CBS News | Blair: Let's Talk Extremism | July 20, 2005�12:00:16
The first thing that struck me about Britain's reaction to the recent bombings was that, unlike the response to the earlier New York attacks, the affair was conducted as a criminal investigation rather than a overtly military one. When, following 9/11, the then un-elected Bush declared "war" on an abstraction, he had the perfect excuse to apply it to any "enemy" that took his fancy regardless of any direct association to the attacks themselves. Whilst he may be on a sympathy roll with 7/7, Blair has already subscribed to the Bush agenda and can't claim it anew for himself. So he's been forced to create his own mission - albeit one that will fit in very nicely with Amerikan policy.
Blair's new "war" will be on something just as intangible as "terrorism" per se - namely, "extremism". Once again, it is not a notion adequately qualified to have any real meaning beyond a "catch-all" phrase for anybody (or everybody) who advocates a world social system in opposition to his own values and economic interests. Given that those include rape and pillage of the planet, supporting and promoting the illegal occupation of other people's territories and the enforcement of mass slavery to the consumerist market hierarchy - it could be said that he himself is guilty of a form of "extremism". Any claims to the contrary were repudiated by the impotence of his G8 summit to alter anything other than its cosmetic appearance.
This link may seem like just another news item in the post-7/7 propaganda machine, but like the debate over ID cards (a project now virtually uncontested anymore) it hints at something more.
We live in a rapidly accelerated world where rapid change is needed to protect the future of human life, but the traditional political machines still move slower than even the social norm amongst those who elected them. Lifelong learning is becoming an essential requirement of 21st century living, yet educationalists themselves do not constantly refresh their own skills in order to pass them on to the next generation. In economically-deprived and ethnically-biased areas the learning process is a disgrace and dis-enchantment amongst the young can almost be taken for granted. Religious teaching is symptomatic of this regression in that it conveys basic doctrine without regard for contemporary life-skills and social trends. Although rarely structured to address today's multi-ethic society, it is usually the one item on the curriculum that requires few financial resources and little updating. It gains in popularity when credible alternatives are scarce.
The citadels of religion have only ever had one real function - the dissemination and control of information. They are all largely redundant in the information age but still gain subscription by targeting the disenfrachised and presenting themselves as the ultimate authority. The information they omit to convey is often far more dangerous that that which they directly preach. Believers are given selected data and left to rationalise it for themselves. In collective congregation, the message becomes that of the lowest common denominator until simplicity becomes absolute and fundamentalism is born. Extremism can be moderated by providing the ensnared with more information - censoring what little they already have will narrow their field of vision even more and make them more prone to exploitation.
This is not acute to Islam. It applies to all religions. Putting religious obsessives like Blair and Bush in charge of moderating competing ideologies is a recipe for disaster. While the world speeds along, religion festers and indoctrination occurs slowly. When, some time from now, the non-Christian faiths realise they've been hi-jacked by the dictates of "infidels" - the violence and destruction will most likely be far worse than anything we've witnessed yet.
We don't just need to feed the world, we need to educate it and promote self-determination of all its citizens. Make fundamentalism history!