Friday, March 17, 2006

Crazies, Culture, Religion, EQ and Other Oppressions


The oppression of much of the population in the Middle East, by some less than desirable Arab rulers combined with the continual interference by external forces is a major cause for the many of the world’s ongoing ‘Muslim hostilities’. Arguably the cental driver is the world’s insatiable need for energy and the wealth and power that comes from controlling that energy.

More distant nations and their citizens around the globe, until recently, showed little concern for the middle-east situation as the Arabs unlike “the West” had little perceived ‘reach’. In any fight, as for example in boxing, the person with the longest reach has the advantage. The main even contending Americans have often through history assumed their safety was assured due to their distance from the strife and because of their opponents perceived lack of physical reach. This myth was put to the test when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in another major oil/resources war i.e. WWII in the Pacific. The Cuban missile crisis was also about curbing the capacity of the opposition to achieve a longer reach. Again with 9/11 unexpected ‘reach’ has been demonstrated by a small number of people savvy enough to understand how improved technology when hijacked can make big impression, which again makes the Americans very nervous.

The full reality of the current world situation and in particular the so-called “Muslim problem” is the constant subject of the media, many authors and numerous ‘think-tanks’ around the world. To oversimplify the problem or to try come up with one solution is impossible and obviously unwise. There are however some issues that should be considered and acted upon with a view to changing the long-term outcome for civilization as a whole. A personal friend on reading something I wrote on the subject recently said, “Humankind ain't gonna change!!!!!!!!!!!!”. I guess he and Gandhi would not share a lot in common. I tend to take a more optimistic view and believe things can change… however it may take a little effort by the many, rather than a lot of effort by the few.

In reality the reach has always been there through the spread of Islam

To me one of the most dangerous aspects of this struggle is that the reality of our existence is being ignored and systematically replaced by various unsound ‘truths’ that are being exported to the detriment of the world’s population as a whole. Much as the Christian ‘truth’ has messed up many of the world’s cultures throughout history, so is the Islamic ‘truth’ today.

A quick example from The Jakarta Post 17/3/06

Survey shows prevalent conservatism - Ridwan Max Sijabat, (Jakarta Post 17/3/06)

“Jakarta: Islamic conservatism is a growing force to be reckoned with across the country, with research indicating about 40 percent of citizens would support the replacement of state laws with sharia and one in 10 consider suicide bombings justified in some circumstances”.

“A survey conducted in late January by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) found 40 percent of respondents approved of adulterers being stoned to death, 34 percent did not want to see another female president and 40 percent accepted polygamy”.

“On a thief's hands being chopped off, 38 percent of respondents said the punishment fitted the crime”.

Does this survey indicate a ‘dumbing- down’ of the population?

If you look at the three commonly agreed facets of intelligence, the intellectual quotient (IQ), the emotional quotient (EQ) and the spiritual quotient (SQ) you could perhaps be led to the conclusion that a major contributing factor to the ongoing aggressive behaviour of the Arabs (and many of their converts) is that a large percentage of them are intellectually handicapped. This handicap is it seems unfortunately exacerbated by an anachronistic feudal culture supported by an education system that belongs somewhere back in the middle ages. Its major danger… it is the Arab worlds major export.

Now before you brand me a racist I stress the following…

My heritage is a mongrel mix of white Anglo Saxon Protestant, Irish Catholic with a smattering of Jew. I am married to a Chinese wife, have a son who lives in Japan by choice and another who lives in England. I count among my friends a mixture of Chinese, Indians, Malays, Indonesians, Brits, Americans, Australians, Swedes and the occasional Dutchman and Frenchman. Additionally I constantly enjoy the company of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Taoists, Agnostics and Non-Believers.

To continue…

First a quick look at Arab Culture;

The Patriarchal Tradition of the Arab Family - (from – abridged/edited)

‘In the traditional Arab family, the father has authority and the responsibility. The wife joins his kin group (patrilocal kinship) and the children take his surname (patrilineal descent). The father expects respect and unquestioning compliance with his instructions. His position at the top of the pyramid of authority is based on the traditional division of labour, which has assigned him the role of breadwinner or provider. Reinforced by socialization and rationalizations, this role makes him “rabb al-ursa” (lord of the family). By contrast, the mother, assigned the role of the housewife, has become annexed to her husband as ‘aqila (tied), qarina (linked), and hirma (prohibited)’.

‘In everyday life, the father is in fact off-stage, spending most of his time outside the home. After work, he comes home for a short while and then departs to the village square or neighbourhood cafe. Although cultural norms assign family power to the father, it is the wife who actually exercises power over the children. She is, in effect, entrusted with raising and disciplining them, although she may often use the father to scare or threaten them. Both sons and daughters are consequently much closer to their mother than to their father. This may be interpreted by some to reveal the existence of a matriarchal system alongside the patriarchal system in the Arab family. However, this matriarchal system functions in support of patriarchy’.

‘The father has traditionally maintained his authority and responsibility mainly because he has owned the family's property and provided the family's livelihood. This hierarchical structure of the traditional Arab family reflects the fact that families are stratified on the basis of sex and age, where the young are subordinate to the old and females to males leading to a situation where the most repressed elements of Arab society are the poor, the women, and their children’.

Arab Subordination of Children - (from – abridged/edited)

‘The inability of the Arab world to cope with modern challenges has lead to a situation where children in the feudal-bourgeois Arab family have been socialized into dependence and escapism. The principal technique of childrearing in such families is shaming, while the learning process emphasizes physical punishment and talqin (rote-learning) rather than persuasion and reward. The results are dependency, inequality, and the downplaying of challenges and difficulties. 12 Furthermore, children learn to link love and certain expectations, and they consequently experience guilt feelings whenever they annoy or fail to perform their duties toward their parents. Their main commitment in later life is usually to the family (sometimes at the expense of society or of their own personal interests).’

‘Parents are usually overprotective and restrictive, and children grow up to feel secure only on familiar ground, "they avoid taking risks and trying new ways of doing things, for independence of mind, critical dissent, and adventure beyond the recognized limits are constantly and systematically discouraged by parents and other older members of the family." And… ‘the hierarchical structure of the Arab family based on sex and age traditionally requires the young to obey the old and adhere to their expectations. This hierarchy creates vertical rather than horizontal relationships between the young and the old. In such relationships, downward communication often takes the form of orders, instructions, warnings, threats, shaming, and the like. Furthermore, while downward communication may be accompanied by anger and punishment, whereas crying, self-censorship, obfuscation, and deception may accompany upward communication’.

Societal reflections/consequences - (from – abridged/edited)

‘Arab society is based on the same structure as the Arab family, similar sets of relationships prevail within both the family and the society as a whole, as well as in Arab economic, religious, political, and educational institutions. Stratified and patriarchal relations are common to all. The employer-employee relationship is another form of parent-child or father-son relationship. The educational system, even at the college level, is also patriarchal; students are constantly referred to as "my children" or treated in a paternalistic manner. Vertical relationships continue to prevail and are regulated and reinforced by a general, overall repressive ideology based on at-tarhib (scaring) or at-targhib (enticement) rather than on discussion aimed at persuasion. The dominance of those relations becomes even more comprehensive because of the extended nature of the Arab family (that is, being an integral part of a larger tribal structure). Claiming common patrilineal descent, the family belongs to broader groupings based on lineage ( hamula ), clan ( 'ashira ) and tribe ( qabila ). In several parts of the Arab world, tribal loyalties continue to undermine social and political integration’.

Now to the subject of Intelligence (EQ) and Education

It is a fair bet to assume that average ARAB IQ levels are the same as everyone else’s, however that’s not the problem. Research indicates that the central key to intelligent ‘civilised’ behaviour seems to be the EQ factor.

‘Emotional Intelligence is the way we recognize, understand and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it drives many of our daily actions.’ (Freedman)

EQ and Learning (What chance does a child learning a the Koran by rote, often without understanding it) have?

"It is essential for students to recognize that they have choice about their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Generally, it is hardest for them to accept that they have this choice. Only from this understanding, though, can they learn real accountability." (McCown)

So then arises a difficult situation…

"If we lack emotional intelligence, whenever stress rises the human brain switches to autopilot and has an inherent tendency to do more of the same, only harder. Which, more often than not, is precisely the wrong approach in today’s world." (Cooper)

Out of control feelings demonstrated by uncivilised behaviour is probably the most memorable image that the world has of Muslims.

"[What is the difference between emotions and feelings?] Emotions are cross-cultural - the same all over the world. Feelings are a subset of all of our mind-body states (disappointment, hunger, hope, etc. There are hundreds of them!). Feelings are a learned response in the culture in which you grow up (the family, the peers, the community, etc.)." (Jensen)

Thinking and Feeling in Education (from “6minutes website” - Edited and abridged)

Does the following sound like the situation in, or philosophy of, Pakistan’s Madrasas?

‘An exceptional educational environment begins with a vision that the most powerful and meaningful learning occurs when thinking and feeling are fused together. To turn the vision into practice takes strong leadership pursuing three key goals’.

‘Integrating EQ into the Classroom – Teachers fuse affective and cognitive development because they recognize the need to facilitate learning in areas that are geared to engage emotion as well as cognition by allowing classroom management to become collaborative and inclusive rather than just instruction in subjects and content’.

‘Teaching EQ Skills through self awareness by as often as practicable having students participate in a self awareness class that provides both specific skill-based instruction and a forum for social problem-solving, conflict resolution, leadership and personal development. The program needs to facilitate skills in a framework that combines affective and cognitive goals through experiential learning’.

‘Enhancing a ‘School-Wide’ Culture -- Emotional intelligence principles are spread throughout the learning institutions culture. There is a heightened awareness; increased focus on emotions; recognition that EQ is important; use of emotion vocabulary; agreements about communication; respectful classroom management and discipline policies; shared decision-making; and unifying themes and rituals. The school must be a safe, inclusive environment where children and adults learn together’.

‘Full-scale implementation requires the participation of teachers, administrators, parents, students and community members’.

So is it too unkind to suggest that many old style Arab schools produce intellectually deficient individuals as a cultural imperative?

As one young man on a CNN special report on Saudi Arabia (aired 8/11/04) put it…

'I learnt nothing at school that will help me with my job, just religion'

Now for the Arab (in the name of Islam?) cultural export problem.

Extract (abridged) from “Obsession with pornography - Franz Magnis-Suseno”, Jakarta Post (10/03/06)

‘The pornography draft (being considered by the Indonesian lawmakers Feb/Mar 2006) is about something else [other than protection of innocents against moral corruption]. Should it become law [in its current state], not only would the Balinese and Papuans have to change their way of life, the traditional women's clothes of the Javanese and many other Indonesian cultures, would be declared pornographic. This draft is a blatant attempt by narrow-minded and culturally dumb ideologists to impose upon Indonesian society an alien way of life’.

‘This way of life may fit some societies a few thousand kilometres to the west (Arabs?), but it would violate centuries old Indonesian traditions. It would be the first step in doing what all sorts of colonialists and aggressors never had achieved up to now: To suppress the essentially pluralistic culture of Indonesia. It would forbid people from continuing to dress, bathe, walk around, play and enjoy themselves as they have since they were children. It is an attack upon the cultural identity of the Indonesian people’.

For those of you who are unaware, there is a divide in Indonesia as to the direction of Mecca… some say west some say east.

Another extract from Jakarta Post (10/3/06) Civil liberties under threat - Charles Honoris, Tokyo

“The pornography bill can be seen as a form of Arabization”. “The bill, if enacted, will curtail many of civil liberties. It will allow the government to impose a morality defined by certain groups”

As Indonesia is (to loosely quote the proud President) ‘the largest Muslim nation in the world’ the ongoing radicalization of its population, combined with the incessant drive by some conservative forces to introduce sharia law (to further oppress the citizenry), is a good example of an Arab cultural import/export problem.

So how does the rest of the world let the Arabs know that their culture is unacceptable to a 21st century world?

Make sure your government is active in banning their cultural imports, support Arab (Muslim) intellectuals and free thinkers in their quest to drag the Arab world into modern times, strive to develop and contribute to the much touted dialogue, actively support a re-look at Islamic teachings through the revival of ‘itjihad’… and perhaps as those Americans like to say… let them know… that all options are still open!

Seriously, the way to a long-term solution is… to teach the children well! (17/3/06)

Freedman et al. Handle With Care: Emotional Intelligence Activity Book, Intro, 1997/1998
Karen McCown
Dr. R. K. Cooper Exec EQ: Emotional Int. in Leadership & Organizations, 1996, page xxxi
Eric Jensen EQ Today, Spring 1999
Radicalism and the construction of civilizations - M Hilaly Basya, Executive director at the Center for Moderate Muslims and lecturer at Muhammadiyah University of Prof. Dr. Hamka. Jakarta (Jakarta Post 10/3/06)
Franz Magnis-Suseno”, Jakarta Post same day - The writer, a Jesuit priest, is a professor at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta (Jakarta Post 10/03/06).
Charles Honoris, Tokyo - The writer is a student of political science and law at the Int. Christian Uni. (Jakarta Post 10/03/06) (5) (9)
Survey shows prevalent conservatism Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 17/3/06

George W. Squarepants and Thaksin Patrickstar – Heeeelp!!!

Does the electorate ‘always get the politicians they deserve’? Surely nobody deserves this; as David Domke, (Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington) in and article for the Seattle Post Intelligencer August 22 2004 put it (without reference to the sea creatures)…

SpongeBob Bush ‘in the 2003 State of the Union address, with the conflict in Iraq imminent, declared: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity." He goes on, ‘this is not a request for divine favour; this is a declaration of divine wishes. From this position, only short theological and rhetorical steps are required to justify U.S. actions. Again, at a December 2003 news conference, Bush said: "I believe, firmly believe -- and you've heard me say this a lot, and I say it a lot because I truly believe it -- that freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every person, every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe’.

Now that’s pretty scary when you consider the military reach of the US and that SpongeBob Bush looks like he is strongly influenced by a sometimes wrathful Christian god.

What must the Europeans be thinking with centuries of religious conflicts in their not so distant history? The residents of the eastern side of the ‘big (and getting smaller) pond’ must shake in their secular diving boots whenever Bush mentions that God is on His side?


I read in the Jakarta post that Thaksin (Patrick) Shinawatra the Thai prime minister believes in astrology and the supernatural. Unfortunately apparently his stars are not so good at the moment; hence I guess all the demonstrations to get what many consider his less than ethical backside out of the top job. The article goes on to quote him as saying ‘They are using all kinds of means to destroy me, black magic and the supernatural… including photos and voodoo like dolls’. Then the really worrying bit, “But don’t worry, I have talismans and various Buddha amulets with me to ward off their magic”. Maybe he would be better off with a moneymaking Mr Krabs talisman around his neck and a Sandy Cheeks karate amulet, it makes about us much sense to me.

I guess it could be worse; Thaksin could be an American with the bomb, or Bush a Thai with a gripe against Cambodia and Myanmar (again) or… you could be a citizen of France and be ‘lead’ by Jacques (Squidward) Chirac or perhaps live in Italy under Silvio (Plankton) Berlusconi. Sandy Cheeks… hmmm now which world politician is Sandy…

If people continue to elect suspect types like these to positions of power, maybe we really are just a bunch of Gary’s… “Meow “ (15/3/06)

Ref Jakarta Post, Guess What July, 14 2006.

The "Clash of Civilizations"

“According to Arnold Toynbee (1976) there is a big gap in Western civilization. On one side science and technology grow rapidly, but on other side moral wisdom and humanity have decreased. According to Hans Kung in his book A Global Ethics for Global politics and Economics (1997) the policies of Western governments tend to self-interest and the alienation of morality, the quest for power and riches are tempting”… and thus (I add) are societies primary motivators.

In much of the ‘western philosophical tradition’ knowledge and the truth can only come from the empirical world… (i.e that is all human knowledge ultimately comes from the senses and from experience. Empiricism denies that humans have innate ideas or that anything is knowable without reference to experience). As one writer (M Hilaly Basya) puts it ‘Thus, most ‘westerners’ doubt the existence of spirituality in the universe and see the universe as a thing that has no soul and no life. They also view human beings as just a body’. So in the western mindset we are all looking for reality by questioning what is considered by some to be the truth. Knowledge for the western mindset must by its nature be inclusive (wide-ranging, all encompassing, broad and comprehensive)

Basya goes on to explain; ‘On the other hand, the theology of most Muslims is exclusive. They believe that the real truth belongs only to Islamic teachings’. This position in turn produces what many see as the ‘arrogance of theology’. ‘This arrogance disturbs the mutual-respect between Muslims and others and allows oppression and violence to establish ‘justice’. Actually Muslim theologians ‘refer to their Islamic teaching interpretation as the construction of "ancient reason"’. “The "ancient reason" was influenced by Arabian culture and the socio-political situation of the time. That is why verses of the Koran and the Hadits of Prophet Muhammad explain how to view the enemies of Islam. They viewed non-Muslims as second-class citizens who did not deserve the same rights as Muslims. Non-Muslims are called kafirs (infidels). The ”ancient reason" is in the text of a sacred book that was revealed in the Madinah period, when the Prophet Muhammad was at war with the enemies of Islam. The jihad concept, for instance, appeared during this war”. So here we have group that see a single view of reality, which is a god given irrefutable truth.

So if inclusive, free willed, thinking, selfishly motivated ‘westerners’ come up against highly indoctrinated, single view, selfishly motivated believers of a single truth, what chance has the much touted need for cultural dialogue got. Little? Or… none? (11/3/06)

Ref: Radicalism and the construction of civilizations - M Hilaly Basya, Executive director at the Center for Moderate Muslims and lecturer at Muhammadiyah University of Prof. Dr. Hamka. Jakarta (Jakarta Post 10/3/06)

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