Tag Archives: Extremism

The Caliphate of “V”

DAESH might be trying to carve a totalitarian, landlocked (in fact and intellectualism) space to call home. American extremists are no less rabid in using fearmongering to gather strength and constituents. The (obvious) difference is that here we have folks who own the media, and buy the politicians needed to advance our cause: no need for actual weapons (except to arm said constituents to assuage their fears). At the present time it looks as though they’re trying to carve out chunks of the American Southeast as their homeland, safe from concepts and realities clashing with their religion-warped world view.

I’d just bought a few boxes of Girl Scout cookies outside a bustling restaurant on a Friday night but stopped on my way home to chat with a mother trying to calm a baby clearly past the end of its tether. She glared at my box and asked if I knew that the Girl Scouts of America funded abortions. I decided she’d been radicalized by extremists and didn’t contest her insane claims. Which probably made her feel more correct, but I wouldn’t have changed her “mind” no matter how persuasive my rebuttal.

While V for Vendetta is a fictional story, it has all the subtlety of Orwell’s 1984 in its threat: religion plus fear equals control. And whatever lies need spreading to further the goal, it’s all in the name of god. The reality is that in America, just like in “V,” the powers that be might use religion as a tool, but the real goal is pure, controlling power.

One of the weapons used vigorously by both DAESH and their American extremist counterparts is the mentally ill. Sane, balanced people can become suicide bombers, suffused in their zealotry and firmly directed and aimed. But these are like cruise missiles: the bulk of suicide bombers are Katyusha rockets: unintelligent, unguided, but shoved in the approximate direction of the enemy. In America we have the social and medical capability to analyze a perpetrator, to determine whether her or his motives were sound. I argue that extremism (religious or not) is a kind of insanity, but that doesn’t mean a person is of diminished capacity. For every “Islamist” terrorist there are literally tens of millions of Muslims who define the norms of a healthy society. And for every American believing, for example, that killing doctors who perform abortions is part of a holy war, there are tens of millions of Christians that cringe at the thought that a person like that would be a member of their congregation. So yeah, they’re nuts: but the kind of nuts that’s inexcusable in societies with (even somewhat) functional governments.

They’re not that different, DAESH and the Koch brothers and their puppets in the media and behind pulpits: both want to create “perfect” societies in which the rulers make… (drum roll)… the rules. One uses a circus mirror of Islam, the other a similar mirror of Christianity, with the oxymoronic melding of Ayn Rand’s love of only oneself through Objectivism.

The take-away is that religious extremism locks a person’s world view into a monochromatic focus: it’s right or wrong. They’re in, they’re out. Eliminate — or be eliminated. At least in America the fighting[1] is sporadic[2] at the moment[3][4][5] (and mostly[6] non-violent). But it has a great potential for violence against those in any shade not white.

One Doesn’t Make Peace with Objects

“Muslim extremist.” “Infidel.” “Towelhead.” “Crusader.”

Putting labels on people is gratifying: it’s an attack on their honor, reduces the respect due them as humans and, if possible, make them seem less than human, even less than animals.

Labels are chosen carefully. “Dogs” is a great cuss word by Muslims, given its internal Islamic religious denotation — one that is not shared in the same way by the targets of such insults. The label of “pigs” is a word choice guaranteed to anger even a moderate, pious Muslim. Dogs and pigs are killed as a matter of course in religious countries: their connection to filth and disease is something. That list in the first line of this post goes past animal, straight to animus.

Once we reduce a person to an object it’s harder to identify with them. You don’t automatically hate Farah when you pass her in in Wal-Mart or Marks & Spencer if she’s wearing a hijab or a chador. But if I identify that person as a “sand rat” I’d look down at her as a dirty animal, out of place in a brightly-lit store with orderly shelves.

Nazis used this technique with great success to dehumanize Jews, to make it easier for neighbors and business associates to part with Jews who had, up to that point, integrated successfully in Western Europe.

Westerners use it to isolate, vilify and attack those who look different. Fanatics of all faiths brand everyone not fitting their exacting (and sometimes ever-changing) standards. In Judaism, religious extremists slap the label apikoros (apostate) or goy (gentile) on anyone they want to exclude from their self-declared higher plane.

It’s difficult to bargain with lesser beings. One makes peace with enemies, not friends, despite all the protests against talks with Iran, North Korea, and the Afghani Taliban among others. One does not engage in anything but eradicating dirty animals.

A coda: women reduced to body part names are put into the same place. While there are no peace talks expected between men and women, reducing a woman to how she looks or what sex acts she might perform lets men afraid of their dominance feel better about their misogyny.