Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Civilization

I posted the following on another blog. It was posted on April 16, 2003, at 10:35 am, soon after the start of the Iraq War. Baghdad was in the grip of looters, petty thieves, and the like:

Civilization

Yesterday, an Iranian said to me, "I lived in a country once, where didn't have any government for 6 months. There was no looting."

Now, of course, I am a Sunni and never sympathetic to "Fundamentalists" of any stripe--I prefer to identify them as "inflexible obscurantists who claim one ideology or another". And a lot of the recipients of this mail will be good Christian folk. But it is good some times to see the positive in people different from us. Of course, it might also bear saying that the country we are talking about--an ancient one with an ancient civilization--was not in the control of the hardliners at the time under discussion.

There is an assumption expressed repeatedly in this time and age that we live in an era that is more civilized than previous ones. But consider this: Before this era, there were, you will agree, times and places where people lived without fear of life and limb. Now consider this: a formal, full-time police force is a pretty recent innovation. So how is it that in this more "advanced" society, we have to have a full-time force to prevent a breakdown of order?

And puleeeeeeeeeeeeease, I am not picking on any one country, group or POV. Most countries behave the same nowadays; whether they are "Muslim"/"Islamic", "Civilized"/"Western", or "Liberal Democracies" or what-have-you. The question is, which ones would behave like Persia between the Shah and the Ayatollahs; which ones like Iraq between The Butcher of Baghdad and Jay Garner, Karachi on a bad day, Watts, or Crown Heights.
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