[Paleopsych] Re: on islam

Christian Rauh christian.rauh at uconn.edu
Sat Jul 30 18:19:19 UTC 2005

Some argue that the great achievements of the Arab world were really 
pre-islamic and that islam put a break on innovation which was center to 
middle eastern culture before it. Things still were good for a while but 
that was only some inertia from the old times as it took centuries to 
change things in those days. Islamic religion changed the 
characteristics of that culture (or culture groups) from decentralized 
and autonomous to centralized and controlled. The first seemed to be a 
better option for progress. What is striking to me is that the US seems 
to be going the same way - in a counter-"terrorist" movement with 
islamic roots, this country is absorbing the worst features of its "enemy".

As a disclaimer, I know little about Islam, the above is from what I've 
heard. Anyone with better knowledge should point erros and elucidate.


HowlBloom at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 7/29/2005 11:40:19 AM Eastern Standard Time,  
> psaartist at hotmail.com writes:
> Sorry  about that. I just put it into the text of this email-
> Hello  Howard,
> I’m afraid this week I have failed outright as a research  assistant, but I 
> have been ruminating and writing down a few impressions  about Islam with 
> your project in mind. The following ideas were written  down over the course 
> of several days  and are in varying degrees of  wholeness. I hope some of 
> them might help you to see the shapes of your  own ideas, either in the light 
> of my good ones or against the shadows of  my bad ones.
> I did find some dissidents in Islam through my  brief search on  Google:
> http://www.islamreview.com/articles/islamapostasy.shtml
> http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/SRR/Volume11/gayatri.html
> I  think someone in the online conference asked for a Muslim Ghandi. The  
> second of these links answers to that, the Muslim “Frontier  Ghandi”.
> Reading their stories tends to make Islam look worse rather than  better, 
> though. Basically because of the lies, threats, violence and  hypocrisy they 
> had to try to endure. In some cases with Western  collaboration. 
> Fundamentally, every power system instinctively hates a  dissident.
> I think Islam has a different ‘flavor’, a different  character when it 
> comes to ideas of authority, law, censure, belonging and  transgression. Its 
> basic spirit, to which it so often returns, seems to be  legalistic (subject 
> to interpretation and manipulation) and authoritarian  rather than humane. It 
> is  closed and fearful of challenge rather  than open. It is not merciless, 
> but even the power of mercy is used as a  demonstration of authority.
> Part of this comes from the tribal  and ethnic environments where Islam 
> took hold.
> hb: these are extremely good observations.  Punishment and robotic  devotion 
> to the duties of the religion are prized.  Creativity and  individuality are 
> minimized.  In Bloomian terms, it's a religion whose  conformity enforcers 
> outweigh its diversity generators.  That may well be  why it has fared so poorly 
> against the West ever since the Industrial Revolution  and the Scientific 
> Spirit blossomed in Europe around 1750.
> The West has trouble dealing with Islam because  the West has trouble 
> dealing with religion. Philosophically or ethically,  Christian or Jewish 
> fundamentalists  can face fundamentalist Islam  only on the most impoverished 
> terms- “You are devils, we are angels”. The  contest is therefore left to be 
> decided in terms of pure violence. Liberal  Westerners, secularists, avoid 
> making any definitive criticism of a  religion or a religious person because 
> that would violate ideas of  understanding, tolerance, inclusivenes, and 
> humility. In a sense they are  determined not to seek a decision to the 
> contest. Each half of the West,  the religious and the secular, is hamstrung 
> because it knows it can not  count on the support of the other. I’m sure the 
> Jihadists are delighted to  observe this.
> hb: extremely good observations, Peter.
> The attractions of the Enlightenment, the positive  example, are being 
> dimmed and perverted by the excesses (or the essence)  of the war on Terror, 
> which is a radical, lawless, barbarizing Western  Jihad created by 
> fundamentalists.
> One might wish for a  tough, clear-minded secularist player on the scene. 
> hb: I'm trying to be one voice for this approach.  But my voice is a  mere 
> squeak at this point, limited primarily to books and to a fairly steady run  of 
> national talk radio appearances.
> The  EU? The French, who ban all forms of religious expression from their  
> schools? I don’t know how sucessful any of their efforts  are.
> A side question- given economic prosperity, education,  and a fairly 
> stable long term social situation, will people from Muslim  cultures behave 
> like a mirror image of secularist westerners? 
> hb: which Western model do you mean--
> 1) the revolutionary Marxists who clubbed the brains out of the Russians  and 
> the Chinese until 1989 and killed 80 million people in the process, but who  
> fed the need of humans in their teens and twenties to rebel against their  
> parents?
> 2) or the folks who have gone to their jobs and been part of "the system",  a 
> system whose rich, rich rewards they fail to see?  Opening the eyes of  
> Westerners to the benefits and future uplift of "the system" is what Reinventing  
> Capitalism: Putting Soul In the Machine--A Radical Reperception of Western  
> Civlization is all about. That's my half-completed next book.
> One  might be considered a 
> racist for asking the question, of for necessarily  expecting either a yes or 
> a no answer to it. 
> hb: but this social ritual we call "condemning racism" is another of the  
> perceptual throttles you refer to above.  To paraphrase you, we forbid  certain 
> forms of thought in order to maintain what we cherish, pluralism,  tolerance, 
> and free speech.  And we are easily led to think that thoughts  vital to our 
> survival fall into the forbidden zones...even when they don't.  Islam is not a 
> race!
> To put  it another way, is the Western secularist ‘flavor’ 
> a sort of inevitable  world-historical ideal? 
> hb: nothing is inevitable.  Winston Churchill proved that with a  sufficient 
> exertion of will and perseverance, we humans can change  history.  Lenin 
> before him proved the same thing.  And the rise of the  ideas of a relatively 
> anonymous thinker, Carl Marx, proves that  multi-generational projects kept aloft 
> by generations of stubborn  persistence can make massive differences in the 
> path that social evolution  takes.  Even if those paths lead to dead ends 150 
> years down the line (from  1848, when Marx and Engels issued the Communist 
> Manifesto to 1989, when the  Berlin Wall fell).
> Is it an  idea of the same 
> species as the inevitable Marxist worldwide revolution?  That is, an 
> assumption taken for granted by its adherents (the way fish  don’t notice the 
> water they swim in), but about to encounter a big world  that has other 
> plans… Me, I don’t have an answer to these  questions.
> hb: in the terms of my second book, Global Brain, the battle between  groups, 
> the battle between civilizations, represents a test of alternative  
> hypotheses in the group mind.  Unfortunately, the groups that fare best in  battle are 
> sometimes the worst at running a society at peace.  But that  easy 
> generalization may not be true.  The society that wins is the one with  the greatest 
> will, the highest morale, and the most unending supply of  resources.  Germany and 
> Japan ran out of resources.  The Allies had  America, a resource bonanza way 
> back then.  So the Allies won WWII.
> Same thing happens in contests between lizards, lobsters, or stags for  
> dominance.  The animal with the highest degree of confidence and the  largest 
> reserve of resources wins.  Which leads to a question.  What  is confidence? 
> Based on the work of Neil Greenberg with anolis lizards, I'd  say confidence 
> is an emotional and perceptual setting that allows a  creature:
> 1) to see opportunities in slices of reality others would regard as  
> threatening
> 2) to maintain a sense of perceived control
> 3) to hang on to the serotonin and dopamine settings these perceptions  
> produce
> 4) to avoid the non-stop flood of stress hormones that poison an  animal's 
> ability to outdo others at shows of majesty, decisiveness, calm under  pressure, 
> and implied menace
> 5) to use the stress hormones only in actual combat, when those hormones  are 
> arousers, not poisons
> In other words, perception, physiology, group organization,  and resources 
> work hand in hand to produce winners and losers, winners  of intergroup 
> tournaments or winners of personal struggles.
> In  humans, it helps to have a worldview that allows you percieve  the riches 
> in what you've got and that help you see how what you do  contributes to 
> something larger than yourself, something that uplifts your  people as a group and 
> that uplifts the individual people around  you.  If you've got that, you can 
> tap the hormonal cocktail of  idealism.
> What's more, your perceptions influence your resources.  The  Tasmanians died 
> when they'd hunted down all the land animals on their  island.  They died of 
> starvation.  Why?  Their worldview, their  collective perceptual system, told 
> them that the animals of the sea, fish and  other seafood, were inedible trash.
> The Japanese lived on island more impoverished than those of the  Tasmanians. 
>   But they saw everything around them as a useable  resource.  So the 
> Tasmanian perceptual system killed its people off.   The Japanese perceptual system 
> has been a winner for roughly 1,300 years  (roughly the same amount of time 
> that Islam has been a worldview using the  people it manipulates, empowers, and 
> motivates as a test vehicle).
> Islam is poor at seeing resources in rubble. But it's very good at  organized 
> violence and unconventional warfare.  Can a worldview that  impoverishes its 
> people to stoke their sense of victimization and their need for  revenge, for 
> justice, and for the purity of god's own laws beat a worldview that  has 
> created relative wealth even for its poorest citizens?  (One of  our local homeless 
> men gets his food and coffee at Starbucks and gourmet delis,  owns a bicycle, 
> supports the luxury of  god-knows-what-self-destructive-habit, and has access 
> to trash that's the  equivalent of treasure even to me.)
> Only if this civilization fails to perceive the riches it creates--the  
> spiritual riches that come from "consumerism" and "materialism".  And only  if this 
> civlization fails to perceive the riches in what it now discards as  
> trash--passion, emotion, and empathy--the things that we need most to  upgrade the 
> jobs we go to every day and to upgrade the companies that give  us those jobs.
> That, too, is the goal of Reinventing Capitalism. To get us Tasmanians to  
> see the riches in the seas around us.
> Is Islam at all compatible with democracy? 
> hb: yes.  The Iranians are proving that, despite the headlock the  
> conservative mullahs have on the current government...and may have for  another ten 
> years or so, but may eventually lose as the old guard of the  1979 Revolution dies 
> out.  The Lebanese are now trying to prove that Islam  and democracy can work 
> together, too.
> That  remains to be seen. Where 
> democracy and Islam mix, will one of them have  to become essentially 
> denatured?
> hb: bureaucracy, whether it's at the DMV here in Brooklyn or in the  
> government of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, needs the perceptual upgrade of  reinventing 
> capitalism.  Bureaucracies have to be restructured so that  bureaucrats know that 
> their task is to use their hearts--their empathic  passions--to defend and 
> advance other humans.
> What are today the various layers in Islam of what  is, what is desired, 
> and what cannot be expressed?
> hb: Islam is out to achieve its "just place" in the hierarchy of  
> cultures--the number one slot.  That's what God has promised.  That's  what God says 
> Islam must be--number one, top dog.  And God has said that if  that requires 
> "making wide slaughter in the land" (a key phrase and a key  message in the Koran 
> and the Hadith, the additional Islamic holy books), then so  be it.  Social 
> standing often means more than food and water to individual  humans and to human 
> groups.
> Howard, in one of the Sunday night online conferences  you described Islam 
> as having an anti-art stance, and you seemed to see  Persian representational 
> (that is, pictorial) art as a minor exception  that only serves to prove the 
> rule. It is indeed true that many Islamic  cultures prohibit any earthly 
> thing from being depicted, and some prohibit  music to varying degrees.  
> However, a moment’s reflection should  bring to mind the many centuries of 
> Islamic development  in many  arts, in some areas to the highest point. For 
> example, weaving,  architecture, design, ceramics, poetry, music, 
> calligraphy.  The  Quran itself in its recital  is a consummate work of 
> literary, poetic  and performative art.
> hb: I've been counting Islam's contributions today, and compared to those  of 
> the West they are scant.  Islam has given us fabulous architecture,  
> architecture based on Western models, fabulous calligraphy, and one fabulous  
> book--The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.  The Koran is considered the  epitome of 
> literature, God's own verses, in the world of Islam.  But read  it in English 
> and it comes across as a primitive hash.
> Many of the things attributed to Arabs and Islam are borrowings--Arab  
> numerals, for instance, which are Indian, not Arabic.  However Islamic  culture 
> provided a vital transit point that quickened the commerce, the  interchange, of 
> styles and ideas, giving westerners the silks of China, the  ceramics of China, 
> the mathematics of India, and the literature and philosophy  of classical 
> Greece (a literature the West lost track of until the tenth  century, when it 
> trickled from Moslem Spain into Christian Europe).  Arabs  invented a new form of 
> sea-faring, using the triangular sail (the lateen sail)  to tack into the 
> wind and inventing a way to harvest the catastrophe of the  Monsoon winds to make 
> annual trips by sea from Oman and Yemen to India and to  the Spice Islands, 
> the islands of Java, Malacca, the  Maldives, Sumatra, Aceh, the Philippines, 
> and Zanzibar, not to mention the  ports of Mombassa.
> They invented a commerce in black African slaves that defies belief.   We 
> Westerners uprooted ten million black Africans and used them in our slave  
> business.  That is appalling and is justly labeled a "Black  Holocaust".  Moslem 
> traders from Arabia and India uprooted 140 million  black Africans.  That's 
> fourteen African Holocausts!
> The Western slave trade imposed such monstrous conditions on its captives  
> that one out of every ten seized from their homes died somewhere in  transit.  
> The Moslem slave trade imposed such monstrous conditions that  only nine out of 
> ten Africans attacked and/or captured DIED.  That  brings the death toll of 
> of the Black Islamic Holocaust up to the level of  120 Black Western 
> Holocausts.  126 million deaths--the number inflicted by  Moslem slave traders and slave 
> raiders--is the equivalent of 21 of the  Holocausts inflicted on the Jews by 
> the Nazis.  It's twice the combined  death tolls of World War I and of World 
> War II--the two most industrialized uses  of killing machines known to man, 
> wars in which two atomic bombs were loosed on  civilian populations.
> And we are supposed to believe that decrying this turning of more than half  
> a continent into a killing field, this mass merchandising of black humans in  
> which all males were killed or castrated, this mass deportation of a race in  
> dhows packed so solidly with human cargo that many of those crammed into the  
> seafaring vessels of Arab merchants died of suffocation, this trade whose ship 
>  captains combed their cargo before entering a port to search out the weak 
> and  the ill, then to throw this faulty merchandise overboard to avoid  paying 
> import taxes on humans too feeble to sell, this trade in females and  young 
> boys as sex slaves, we are supposed to believe that denouncing this or  even 
> researching its details is a racist crime?
> And we are told this by apartheid states like Saudi Arabia which I,  as a 
> Jew, can not enter?  Why?  Because of my tribal identity, my  race, my Jewish 
> genes, my Jewish blood, and my Jewish geneology.  And we  Jews are supposed to 
> believe that we, who often live peacefully among Arabs and  Moslems as I did 
> when living outside the Arab town of Afullah and as I do in a  Brooklyn 
> neighborhood riddled with mosques, mosques in which bomb plots to  destroy the World 
> Trade Center and to destroy the New York Subway and  rail system have been 
> hatched, we are supposed to believe that I am  some sort of Nazi who lobbies for 
> apartheid?
> This is a violently perverse perception, one which we voluntarily  enforce.  
> It is a system of censorship which we gladly encourage, often for  the reasons 
> you have pinpointed, because it fits our sense of fairness and  tolerance.  
> But is it really fair to decry our murders and to close our  eyes to piles of 
> bodies far higher than any we have ever erected?  If we  are ethical and prize 
> human life, isn't it incumbent on us to open our eyes and  to decry both 
> Islams's crimes and ours?
> Or are we here to inflict so much guilt on ourselves that we kill the  
> civilization that has given even Moslems in the slums of Cairo  TVs and radios.  
> Should we really condemn the mix of capitalism and  open criticism that has given 
> spoiled Moslem middle class and rich kids  like Osama bin Laden and his foot 
> soldiers computers and cell phones?   Should we despise the civilization that 
> has brought ordinary Japanese, Koreans,  Taiwanese, Thais, Philippinos, 
> Indians, and, now, Chinese from starvation  to wealth beyond the power of 19th 
> Century kings?  Should we overthrow a  Western system that has produced the 
> anti-slavery movement, the anti-imperialism  movement, the human rights movement, the 
> environmental movement, Greenpeace,  Amnesty International, the ACLU, NASA, 
> solar energy, hybrid vehicles,  and the first steps toward a possible hydrogen 
> economy?
> This Islamic material is what I'm working on for the Tenth Anniversary  
> Edition of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of  
> History.  And the reperception of the Western System is the raison d'etre  of 
> Reinventing Capitalism: Putting Soul In the Machine--A Radical Reperception  of 
> Western Civilization.
> All thanks for some stunningly good insights, Peter.  
> I've read the rest and have made one more comment. You are a good,  good 
> thinker. But this is where my energy ebbed.  Onward
> The reason I raise this issue is that I see a danger  of a sort of 
> “momentum” of negative criticism  when one looks at  Islam and its many 
> problems. To find oneself convinced that Islamic  expression is against art 
> is to have lost one’s bearings in the argument.  That would be equvalent to 
> thinking that Chartres cathedral is against  art. Perhaps the issue in 
> Islamic art that offends a child of the  enlightenment, (I will presume to 
> put us in that category) is that Islamic  expression seems consistently to be 
> against independence. This issue, so  important to us, may make us look at 
> the work as deficient and backward. I  think what we are really seeing is 
> that the work totally refuses to  participate in the Western modern project. 
> I’m thinking of that project as  secular, humanist, trying to explore without 
> a predetermined destination.  As much of the world has taken on this 
> modernist (and post-modern, etc.)  quality, and as things in general are made 
> industrually rather than by  hand, Islamic art has been uprooted and stifled 
> and as far as I know  hasn’t produced anything of fulfilling greatness in our 
> era. One exception  could be Islamic (Sufi) music, which seems to be in quite 
> a healthy state,  as the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and others have recently 
> and abundantly  demonstrated.
> On learning and writing about Islam-
> I  have gone through a couple of amateurish phases of trying to learn 
> about  Islam, and have always ended up feeling that my conclusions have 
> missed  the essential point of what I was trying to grasp. To say that Islam 
> is  multi-dimensional is an understatement: I’ll say that it is beyond  
> multidimensional. In a way it is even misleading to say that Islam is “a  
> religion”, much less to say that it is “a religion politicised” or  anything 
> along those lines. I think it is a phenomenon that transcends  “religion” at 
> all times and under all circumstances. This is because the  essence of its 
> project is the necessary capture and integration of the  social, ethical, 
> ritual, religious, spoken, gender, philosophical, legal,  familial, and other 
> spheres, on and on. (I am not here making any claims  about the justness or 
> even the real feasibility of this  project.)
> hb: as Osama says, Islam is about unity, it is about one-ness.  One  God.  
> One code of laws.  Encorporating all aspects of human life in  that holy One


                        ~ I G N O R A N C E ~

              The trouble with ignorance is precisely that
              if a person lacks virtue and knowledge,
              he's perfectly satisfied with the way he is.
              If a person isn't aware of a lack,
              he can not desire the thing
              which he isn't aware of lacking.

              Symposium (204a), Plato

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