepted

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    We've seen many waves of political madness come and go throughout history, but in times short of a World Total War there's always been a middle ground.

    The so-called Clash of Civilisations is one such wave. What do we do? We ride it out.
     
  4. Daw

    Daw Chieftain

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    I think that "In the end, there can be only one."

    I don't believe a clash of civilizations is inherently inevitable. (Not so sure about this one though.)

    I see the solution being implemented as civilizations in question intermix and gradually diffuse into each other so that in the end there none of the initial ones exists but instead there is the "alloy" one.

    Ideally, to work peacefully it must be a very very very very <snip> very lengthy process so that every generation saw it static enough not to get worried about it.

    The slower it is, the less number of hotheads (on any side) will come up to doing crazy things about it.

    But that's theory.

    The practice is that things are expected to happen fast these days. This causes friction burns as civilizations penetrate each other, and it hurts, and they get angry with each other, and start fighting, which leads to a massive clash.

    That, however, does not mean that there are no good solutions, there are. Neither it means that people can't be expected to put the solutions in practice, because sometimes they do. Look at Russia (Christian) and Kazakhstan (Muslim), for instance.

    But the clash becomes inevitable when people get too impatient about things and try to hurry them too much.

    No.
     
  5. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    There will be extremists here in the west and extremists in the middle east and elsewhere for the foreseeable future. And the thing with extremists is that they're going to usually be the loudest ones, usually much louder than moderates. This makes it appear as though there are way more of them out there than it might appear.

    And see, the thing is that there will be people on both sides (and other sides) who benefit greatly from the public perception that there is such a thing as a "clash of civilizations" in progress, while it really is only a clash of ideals between the extremists. The moderates, for the most part, just want to go on living peacefully, to spend time with family members and friends, enjoy life, prepare their kids for adulthood in a safe environment, etc.

    Here in the west we have democracies in place and in certain types of democracies extremists and those who are the loudest can often dominate the discussion and in some cases have enough of a passionate voter base to even swing elections. Some political parties are thus sort of forced to pay lip service to hard-line elements in their voter base. They could not do that, but in cases where these voters have enough of a presence to potentially swing elections, somebody is going to fill that political power vacuum and take on some the views of those voters. That's sort of what democracies are half-arsedly good at half the time - if there is enough will from the voters, politicians actually eventually take note, because they can "exploit" it for votes and future political success. And if your political party has already taken on some extreme views under its wing, that makes it all too easier to take on a couple more.

    In the case of extremism in the non-west, in Muslim countries in particular extremism is being in part fuelled by Saudi Arabian Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia is building Wahhabist mosques all over the place and if you read up on that ideology, it pretty much forms the foundation for radical Islamic extremism. ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups can much easier find recruits for their movements with Wahhabism being "hip" right now. There are a lot of people out there who accept such extremist views already, so you really only need a spark to get some of them to put thoughts and words into actions.

    Of course there are many other reasons that help fuel radical Islamic extremism and such groups, and many other variables, but IMO that is a big one. Another big one is the west's "I do what I want" attitude in the Muslim world. We come in, we carve out countries based on our sensibilities, we take the natural resources, set up military bases in holy lands, exploit everything, arm some groups here and there, get people to fight against eachother, and leave. If you live in that part of the world and you are looking for an ideological enemy to fight - the West has handed you recruitment propaganda on a plate! And it works very well.

    Many of our leaders here in the West also exploit that "We need an ideological enemy to sell to you as something to rally against" propaganda strategy that works so well. Muslim extremists are perfect for that purpose and so some of our politicians latch onto that and hold on for dear life. There is also a lot of money to be made selling weapons and influence wielding people who benefit from disorder around the world don't mind at all that group A hates group B and vice versa. If the world was more peaceful they would have less clients to sell weapons to. These people don't want conflict hotbeds around the planet to turn into pacifist utopias, they mainly have their profits in mind.

    Other influential elements in our western societies also have something to gain from this "conflict" and the existence of an ideologically extreme enemy. It's much easier to pass laws that put more power at the hands of the state if such an enemy exists or is perceived to exist. It's no surprise that laws that usually limit the liberty of citizens while increasing government powers are usually passed after extremist actions, and it's no surprise that politicians from all over exploit this sort of thing on a regular basis.
     
    Honor likes this.
  6. Tolni

    Tolni trust the pillars with your s e c r e t s

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    Hopefully, we won't ride this wave out in underground bunkers as we wait for the radiation levels on surface to lower?
     
  7. GoodSarmatian

    GoodSarmatian A mad God's dying dream

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    I don't think were witnessing the beginning of a clash, I think that over a decade after 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan war and american war crimes, we're in the middle of it and it won't get much worse before it gets better.
    The Islamic world looks more divided than ever and Iran is practically "the West's" ally against ISIS.


    Careful now, that sounds a lot like pre Iraq war Fukuyama, and not even post Iraq war Fukuyama takes him seriously any more.
     
  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    I've been coming to the conclusion that the ultimate war of humankind is the war between the liberals and the conservatives. We have this both at home in domestic politics, and internationally with some of these reactionary groups like the various extremist Muslim groups.

    Conservatives, ultimately, are fighting for a world in which more traditional lifestyles, leadership, power, and control, are dominant. And while this takes somewhat different forms in different times and places, it's not different at its core. The hardest 'right' conservatives in the US today may be working in the context of American laws and society, and they may be the enemies of Islamic extremists or communists, but they actually have far more in common with the leaders of Iran or Saudi Arabia or the USSR than they do with moderate or liberal Americans when it comes to how they want the world to be run. What all of these groups have in common is that they do not want people making their own choices on how they live their lives. It is a very top-down approach to society. In their views, only the appropriate leaders of society can make those choices for the rest of us. Anything else is anarchy, or worse. It's a feature, not a bug, that all of these groups are so authoritarian.

    The alternative is very much more bottom up. To allow people as much latitude as possible in how they live their lives, so long as their actions don't have spill over effects which harm others.

    This is the fundamental conflict of our age. All the rest is just sideshows.
     
  9. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    It's funny. What you describe as the "solution", I see as the ultimate abomination that is destroying mankind : the obliteration of all cultures to merge into some kind of tasteless soup which will reduce humanity to a single point of view, a single way of thinking, a single way of living.
     
  10. Antilogic

    Antilogic --

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    No, I think very, very few things are actually inevitable or unavoidable, particularly if the OP is using the term clash to mean a violent conflict as opposed to a more broad struggle of ideas.

    That being said, I think a broader war is becoming more likely because there is already significant warfare in the Middle East and too many people in the US (and perhaps increasingly so elsewhere) are letting their emotions get the better of them. Instead of examining geopolitical factors and how best to turn down the heat, they demand more bombing, which leads to more innocent casualties, which fuels the cycle again. For all of the self-ascribed rationality of the moderate so-called adults in the room, they are gullible and too easily fall into this trap.
     
  11. Oerdin

    Oerdin Chieftain

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    Cheetah, I am not seeing any Islamic reformation. What can you point to as evidence for your theorized Islamic reformation?
     
  12. Daw

    Daw Chieftain

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    You see, cultures change with time. The modern Brits bear little resemblance with those weird barbarians with painted faces who scared the Romans enough to build the Hadrian's wall. Romans themselves can hardly be recognized in the modern Italians. Similarly, Asterix & Obelix can hardly be recognized in the modern French.

    And it's OK, isn't it?

    So, as long as they change anyway, they can as well change towards each other rather than drifting apart, can't they?
     
  13. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    Culture changing is part of life.
    What you describe is not just a "change" though, it's uniformisation all over the planet, the fusion of all the culture into one single entity. It's the destruction of diversity.
     
  14. Daw

    Daw Chieftain

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    It's uniformization through change. No violence involved. And whether we like it or not, it works already. The (interim) result is when you meet a Korean guy, you two have more in common than each of you with a Celtic druid or Hong Gil-dong you respectively descend from. It's an integral part of globalization process that started with the discovery of sail and works irreversibly ever since.

    It does not call for the loss of identity. I mean, you can tell me stories of Charlemagne as part of your people's history, I can tell you stories of Vladimir the Red Sun as part of my people's history, battle of Borodino and Normandie-Niemen squadron are parts of our mutual history, but the environment we actually live in today is pretty much the same, with only slight variations we can also discuss. In English, if that matters.
     
  15. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

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    Yes, so ? It's the end result which is a problem, not just the means.
    Sorry, but trading stories about ancestors is not diversity. Having actually different cultures is, and THIS is on path of destruction, with all cultures being progressively mashed together in a bland commonality.
    People might rejoice that "we've become much closer", but we did so by losing what made us different. That's not exactly something we should be happy about.
     
  16. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    There is no real clash of civilisations. Western nations lose far, far more lives to car accidents. The actions of a minority of lunatics should not be treated as more than it is - criminal mass murder. In the long term we must weather the storm and undermine recruitment by changing our foreign policies. The Jihadists attack us because we engage in the slaughter of innocents ourselves and hypocritically prop up dictators. These things have to stop.
     
  17. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Slight detail: the Saudis are Wahhabi and they are combating IS. Seeing as IS also by any definition can't be termed a civilization, I'm not sure where the clash is supposed to be.
     
  18. Tahuti

    Tahuti Writing Deity

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    Islam has much greater memetic power than Christianity in an age of televisions and the internet protocol. Christianity thrives by beautiful Churches. Yet WWII has destroyed the West's appetite for satisfying architecture with buildings dictated by commercial or populist rationales, instead of beauty. Christianity has lost its power of attraction as the Church became less interested in being aesthetic patrons who funded composers and builders. At least in the West that is, even as it's on the rise in Africa.

    Islam's power over individuals waxed with increasing power in global communication. An inhabitant of Mecca may transmit his faith to his family members in the West. Christianity no longer has that kind of power. It doesn't inspire art and imagery it had in the past. Social media and television have strengthened Islam more than it has strengthened Christianity. While Christians may not have any less moral objections to religious terrorism as Muslims have, Christians in the West are not truly connected to Christians in the Middle East as Muslims in the Middle East are to Muslims in Europe.

    Christianity adapts to governments. It is highly flexible in its dealing with governmental structures that are not Christianised. The German tribal system was co-opted by Christianity and Germanic tribal holidays were Christianised. Western governments scrutinise religion throughout its history (The Guelph vs. Ghibbeline conflicts, the Counterreformation, The French revolution, Soviet suppression of organised religion). The Pope was able to bulge before Mussolini in a similar fashion, accepting its place effectively within Fascist Italy.

    Islam adopts governments to itself and if the electoral or commercial power to enforce such is absent, violence will be used in its name: The most important political leader in the Islamic world is the Caliph, who is also the equivalent of the Pope. The West temporarily suppressed Islam globally, as the Western-inspired Turkish leader Atatürk abolished the Caliphate, although the Caliph was already weakening as the Ottoman Empire became the sick man of Europe.

    So, the 20th century was one the worst periods for Islam of its history: No leader and in complete disarray. They were not able to command the respect they once enjoyed during the Middle Ages (in the Western sense) and early Ottoman period.

    Now, the state is more powerless than ever: Deindustrialisation and globalisation make capital hard to keep within one's borders. International law destroys the monopoly of violence states need to suppress non-state actors. It thus becomes easier for Islam to influence Western and Arab governments. One terrorist attack on Europe puts the Islamic world in the spotlights. Eventually, Europe's governments may consider bowing. Also consider the fact open state-on-state warfare is frowned upon due to World War II yet this mentality is what causes governments to fund terrorist and national liberation groups to sow terror on rival governments. Qatar funded ISIS and Hamas, to name one instance. While this has also been done by Non-Islamic polities, Islam has benefited from this more than any other religion because Islamic polities more generously endow their religion than Christian, Jewish and Hindu countries endow theirs.

    The West must - if it wishes to survive - learn the Islamic way of statecraft. It must support the re-establishment of the Caliphate and support a Caliph who feels no ill will towards the West. Perhaps the European Union may be the appropriate instrument for reaching the goal of harnessing Islam's power.
     
  19. CavLancer

    CavLancer This aint fertilizer

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    I blame the French for getting shot and blown up, definitely not the fault of the abundant Muslim extremists! Its all a neocon conspiracy!

    If you all of a sudden started thinking, 'Gee, Cav is finally making sense', then some generic thing often described with bad language applies to you, imo, and you should probably quit Berkley and go to some other school.

    Good luck.
     
  20. Narz

    Narz keeping it real

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    Ignorance & superstition IS part of the problem. Trying to pretend it's not is ridiculous. The main problem is lack of equality, with world leaders trying to turn nation & religion against each other instead of people rebelling against the authority that repressed them.
     

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