September 14, 2012

Arab Spring becomes Autumn Rage

Normally I would link to half a dozen articles describing in lurid detail the events I'm responding to. Somehow, today that seems both redundant and wasteful. If you don't already know what is happening in the Middle East then either you are purposely ignoring it or you simply don't care. Providing links would not help because anyone seeking to avoid the very real turmoil burning through the Prophet's lands would not click on them anyway while anyone who has been following it already knows how bad it has become.

I could quote Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelations instead of linking to the daily news, but again I face the same dilemma. Those who are familiar with Biblical prophecy already know the key passages and how those passages apply to current events. Everyone else either denies the applicability of the Bible or simply doesn't care to hear about it, sometimes both. Thanks to the militant, evangelical atheism led by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that appeared in the 1990's and lasted all through the first decade of the 21st century, most of the internet world is now cleanly divided into three camps: atheists, theists, and apatheists.

And so I arrive at a conundrum I never expected to face: negotiation and debate have become useless. The connected world has fallen out into clean camps with precise lines of demarcation between them. There is no genuine dialogue between the camps (or at least very little) and within the camps a strict adherence to doctrine prevails with free speech coldly suppressed either in the name of loyalty or under the guise of political correctness. Insults have replaced dialogue both internally and externally.

For two weeks now I have been fighting a brutal and debilitating tooth infection. At one point the fever and dehydration became so bad I thought my kidneys were failing. It has only been the last few days I've been able to eat solid food again, and even now I cannot eat much. I've lost nearly five kilos in two weeks simply from being too sick to eat. During this time I've watched the American political scene explode into some of the most virulent advertising ever produced while over the past seventy-two hours the Muslim world has exploded in violence over a pair of silly, childish, poorly produced YouTube videos.

I am fifty-one years old. When I was eighteen, I helped campaign to get Ronald Reagan elected. One of the last things I did before moving to Japan was help him get re-elected. Ronald Reagan rode into the Whitehouse on a wave of newfound American patriotism that came about as our nation finally faced up to the failure of Vietnam and began a national healing process that helped us remember who we are. Somehow, while I spent twenty-five years raising a family in Japan, that wave of patriotism died out again. One of the reasons I came back to America was to help rekindle that fire, the only fire hot enough to carry a free people into a dark, dangerous future.

While in Japan I met and befriended many people from many different countries, including a fair number of Muslims. I read the Qur'an a couple times as well as a commentary written by a Muslim cleric. The depth of patriotism and faith in people throughout the Middle East does not surprise me. However, the devotion to violence and Shari'a seen by the most radical extremes does surprise me. Unfortunately, when a peaceful culture is faced with violent extremism the most common historic response has been surrender. In the past, when the damage remained localized, this strategy limited the range of destruction and insured the survival of the peaceful families.

But now we live in a much different world. Our world is more divided and more radically adherent to diverse ideologies than it has been at any time since the Chinese streamed into the Korean War and forced United Nations troops south of the Han River. This is an extremely dangerous moment in human history. We stand at the threshold of a genuine global community. The real reason lines have become so tightly drawn and internal dissent has become so profoundly repressed in each of the diverse camps is that we are fighting an ideological war to determine the political and cultural future of our entire world. Will we build a Marxist worker's paradise, a capitalist global market based on free trade, or an Islamic utopia ruled over by Wahhabist Imams?

The choice is yours. Your purchases, your votes, your opinions expressed over coffee with your friends, these all come together into a grand whole that spreads throughout our entire world. You, whether you are a suburban Los Angeles housewife, a Cairo merchant, or a Berlin college student, are making choices and those choices are having a global impact. Our world is no longer defined by national boundaries, city streets, or provincial roads. Our world is defined by your individual choices multiplied on a global scale. No matter how badly you want to sit on the sidelines and let this chaos resolve itself, you change the nature of that chaos just by getting out of bed in the morning and choosing how to start your day. The kind of food you eat for breakfast, the kind of juice or caffeinated drink you wash it down with, represent a purchase you made. That purchase drives the movement of trillions of dollars around the world and those dollars feed the propaganda machines of each ideological group, those dollars arm terrorists both Marxist and Islamic, and those dollars feed the children of workers somewhere who prepared that food and drink, packaged it, and carried to the market where you bought it.

Your choices are shaping the chaos. Every choice you make provides resources to one group while denying them to another. Like it or not, you are on the frontline of this war to define the future. I am not going to tell you what choices to make. My role in all of this is to encourage you to think more carefully about each of those choices. Please take the time to make sure you understand the full ramifications of your morning juice or coffee. Our future will be defined by your choices.