01 December 2009

On Another Subject

I know this is my second post today and also that there is clean laundry to put away and papers to file and the garbage to take to the curb, but as I was reading this evening something popped into my head that may be worth mentioning.

There was a conference in Alexandria Egypt in November about Darwin and his ideas. Now, if we think evolution is having a tough time in America, you should do to an Islamic country. But my point is not Muslim suspicions of Darwin. It is why, which the article focuses on as well. Here is a quote:

While defending Darwin, it was this broader theme, the idea of at least listening to new ideas, that the library’s director, Ismail Sergaldin, emphasized in his opening remarks. He pointed to the Koran, which he said emphasized study and scholarship, as well as early Muslim scientists, to make his point. He cited the words of the pioneering 13th-century physician Ibn al-Nafis:

“When hearing something unusual, do not pre-emptively reject it, for that would be folly. Indeed, horrible things may be true, and familiar and praised things may prove to be lies. Truth is truth unto itself, not because people say it is.”

What happened between the 13th and the 21st century? Lots of things of course, but one of them is imperialism. From the 18th through the 20th century, European powers effectively controlled much of the Islamic world. And occupying powers almost automatically treat those occupied as lesser, often as children. They maintain their parental authority by treating those they control as being unable to control themselves. Those who saw the movie "Ghandi" remember how well Sir John Guilgud oozed condescension as he explained British rule as necessary because Indians were incapable of self rule.

I now wonder if the sorry state of education in once highly sophisticated cultures is part of the result of being treated like children. I have seen it in individuals, families, and organizations. We see it in the state of African American culture and Native American culture. When you treat people as children they tend to become children, especially when you have parental like powers such as an occupying armies or absolute economic or physical power.

What I see happening in the Middle East and Africa often seems to be the long term effect of centuries of imperialism. Western culture is reaping what is has sown. If, after all, Irish Catholics still remember with intense anger battles fought 400 years ago between British and Irish armies, enough to propel them to modern violence, we should not be surprised to find a similar residuum in other places where the imperial boot was planted.

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