Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The more I read about India and Pakistan, the less I understand. And, more importantly, the less I think there's any hope for that region, or for the world. This opinion piece in yesterday's NYT did nothing to help; nor did this one. (And here's a none-too-reassuring piece from today, by the president of Pakistan.) The unifying theme, both there and in the Middle East, is misery being conscripted by religion; most particularly by intransigent and zealous haters, unyielding in their own certainty. It takes a lot to hate that much, and to believe that much. And whereas it seems there is no religion you can name (with the possible exception of Buddhism) that is free of the guilt of fanning the flames of hatred, the common thread within the worst violence is that of radical Islam. Many Muslims -- those in India, it seems clear -- deplore the trend. But it seems to take only a few to propel the hatred to suicidal levels: enough to threaten the entire world. All-consuming conflagration seems inevitable.
The solution -- if there were one -- would require the end of those who teach, and those who accept, the kind of hatred that leads to suicidal (literal and figurative) behavior. The "liberal" answer, I think, is addressing the cesspool: the poverty and hopelessness of those regions. I doubt it. Mankind, in its frailty, is destined to kill itself off. If there weren't radical Islam, there'd be something else. The inevitability is tied directly to need for religious belief, irrespective of one's station in life.
That our inadequate and fragile brains need to construct religions is proof of our imperfection. No surprise there. There's such an overwhelming and intrinsic need for belief that faiths pop up like flora, everywhere: in isolation, in jungles, in riches, all around the world. The one and only thread connecting them is the eventual evolution of devotion so strong that it leads to hatred and violence toward the others. That, to me, is proof that it's about hapless human need and not about any sort of deities actually existing, behind it all. Our overwhelming impulse is to believe, sprouting an array of forms differing wildly one from the other but holding in common that need to hate: it's a thing which disproves itself. A THING WHICH DISPROVES ITSELF! What more potent argument against the existence of god/gods is there, than our demonstrable need to believe in them? If he/she/they existed, why would there be such a variety of beliefs, and such a need to destroy the others? Clearly, it springs from within us, not without.
Which is why there's no hope for us as a species. There's simply no way to put an end to the sort of insanity that we see in the Middle East and South Asia. It's who we are! If we're still evolving, it ain't nearly fast enough.
That in "our" corner of the world the dysfunction seems milder -- Prop 8, Newt Gingrich, James Hagee, etc., ad nauseum -- is only a matter of degree.
And of time.