A friend wrote me yesterday and offered some food for thought. I've edited to protect the innocent, but here's the essence of it:
Two quotes and a question. The 1st is from The Chicago Tribune, the 2nd from the Sun-Times, both dated 8 Sept., and both are about bin Laden's new video-- 1) "Addressing economic globalization, he [bin Laden] says, "The reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real-estate mortgages, global warming and its woes, and the abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa--all of this is but one side of the grim face of this global system." " 2) "He said "warmongering owners of the major corporations" would rush to appease voters who showed they are looking for an alternative, "and this alternative is Islam." Bin Laden frequently criticized capitalism, calling its leaders the real terrorists and threats to human freedom." My question this 9-11 is, "Why is bin Laden sounding like Bono?" And no, I'm not taking a cheap-shot here.
I don't think it's a cheap shot. I think this gets closer to the core of the issue than most people are comfortable with.
Bin Laden is exploiting a weakness of his enemy - his enemy being every sane person in the world. The weakness he's exploiting is simple: people's perception of the world is currently on some very unsteady footing.
Jason's comment on last week's post actually has had me thinking about this a lot recently.
The fight Bin Laden is engaged in should be familiar, but people can't figure out where the battle lines are drawn anymore. Global communication, global trade, and global economies have demolished the boundaries we were previously accustomed to. The world is changing faster than many people would like; faster than social conservatives, radical Islam, socialists, populists, traditional media, or even Lou Dobbs can deal with.
I think Bin Laden has got a few good points (I'm cringing) when he rattles off that list of problems in the developed world, but to say Islam is the best alternative? It's the same faulty logic employed by the anarchist who suggests we go back to hunter-gatherer days (there are anarchists who suggest this).
To me it sounds silly. That's right Mr. Bin Laden, I called your reasoning silly. What do you think of that?
However, I have to remember this Bin Laden guy is a well educated and talented rhetorician.
We know Islam is not the logical alternative to the woes of a society enduring the pangs of globalization, but not everyone has the knowledge needed to reach that conclusion.
Bin Laden is intentionally constructing his straw man out of the issues bandied about by prominent people. It's a clever ploy, and in a world where the conventional media, politicians, experts, extremists, academics, pop stars, and hotel heiresses are all competing for credibility, it's a ploy that will likely work on a few unwitting souls.
But Bin Laden's faulty logic shouldn't undermine the legitimacy of the issues he spoke about. Nor should it undermine the legitimacy of those who rally behind causes aimed at mitigating those problems.
I'll admit, I think Bono and DeCaprio are both a bit obnoxious. I also think, however, that poverty in Africa is a problem. And sure, I think climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed. These people are legitimately concerned about the aimlessness of corporate globalization. They are worried that if Milton Freedman wins the day, the world will become less humane. Remembering some of what happened at the begining of this decade, I believe they've got a point.
Your Bonos and DiCaprios may sometimes ride a horse a bit too high to stomach, but they aren't calling for fatwahs. They are actually trying to find solutions to the problems Bin Laden is exploiting in an effort to steel his followers and increase their number.
We won't win this by ignoring our enemy, but we can make progress if we listen critically.
And to remind us of how painfully complex our world has become, ladies and gentlemen, The Onion:
'Students First In Line' Program To Offer Job Training At Needy Schools