Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jihad vs. McWorld

Remember that great 1992 book by Benjamin Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld? Seven years before the anti-globalization protests erupted in Seattle, six years before the first big terror actions of al-Qaeda, Barber was warning us that, if a stark choice had to be made between globalized corporate branding led by Ronald McDonald and worldwide violent Wahhabism, most Westerners would have no trouble picking the Golden Arches. Now, thoughtful critics insisted the choice Barber gave us was no choice at all, but after witnessing the bombing of the Bhutto parade today, I continue to see his point.

I always had a problem with cheering the Westernizing tendencies of Benazir Bhutto, since she came from that Georgetown-Harvard-CIA clique responsible for so much Cold War liberalism. And even though she was set up by Musharraf, it was pretty clear that her husband was at least partially guilty of corruption charges. I'm not ruling out the possibility that one of Musharraf's friends in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency set this up as a dirty trick, but it seems likely that al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban was responsible. This not only gives Bush more fuel for pursuing his endless War on Terror, but it underscores the belief that the planet simply is too small to allow such catastrophist forms of belief as end-times Wahhabism. In fact, if we're going to get anywhere in cultural meetings of minds, I would insist in my Western-steeped ways that a baseline requirement for living on this planet is tempering one's belief system through the filter of 17th-century Enlightenment thought. Too hung up on reason? Well, a violent faith-based way of knowing allows no cross-cultural discussions outside a frame of reference. How can you talk with someone about restoring the caliphate if you don't believe Muhammad has 50 virgins in paradise? How can you talk about missionary work if you don't believe "Jesus is the way the truth and the light"? Only reason, Enlightenment, and the scientific method allow this. So let's hear it for Ronald McDonald, Isaac Newton, and Benazir Bhutto - not my favorite people, admittedly, but consider the alternative.

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