Watching the Man Behind the Curtain
© 2006 Ross Williams
This is what I’ve been talking about. The nature of the world we are in.
No one can blithely bounce around his life acting as if the law of gravity works laterally. That is a recipe for broken bones; you would be begging to be included as a statistic for Accidents in the Home. You must accept that gravity works the way it works. Period. End of discussion. Gravity: It’s not just a good idea – It’s The Law!
Does accepting the law of gravity mean that you need to understand the math behind it? How many people can actually quote the formula for gravitational attraction? Is “gravitational attraction” even what it’s called? I used to know, a million years ago in high school physics class, mostly because the formulas were written on my hand. But I’ve long since forgotten.
I know what’s relevant to know: if I drop something, it will fall – and probably where it will do the most damage. I don’t need to calculate how fast it will fall in order to know that it will fall. I operate in the world-as-it-is, not as I would like it to be. The world as I would like it to be is also called Fantasy Land.
I would like the hammer that I distractedly place on the edge of the workbench to have its center of gravity over the table that I didn’t quite reach, but it won’t be. Consequently, the hammer will fall. If my foot is anywhere near the path of its trajectory, then a physicist, with benign, indulgent smile, will calmly do the math to show me that it was inevitable that my foot would be at the terminus of the hammer’s arc. If any of my wife’s raw stained glass or finished projects were between the end points of the hammer’s trajectory, the physicist will be able to show me, down to several decimal places, the certainty that the hammer would, prior to breaking my toe, shatter several hundred dollars worth of stained glass.
That’s the way the world works... with physics.
The way the world works with political science is far less formulaic. But to those of us who understand it, and who understand the ramifications of not operating in the world-as-it-is, those who refuse the fantasy of the group-hug World We Prefer, certain news items leap off the page and scream at us, reaffirming what we already know.
The physicist sees the mathematical beauty of an asteroid tumbling in space, quivering ever so slightly as it shifts from the gravitational pool of Jupiter into the gravitational pool of the sun. The rest of us yawn. The physicist weeps in awe at the precision of the Japanese space probe which landed on the asteroid to scoop up a hunk and bring it back to earth. The rest of us wave a dismissive hand, “Ah, get a grip; they’ve done more than that on Star Trek.”
But Star Trek is television fantasy while the Japanese space probe is real life. The millions who quote Star Trek are indulging a fantasy.
…and Ward Churchill, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, countless collegiate know-it-alls with as many as two semesters of polisci under their belts, limitless Vietnam protesting retreads with middle age hanging over their belts, and endless Hollywood actors playing historians and social scientists on the stage of a Congressional or journalistic audience are indulging the fantasy of the World They Prefer in place of the reality of the world-as-it-is.
The rest of humanity reads an article such as this and shrugs. I don’t. In this article I see the very things I’ve been blabbering about for years now. In the grand sweep of history, I see this as a minor Magna Carta, a lesser Rosetta Stone. It is a peephole into the workings of the political, cultural Reality that exists outside our borders and which exerts force and pressure both in response to as well as independent of any force and pressure we exert upon it. …as well as independent of…
The words chosen by al-Zawahiri to state his message of bilious enmity are a medieval glory hole into the rancid thought process and warped worldview of the pan-islamist. And in the same way that one cannot comprehend the physics necessary to calculate the falling trajectory of the misplaced hammer without having a full, complete and perfect understanding of the arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, calculus and undoubtedly other disciplines of mathematics that my college coursework for computers, history and sociology did not require, one cannot comprehend the realities and ramifications of this moment in time without having at least a semi- full, complete and perfect understanding of the forces in current geo-political opposition.
Ignorant masses looking upon the War Against Terror stare in disgusted shock, and maybe a bit of horrified awe, at Iraq, the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation thereof, they listen in rapt obeisance to emotion-laden claims and declare with the fine precision of desire: “These people are just like us! We have no right to commit another Crusade upon them! They simply want to live in peace!”
Stop right there. In the calculus of geo-politics, there’s already an error in basic arithmetic. These people are not “just like us”. To claim they are is, in effect, to claim that 2+2=5. There are basic differences between the cultures in question that cannot be equivocated with such vapid declarations. The people struggling against the West are sufficiently unlike us that it makes those who claim they are wrong from the outset, and all the conclusions and analysis they offer become manifestly invalid, even if their screed is peppered with undeniable fact.
We in the West don’t even speak the same cultural language as the rest of the world; the very terms we use are defined vastly differently by everyone else. It would be as if we asked someone to take a seat, and he removed all the chairs from the planet.
We in the West have attained the cultural level of Nation-State. We have, in effect, evolved to the point of being able to dismiss minor ethnic or religious differences as inconsequential; we have learned there is a greater value in the combinations of such trivial differences that aren’t apparent to those living under the prior worldview. The West achieved nation-state in the 17th and 18th centuries out of the primeval ooze of city-state. Because nation-state allows forces to combine across ethnic and religious divisions for a greater potential achievement, the West was able to acquire control over much of the rest of the world – which still operated on the city-state model.
You may recall the theme of “western colonialism” from your history classes to which you probably didn’t pay too much attention.
Western colonialism resulted in the imposition of nation-state definitions upon the rest of the world. Imagine the whole world barging into your house and declaring that half of your living room, one third of the dining room and a kitchen counter next to the refrigerator were now called “Dedwith”. The rooms in your house are erased, even though the walls are perfectly plain for you to see. Your house is divided up into meaningless regions called “Dedwith”, “Eanfro” and “Ininati”.
That’s what Europe – and mostly France and Britain – did to the rest of the world when it created “India”, “Pakistan”, “Iraq”, “Botswana”, “Afghanistan”, “Nigeria”, “Ethiopia” and even “Yugoslavia”. It is frequently reported that the boundary between “Jordan” and “Saudi Arabia”, when being invented in the British Foreign Office by Winston Churchill, has that crooked dogleg in it because someone bumped Winston’s arm while he was drawing lines on the map. The national boundaries to three-fourths of the world’s population are largely meaningless; they were created only because they were convenient to the West. We assigned them and installed leaders to rule those “nations”, or allowed leaders to install themselves, irrespective of the local realities.
If the European post-colonials had understood what they were doing, there’d be far less third world conflict today; there would be a Kurdistan, "Afghanistan" would be a dozen different “nations”, Woodrow Wilson’s “Yugoslavia” would be another dozen, and the entire continent of Africa would be a thousand.
The current leaders of the “nations” of “Pakistan” and “Somalia”, such as they each may be, are no more nation-statists than the people they lead. They have simply figured out, as politicians have since Day One, how to use the local political landscape for their own individual self-interest. The modern landscape is built on the nation-state model. The leaders of third-world nations are every bit as city-statist as any kings of Hellenic Greece, medieval Europe or Shogun Japan, but if it gets them and keeps them in power, they’ll use the nation-state terms. “President” of “Dedwith”, King of Babylon – what’s in a name? A city-state by any other name would smell as sweet to the leader of it.
So what is “city-state”? It is the political power-holding mechanism that is built on the foundation of tribe. City-state owes allegiance to, in rough order, family, clan, tribe and race. Also, and just to make things interesting, many city-state tribalists throw in religion, and denominations of religion, and sects of the denomination. Thus a Wahabi-sect Sunni Muslim of the bin Laden family of the X clan of the Arab people of the Semite race has a historic and unquenchable feud with someone of the non-Wahabi Sunni Muslims of the Saud family of the Y clan of the Arab people of the Semite race.
And this feud is eternal … unless an outsider gets in the way.
An outsider such as … an American with a sample case of modern cosmetics that will make any woman beam with gracious beauty and bring out her undeniable, exotic charm. The American who tries to sell cosmetics to the burqad female Arab of any family-clan-tribe, Muslim of any sect-denomination has just succeeded in doing what the manipulative colonial war machines of three centuries of European busy-bodying could not do: unify the disparate internecine squabblers under a common purpose.
That purpose is to resist “cultural warfare”.
“Cultural warfare” is a concept largely strange and bizarre to modern, western ears. When someone shows up on our shores with a new gizmo or gimmick, there’ll be millions willing to give it a shot. Only a handful of the most parochial rednecks grouse about outsiders trying to “change our way of life”; to the rest of us? “let me try one of them taco things”… “Sudoku, eh? Howzit work?”…
Westerners don’t usually care all that much if someone is “different”, or has odd practices or beliefs. It is not often effrontery to our Way of Life® to encounter someone with a red Mohawk, trousers around his knees, and face pierced in dozens of ways. Typically, such a person would be the source of mirth and endless anecdotes at the office. “You’ll never believe what I ran across the other day…”
To a westerner, “different” is the next fad upon which he can, if enterprising enough, make his first million. To a tribalist, “different” is an affront, and to many an act of war.
To an any-family-clan-Arab, any-sect-denomination-Muslim who was raised in the worldview of city-state tribal allegiance, the presence of “different” – which is to say, the West – is cultural warfare. Because this is now a global economy, with a global community, “different” is global. Our mere presence is effrontery to the tribal, fundamentalist muslims. The fact that we exist, being “different” as we are, means that they have a duty to their family-clan-tribe-race, sect-denomination-religion to eliminate us.
The one thing that pan-islamists can agree on is that we must die. Or become like them.
If we became “like them”, then to some of them, we’d be the wrong kind of “them” – one of the largest feuds in world history is between Sunni and Shi’a muslim. If we became “like them” as Sunni muslim, then the Shi’a would be after our heads, and if we became “like them” to the tune of being Shiite, the Sunni would imprison and torture us. It is, for all practical purposes, a lose-lose situation for us. And this is the reason that tribalism is obsolete, a veritable cultural dinosaur. It is lose-lose for them as well. When there are none of us for the pan-islamist to jihad against, they always have their own tribal squabbles to fall back on.
What is a “pan-islamist”? It is one of these people. Someone brought up under the sect-denomination-religion worldview. His duty is to eliminate opposing religions first, then opposing denominations, then opposing sects. Anyone marginally familiar with world history knows that this is how christianity operated until Europeans discovered nationalism and figured out that differences in religious ritual really weren’t all that important, even if they were still galling.
Anyone marginally familiar with world history knows that a large share of Middle-Eastern muslims are today just like Europeans were a thousand years ago.
But what of those people who are not fundamentalist muslim? There is still family-clan-tribe-race to get indignant about. It doesn’t matter. To people brought up under the city-state worldview, anyone who is “different” is an enemy. Politics being what it is, and dominated just as much by RealPolitik under medieval paradigms as modern, temporary alliances are sometimes forged with “differents” in attempt to play both ends against the middle. This cannot safely be viewed as anything other than what it is: their own self-interest at everyone else’s expense.
The difference between the West playing the RealPolitik ends against the middle and the city-statists doing the same is that the West might actually keep you as a friend and ally afterwards. It’s the difference between hiring a hooker on the street corner and getting a hook-up at a bar. In both cases, you’ll get laid, but the hook-up chick might actually get a call the next day. The hooker is gone and forgotten.
It’s valid to claim that neither is particularly enlightened, that there is still a huge amount of religious and ethnic intolerance to be found in the West. Very, very true. Nation-state nationalism is merely the next evolutionary step beyond city-state tribalism, and is not the ultimate destination of species-wide inclusion and brotherhood across all differences. Our goal is to become “earthlings”. But until that is all we are, nationalism is the highest rung on the cultural evolutionary ladder that the human race has yet achieved. People using terms such as “italian-American” or “african-American” are backsliders attempting to balkanize the nation, to re-tribalize.
We are Americans.
They are not yet “Iraqis”, or “Saudis” or “Pakistanis”. They may as well be “Dedwithians”. They only use these terms because they must; the world around them is defined in these terms. They are Sunni Arabs who have been given an Iraq-shaped sandbox in which to play with a bunch of Shi’a Arabs they hate, and who hate them back, and – darn the luck – there’s also a group of Kurds who live in the same sandbox, and everyone hates the Kurds.
Many city-state tribalists – like nearly all those in Africa and those who still reside in Europe – are perfectly content to do their tribal squabbling just amongst themselves. They are the kindergarten class who has crayon fights when the teacher steps out of the room, and who neatly folds their hands on top of their laps and stares blandly at the ceiling when the teacher returns, la-di-da-di-da it wasn’t us we don’t know how the crayons got thrown all over. Balkan wars are only dangerous because others want to play too – Germany.
But the Middle East has a many-millennium habit of exporting their tribal conflicts. Persia wanted control of the Mediterranean so badly they threw 200,000 reed-armored soldiers into the pass at Thermopylae. The Arabs delivered Islam to lands far and wide on the point of a sword in the first century after Mohammed’s death. … including to the central-Asian Turks. … who, a few centuries later decided to repay the kindness by conquering greater Arabia, and gosh, why not Byzantium and as much more of Europe as they could manage as well?
Theirs is an infantile worldview, and it becomes, almost literally, an infantile game of King of the Hill to see who will rule the Iraq-shaped sandbox. King of the Hill with automatic weapons and high explosives. And any non-republican ruler of said sandbox will undoubtedly – as Hussein did – rule the “nation” for the betterment of his sect-denomination and the bestment of his family-clan-tribe.
The only hope for escaping this self-limiting political trap is to introduce proportional representation in their government – a republic – which will incorporate all their factions, give them the practice of working together instead of separately, … and cross all available fingers.
I spoke too soon; there is a second option. The second option is to leave them the hell alone, allow them to culturally evolve at their own pace, and do what their cultural sensibilities demand they do until they achieve a nation-state mentality. The only problem with this second option is that their city-state tribalism demands that they view as enemies anyone who is “different” – which in this case is the West. Their city-state infantilism demands the elimination of those who are “different” – which means that they will periodically lash out like infants. But because these infants have automatic weapons and explosives, when they lash out buildings get knocked down, buses get blown up, and people minding their own business wind up scattered over a city block.
And when they lash out, it is not “Iraqis” or “Jordanians” or “Yemenis” which lash out. Those are our terms for them, terms which have no real meaning to them. Just as “Dedwith” has no real meaning to you. They are – when they think of themselves in relation to us – muslims and Arabs. We are – when they think of us at any time – not-muslims and not-Arabs. Which is to say: infidels and enemies. Further, they do not distinguish between any of us. French, American, Canuckian … all the same to them. American soldier, American war protester, American jingoist … no difference. Israel … to them, the 51st state of the union.
It is, to their way of thinking, all of them against us. It is all of them against us because they are stuck in the tribalist mindset. We are not; we are stuck in the nationalist mindset. We separate them by “nation” that they do not fully recognize. When we differentiate between them by national identity we are failing to acknowledge the reality of their world. If we wish to operate in their world, or have any sort of interaction with tribalist city-staters, we are already at a disadvantage.
And this disadvantage manifests itself through the rote, hyper-discerning response to their aggression against us. It is as if we were having a War Against Cockroaches and we decided that the cockroaches which live under the fridge in the “nation” of “Dedwith” are to be killed, but the cockroaches which live under the stove in the “nation” of “Ininati” are to be left alone. They are the same cockroaches; it doesn’t matter which appliance they hide beneath.
They are the same terrorists; it doesn’t matter which “nation” they come from. Their “nationality” was a Western creation in the first place.
Nationalists do not speak the same cultural language as tribalists. Hence, Westerners do not speak the same cultural language as Middle-Easterners. Yet everyone uses the same words.
Read again the words of al-Zawahiri. You’ll recognize every single word he uses, but now that you’ve had a basic cultural primer, the ground-level arithmetic of social physics, you’ll be able to better understand what he means when he uses them.
Even though I send my condolences to my Islamic nation for the tragedy of the earthquake in Pakistan, today I congratulate everyone for the victory in Iraq. You remember, my dear Muslim brethren, what I told you more than a year ago, that the U.S. troops will pull out of Iraq. It was only a matter of time.“Islamic nation” … “Muslim brethren” … all of them against us.
Here they are now and in the blessing of God begging to pull out, seeking negotiations with the mujahedeen. And here is Bush who was forced to announce at the end of last November that he will be pulling his troops out of Iraq.
He uses the pretext that the Iraqi forces reached a high level of preparedness. But he doesn't have a timetable for the pullout.
If all of his troops -- air force, army -- are begging for a way to get out of Iraq, will the liars, traitors and infidels succeed in what the world superpower failed to achieve in Iraq?
You have set the timetable for the withdrawal a long time ago and Bush, you have to admit that you were defeated in Iraq, you are being defeated in Afghanistan, and you will be defeated in Palestine, God willing.
“They are … begging to pull out” … “They are … seeking negotiations with the mujahedeen” … no differentiation among us.
“You will be defeated in Palestine” … Israel is the 51st state.
How can people who see the world as a continuing succession of black-white dichotomies be “the same as us” when our way of thinking demands that we parse and differentiate and equivocate into nothing the cultural differences pan-islamists find insurmountable?
How can pan-islamists “want to live in peace” when their very mindset opposes the mere existence of those who are different?
The Middle East will escape the obsolescence of tribalist nonsense. But until it does, it will lash out like the deadly infantile mentality it is, and take as many of us along with it as they can take. Nationalism will eventually sweep the planet. If the human race is lucky, nationalism will be replaced in time with the group hug World We Prefer social ecumenicalism so many desire, but only if the Western nationalists defeat the Middle-Eastern tribalists. If they win, there’s a good chance that the world will backslide into re-tribalized clan-sects. Post-apocalyptic Hollywood as modern Nostradamus.
In the mean time, your survival – your personal survival – depends upon us nationalists being aware of, and having the ability to respond to, tribalist nonsense in a realistic manner. The war is not with al Qaida; the war is with pan-islamist terrorism. The war is not in Afghanistan; the war is in every place where pan-islamism is held and taught. The war is not against ultra-religious muslims, it is against anyone who pushes anti-western extremism irrespective of their relative fundamentalism.
The alternative is to let them culturally evolve on their own, however many centuries that may take them – they’re already 300 years behind us. This will mean that the war will be frequently against us with no differentiation between those who sympathize with them and those who do not; the war will be taking place in our lands more frequently than theirs; and while we will probably survive as a nation – although you can ask Byzantium how well they liked their own odds when the same thing happened to them – many individuals in our nation, apart from soldiers who volunteer, will certainly not.
 Particularly Afghanistan
 …and Iran has no greater love for the catholic-marxist Chavez of Venezuela than for the protestant-capitalist Bush of America. Chavez is simply useful to Iran at this point.
 As will central Asia, the Balkans and the continent of Africa.
 Michael Moore is just as valid a target as I am – and significantly larger, I might add.