From that Other Denmark (The One in Western Australia), Leo Bakx Offers Several History Lessons and Raises a Number of Questions About My Suggestion that We Use Mouthwash (Figuratively Speaking) Before Publishing Cartoons About Mohammed

Leo Bakx from Denmark, WA, Australia writes:

Your blog post on the Denmark Cartoon Incident piqued my interest as I live in Denmark (the place in Western Australia, LOL!). Well, the whole thing with the religious aspects of the matter and the controversy between Islam and Christianity/Judaism is intriguing. And I’m very interested in what you as an expert in human psychology, coping, learning and development strategies has to say about this.

There are a few things that concern me about the whole issue. First is seems just too easy to feel superior to “Muslims ‘ by qualifying their response as an “overreaction” to what they apparently perceive as threat to their identity as a group (bit of a mob-factor in there too no doubt). It’s not like Christian people are all that understanding of other peoples’ response to our beliefs and habits. Some Christian leaders are happy to declare war on anything that moves and commit huge resources to that.

The French president Jaques Chirac made an interesting observation on the subject some time ago. Something like “Muslims are in search of their identity and thus may be overly sensitive regarding anything to do with their religion.” I reckon he has a point, but misses the point at the same time. According to some historical information—as far as I’m aware of anyway—points clearly in the direction of Christian Europe as the culprit of the identity crisis the Muslim world finds itself in. Starting in Medieval times Christian leaders thought it would be a good idea to steal as much as possible from the Turks, Jews and other peoples in the Eastern Mediterranean area. Islam had just emerged and had built a sophisticated civilisation, unifying diverse cultures under Islam with wisdom, respect and olerance. Greed got the better of our European secular and religious leaders and **they** declared war on anything that moved…. Especially the Turkish empire struck back, and caused major upheaval in particular in the Balkan countries—dividing people on the basis of religion. Issues still remain.

Then early in the 20th century when the Turks were moving towards a more secular society figured they had found a shining example in the Europeans—with the French revolution, the establishment of the US federation and other movements of social reform. Then suddenly they found themselves embroiled in the First World War—a traumatic experience we still seem to be unable to move beyond. Of course, they were extremely disappointed by the attitude of superiority from the world “super powers”—US, UK, France and Russia—carving up the world into spheres of influence and neo-colonialism. It really is no wonder the Islam world feels disenfranchised: they were, and still are.

This seems to go just a little beyond not offending people, wouldn’t you agree, Dudley? Not a criticism—just an observation!

Another thing that worries me is the “mob effect—responses that go well beyond the normal behaviour of individual people. Some time ago New Scientist had a feature article on “fundamentalism” and how fundamentalist people differ from “normal” people…. The conclusion seemed to be that there is very little difference indeed. However, “fundamentalists” seem to have a lower threshold for mob-behaviour. A subtle spark can set of disproportional responses from the group. I wonder what role religion plays in this, and whether it matters what religion? My guess is that in particular people that have a mono-theistic belief system are more volatile then people with a poly-theistic belief system. Any views on that? Perhaps some practical application can be developed from such an insight. It may also form a basis for further research in explaining why in particular Christians, Jews and Muslims are such a trigger-happy lot.

We may find it is not just a matter of helping “THEM Move Past This” but helping “US (including our holy trinity: Jews, Christians, Muslims) Move Past This.”

To which, I reply:

Leo, you have a fascinating blender-bender of an I-Explorer mind, as we at Brain Technologies style minds that revel in mixing disciplines, metaphors, ideas and precedents in a highly energized, highly imaginative pastiche. I’ll stay with my point in the brief comments to which you are eluding [see posting for Feb. 2]: there is a stage in human biopsychosocial development where a perceived insult instantly circumvents the mind’s rational processes, nearly always producing an outsized and often dangerous emotional response. (In Western Australia, I’m pretty sure it’s common, self-preserving knowledge that you don’t go into a bar and ask a half-soused guy who’s just lost his girlfriend if it was because he couldn’t get it up.) I don’t see that it’s worth running the risk of offending hundreds of millions of Muslims by showing them cartoons that you know in advance are going to render many of them irrational and in some cases produce mob behavior.

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