Sunday, July 25, 2004

Haves and Have-nots

The only barrier/sterotype that will not be overcome

By Mark Connolly
Editor, Dallas Bureau

I wish to posit that virtually all struggles between peoples can be reduced to real or perceived differences between those that see themselves as having, and those that see themselves as having not. This cannot be oversimplified into a generic all-encompassing statement about anyone or any society however. Just like a man ‘Jim’ can at once be both Father and Son, each person or group or society can at one time be among the Haves, and at another time be among the Have-nots as those are defined within relationships. There are the rich that have plenty to eat everyday, as compared to those that do not. There are the rich that drive BMW’s as compared to those that drive an old jeep bought at auction from the Post Office. There are the rich that own Gulf Stream business jets as compared to those that can only afford LearJets.

There are those that are Christian as opposed to Pagans. Those that are Moslems as compared to the Infidels. One supposes to have the truth while the other are supposed to have not. There are those that have light skin and those that have not. There are those that have freedom as compared to those that have not.

And reverse all of those depending on your personal situation. Today in Iraq there is no doubt that there are those people that preferred the (in retrospect) stability and safety of the old dictatorship as compared to the (current) utter chaos of ‘freedom.’

On the global stage, (I think) America is largely perceived as having, and much of the world is perceived as having not. But what America is perceived as having varies widely. We have wealth, we have debauchery. We have freedom, we have arrogance. We have charity, we have unbridled greed. We have the best intentions, we have the worst intentions. (Hmmmm, that sounds familiar somehow… best times worst times, perhaps a novel in there somewhere?)

All of this wouldn’t matter much if it didn’t engender hatred as a collateral effect of noticing these differences. And that is the part of this that I don’t understand, and wonder if it can be dealt with. Even among my own family differences of opinion can flash into anger. And we are all from the same basic socio-economic-religious background!

I believe People tend to think in a collage of future probababilities that range from downright fantastic to very pragmatic. But we emote in the now, often in a very disconnected way, and then use the awesome power of our minds to validate the emotion of the moment. That can become exhausting, physically and emotionally, hence the phenomenon “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Are we, should we, can we, be a global flock? I’m not sure there is enough common ground for determining the basic issues. So, I wonder if that is a realistic concept. And I don't believe it feasible to simply distribute everything equally and Oila!, no problems. You'll not get any agreement on what is important and what needs to be distributed equally. Because someone will see themselves as having the right to distribute and someone else as not being equipped to decide.

The reason I think all this matters is because I believe that it is only in consideration of these concepts that the issue of Terrorism can be dealt with or resolved. Who or what is a terrorist? Well, among other things a terrorist is also a mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter. They may or may not belong to this or that branch of some religion or race. They may be 'disenfranchised' in reality or in their minds. Or someone else's mind.

We focus on Arab/Muslim today, due to current events. But there are terrorists in Japan, Ireland, America, etc. It is pretty clear to me that the motives and methods of a "terrorist" in Ireland are not identical to those in Iraq. So, the class of Terrorist is insufficiently defined, and consequently oversimplified at the moment to someone in a turban.

People often rush to Answers without considering the Questions. Some questions I have been asking myself are:
What is the source of terrorist behavior? Is there common ground for dialog? Is there potential for common dialog? If not, what then? Why 'terrorism' instead of some other avenue? Would someone recognize another potential avenue even if presented?

And then, what if the motive is simply extermination of Infidels? What is the civilized response? Historically, it has been kill or be killed. Can we move beyond that?

What is to be done about it in a world that will perennially be populated by Haves and Have-nots?

Genocide or Religicide cannot be the answer. Ψ


Kat said...

Well, I'm posting this comment late in the game, but I completely agree. Focusing on one issue, the "terrorists", I hate that word as the "definer" of our current situation because of the very issues you point out.

The problem with defining the current enemy is that we have not been able to put their ideology into context with other similar movements (I like "fascism") and that the enemy has not defined their own ideology. Take "NAZI". That group of people defined their beliefs under a name and, when called upon to fight it, we could point to it specifically and say "we are fighting Nazis".

I'm at a loss as to why the government has not taken the initiative into their own hands and defined our enemy with a more specific name accept that they have desparately been trying to separate the "religion" from the ideology of the terrorists.

Fair enough considering that you would not want to define a religion as the enemy when it has over 1.5 billion adherents. That would put us into a serious disadvantage and would cause a uniting factor amongst the groups. Best military tactics subscribe to "divide and conquer" so we have to keep it this way.

Still, there must be a way to define them with a name and ideology. This makes them more "real" to the people and helps them understand, beyond the 9/11 factor, why these people want to attack us. And, these people have stated their reasons proudly in their manifestos, but did not give it a name beyond "Islam" so we cannot use their own definition if we want to keep with the "divide and conquer" strategy.

On the other hand, maybe the government prefers to keep it as general as "terrorist" because it gives them a wide swath of people, not just our current enemy, to cover and fight against, regardless of their separate philosophy from the current "Islamic" terrorist. For instance, as you wisely point out, the IRA, the Italian Red Brigade, etc. This gives us more leeway to assist our allies against their various "terrorist" issues.

In regards to "religicide", I have had people call me a "rightwing" nut, or something because I support these actions in the ME, but, the "nuts" I've seen on the right are the ones that are calling for all out war and decimation of the religion of Islam. They clearly have no concept of what it means to declare a religion with 1.5 bil people and enemy and do battle with it to try and wipe it from the face of the earth.

Pretty crazy.

So, in review, there are plenty of crazies on both sides of the issue.

In regards to wealth distribution, it is always amazing to me that people who look at this totally disregard human nature in the equation. I think you address this admirably. there will always be those that are looking for their own personal place of power, either through wealth or politics or personal persuasion and there will always be those who are less interested or less capable of doing any of those things.

Therefore, there will always be "haves and have nots".

Have you noticed lately that the kerry/edwards campaign has gone away from using the "two Americas" as their main campaigning slogan?

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