I realized that I was neglecting my weblog (I hate the words blog, blogger, and the like) and I thought it was time I broke my neglect. Generally I try to avoid making entries for the sake of making entries, simply because the world is already inundated enough with mindless chatter, and I don’t want to contribute.

Last weekend was Bockfest at Capital Brewery in Middleton (right outside of Madison for the uninitiated) and I managed to spend almost the entire weekend in my room writing papers and dealing with a massive stack of paperwork that I’ve been neglecting. I think I’m through the worst of it, but I still have some various accounting tasks to get out of the way. Lately, Ive been spending most of my time with classwork and catching up on my periodical reading. I love The Economist, however weighing in at approximately 100 pages per issue, I’ve been having problems setting aside enough time to wade my way through it before a new issue comes out. This leaves me with no time to even begin on the Atlantic, but thankfully it’s a monthly.

Speaking of which, I wonder what a lot of other people read. In the last week I’ve heard quite a few criticisms of the president, and while I think he could be doing things differently, I don’t harbor the virulent hate that a seemingly large swath of our society is burning with. (more…)

I’ve been following the whole Danish cartoon news story for a few days now, and I think it’s really telling of what is wrong with the world today. If you are in the dark, the San Francisco Gate has a pretty good summary of the whole thing here:

First of all, I think that this should be a wake up call to the entire “Islamic Community.” I use the quotation marks because I want to emphasize that the community is probably not the homogeneous, lock-step hoard that it is normally depicted as. There are many differing and concurring opinions within the community, however the loudest ones seem to always be regarded as the most prominent. This should be a time in which the people who are so deeply offended by the set of cartoons (most of which seem fairly benign, other than they portray the face of The Prophet, which is generally not done out of respect) to take a look at themselves and question why these cartoons were created in the first place. It’s amazing that Al-Riyadh can publish any number of anti-semitic cartoons or articles, and there is no outcry, but when their religion is poked, there is no shortage of outrage.

I believe the great irony to be that one of these cartoons is considered offensive because it can be construed to make the religion of Islam as needlessly reactionary and violent. Many of the people who claim that this is an unfair portrayal met it with needless reaction and violence, leaving at least four people dead.

With this in mind, I am growing weary of the argument that people in Western nations are in no position to criticize the Middle Eastern world. The normal argument is that The West has plenty of skeletons in its own collective closet, and therefore it should not be casting stones. The problem with this argument is that it seeks to compare things out of their respective historical contexts. Many people look to the Dark Ages as being an unforgivable evil that mares our minds to this day. Others seek to look at events such as the Holocaust as being sufficient to void the moral authority of the entire West. I do not subscribe to these arguments, because by that same logic, nobody has the right to criticize anything due to some sort of pre-ordained original sin. Such arguments only serve to impede genuine progress towards improving the world that one lives in.

The fastest way to debunk the whole moral equivalence between the Western dark ages and the regimes that oppress their people in the name of Islam, as well as the lack of civil, intellectual discourse in many Middle Eastern nations, is that they occurred at different times. While the West is far from perfect, it has moved away from much of the oppressive quackery in which a tyrannical church controlled the minds of the faithful while autocratic kings ruled their destinies. The West has made leaps and bounds in the areas of human civil rights as well as the free exchange of ideas without fear of government persecution. This is not the case in many corners of the Middle East.

It is important to note that the West is far from perfect, and human civilizations make human mistakes. However, we should not simply be slaves to history, wherein we claim that since we have sinned in the past, we can never strive to be anything better in the future. This is why the much of the Citizenry of the Middle East needs to stop resting on their laurels (we’re all impressed that they invented zero, and made contributions to the sciences and safeguarded a treasury of human knowledge) and take a good long look at themselves. I think it is a long shot, as well as a dishonest pot-shot, to compare western decadence with the abysmal human rights record of nations on par with Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Until the population at large of these nations is ready to confront their own demons instead of simply trying to play them off as being not as bad as someone else’s past, they will continue to be haunted by failure and stagnation. It is about time that these people grow up and join the rest of the world, rather than retreating in to their own private fiefdoms of ignorance and intolerance.