December 18, 2008
In Progress And Failure: An Introduction, we asked,
Why do some cultures and societies progress while others do not? Why does it appear that progress is inevitable in some societies and virtually unlikely in others?
When all is said and done, those are the questions that in fact, define the great divide in our world. There are nations that are as different as night and day that are first world nations and there are nations who share language, similar culture and religion and who live side by, and are vastly different from each other.
Today, we will begin our discussion.
In a modern, progressive society, failure is the most accurate predictor of success. Where failures are understood to be instructive and corrective in nature, societies flourish. In cultures where failure is always regarded only as a source of shame, embarrassment or humiliation, societies usually cannot sustain themselves.
Not all shame based societies regard failure as an all encompassing catastrophe- just the opposite, in fact. Japan, Korea, China and much of the Far East are shame based cultures. Nevertheless, they place an even greater value on success- that is, the culture of achievement. The Asian emphasis on study has assumed mythological proportions.
The Arab world, by virtue of dysfunctional leadership and ‘religious’ instruction, sees failure as catastrophic, a source of overwhelming shame and humiliation. With no cultural examples of success those failures are always intensified and magnified by way of comparison. We noted,
As far the Arab world was concerned, the establishment of the Jewish state, in their neighborhood and on their watch, was indeed a catastrophic event. In fact, it was cataclysmic, because Israel was undeniable evidence that the rise and domination of the Islamic world, led by the Arabs was indeed over. Notwithstanding Arab failures for over a thousand years, the establishment of Israel was a truth that not even the Arab world could deny. That catastrophe worsened as Israel ascended into the first world and they fell even further behind…
…Israel not only reflects Arab failure, she also reflects the successes 0f western ideologies and western predicates for success. The Arabs would have you believe that the rejection of western successes are justified by saying they are rejecting the western culture and values that are anathema to Muslims…
The genesis of the all enveloping culture of failure that typify the Arab world are the symptoms of a society with no outlet to self correct. It is at this point that momentum drives the dysfunction. Frustration leads to self hatred and ever escalating rage, which only serves to highlight the inability to maintain self control. The inability to maintain self control is anathema to learning, an endear that requires self discipline. The enveloping rage boils over into a vicious self hatred, because that rage only serves to highlight an inability to maintain self control- and that inability to maintain self control cannot help but be compared with societies and cultures that can and do maintain that self control. In all cases however, conflict is a mirror that reflects a comparison between the players, one in which the progress, failures and true character of the players and even the conflict itself, emerge.
We know that children want to imitate and please their parents. This is how they learn.
For example, there comes a point when a parent who feeds a child notes that the child will reach out and want to feed the parent. This action represents an awareness of the ‘other’ and an innate desire to please (as feeding pleases the child). As the child grows older, he or she imitates the parents by way of wanting to ‘help.’ The child wants to be in the company of his or her parents and engage in the same behavior. This desire to imitate is so strong that children are enamored of toys that let them replicate adult behaviors. Dolls, tools, cooking implements and the like are equally if not more as popular than fantasy toys. As the child learns to creatively play with the toys, he or she is applauded for that creativity by their parents.
In the western and Asian world, this is all a benign part of the learning experience. Inappropriate behavior (i.e., violence) is corrected or channeled into an appropriate outlet (sports).
The Arab world is very different. A child learns that violence towards others is not only appropriate but expected and rewarded. In this way, inappropriate behavior is integrated into the child’s reality. From an early age, a child learns that hate towards another pleases the parent and that by imitating and even exceeding the parents hate, a child will be rewarded and applauded. These kinds of behaviors are carefully cultivated and exploited. Television shows for children, educational curriculum and religious instruction are all designed to elicit hate, which is then applauded. A parent who might be uncomfortable with such blatant exploitation of children is marginalized and is considered outside the cultural mainstream.
This kind of society has been carefully cultivated. It is not by accident that these societies see themselves as ‘victims’ of others, rather than self created failures. In an age where comparisons are easily come by, there must be a reason for their failures other than themselves. This is where religion comes in. It is the ‘Will of Allah’ or they are engaged in a holy war with Jews and Christians. In the Arab world, Islam is more about magic than it is about reason. This is profoundly different from the doctrines (as opposed to dogma) of Judaism or Christianity today.
The role of religion in the successes and failures of societies must be understood. In the Judeo-Christian ethic, religion teaches adherents to deal with the complexities and even the inequalities of life. They are given the tools to deal with their own reality. Religious instruction is meant to teach the individual to make choices, because it is understood that empowering the individual empowers the faith. Choices that are freely arrived at rather than imposed are far more likely to be meaningful and significant choices.
In the Arab world, religion is used to dis-empower the individual. A free thinking, empowered individual is a dangerous to the regime. State approved political operatives, masquerading as religious teachers, preach that life is black or white and that all decisions for the ummah will be made by them, because the ummah is incapable of doing so for themselves (”There are conspiracies the ummah knows nothing about and therefor do not know what is best for them”). The frenzied rage is cultivated and orchestrated by these phony religious authorities. The individual is expected to submit him or herself willingly, not to Allah, but to the agendas and ideologies of these failed regimes and dysfunctional ideologues. Arabs continue to willingly prostrate themselves to failure.
Societies and culture where failure is understood to be a part if the learning experience are healthy, creative and innovative societies. Cultures and societies where failures are a source of identity, shame or frustration, are hidden and not tolerated, are failed, stunted and dull societies.
In our next installment, we will discuss progress that build upon the past and the post modernist ideology that deliberately seeks to exclude the past, as exemplified by the philosophical differences between Francis Fukuyama and Marshall Berman.
Portions of this post have been previously published.