Friday night topic: Cultural genocide

— 2:41 PM on September 20, 2002

First things first: This discussion centers on cultural genocide, not on the killing of a particular group of people. The former destroys or changes a way of life, and the latter takes people's lives en masse.

Cultural genocide is not new to human history. The Romans managed to do it on a grand scale, as did the Arabs many centuries later. Just about any invading army that occupies for a time manages to bring about cultural change. The most recent example: the occupation of Japan by US forces after World War II. Aspects of Bushido and Imperialism were dominated, removed as an option for the Japanese people. The Japanese adapted, and as a result, Japan has the second largest economy in the world. I suspect you would be hard pressed to find Japanese people who desire to return to the old ways.

Steven Den Beste makes a detailed two-part (part one and part two) argument that terrorism is borne out of certain radical aspects of Arab culture. "Radical" is, of course, a relative term. We in the West consider certain aspects of traditional Arab culture extreme, and in truth, the strict adherence to traditionalism prevents Arabic economies from being something other than parasitic (Saudi Arabia) or largely poor (Iran). These traditional values also create an internal conflict, a choice between remaining stagnant, giving up what they know and reforming who they are, or lashing out in envy of what has escaped them. This isn't about monetary wealth. It's a matter of allowing the proud Arab people to be developers and innovators once again. By escaping their present boundaries, their culture will become successful again and the terror will end. But it can't happen until they let go of some traditional cultural sins. Seven sins, to be exact:

  • Restrictions on the free flow of information.

  • The subjugation of women.

  • Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.

  • The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.

  • Domination by a restrictive religion.

  • A low valuation of education.

  • Low prestige assigned to work.
These issues run deep. Even if America were to fall, the root problem would remain. Aggression would end up being redirected toward Europe or Asia for the same reasons America is currently targeted: cultural success. Taking a page from history, it would seem that the way to solve the issue is to remove the radical element and allow the common man and woman in Arab culture to move forward into modern times with modern values. Since such a change would be resisted in the aristocracy and by fringe elements, it's probably an impossible goal for diplomacy. Change must come by force. Of course, such a change might meet resistance from the ordinary citizens of Arabia, but I suspect the common man, and most certainly the common woman, in Arabia could find a modernizing force liberating, eagerly embrace it, and fear to ever give it up again.

So, in an act of unilateral interest to end terror and through force of war, America occupies Arabia and begins to the process of liberating and modernizing their culture. Would America have just committed a terrible crime or pursued a useful end that would benefit the people of Arabia for the foreseeable future?


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