مختارات من الثقافة التنظيمية
ردٌ على صالح الفوزان ... مكفر الليبرالين ـــــ راغب الركابي
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(0)( لازلتُ أبحثُ عن الإسلام ) ــــ راغب الركابي
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(0)المسألة الكردية من وجهة نظر ( الليبرالية الديمقراطية ) ... يوسي شيخو
(0)الليبرالية والدين ـــــــ راغب الركابي
(0)الليبرالية الديمقراطية من أجل الحياة ـــ راغب الركابي
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(0)الليبرالية الديمقراطية ...ومفهوم الوحدة
من مقالات التفسير والفكر
في ظلال آية المحارب ــــــ الحلقة الثانية
في ظلال آية المُحارب ـــــــ الحلقة الأولى
الذات الإلهيّة بين العلم والعبادة ـــــــ مادونا عسكر
الحراك العراقي اللبناني ـــــــــــــ راغب الركابي
ثمن الحرية ـــــــــــ راغب الركابي
المفهوم الإفتراضي لمعنى قوله تعالى : [ فلا أقسمُ بالخنس ، الجوار الكنس ] – التكوير 15 ، 16
العلاقة بين الفكر والسلطة ـــــــــــ راغب الركابي
رسالة ملك الفرس يزدجرد* الى عمر بن الخطاب
صوت أبي العلاء الاشتراكي.... إبراهيم مشاره
- الخلل المفاهيمي في لغة النص : - القلب ، الفؤاد ، العقل .. الروح مثالاً
جواب على سؤال: ما الحقيقة؟ ــــــ الدكتور مراد وهبة
الأيديولوجيا وتثبيت الأوهام بدلاً من تحرير الأفهام..... د. علي مبروك
Thursday, February 12. 2009
A Guide to a Safer Wor
Life Manifesto: A Guide to a Safer World
Psychiatrist and author David Kazzaz, a native of Iraq, pursued his medical studies in Beirut in the 1940s and emigrated to the United States in 1954, settling in Denver, Colorado. He is currently Senior Associate at the Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle East in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. His life experiences extend from the post–World War I period through the post–9/11 era. He offers a unique perspective on the causes behind the rampant brutality witnessed across the globe today—be it suicide bombings in the Middle East, genocidal wars in Africa, or terrorist strikes on American shores.
Identifying in particular the devastating “Culture of Death” that is primarily embedded in a number of African nations and in the wide Islamic world today, he argues that only a concerted effort to uproot that culture and supplant it with a “Culture of Life” offers humanity a realistic chance of achieving peace and finding ways to resolve disputes without resort to war and other forms of violence.
To that end, he advocates the WORLD WOMEN FOR LIFE (WWFL) movement and provides a set of life-affirming strategies that can be implemented among any segment of a population, in any nation on earth. Above all, in these deeply troubling times, this treatise offers a message of hope and inspiration and urges us all to cherish and celebrate life.
Human life, since its creation on earth, has been threatened both by acts of nature such as floods, earthquakes, and fires and by acts of humans such as all forms of intentional violence and, in the modern context, terrorism.
Over the ages, as humans became more sophisticated in acquiring knowledge and developing their capabilities, they became more adept at mitigating the dangers to life. At the same time, however, they often allowed themselves to ignore the dangers inherent in their actions, and they sometimes consciously inflicted cruel hurt on their fellow humans. Unfortunately, “man’s inhumanity to man” has become a commonplace throughout the world.
Yet the prevalence of this destructive tendency differs between the sexes. Men by nature have a ready willingness to exploit and destroy life, while women’s instinct is to nourish and protect life. Ironically, men’s tendency to destroy grew out of a sense of responsibility to protect life by any and all means necessary. Men will wage war and kill an enemy to safeguard and feed those they love. Women, by contrast, will explore creative ways to improve the well-being and quality of life of their loved ones.
The following pages will highlight dangers existing across the globe in this twenty-first century and suggest some novel and specific strategies to cope with them in the perilous years ahead.
THE DARKENING SKIES
We are now living in the year 2009, and it seems that with the spread of terrorism and war, the world has gone mad! Elements in many nations across the globe are acting like suicidal patients intent on taking their lives and the lives of their loved ones with them. And the extended family in the rest of the world’s countries and organizations (including the United Nations) have been acting like unwitting enablers, expressing either indifference or sympathy or even, in some case, support.
Consider the genocide and mass, systematic rapes occurring in Africa, the plague of homicide/suicide bombings, and the all-too-prevalent sectarian violence. Also consider the Muslim-on-Muslim killing taking place in the Middle East and beyond and the rampant human rights violations in various corners of the earth.
We can no longer afford to stand on the sidelines, silenced by indifference or indecision. We must stop acting as if we are living on another planet, watching in dismay (but without response) as atrocities are allowed to be perpetrated on others in this interconnected world of ours. We need to get back to the basics. We need to reestablish our priorities and focus on life itself. The time has come to remember that life is given to us as a gift; it is something to cherish, protect, and improve. It is time to remember that it is the duty of each of us to take care of one another and regenerate life.
Care and nourishment are requisite parts of life, and if properly cared for, we can expect to enjoy a natural life cycle. Granted, malnutrition, disease, accidents, and all acts of nature are also inherent in that life cycle. But we see so much unnatural behavior these days—animals attacking humans, humans wantonly killing humans, and organized homicidal violence known as wars.
Most people live in a society, not in isolation, and it is society that adopts cultural norms. Those norms shape the structure that governs society. The structure starts with the nuclear family or unit, which defines roles and duties of its members. Often, clear roles are prescribed for the father, the mother, and the children, and more specific roles are adopted and assigned to both male and female members of the family. Traditionally, the governing structure has been widened to encompass the extended family and reach beyond to the tribe, the sect, the village, the region, and the country.
Government by definition involves power and control, ideally intended to provide order, care, and protection. But government can also invite corruption, greed, domination, exploitation, cruelty, and destruction. Human history is replete with savage rulers, corrupt kings, cruel tyrants, and malevolent despots whose actions have directly disrupted and destroyed lives.
Acknowledging that ruling and governing will always be needed and will always be with us, we are glad to see attempts being made to improve the systems of government around the world, albeit slowly. We can hope that the pace will pick up and result in increasingly efficient and humanitarian systems. It is unlikely, however, that we will, in any reasonably foreseeable future, see the whole world merge into one perfect system.
Nonetheless, we hold a worldview based on hope and trust, as well as faith in ourselves and our humanity. We know intuitively that our vision for humanity can be realized through cultural means and that cultural means can value, promote, and protect life. Sadly, we face a troubled world plagued by cultural negativity, a world that falls far short of our hopes and aspirations. Our challenge, then, is to neutralize and reverse the negative cultural trends that prevent the spread of a truly life-affirming ethic. An honorable and vital task would therefore be to develop ways of protecting and improving life even in the face of wars, disease, accidents, and acts of nature. In short, we must encourage all peoples to maintain a worldview based on hope in a life-sustaining future.
Each day’s news seems to bring fresh and frightening evidence of an escalating climate of violence. Stories of rapes, acts of terror, the carnage of war, and egregious civil right violations rain down on us daily, without let up.
All these atrocities and more have been promoted and aided by a culture that advocates and valorizes death over life. Negative cultural mores result in behaviors that stunt the development of life and can ultimately cripple and destroy existence itself. Such tainted cultural mores are often the prime factors influencing the negative culture and leading to wars in which even the culture’s own people are consumed.
WAR TRAMPLES LIFE
Wars have been with us for as long as humanity has existed. Sadly, it may be said that war is part of human nature. It has established itself as a way of settling conflict, expressing ambition, venting aggression, extracting revenge, or confirming faith. That is not to say that the search for peace has not been pursued vigorously across time. Peace has been pursued, but success has thus far proved elusive.
Religions, Judaism and Islam among them, have recognized the ever-present threat of war. That is why they have adopted for the daily exchange of greetings the word peace. Jews and Muslims repeatedly address each other with Shalom and Salam as a form of prayer that will, optimistically, bring peace. But peace has evaded their followers as they relentlessly confront each other.
Another example to keep in mind can be found in the history of the United States, a nation that has seen more wars in its short existence than it deserves or desires. A devastating civil war shortly after its birth, two world wars, three or four regional wars in the last century, and a global war in the twenty-first century hardly make for a peaceful existence for this young and powerful country. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, now is not a time for despair. It is a time to search for ways to minimize the effects of wars. It is time to find ways to short-circuit violence before it explodes into another major conflagration.
Whatever goes on in the making of wars, conflict always starts in the mind. War develops and is executed by the command of men’s minds. Soon after the mind entertains the idea of waging a war, it sets up a campaign to influence other minds. Planning strategies and tactics and acquiring weaponry follow shortly thereafter. Consequently, the first step in any war entails influencing the mind. Furthermore, there are both offensive wars and defensive wars, each requiring different cultural and intellectual preparations.
Distinguishing Offensive Wars from Defensive Wars
While all parties involved in a war assert that their role is purely defensive in order to claim legitimacy, certain criteria nonetheless distinguish one type from the other. Sometimes, the distinctions cannot be made objectively—for example, when the conflict is declared to be “a war of last resort” or described as the only possible choice.
Offensive wars are waged for various purposes, including expansion (colonial wars), revenge (tribal wars), ego satisfaction for ambitious warriors (Napoleon), ideology (Nazism, communism), and propagation of religion (the Crusades, Islamic jihad). Almost all of these offensive wars are pursued with militant fervor and carried out with ruthless destruction. They are supported by a culture that glorifies death and even rewards it, with scant regard for human life and even less concern for human rights.
Defensive wars, by contrast, are imposed on nations and people who do not seek them, as in the involvement of the United States and the Allies in World War II. Defensive wars are fought for survival and the preservation of life, liberty, and property or to ward off an impending threat. Defensive wars usually are fought to protect a Culture of Life. Supporting the Culture of Life involves activities that foster, sustain, enhance, and preserve life. The possibility that enormous sacrifices in lives and property may be required is seen as inevitable and accepted with sorrow, not greeted with joy.
But sometimes, a defensive war may evolve into an offensive campaign as the warriors become emboldened by their success. Thus, for example, the Mujahadeen, after defeating the Russians in Afghanistan, evolved into the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They ultimately proceeded to wage a worldwide war of terror.
Controlling terror is one of the missions of the United Nations. To that end, members of that international body try to differentiate between wars of aggression (offensive wars) and wars of self-defense. They even pass resolutions condemning the first and condoning the second. Recognizing the difficulty in differentiation, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council reserved to themselves a veto power. They cleverly anticipated that in some conflicts, the majority of the Security Council might identify one its members (or its allies) as the aggressor. That member would, of course, portray itself as the defender, and it could use its veto power to defeat a negative resolution that would work against its interests.
Despite the fact that the Security Council is designed to prevent war and promote peace, that august body can only do so much: wars appear to be an inevitable part of human existence. Therefore, the search for a way to preserve life as much as possible, even in the midst of wars, remains urgent and imperative. And that is the main thrust of this Manifesto.
BUILDING THE CULTURE OF DEATH
Acceptance of Death
Marauding tribes and piracy were early expressions of the Culture of Death. In its most elementary form, piracy is a war carried out on unsuspecting traders and voyagers by wayward vagabonds. It requires its leader to prepare fellow pirates to accept death as they roam the high seas. Likewise, invaders extol their armies of regulars or mercenaries to confront death with daring and courage while whipping up their emotions to the point that they actually rejoice in death.
War movies present us with dramatic visual images of fighters marching into the line of fire, oblivious to the danger even as they see their comrades falling all around them. For troops to respond in this manner requires formidable mental preparation. Notorious wars in history have introduced new words to our vocabulary to describe them and their actions—such as barbarians, Holocaust, and, more recently, ethnic cleansing. None of these extreme actions would have been possible unless people had first accepted a Culture of Death and thus laid the groundwork for their execution.
The Propagation of Death Turns into Wars
Several systems and social organizations are often enlisted as vendors of the Culture of Death, for indoctrination and recruitment of purveyors of death takes place throughout the culture. The process starts with education and continues from kindergarten all the way through graduate studies. The print media and, even more effectively, movies and television play important roles in influencing the public. At the disposal of the media are the content of TV shows and radio programs, as well as the ever-present billboards, neighborhood committee meetings, and the airing of war songs on the radio and in the streets. Today, accomplishing that outreach is greatly enhanced by the use of Websites and Internet communications. All these forces work together in a sinister way to glorify death and violence while minimizing or even ignoring the sanctity of life. An example is the way in which the terrorists use the funerals of suicide bombers/martyrs broadcast on TV—not to mourn the dead but rather to glorify their deaths and rejoice in the fate of their victims.
Death in the Twentieth-Century Wars
In World War II, the world witnessed two vicious manifestations of the Culture of Death, Japanese and German. Both nations inflicted death on their designated enemies with unfathomable brutality and without compunction. The Japanese resurrected an old tradition of strict discipline and blind obedience to authority figures, which made the recruitment of kamikaze pilots possible. Their militancy went so far as to deliberately attack civilians and abuse those under their control, as when they forced subjugated women to serve as prostitutes for their soldiers.
The Nazis, for their part, brought a brutality unprecedented in its inhumanity to a country that was considered a leader among the civilized nations. Professors, scientists, artists, and a whole range of educated citizens joined, endorsed, and cultivated the Nazi Culture of Death. What made that possible was, in part, an inherent tendency in German culture (like that of the Japanese) to submit to strict discipline and give blind obedience to authority. The effort was aided immensely by the use of new and powerful psychological propaganda, which was effectively conveyed through the mass media of radio, movie newsreels, and newspapers. In addition, the psychological ploy commonly known as the “big lie” was widely used, which consisted of repeatedly projecting the most outrageous characterizations and accusations onto an enemy. The Nazis proved that even outlandish and patently false accusations, if repeated loudly enough and often enough, could become accepted as facts.
Through propaganda, the Nazis were able to introduce four stages of elimination (the Four D’s): First, they delegitimized the enemy, then they rendered them defenseless, proceeded to dehumanize them, and ended in destroying them. In their “civilized minds,” they did not think they were killing human beings: they were merely eliminating dehumanized and loathsome creatures. Members of the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen, after a day devoted to the wholesale shooting of thousands of Jews, often celebrated with drink and banquet—a truly barbaric and insane behavior. This behavior, significantly, exceeded what was considered at the time as a mere aberration. It was extreme even for the times, and, more important, it opened the door for further excesses to follow. To their dishonor, the Nazis left this lethal formula for other peoples of evil intent to emulate in the future. And indeed, we have seen such deeds enacted in recent years during the conflicts between segments of the former Yugoslavia and throughout the Middle East. The behavior has been further elaborated by the introduction of individual homicide/suicide bombers of both sexes. The “Four D’s” strategy was used by Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. In Africa, we see it employed in Rwanda, and we find it current in various Middle East terrorist groups and among the breakup states of Yugoslavia. The strategy is propaganda at its worst.
Institutions Building the Culture
Media play a critical role in such efforts. When the media endorse the Culture of Death, they go beyond the dissemination of propaganda. They lend credence to the cultural value of the moment. The media are culpable of sometimes omitting or exaggerating and distorting. For instance, we may see a villain portrayed as a hero in the press or a hero as a traitor.
We must turn this around. Just as a Culture of Death can be enforced by the media, a Culture of Life can easily be fortified over the airwaves and through other media outlets.
But there is more to pay attention to these days. Now, besides considering the traditional role of the media in conveying propaganda, we must also attend to the widespread use of the Internet to bring the message of death into the dens and offices and bedrooms of millions of citizens. Websites and video games, streaming video and elaborate online hoaxes are all especially potent means to affect the thinking of the younger generations. Over 1 billion people are connected to the World Wide Web, and there is no real filtering going on. So everything from biased news broadcasts to You Tube videos are being used to spread the language and images of a culture of hate.
Schools, starting with prekindergarten and going up through the institutions of higher education, are the fountains of knowledge. They feed the fertile mind and create the pathways through which an individual learns about history and life values. What makes them of prime importance is the fact that this knowledge is being reinforced through all stages of development. Individuals grow physically, intellectually, and emotionally all at the same time, thereby forging an organic link between the body and the intellect. If we look at the curricula of schools and colleges in countries where the Culture of Death is firmly imbedded, we can easily detect elements that justify death and minimize life. Such curricula reflect as well as affect the culture. Inversely, if we want to measure how deeply the Culture of Life is reflected and expressed in the halls of higher education, all we need to do is look at the curricula. The amount of research and creative work being devoted to areas of health, medicine, science, and technology is another strong indication of the value placed on life in a given society. A Culture of Life can play just as key a role in society as a Culture of Death.
The Culture of Life transcends all that humans bring to the world. But it must exist by itself—it must not be subject to any system of power because centers of power insinuate themselves, often with impunity, into our lives and sometimes challenge the sanctity of life itself. Let us examine the ways in which this is accomplished.
Ideology, by definition, is a power system that politicians use to govern and orders our lives. If a Culture of Life is allowed to be incorporated into an ideology, as surely as day follows night, an opposite ideology will come along extolling the value of death; it will seek its own followers and proceed to devalue and denigrate life. Therefore, we need to be wary of any ideology that rigidly takes over our lives because life itself is supreme and too important to be under the domain of any partisan ideology.
Religion is that which feeds the soul. It allows the individual to feel safe and protected while facing his or her own fragile humanity. It fulfills, or at least addresses, a vital need for our psyche. It acts like the vitamins that strengthen our bodies. Just as we would feel poorly in a vitamin-deficient state, we would often feel unhappy in a spiritually deficient state. Karl Marx called religion “the opiate of the masses” and advocated dispensing with it. Soon thereafter, communist ideology replaced religion, and Stalin became its cruel god. Even those who profess agnosticism and a lack of any religious belief will find themselves adhering to some ideology or manmade value system as if it were their religion.
All religions contain teachings that extol and sanctify life:
From the Bible (Deut. 30:15): “Behold, I have set before you today, life and prosperity; death and adversity, choose life.”
From the Koran (Chap. 5): “Killing one person is like killing the whole world. Saving one life is like saving the world.”
The Christian insistence on the sanctity of life is legendary, notwithstanding the Crusades and Hitler’s Holocaust, which were carried out in its name. (Zealots, extremists, and tyrants, intent on domination, can easily interpret words of their religion to justify killing.) Buddhism and other religions also promote life. For those who believe in reincarnation, death does not mean the end of life but merely its transfer to other living beings.
Religion embodies a huge power over human beings and has helped many people to overcome grief and find a direction in life. But over the ages, leaders of various faiths and the fanatic adherents of many of those religions easily assumed that they were the agents of God. They then proceeded to pass life-and-death edicts dictating how their fellow religionists should conduct their lives. Even in our own time, certain religious leaders threaten to impose their faith on all “nonbelievers,” in some cases even “by the sword.” Many of the poor, innocent faithful around the world find themselves with no power to resist the onslaught. Religion in the hands of humans has often been abused by fanatics and power-hungry zealots.
Politicians, by their chosen profession, seek power and aspire to be the governing force in their people’s lives. They seek power to legislate, to adjudicate, and to rule. Ideally, they have all the means and responsibility to do what is good for their people. But in any system of power, politicians are open to corruption and abuse. In their respected role, their effect on the culture and on the well-being and indeed the very life of the governed is almost unlimited. As necessary as politicians are in serving society, placing complete trust in their exercise of power is unwarranted and may even be dangerous.
In free and democratic societies, the people have the right to choose their political leaders. They can put their faith in benevolent politicians and discard the abusers. Unfortunately, in many countries, the common people do not have a quick and easy way to make such choices; in fact, they may not have any choice at all. With an issue as important as life versus death—whether that entails matters of sustenance versus poverty, health versus disease, or safety versus endangerment—a great deal rides on the freedom of the people to knowledgably choose their own leaders. Much must be done to educate the voters on how to protect themselves politically, especially in nations struggling to move from dictatorship to democracy.
Home is the cradle of humanity. Home is where children, from birth through their formative years, receive the nourishment, protection, and love to which they are entitled. Psychologists tell us that imprints from childhood leave indelible traces on every individual. In most households, mothers play the most dominant role in affecting that imprint. This is especially evident in Muslim society, where it is almost an encoded cultural norm that the father has only a tangential part in raising the child during the first five years of life, leaving the mother as the primary bonding agent. In some respects, this is a fortuitous arrangement because mothers have a predominant natural instinct for nourishing and caring. As the designated agents for protecting and enhancing life, women therefore should be given all the freedom, knowledge, and wherewithal to impart this care. A quick glance around the world will show that male-dominated societies and cultures deprive mothers of the freedom and tools necessary to adequately support the growth of their children. In some places, this deprivation exposes the mothers and their infants to physical and psychological harm—witness the famine, poverty, diseases, and lack of medical care found throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Africa regularly supplies us with news of the devastation wrought by famine, AIDS, and the rape of women. Tragically, this terrible news has not been met with serious life-promoting corrective measures on the part of the international community. Clearly, then, the home is not always a safe and nourishing environment.
The most significant product of the home is the growing child. If the child is deprived of love or subjected to abuse, he or she is likely to end up being abusive in turn. As studies have shown, most battered children grow into battering parents. Children who have been shown or taught that life is disposable and not valuable will end up accepting the promotion of death over life. Such is often the makeup of the hardened criminal and the homicidal/suicidal bomber.
CULTURES OF LIFE AND DEATH AROUND THE WORLD
The Culture of Death Kills Its Own People
The Culture of Death affects more than the obvious target, the external enemy. When the Culture of Death is introduced into a community, a sect, a religion, or a nation, it commonly teaches that certain goals, such as the spread of its religion or ideology, justify and often actually require the sacrifice of life. In fact, those who inflict death in pursuit of such goals, as well as their families, are often generously rewarded and glorified in their society. But the Culture of Death also brings death and killing into their own community—sometimes to a degree that surpasses the killing of the enemies.
It is also a fact that, by design and by neglect, the Culture of Death suppresses and distorts many aspects of life. Efforts to enhance the quality of life and advance the communal good are often retarded by the focus on death. And once that norm is established, it becomes the prerogative of the promoters of death to define their targets without exemptions.
Once the act of suicide becomes glorified as martyrdom and once causing death is promoted as honorable and just, death can be visited on anybody, including those who valorize death and their own families. We have seen instances in which a jihadist, for example, labels a coreligionist or even a member of his own family as a traitor or infidel worthy of elimination. And for that reason, we daily read news stories of Muslims killing other Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Algiers, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other Arab Muslim countries. One of the most horrifying examples of perpetuating the Culture of Death was the 2007 incident in Iraq when Sunni terrorists attacked one the most holy Shiite mosques and killed hundreds of innocent, faithful members of the Muslim religion. The sole purpose of that horrific slaughter was to incite Shiites everywhere to kill their fellow religionists, the Sunnis, so that the Sunnis would retaliate in turn. The result was an endless cycle of killing for the sake of killing, in which even more of their own people were being killed than those of their original targeted enemy.
It is safe to predict that from now on in this age of terrorism, more Muslims will be killed around the world than Jews, Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists. It is conceivable that the people targeted outside the Muslim world, be it in Europe, Asia, America, or the Middle East, have become more prepared to absorb and defend against any future terrorist attacks, while the Muslim world remains a helpless victim of the jihadist.
The other area overlooked in most accounts is the far-reaching affect of the Culture of Death on the institutions that support life and life-enriching functions in society. Death-infected countries fail to assign adequate resources to health, science, and most other technical studies, thereby impeding many activities related to life-saving measures. Consequently, the people concerned have not been taught the importance of life, and they do not feel compelled to demand that life be treated as sacred.
Let us examine the events surrounding the major earthquakes in Turkey and Iran in recent years, as well as the tsunami in Indonesia—all three being Muslim countries. In the pictures relayed on our TV screens, we did not see well-trained or well-equipped teams rushing to aid the victims from any of the world’s Muslim countries. The majority of the rescue teams came from the Western world and, interestingly, the tiny state of Israel. There is no doubt that enough wealth and brainpower exists in the various Muslim countries to train and provide expert emergency rescue teams to respond to such natural disasters. But such teams were not present in Turkey, Iran, or Indonesia because training such individuals is not considered a priority in Muslin nations across the globe. Similarly, although there is clearly no lack of intelligence or monetary resources, we do not see significant research and development activities being pursued or Nobel Prize winners being produced by the Arab and Muslim countries. Indeed, since the Nobel was instituted, the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world have produced just 7 Nobel Prize winners, while the world’s 14 million Jews alone have advanced 139. It appears quite evident that in those countries that have allowed the Culture of Death to creep into their daily life while neglecting life-promoting activities, growth in many essential areas has been seriously stunted.
A quick comparison of two countries will illustrate this point. These two countries share the same geography, the same difficult climate, the same overcrowding, the same lack of natural resources, and similar large populations. In fact, the people in both nations are essentially of the same race. The main difference is that these countries are dominated by different religions, and while one has widely embraced a Culture of Death, the other has done so only marginally. These countries are India and Pakistan. The former is a vital outsourcing area for the United States; the latter is a needy recipient of aid to meet its people’s basic needs.
Bernard Lewis, a noted scholar of Islamic studies and a respected Islamophile, has recently lamented the hindered cultural and scientific development in the Islamic world by stating, in effect, how regrettable it is that people with such a rich and glorious past find themselves steps behind the rest of the world in so many significant areas. He attributes that shortcoming to the fact that women, who constitute half the population in the Islamic culture, have been cut out of the productive life of their people through inequality and restricted freedoms. He expresses hope and trust that this might change in the future as the emerging signs of awakening spread more widely and Muslim women move toward liberation.
Lewis’s point is imminently relevant, but it will be incomplete until the Culture of Death is reversed. Therefore, women, even as they demand freedom and equal rights, must also consider simultaneously promoting the Culture of Life and doing so aggressively.
The Culture of Death exists in varying degrees of intensity in many countries around the world. The highest concentration seems to persist in African and Middle Eastern nations. One can almost calibrate the intensity of the Culture of Death in a given country by examining the status of its woman, its civil rights, its infrastructure, its scientific productivity, and the level of its higher and lower education.
Munther Dajani of Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem stated recently that over the many years of its existence, Jordan received as much financial aid from the United States and Europe as did the Palestinian Authority under the late Yasser Arafat, from 1993 to 2003. Having lived in both Jordon and the Palestinian West Bank, Dajani noted that Amman and many other cities in Jordan are well developed and modern in appearance and attitude. In the Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank, by contrast, he was hard-pressed to find a newly paved street, a new hospital, or a newly erected school of any substantial size. The difference is that in Jordon, the Culture of Death is endorsed by only a small percentage of the population whereas it exists and is embraced by the vast majority of people in the Palestinian areas.
Granted, unlike the Jordanians, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been engaged in ongoing armed struggles and subjected to blockades, road blocks, military actions, and other hardships related to “occupation.” But even taking all that into consideration, one has to acknowledge that the largest portion of the money that came from Europe and the United States was squandered by the Palestinians’ leaders and their cronies through misappropriation, mismanagement, and outright theft. Improving the life and livelihood of the people was never a high priority, largely because of the prevalence of the Culture of Death. Khalid Abu Toameh, a credible news correspondent with free access to the West Bank and Gaza who reports for both the Palestinian media and Israel’s Jerusalem Post, attested to that fact in a presentation at the University of Denver in May of 2008.
Unfortunately, death does not confer rights to humans. That is why the Culture of Death can also be measured inversely by the extent of basic freedoms and human rights afforded to the average person. It is thus important—and enlightening—to consider the amount of creativity that could be unleashed if that Culture of Death were reversed in those countries where it has a stronghold, not to mention the multiple ways in which the lives of millions could well be enriched and gladdened.
So, if one wishes to assess the existence of the Culture of Life in a society, one need only look as far as the quality of the infrastructure maintained in the cities and the quality of the higher education offered to its citizens. One can also get an indication of the value placed on the Culture of Life in any country or region by observing the extent and fruits of its research and development activities.
An overview of the world map highlights areas of Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and the Americas where the Culture of Life has predominance. Many of the Western European countries and the Scandinavian countries in particular stand out by the degree of care and concern for life exhibited in their societies. Looking farther to the east, we see India, with its overpopulation, Japan, overcoming a devastating defeat in World War II, and Israel, which has never seen peace since the day of its birth, all holding unique positions in the world because they have allowed life to thrive even under inordinately difficult circumstances. New Zealand and Australia also are respectable branches in the tree of life. Unfortunately, Africa does not present an encouraging picture in this regard at the present time.
On the North American continent, Canada holds a secure place among the countries that love life, although it may soon regret being too lax in guarding its borders against the merchants of death. Of interest is a foiled terrorist attack that originated in Canada and was discovered and thwarted near Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium. In that regard, the United States, which carries an impressive portion of the Culture of Life on its shoulders, did not do any better when it allowed the 9/11 terrorists to roam freely around the country before they carried out their dastardly attacks in New York, in Washington, and in the skies over Pennsylvania.
In a category of their own, Central and South America present a mixed bag. Still, the Culture of Life in those countries is constantly progressing, as many of their governments move from dictatorship to democracy.
But make no mistake about it: a Culture of Life does not exist in a pure and all-pervasive form in any country. Even in nations where the Culture of Life dominates society, there are Subcultures of Death that must be addressed and squarely confronted.
It would be instructive here to discuss two countries that carry an inordinate degree of the Culture of Life in their portfolios while remaining engaged in war or in a seemingly intractable and lethally violent conflict.
One, the United States, though currently engaged in active war in Iraq and Afghanistan, offers three instructive events that reflect the Love of Life held by its citizens.
In the year 2003, at the height of the Iraq War, a small army unit was isolated from its brigade. One women soldier, Jessica Lynch, was wounded and then held captive in a hospital. She was rescued in a daring operation and brought home to the United States. This was just one soldier among tens of thousands engaged in battle. Nonetheless, the free media, which depends upon having a maximum number of viewers, decided to give her rescue and return to the States round-the-clock coverage. The American people and their viewing habits did not disappoint. Predictably, they followed the coverage intensely because it was centered on a life-affirming event. To be sure, the military did interject its own agenda by presenting Jessica as a hero while exaggerating her role during the ambush and the capture, but ultimately, freedom of the press uncovered this elaboration. But that is not the point. For the people, what really mattered was the saving of the life of one woman soldier lying wounded in the desert of Iraq.
The second event of note relates to the rescue of miners trapped in a mine shaft. The rescue proved to be a painfully slow and complicated operation that lasted a number of days, while the lives of several men hung in the balance. In this case, too, the 24-hour news networks chose to cover the story continuously, and the viewers again did not disappoint. They took the time to watch this life-saving effort. One might wonder why, in a country of over 350 million people where thousands of life-threatening events are happening every day, the rescue of a few unknown miners would be of so much interest. We can only conclude that life itself and the possibility of rescue must be of supreme value to this populace.
The third event has an interesting twist. In 2005, much coverage was given to the story of Terri Schiavo, a young woman lying unconscious for fifteen years, attached to a life-support system and requiring tube feeding. Credible and repeated medical tests had shown that Terri had extensive brain damage caused by an accident. She was pronounced medically brain dead with no chance of recovery even though her heart was still beating. Her tormented husband wanted to exert his right to curtail her misery by asking a court to order the merciful discontinuation of the tube feeding. He prevailed in court, but Terri’s parents disagreed and sought to keep the feeding tube in place indefinitely. They went back to court but lost their appeal.
One would think that this was a private matter involving just one sad situation, with no chance of a happy ending. But the politicians had other ideas. They conjectured that their intervention would please their constituents. The United States has a two-party system, and one party sided with the husband and wanted the court verdict to stand while the other wanted to introduce a twist in the law in order to allow the parents’ wishes to prevail. The U.S. Congress was called from recess to convene for a vote on the matter, and the president of the United States himself was forced to disrupt his vacation to return to the capital and attend to this matter.
It is not important how this dispute was finally adjudicated (the intervention did not produce a reversal, and Terri was allow to rest in peace). What is important is all the energy that the U.S. political system put into this case. What the politicians were saying was simply that they wanted to reflect to their constituents where they stood on this issue. And though they came from diametrically opposed perspectives, the salient point is that both sides were reflecting a deeply held love of life. One party was saying that life was valuable and should be preserved as long as there is a heart beating. The other was also saying that life was valuable but that it should be respected in dignity. Advocates of the latter view recognized that whatever irrevocable events may disrupt life, a person should be allowed to die in peace.
In addition to the preceding anecdotes, an abundance of evidence exists that demonstrates America’s dedication to life. Advances in medicine in the United States surpass those produced by the rest of the world. Nobel prizes are awarded to U.S. citizens every year and in every aspect of science, technology, and peace. Of special note, one can observe ways the war in Iraq is being conducted. Even in war, Americans are paying billions of dollars to devise and implement life-preserving and life-enhancing measures. Great effort and expense is invested in developing precision weapons that can limit or avoid collateral damage, and we continue to see astonishing advances in the care of the wounded, friend or foe. Soldiers whose main training is to fight are assigned to build infrastructure, constructing roads, hospitals, schools; they provide work opportunities to the populace under their control; and they even dole out candy and affection to local children.
During General David Petraeus’s 2007 surge campaign, details about one military action were reported, complete with live-action images, on TV. The report showed how American soldiers found themselves in a difficult position while confronting the renegade Mahdi militiamen who were terrorizing the inhabitants of Sadr City in Baghdad. Three U.S. soldiers were pinned down by a sniper shooting from one of the windows in a large house. In order to determine where the fire was coming from, the soldiers would have to move in the open and expose themselves to the sniper. Another option was to blow up the whole house in which he stood. But blowing up the house would mean killing innocent civilians inside. The third choice was to simply stay in their protected location and abandon the mission entirely. Luckily, the latest technological development in weaponry, costing billions of dollars, offered them another, humanitarian choice. Even as the soldiers and snipers confronted one another, sophisticated pilotless drones were circling in the skies of Baghdad, receiving electronic commands from a military base located in the eastern part of the United States. The soldiers on the ground in Baghdad connected with the military base in the United States and were able to give headquarters the exact location of the sniper, along with details of the dilemma they were facing. Amazingly—and in a humanitarian manner—the command officers directed the drones electronically to the house in question and instructed the drone to seek the source of fire and eliminate it. The drone successfully waited for the sniper to shoot, traced the heat of the weapon’s fire, and targeted the specific window in which he stood. The mission was accomplished with neither soldier nor pilot being lost. Furthermore and more to the point, no noncombatant civilian was killed and no house was destroyed. Such is the modern model for military behavior in time of war that strives to preserve as many lives as possible.
LET THE RAINBOW SHINE
CULTURAL REVOLUTIONS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
This Life Manifesto calls for a cultural revolution worldwide to establish the dominance of a Culture of Life over the Culture of Death. It must be made abundantly clear that the task, as noble as it may be, will be difficult, complicated, and time-consuming, taking perhaps decades to produce results. This “medicine” of cultural change being recommended to humanity should carry a warning label stating that if administered by the wrong hands and in the wrong way, it could have unintended disastrous results. We must remember that there have been a number of cultural revolutions in recent history. Almost all of them were proclaimed in the name of laudable causes. And all of them but one ended in total disaster. Therefore, any attempt at replacing a Culture of Death with a Culture of Life should be approached with extreme care or else be left to take its own course. That course might mean that different countries and communities with a Culture of Death will slowly recognize the problem and deal with it piecemeal, without an all-out, concerted, and comprehensive effort, as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been doing lately.
Given the potential for failure, why is this discourse still continuing? It is because there is also a potential for success and because of that one exceptional revolution—the one that, even though it brought its share of destruction, did not destroy life or the creative ability of its people. Let us consider the way the various cultural revolutions of the last century worked themselves out.
In the middle of World War I, the Communist Revolution burst into Russia with the goal of expanding across the whole world. Its stated purpose was to bring “equality” and “fairness” to all the people, under the credo “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The Communists chose the instrument of death to bring about the revolution, complemented with dislocation, humiliation, exile, and the forced labor of the gulag. They started by killing their king (Czar Nicholas), their nobility, and their “bourgeoisie.” They ended up by eliminating their fellow Communist intellectuals and leaders and starving their peasants. In the end, the only thing that was shared was the misery of the people and the devastation that ensued when millions of citizens were tortured and killed.
Fascism ushered in World War II, with Adolf Hitler’s Nazism at its pinnacle. Incredibly, Hitler had stated that his goal was to establish “peace” throughout the world, and he ironically labeled his regime the National Socialist Party. He decreed that members of the superior race, the Aryans, were to be the masters of the earth. They would dictate which people would live and which were unfit to exist, and they would enforce the order that they intended to prevail throughout the world. Here again, death was the preferred tool, and it was wielded on an unprecedented mass scale. The Nazis killed millions with poison gas in concentration camps, in addition to shooting people indiscriminately in the streets. Theirs was the unbridled carnage of war. It was a war that Hitler hastened to start and expand, and it ultimately involved the wider world. In the end, more than the six million Jews were exterminated, and millions of Christians and other undesirables in Germany and throughout Europe were mercilessly killed, while tens of millions of soldiers fought and millions of other citizens collaborated in the war effort.
Yet in the midst of German society, even as the country was totally engulfed in the expression of the Culture of Death known as World War II, a brave Culture of Life arose. Deitrich Bonmhoefer, a Lutheran pastor, together with his brother-in-law and a number of German generals, conspired to overthrow and kill Hitler. Unfortunately, they were caught and executed. And their was but one of several such attempts.
In China, Mao rose to power with the intent of “reforming” his country with his own brand of communism, called Maoism. He took his peasants on a march, killing millions that were in his way, and proceeded to control and manage everybody’s life. As happens in all systems that aim to destroy life, Mao soon found that he needed to take another step to eliminate whatever was left of Chinese culture, including many of the Communist leaders he had cultivated. He called this process Mao’s Cultural Revolution, complete with exiles, imprisonments, demotions, and executions. Its hallmark was the public humiliation of leaders, who were shackled and marched in the streets and shown on television.
Pol Pot brought his cultural revolution to Cambodia toward the end of the Vietnam War. Though he himself had been educated in France, he decreed that the primary goal of the revolution was to eliminate any hint of the French culture in Cambodia, language and all, and kill everybody who endorsed it. To accomplish that goal, he used—what else—death; thus, the infamous “killing fields” of his scourge.
Osama Bin Laden, a rich Saudi Arabian Muslim, went to Afghanistan to rid it of the Russians and the Communist culture they intended to impose on that land. Together with native Afghan Muslims (later known as the Taliban), he decided to eliminate one culture, communism, and replace it with another, jihadism. He and his cohorts needed to utilize death for their purposes and easily took up the type of jihad that the prophet Muhammed had used: the spread of Islam “by the sword.” They reintroduced the motivating reward for the fighter, the “Muhajed,” by guaranteeing that his death would bring him entry to paradise, where he would be entertained forever by more than seventy virgins.
Bin Laden’s jihad succeeded in defeating communism, so, he likely asked himself, why not go all the way? He had an impoverished, isolated country on his hands, which made it possible for him and the Talibani to revert to the time of Muhammed and the Caliphs that followed him, introduce all the old religious laws (“sharia”) over Afghanistan, and embark on a global campaign to convert the world to Islam. This time, however, instead of the sword they could use bombs—human bombs (shaheeds). Training camps were established, and cell phones and the Internet were employed for communication. The wider world was providing them with enough trouble spots and enough poverty to exploit to their advantage, along with lax frontiers that made it possible to infiltrate and subvert other nations. Bin Laden and company had no need for a huge army and sophisticated weapons for this violent revolution. It was enough to recruit young and, yes, educated and wealthy prospective shaheeds, put bombs around their waists, and explode them among the most innocent of civilians. The purpose was to terrorize and bring about submission, the literal meaning of the word Islam. This strategy for revolution needed a big bang. And for that purpose, nothing less would do than to attack the most prominent symbols of U.S. power: the buildings at its financial, military, and political core, such as the World Trade Towers in New York and the Pentagon and perhaps the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington. This effort was meticulously planned and carried out in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001.
This Terrorism-Propelled Revolution is still under way, but like the previous revolutions, it is now killing mostly its own people, Muslims in the Middle East and beyond.
Counterposed to the six cultural revolutions discussed thus far, with all their catastrophic effects, is the exceptional—and highly instructive—example presented by the American Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. What made this revolution unique was the fact that it did not resort to the use of death as its tool for implementation. In the sixties, the United States was in the middle of a war in a distant land, Vietnam, a war that seemed endless and a “quagmire.” The “light at the end of the tunnel” that the U.S. president was promising seemed elusive if not ephemeral. Each day, dead young soldiers in the thousands were brought back in black body bags. The victims of this carnage were by and large draftees, noncollege men who were called up to serve beginning at age eighteen. And that fact in itself presented a major problem, for the Vietnam War was primarily fought by those who could not afford to avoid the draft by enrolling in college or graduate studies. (Of course, some who had completed their college education or dropped out of school were also recruited.) They were citizens of a democratic country whose elected legislative and executive leaders had freely decided on the war and how it was to be conducted. The reason for fighting the war was ostensibly to vanquish the Communist ideology and culture in the Far East and prevent its spread to the region, like the fall of a row of dominoes—thus, the “domino theory.”
The growing teenagers of the era were watching the dead soldiers returning home in bags, and the males among them were thinking that in a year or so, they too would be drafted and shipped to Vietnam to die for a cause they could not understand, much less believe in. Facing that predicament, they became the undrafted soldiers of the American Cultural Revolution.
The revolution took shape gradually and spontaneously, without any one person or group or ideology to guide it. There were, however, closeted Communists, antiwar activists, pacifists, and conscientious objectors feeding it. Before long, anarchists stepped forward and began to lead the revolt. Since it was a democratic country that was responsible for the seemingly endless war in Southeast Asia, all the established institutions were themselves caught up in the fog of war. If the young people wanted to reverse that untenable situation, it seemed, they would have to uproot all the established centers of power in their country in an “antiestablishment” campaign. All holders of power—parents, teachers, religious leaders, police, soldiers who were drafted, elected officials, and the media that were supporting them—had to be questioned, defied, degraded, and despised. All the rules, the customs, and the mores of the establishment had to be challenged and cast aside with nonviolent means, such as sit-ins, demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobedience. The cadre of revolutionaries developed a new dress code (torn jeans), a new language (“hippy” and “groovy”), and a new sexual behavior (make love, not war). They demanded the power to have a say in their education, choose their recreational drugs (marijuana, LSD), and engage in many other active but nonviolent means of resistance. There was some physical destruction of property and some burning, but such actions were contained.
Although the American Cultural Revolution had no central leaders, it had the most widespread participation, mostly among the nation’s youth. In essence, it was a revolution carried out by adolescents with adolescent behavior. These revolutionaries wanted to change one condition, the war, and amazingly enough, they succeeded. They compelled the respected TV commentators and the elected officials across the land to withdraw their support from the war and end it. The Tet Offensive, which the North Vietnamese forces launched against American and South Vietnamese troops, was judged by the military leaders who conducted that war as a military failure on the part of the Communists. However, the TV images that were sent home to the United States, graphically depicting the extensive damage wrought by the action, were used by the cultural revolutionaries to recast the offensive as an American defeat. And since the civilians controlled the military, they responded to the revolution of the young and forced an end to the war and withdrawal of the American troops. It would be instructive to contrast this nonviolent revolution to end the Vietnam War with the deadly Russian Revolution that was aimed at ending Russia’s participation in World War I.
This American revolution was unique not just by the absence of known organized leaders but also by the lack of ideology behind it. It destroyed a culture to achieve a goal (ending a war) but did not provide any substitute culture to replace it. This may have been a mixed blessing. Ideology would likely have caused destruction of life, but without proposing a thought-out system to replace the dislodged culture, this revolution left a cultural vacuum that is yet to be filled.
The cultural vacuum created by the revolution and the adolescent nature of the rebellion had a number of unintended consequences. One interesting example is seen in the makeup of today’s elite society. A small number of the young rebels have risen to occupy, as middle-aged or older adults, important positions, yet they are still behaving like adolescents. One such high position, the presidency of the United States, was occupied by an ex-cultural revolutionary, and on his watch, Osama Bin Laden declared war on America. True to form, the president followed, faithfully and literally, the old dictum of “make love, not war” in response.
Some might take exception to the preceding observations. This American revolution, like all others before it, had its followers attributing lofty values and principles that any questioning of its motives and results would be considered as wrong, if not insulting. Nevertheless, that revolution left us with many other lessons to be learned, lessons not within the scope of this writing.
Relevant to the subject of life, the American Cultural Revolution produced an important albeit unintended result—advancing the permissibility of taking one’s own life. There is a common thread in human behavior that civilized society and all religions recognize. Intrinsic to human nature is a tendency to do evil to oneself and others. For that reason, societies set up sanctions, admonitions, and prohibitions against undesirable behavior through a system of taboos. Religions and civil codes of conduct have realized that certain forbidden behaviors give pleasure to the persons engaged in them and would require a system of prohibition to restrain them. Committing suicide, stealing, murdering, and sexual assault are examples of bad deeds that society proscribes against, with special emphasis on protecting children, women, and elderly. It has been commonly observed that in any prohibited behavior, once the line of taboo is crossed by loosening the code of conduct or by justifying and encouraging it, access becomes limitless and its destructiveness rises to outrageous levels.
During the American Cultural Revolution, in the process of changing norms and defying authority, suicide, once prohibited by religions, societal norms, and even law (a person attempting suicide could be considered a felon under the laws in some states), was reframed as a matter of choice. Voices were raised by cultural revolutionaries to reverse the societal taboo on suicide, stating that individuals were entitled to do whatever they wished with their own lives. A notable psychiatrist, Dr. Szaaz, even publicly advocated that suicide should be an option available to any patient. In reality, of course, all individuals face difficult situations in life that at times trigger despondency and a wish to kill oneself. But when the social mores and religious and legal prohibitions were removed, so too was an important psychological deterrent, thus increasing the incidence of suicide.
The effect of this permission to take one’s own life has spread over time, to allow the unthinkable to happen. We hear of parents of killing their children, children killing their parents, husbands killing loved wives, and wives killing husbands not because of a psychotic illness but because of other emotions and factors as trivial as inconvenience. A good example occurred early in January 2009 when a husband in California killed his wife and five children and then himself because of financial woes. When we consider the foci of Culture of Death in America, this is one area that must be addressed.
Another focus of the Culture of Death in the United States is the “no-snitch” code imposed by gangs in some neighborhoods. Most of these neighborhoods happen to be composed of poor blacks, and gangs of the same race rule them. According to the code, if a mother sees her son or daughter killed by gang members, she is forbidden, under threat of death, to report it to the police. In this law-abiding country, then, gangs are deciding to terrorize and overtake neighborhoods with a Culture of Death. The men in these neighborhoods are not likely to do something decisive to reverse this Culture of Death. (Recall that when Bill Cosby tried to draw attention to the lawless behavior by young blacks, he was criticized by other black leaders who were more interested in portraying even the victimizing blacks as victims themselves and blaming white society for it.) But a woman such as Oprah Winfrey actually could do something to reverse the Culture of Death if she put her mind to it.
The other country trying to preserve life during war is Israel. Since its birth, the country has been in a state of war, with a number of major flare-ups interspersed with periods of low-level hostilities. Of course, as usual in our world, both parties to the conflict see themselves as the victims and describe their own actions as defensive and justified. For their own reasons, the people of Israel, with their system of government, chose to adopt a Culture of Life in their day-to-day existence. In discussing the Israeli situation here, I do not mean to imply the rightness of Israel’s cause in contrast to that of its opponents, nor do I intend to judge all Israeli actions as humane and totally life-promoting. Rather, I simply describe the ways in which a Culture of Life can be expressed even under a state of unremitting violence.
The scope of medical science, research, and creative products presented by Israel to the world is disproportionately large given the size of the country, the extent of its natural resources, and the its population numbers. In addition, many self-appointed Israeli civilians champion human right causes and monitor them throughout the world, and volunteer activists inject themselves into military checkpoints to observe and protest unnecessary humiliation and difficulties at these locations. They are allowed to protest on the spot if they see the young Israeli soldiers causing harm to innocent civilians passing through the checkpoints. Israeli lawyers volunteer to take to the Supreme Cou
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تاريخ آخر مقالة : 2021-09-03 19:30
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