The Situation with Iraq

Yesterday, a nice youth visited my dad’s weekly gathering. At 22 he brought back pictures of the death and carnage that he’s witnessed as part of his tour in the Mid-East.

Now, I dislike the idea of war, and the associated loss of human life. So I asked, what can be done about it? Well, he didn’t really know either. It’s a terrible political situation.

Never to be fully deterred I thought up the following solution:

One of the easiest ways to avoid war in the first place is to open up trade relations. Along with the exchange of goods and services an inevitable exchange of ideas and cultural values will take place. Unfortunately for the U.S. we don’t have anything really interesting to export. In fact we get all of our good stuff from China and Taiwan. But we can export some culture. So lets talk about the basis of western culture, and the reason for it’s stability.

Western Culture was founded upon Christianity, and has a prominent underlying narrative: The Martyr. This narrative has many instantiations (Jesus, Joan of Arc, Braveheart), but the important part is that the martyr dies at the hands of his enemies and thereby exposes his enemies weaknesses of fear and lack of understanding. By sacrificially dying for his cause he rallies his proponents via a grand display of intolerable injustice, and bloodies the hands of his enemies.

This is in fact a very dangerous narrative to popularize in the Mid-East. The fighting that occurs there is very much of a religious nature, but not along the Judeo-Christian lineage. The success of the martyr in the western hemisphere has been as a result of noble sacrifice of the self for one’s beliefs. But Muslims are all too happy to do the same. However, it has a subtle and crucial difference. The Muslim sacrifices himself in the hope that he takes out some of the enemies along the way, while the Christian martyr dies with clean hands. We will, therefore, not solve the problem of fighting by exporting the story of the martyr, because they already have an entrenched mindset of sacrifice which is too similar to gain enough traction to make a difference in the behavior of people in the Mid-East.

Instead we need a stronger tale. Even more enticing than the martyr is the tale of a hero who, in great adversity, learns about and understands his enemies. This can come about in many ways. Either, he learns about them after having to live with them in captivity, or he willingly hides himself amongst them in order to gather the intelligence for making as severe a strike as possible. In either case, after learning about his enemy, he finds that they are not so different from himself, that they too value human life, willingness to stand up for personal beliefs, etc, etc. After this experience, he decides not to kill his enemies, but instead profit through them, via creation of a trade empire or by evangelical conversion.

This narrative, of overcoming the adversary by greater understanding, can by sold and popularized in many ways, Movies, TV, Cinema, Music, Literature. In popularizing this narrative, we might hope to lengthen cultural patience and lessen the trigger reaction that gets so many killed today. In truth we could all benefit from this tale, because it says, quite directly, that nobody has to die, that mutual understanding is possible, and that we are all better off if we exercise control. Not only that, but the hero benefits both spiritually and materially, plus he lives to enjoy his successes.

Alas, the marketing of this idea can only really be effective if our own companies are willing to create works that will be popular in the Mid-East. This is highly doubtful, as they have far less infrastructure for distribution, transport is far riskier, and Hollywood studios are managed in such a way that they will favor the production of crap. In addition, sale of this idea will take generations, and the U.S. is unable to commit to a multi-generational program for the simple reason that leadership is re-elected every 4 years.

So my solution is a complete and practical flop…. but at least I can dream.