September 26, 2012

I have no love lost for the Arab world. Aside from the fact that they basically gave up on modernity from circa 1700 onward and only rediscovered it once oil’s fiduciary benefits became apparent, there is the enormous issue of bathing. There’s a reason most Arabs wandered the desert for generations, and it was largely to keep away from one another.

Unfortunately, most of my fellow Westerners are at times equally odious.

Since the promotion of the film The Whatever of Whatever Designed to Create Havoc but Marginally About Muhammad, there have been innumerable talk radio, television, and candidate references to Islam’s intolerance. It’s true that Muslims tend to be intolerant, but not for the reasons the pundits state.

Whatever their roots, contemporary Muslim viewpoints are often in clear contradiction to liberal democratic principles (to the extent any of our own roots still survive). Treatment of females, toleration of dissent, and many other issues leap to mind.

“€œLet them go their own way so long as it is not on a collision course with us.”€

Yet love of religion is not itself a fundamental flaw in their belief system. On this score Islam gets things more right than wrong. I’ve often wondered whether we might not have a better West if there were some radicals around. Hmm, maybe not.

What irritates me most is the middle-aged, middlebrow denizen of most Western nations who says something to the effect of, “I just don’t get it. Why are they taking this so seriously? We had X happen a few years ago and while we weren’t pleased, we didn’t get up in arms about the matter.” (Frequently “X” has been the film The Last Temptation of Christ or the laughably unprofessional “discovery” of a papyrus fragment which any logical schoolboy could tell you might have a hundred legitimate interpretations.)

The West is host to a seemingly unimaginative horde of apparently well-meaning people who “just don’t get it.” I’m not sure whether this is feigned ignorance, but given its prevalence perhaps not.

So here it is: Many Arabs are poor.

Since that’s an alien concept to Westerners, I’ll try to elaborate. These Arabs are not American poor or English poor. They aren’t even Moldavian poor. They are Depression Era during the Dust Bowl poor. Like Limehouse circa 1901 poor. Or height of the Soviet Era poor.

When I was a child we delivered Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor. Most of those homes had wood-plank walls and dirt floors. There was nothing under the dirt but more dirt. When I saw the faces of those people I knew that what I was doing mattered. And guess whom they thanked first? No, not me. They thanked God.

For truly poor people there is no higher education as a way out, only a higher power. They don’t have the preparation to get a scholarship and couldn’t get admitted to college even if they had a loan. There is no “road to prosperity” for them.


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