Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The "It's not you, its me" explanation 

LiberalOasis: LO quotes Jason Burke :"The call is direct to Muslims, "Rise up and together we will be able to free ourselves, liberate ourselves, have a just society."
And then LO continues "That's why it doesn't matter to them who is in office in Spain, or any other Western country. In the end, it's not about us, it's about themselves."
This has a ring of truth.
Seinfeld once did an episode on the break-up line "It's not you, its me" -- the line George uses when he breaks off with a girlfriend. She's baffled, of course, but its true -- he's breaking up with her not because of anything she did or said -- he's really not thinking about her at all, but of himself and his own plans or just his own convenience.
Countries also have their own agendas too, which are both obvious and necessary to their own citizens but are often incomprehensible to people on the other side of the world. A perfect example -- India and Pakinstan's 30-year fight about Kashmir -- deeply meaningful to them but baffling to everyone else. Another example is the "troubles" in Northern Ireland about battles fought and lost 300 years ago, forgotten by everyone else in the world. And I am sure that the Quebec separatist movement, which has dominated Canadian politics for the last 40 years, is mystifying even to border-state Americans, much less to people in, say, Malaysia.
How does this perspective help us in battling terrorism? At first glance, it makes it appear hopeless -- if terrorists are blowing things up in other countries just to inspire their own supporters, then how can the other country hope to settle things? The examples above are not encouraging, either, considering how long and lovingly grievances can be kept, even nurtured, from generation to generation.
But there are, I think, two helpful observations to be made.
First, we have to stop "taking revenge", no matter how justified the anger -- history shows the longer a revenge cycle goes on, the more intractable the situation becomes. Eventually, revenge has to stop -- like it has already, I hope, for the most part, in Kashmir, in Belfast, and in Montreal.
Second, we have to focus on kick-starting indigenous economic development -- create decent jobs, build housing, start businesses, increase food production. Easier said than done, I know, particularly with the IMF stomping around the world, but people who see a reasonable prospect of economic security for themselves and, more importantly, for their children, won't be entranced by nihilism and won't aspire to martrydom.

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