Club Politique by Che Tibby

Clod Stompers

I saw that Graham was trying to sell his car recently. I dunno how he went with that, but I'm thinking that for anyone wanting to sell in future that you should adopt my approach. I recently sold a clapped out old Honda Civic for $250, and couldn't believe that some guy of 'Middle-Eastern Appearance' wanted to pay for it. Note to self, always advertise car as an 'old bomb'.

[ drops......]

Hey, look, if you can't make racist jokes in the age of terrorism, the bastards have already won.

On a more serious note though, I have been thinking a bit about why people are placing so much emphasis on this epic cultural divide between 'Islam' and everyone else. The obvious source of the difference is the misperception of how Islam differs from Christianity, or Judaism for that matter, and the rapidly accumulating assumption that this difference is somehow divinely manifest. You know, 'we have to fight them because it's what God wants'.

There's a bunch of books out there on this subject already, and I'm not sure I can add anything in 800-odd words of blog, except to say that there's more to this than just a mythic 'clash of civilisations'. In car terms, blaming current events on this clash is equal to having a mechanic tell you, "she's stuffed mate". At which point your question should always be a 'please explain', because the devil is in the detail, and you'll be paying out the nose.

A favourite justification for why we can't get along with Islam is the tag line, "medieval culture". Usually it goes, "they'll never really embrace democracy or understand how we're trying to help them because of their medieval culture". And there's an exact point to issue that please explain.

I've discovered that what that usually means is, "I've seen some Araby looking guys on TV, and they were living in mud huts somewhere and yelling a lot so they must be backwards and shit in buckets or something". That or, "I've heard they cut the hands of people for stealing, I saw that on some Tony Curtis movie about Ali Baba from the 1950s and their women all wear turbans and aren't allowed to drive cars. Except for that one I saw on the news driving a car. That must have been a Westernised one. Yeah. Westernised."

I wish that I knew enough about the Kingitanga to fully explain to you the significance of what we have seen opening up to us over the last week. I wish that because these are the exact same people declared to be 'rebels' by settlers envying the most important resource of the day, land. The exact same people labelled 'stone age' by detractors, and treated brutally with that epithet as a justification. The exact same people who thought public executions and floggings were the act of savages. My how times have changed.

Muslims are undergoing the exact same type of demonisation. The deriding of their nations based on extremely superficial, TV-based perceptions. Except we didn't have TV in the 1860s. But you get the idea.

The rights of women or the persecution of minorities like gay men are another example. Commentators in 'the West' make a brief comparison between any Western city and the entire Muslim world and conclude that "we're better because of [insert irrelevant variable here]". This is then used as a justification for some tragedy. It is an old, old pattern.

To highlight why this is such a travesty I'd like to use the example of 'material' and 'social' technology. What material technology is should be be obvious. Phones, modern cars, any number of objects. They're easy to adapt to any culture. They're portable, and a commodity. Material technology also carries cultural components, but generally it's modular in the sense that it can fit just about any language, race, religion.

'Social' technology differs though. It's the kind of stuff that you have to buy into to accept. I think you could also call them 'social norms', in the sense that they're an agreed way of doing or acting in a society. Traffic lights. Who says you have to stop at traffic lights? You stop at lights because there is an agreement that you do so (and it's backed up in a law somewhere). There is no other reason to stop at lights.

But some social technology is so new that not everyone in our society agrees with it yet. Gay rights for example. Highly contentious. The place of women in our society is still being debated. I'm starting to get sick of dragging this one out every few months, but only 30 years ago it was largely socially acceptable to slap the missus around. Our society has moved on though and while it happens, no one with any credibly thinks it's OK to do that any more.

So if these social technologies are so new to our society, why are we assuming that every Muslim nation in the world should automatically adopt them? That's a bit rich isn't it? Demonising entire peoples with thousand-year histories, the people who built street lighting and discussed the Greek philosophers while Westerners shit in the street in villages like London, just because we need to justify our own assumed superiority? To justify our own strategic objectives?