General Eclectic

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Social Change in the Middle east

One of the problems in controlling and defeating the terrorist momentum is the social structure of Islam. It is generally assumed that the objective of al Qaeda is not the destruction of the United States -- we are a target of periodic opportunism to demonstrate to the Islamic peoples our inability to stop the progress of the movement.

The interim objective of al Qaeda is to gain control of the minarets in Mecca, from which a clarion call can resonate across northern Africa and down the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts. The basic problem has been how to cut apart such a movement. There are two lines of attack. The first is to retain in each country a sense of nationalism and at the same time to keep Sunni and Shia from uniting. The second is to shift the focus in each nation to economic development at all levels of income. The American model relies on interclass mobiliyu as a basis for the republic.

The pan Arab movement could be dismantled by...

establishing an equitable social and economic base that gives individuals hope that they will have a job and be able to provide for their family in an upwardly mobile, self respecting way....

on a nation by nation basis. Unfortunately the unnatural country borders in the Middle East and in Africa were drawn for the benefit of the colonial powers and never changed after independence. That makes the job harder as prosperity (and even life itself) is limited to the new ruling tribes.

Islam is a religion that justifies the present place of an individual in Society. It might be called -- to paraphrase Marx -- "the opiate of the Arabs." This is especially true under the Sunni minarets. It was not unusual, therefore, to see the rise of the secular Ba'ath movement which took hold only in Syria and in Iraq and justified the dictatorships of the Assad family and Saddam.

In the underdeveloped world under Islam it is hard to imagine a society with the economic capacity to support interclass mobility. Agriculture for the peasant is a subsistence business (except for the growing of poppies). There are large farms in fertile deltas and along the river valleys which can feed the cities. Oil is an agricultural commodity of a sort -- a resource which is brought under the control of the ruling class.

True interclass mobility comes when wealth is created and distributed in the private sector of a society in excess of the requirements of production of goods and services but distributed through the production process. When the individual receives income at whatever level from the government, the process is violated.

The distribution of largesse received provides a sense of interclass mobility, but tied in with noblesse oblige. Education creates the ability to study other cultures, the struggles, the true interclass mobility which creates in the rest of the world a sense of earned self worth. Lacking that within their own culture, the young turn to dissolution or to fundamentalism. Searching, some find the violent means to their salvation. al-Qaeda well funded, coalesced the interests of many national movements.

It is never the proletariat which leads the revolution, it is the educated and dissatisfied middle class, led by so called intellectuals and supported across borders. Mussolini was the precursor for Hitler. Fascism was a construct which found support in many countries. The Socialist International was the precursor of the Communist movement. Anarchists had international conventions to justify their theories.

Of the two branches of the religion only Shia philosophically establishes a separate role for secular society. The much larger Sunni nations serve as the foundation of the fundamentalism wwhich has eveolved into the terrorist movement.


At September 27, 2004 at 8:28 AM, Blogger Gerhardt said...

Pete: You are right on the money. I only wonder why the US should be the only one to take action when the crazies are taking over the oil and other resources. The entire civilized world is threatened by this, and it should be a world problem, not a US one.

Just a few remarks: With “opiate of the people” Karl Marx meant that religion was there to sedate the lower classes so that the upper classes could rule. Communism, in contrast to religion, was meant to energize, to arouse people to throw off the yoke of capitalism. Only later did Communist leaders destroy this revolutionary fervor that threatened their power; in fact, they became state capitalists exploiting the workers for the leaders’ benefit, not that of the workers.

Another item: Marx thought Communism could only take root in industrial societies, where the fact it flourished in agricultural regions. But, reformers, such as Bismark, proved Marx wrong when they took the steam out of workers’ revolts by injecting a mild form of socialism into society.
From the middle of the 19th Century onward there were consistent rumblings among industrial workers, especially in Central/Western Europe. Bismark for example forced the Kaiser to recognize that his throne was in danger. Bismarck’s goal was for everyone in the Second German Reich to have a stake in the empire. He introduced a form of social security retirement for workers; it was especially tailored to the industrial one’s needs, because agricultural workers already had a sort of traditional stake in the well-being of “his or her” farm—an agreed-on percentage of the annual harvest.
Bismark wanted the workers to realize that the state paid the retirement, and that should the worker overthrow the state he would conceivably destroy his pension—and it worked. The empire survived.


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