Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Lesson From Nairobi

Ross Langdon (left) and Dr. Elif Yavuz

Much was made the other day of the murder of Dr. Elif Yavuz and her longtime beau and architect, Ross Langdon, both just 33 y/o, by jihadist terrorists in the recent Nairobi, Kenya mall attack.

Some Westerners have speculated that the attackers didn’t know of all the good works done by Dr. Yavuz (a Dutch national and malaria specialist working with the Clinton Foundation in Africa), but it turns out that a number of the jihadists involved DID know, and had family members who’d benefited from those Western anti-malaria programs.

Neither did the fact that she was eight months pregnant, nor that her partner (the Australian-born architect) Ross Langdon had spent his life building “eco-lodges” and socially sustainable tourism in ecologically sensitive locations sway the jihadists.

There’s a lesson in all this that goes beyond, although it’s connected to the dual, competing moralities – the strict Sharia moral code versus Western decadence – and that message comes across as, “You will NOT build a better world without us.” It’s a rebuke of Western do-gooderism by the faceless herd the do-gooders look down upon in order to “help.”

While the moral code the jihadists live by is completely antithetical and incompatible with Western morality, there is something to THAT outrage – the outrage of “the poor” and “dispossessed” at those who must look down before they bend down to help, at those who must control to “uplift.”

There’s always been a large amount of tone deafness to the Western adage, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s always understood to be a reflection by the wealthy man that he too could be poor, if things hadn’t somehow. . .worked out, BUT there’s a flip side to that that’s almost always overlooked, the poor man, looking at the wealthy man can say the same thing. . .if not for better earlier circumstances, a better family, better opportunities, etc., maybe he too could’ve been rich.

While it’s easier to see and dismiss the latter as mere envy, BOTH are fallacies, in fact, the former, the more ubiquitous view, completely dismisses the fact that all wealth, all creativity and productivity are born of disciplined effort by those who’ve spent their lives honing specific, often hard to master skills, as mere accident. Of the two views, the one that dismisses productive effort as accident is by far the most corrosive.

Without question, the West advanced first, but instead of leaving others to develop on their own terms and forge their own paths, it has decided for others that there is no other path to true advancement and development but the Western one.

Instead of trading for oil that’s near worthless to nomads, hunter-gatherers and other less-developed peoples, the West insisted on coupling their basic trade with a mandated acceptance of their foreign and all too often distasteful culture by those they traded with. The Bedouins and others didn’t seem to mind the trade, but they did seem to want autonomy (some call it “self determination”), but the West couldn’t help “helping,” as it’s primary impulse seems always to seek to “lift up the downtrodden.”

Why is it impossible for Westerners to imagine a different way, perhaps a better way to develop than through their own arduous process of industrialization, mechanization, information-technology, etc.?

What if a Sufi path would have, if left alone, led to “willing things into existence,” even teleportation, things the Western way cannot even imagine? OR at least a more ecologically sustainable, simpler, more peaceable lifestyle. It’s actually hard to imagine which one of those is the longer shot there.

In short, what IF the Western way ISN’T the best way?

The do-gooder ignores this possibility, he MUST ignore it, in order to look down to “help” those “less fortunate.” The existence of even the remote (even the remotest) possibility that the “dispossessed” might be on a different, perhaps even “better” path undermines the entire edifice of “Western superiority.”

Yes, the “slaughter of innocents” that IS the hallmark of jihadist warfare is evidence of how different and incompatible Sharia’s moral code is with that of the West, but it is also a cry of outrage that apparently resonates with many of the world’s “dispossessed.”

And of course, it’s also proof that ALL of humanity is deeply flawed. While the barbarism of the jihadists is sickening, it can highlight the oppressive nature of the West’s suffocating and controlling “help.” Like a bad significant other, the West can’t seem to help trying to remake everyone over in their own image, or at least their image of how “those people” should be.


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