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The "Gulf War Two" or "War on Terror" or Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It is about a lot of things: oil, land, money, power, but at its heart, it's about ideology.  I'm certainly not a pacifist and I'm rarely diplomatic, but if you want to change ideology, you need to drop ideas on these people, not bombs.  Start by dropping magazines on them.

Seriously.

Take all the recycling bins full of glossy pictures that fundamentalists of all varieties (even the homegrown ones) despise and drop them on the rural peoples (i.e., the ones living as close as possible to actual BFE).  Drop your People magazine and your Sports Illustrated and your TV Guides on them.  You want to know why?

You see this girl?

Her name is Sharbat Gula.  You would think everyone in the world had seen her picture.  Wrong.  She didn't.  She hadn't seen this picture of herself until she looked like this:

In fact, she hadn't seen a magazine --ANY magazine-- in her entire life up to that point.  And this is the ideology we're trying to fight with bullets and bombs a lot smarter than the backward-ass people who hate us.

So where does this hate come from?  Good old-fashioned ignorance that can only be achieved by centuries of isolationism.  Sam Harris points out that "less than 2% of Arabs have access to the Internet. Arabs represent 5% of the world's population and yet produce only 1% of the world's books, most of them religious.  In fact, Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century."

By contrast, in America, we can't get enough of Japanese culture.  Not because it's just like ours but because it's different.  Really different.  After 9/11, a handful of idiots in America indiscriminately vandalized businesses owned by people who were (ostensibly anyway) Middle Eastern.  What did the rest of the country do?  We started learning about that part of the world.  I swear, half of everything I hear on NPR these days is related to the Middle East.  Admittedly, a lot of it is about how Arabs are killing one another, but that's their fault, not the reporters'.

Injecting a more desirable and stable culture inevitably destabilizes an undesirable and backwards one.  In a recent broadcast, Keith Olberman (among others) cited the influence of images of the relative opulence of the Western world as a leading cause of the downfall of communism in the former USSR.  Again, it wasn't bombs that did it.  The invasion didn't arrive on boots and tank treads; it came on VHS and UHF.

Similarly, a lengthy article in Scientific American in 1993 described the decline in birth rates in third world countries due to the synergistic influences of television and the availability of birth control.  In other words, when people saw images of characters unburdened by families of a half-dozen or more children, they saw no reason to chain themselves to a life supporting a brood on the scale their parents had a generation earlier.

Imagine what changes are possible in a society who sees what it is like to be similarly unburdened of dogma that reached its expiration date centuries ago.  Think about it.  You can think about it because you happen to have the example in mind.  That example pours in through every available medium.  They can't imagine what this is like because their view of the outside world is narrower than the eye slit on a typical burka.

At present, this most backward part of the world hardly has electricity for more than a couple hours a day even in the (supposedly) most developed regions, never mind the backwaters (or whatever you want to call these corners of the desert).  Worse yet, the levels of illiteracy are monumental given that half of the population (i.e., the ones without a penis) are automatically excluded from the educational system in the (naturally) most backward parts of the Islamic world, so even Arabic text isn't an option.

On the other hand, even Americans don't "read" Entertainment Weekly or Cosmo.  We flip through them in the doctor's office to see how much skin the girls are showing.  We want to see what styles are "cool" this season.  This is hardly the pinnacle of human culture, but you know what?  It is culture.  It's the product of a culture that aspires to innovate and generate new styles and ideas.

Contrast this with a culture who can be summarized in a word: Burka.


References:
For more information about Sharbat Gula, see her entry in wikipedia (which also has a link to the Nat'l Geographic story on her).  That entry can be found here.

The Scientific American article was The Fertility Decline in Developing Countries by Bryant Robey, Shea O. Rutstein Leo Morris.  It appeared in the December 1993 issue.  A link to the abstract of the article can be found here.

Figures concerning Islamic access to information were quoted from the article Sam Harris on the Reality of Islam found here.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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