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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The "H' of It All

No, it is not the humanity, or the humility of it all.   Neither of those was even vaguely recognizable as having been present at the time.

I think that I, a totally unknown and spectacularly insignificant weblogist who has no expertise in North Africa and the Middle East and who has never been to any of the areas in question and has no desire whatsoever to correct that terrible deficiency, can nevertheless come up with a totally logical and therefore credible explanation of what the wave of riots that have been sweeping the Islamic world is all about.

That is because exactly the same sort of thing happened right here in the U.S. a mere 44 years ago, and having been an adult of 37 in that year with all my faculties and brain processes reasonably intact, and also by having been a longtime citizen of the chief focal spot of American turmoil in that era (and in most other eras as well, wouldn't you say?), the Nation's Capital, I, unlike the great majority of Americans today, was around and conscious for the riots that were so common in the U.S. in that year of 1968, specifically right after Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis.  Of course, by not being that ridiculous entity called a ubiquitous god, I couldn't have been in all the many spots that were so widely hit by the disorders all at one time.   But if you just so happened to live in one of those several rainbow (i.e. "black" neighborhoods that were involved in D.C, as I did, you would essentially have seen and been affected -- that is to say, to some degree scarred --  by it all. 

Quite naturally, having been born with no sort of stomach for any of that kind of garbage, I didn't personally witness any of that burning and pillage and the conflicts with the police.  All of that was easily replicated by the imagination.  I stayed at home with my wife and my mother, several blocks from the nearest action, which involved severe damage to the big building on Bladensburg Road that housed the beloved and highly necessary local Sears Roebuck.  Mainly I just sat around uneasily, catching whiffs of the smoke and listening to the distant roar and ruckus, punctuated by the never before heard sounds, at least so close together -- maybe because D.C, and Federal laws prohibited such sorties as they did the building of excessively tall buildings -- of regular, loud, and threatening overflights of military helicopters overhead.

Later I also wrote what I think is a pretty good poem about what that was like.   Maybe I'll dig it out and for the first time give it whatever I have of the light of day here.

I expect that most authorities and experts will strongly disagree with me, because they have a myriad of other kinds of much more authoritative-sounding ideas and motivations that serve the purposes of their comfort zones, which must always be different from mine because even most people of my color who are around today have not had to live under the abiding indignity of official Jim Crow, or of the invasion, the confiscation, and the occupation that the Palestinians have been forced to endure at the hands of the Israelis for so many years.   But my attitude will always be, what do they know?   So I'm saying that those MLK riots of early April 1968 mainly stemmed from long-sustained racial humiliation, the "H" that I referred to, and I think that exactly the same thing can be said about what has been going on lately in so many of the Islamic countries, from Tunisia at least a third of the way around the globe to Indonesia, and that the insult of a badly made film to the Prophet Muhammad was merely an excuse for the rampaging and the flames, as was the killing of Dr. King.

But what else can be expected?

The Muslims saw European powers who traditionally billed themselves as being naturally superior to all other groups on earth, not the Chosen but the Favored People, appropriate for themselves by force of arms large swathes of what had been the lands of Muslims for centuries, including most of what stretched far to the south and the east of the Mediterranean.

   A little later, either in a rare moment of largeness of heart or, more likely, while thinking they would thereby hear no more from a group of what they regarded as nuisances who saw one particular part of those Arab lands as being their ancestral homeland, though few of the Zionists' people had tended the olive groves there for nearly two thousand years, the most voracious of those powers when it came to trying to gobble up other people's territory, the British, set aside that one small parcel as a refuge for those who had just recently managed to avoid the otherwise successful attempt by the Germans to exterminate every Jewish person that they could put their hands on -- one of the great war crimes of the Second World War, along with the even more gigantic losses of their kinfolk that the Russians and the Chinese suffered at the hands of those same endlessly homicidal Germans and the Japanese respectively.

The Muslims recalled, however, that it turned out that the British hadn't really done the resulting sudden influx of newly anointed Israelis a favor, just as as they had done less than nothing for those Muslims who had already been living in that same spot seemingly forever, even though to the uninformed eye that "precious place" appeared to be notably lacking in the virtues of almost any piece of land outside the worst of the Sahara Desert.  I mean when it came to the really valuable holy stuff, like enough rain and features other than ruins, rocks, sand, and scrubby vegetation.

Instead these aspiring "returnees" found themselves condemned to plunking themselves right down in the midst of numerous Muslims who could say that not only had their ancient ancestors lived there at the same time as the fabled but deposed ancient ancestors of the returnees, but also all their later ancestors had lived there in all the subsequent centuries as well, while the matching generations of these returnees had been mainly swinging around Europe instead, being alternately hideously despoiled and grudgingly cohabited with by the Europeans, so much so that ethnically the Jews had become a different people and no longer Semitic at all, but instead were essentially indistinguishable from Russians, Germans, and English folk.

However, if they wanted to stay in that Promised Land, the Israelis saw nothing for it but to use the same methods against the Palestinians that had been employed against their now wholesalely departed kin with such devastating efficiency and success by the Germans.

Soon enough the Israelis likewise succeeded in that first stage of ethnic cleansing while settling in, but only at the cost of selling their souls and wasting the enormous moral capital that they had been given by the Holocaust.   This put them in a trap from which today they have no hope of emerging, because of their habit of choosing leaders who choose only to add to the heights of those unspeakable walls snaking through the West Bank and Gaza that will only make a big mess when soon enough they will have to be torn down again and that meanwhile seal them off from the rest of humanity, though they think that instead those barriers keep them comfortably safe from the people that they have so busily been dispossessing and disenfranchising in the same barbarous ways that so habitually were used against their forerunners on another continent.

But though those walls may make the Palestinians largely invisible to the Israelis, the Palestinians can still be easily seen by everybody in the Islamic world, and therefore we have the riots of today.

The Palestinians are the clearest indicators of the sustained racial humiliation to the Arabs, the Persians, and all the others in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere have long felt inflicted on them by the Western nations, and due to one thing or another, including the time-honored one among all humans of the Arabs and the Persians adhering to leaders who don't lead at all but merely exploit, they have been unable to ward off these indignities.

It is exactly the same humiliation that for generations the descendants of the slaves brought over from Africa have felt in the U.S., coupled with that same powerlessness to do much about it.   Therefore some, a very small number among them, almost entirely young males careless of their lives, now and then resort to expressing their rage at the humiliation and helplessness that they found waiting for them when they came of age.   When enough of them can gather in one place, they resort to going out into the streets and raising a big ruckus -- even if to no useful purpose other than to blow off steam, and ultimately also to no avail, so that I likened it --  in the case of the Martin Luther King riots as also now in the Islamic riots -- to the act of defecating in one's own bathtub.

This is because the riots end up hurting only the rioters themselves, while having no effect at all on their oppressors, least of all on the Israeli and American guilty consciences.  The few businesses and other enterprises that have seen their way to set up shop in the rioters' neighborhoods are torched and destroyed in the riots, and they are not replaced quickly, if at all, for fear of the same thing happening all over again.   I saw that happen in D.C. and afterward, and it stands to happen in Tunisia, Egypt and all those other places today.

For all that, in the long run, one still finds himself feeling fortunate when he is reminded that, mainly by birth, he is not a member of the groups with the power and the intent to keep another group in a state of subjugation for years and even centuries on end.  He finds that he can feel the same way that, as Albert Camus assured us, Sisyphus did, not at the moment when he finally got the boulder pushed up to the top of the hill.  No, the relief comes at that other moment when one finds the rock again after it has slipped out of his grasp and has rolled all the way back down to the bottom of the hill.   At that point he can press his cheek to the stone and thereby can feel that cold and seemingly intractable and diabolical grainy surface impart to him an exquisite and supreme happiness that is always denied to the gods and those who are responsible for that rock never staying in place at the top of the hill.    

I suppose, though, that the rioters, the several who do any thinking at all, see themselves as putting the first little crack in that rock, after which water freezing and expanding in subsequent winters will eventually bust that rock to pieces, so that it can never roll anywhere again.


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