|A fascinating article
by Karen Armstrong, a skilled and prolific interpreter of religious
traditions, her most notable book being A History of God about the 4000-year
religious quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The central theme of this
article is that Fundamentalism is an historically recent religious movement
that is a response to modern secular culture. As Armstrong says in the
Before we explore the various
forms of egalitarian systems in our own culture, I would like to comment
on Armstrong's article.
Armstrong has great points,
but her article also suffers from a mental block which seems to be clouding
her judgment as she tries to explain the "great western transformation".
Here is what she has to say
|"In the 16th century, the
countries of western Europe and, later, the American colonies had embarked
on what historians have called "the great western transformation". They
created an entirely different kind of civilization, which was without precedent
in the history of the world. The distinguishing mark of any modern society
is that instead of being based economically upon a surplus of agricultural
produce, it is based upon technology and the constant reinvestment of capital.
This liberated the west from
the constraints that had inevitably hobbled all traditional, agrarian societies.
The great agrarian empires were economically vulnerable; they soon found
that they had grown beyond resources that were inevitably limited, but
the western countries found that they could reproduce their resources indefinitely.
They could afford to experiment with new ideas and products.
It was found, by trial and
error, that a successful modern society had to be democratic.
Countries, such as those
in eastern Europe, which did not become secular, tolerant and democratic,
On the surface, this "great
western transformation" seems to be logically based upon technology and
the constant reinvestment of capital. But what Armstrong fails to
realize, is that ALL of these western countries, without exception,
achieved this comfortable level of advancement by stealing other countries
resources to the point of engaging in the systematic genocide of the native
Indians in both Americas. Or in the systematic enslaving of
blacks who were kidnapped and shipped like chattels from Western Africa
to toil on their white masters' cotton plantations in the Southern States
of the US. Wouldn't this lack of an overhead in expenses and an appropriation
of resources without compensation be a more logical explanation for this
" great western transformation"?
Moreover, wouldn't this
explain the reasons for the falling behind of many Eastern European countries,
such as the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as Hungary, Poland,
Bulgaria, Greece, etc. All of whom were unable to engage in
colonialism, as most of them were under the now defunct Austro-Hungarian
and Ottoman empires. Only Russia then, engaged in colonialism, with
its systematic Eastern expansion into Central Asia, Siberia, the Far-East
and Alaska . This expansion climaxed into the Soviet era, with the establishing
of a totalitarian empire lasting until 1991.
To prove my points further,
of all Western European countries, Ireland is certainly the poorest. Why?
Because Ireland, unlike other Western European countries, never had the
chance to colonize others, but in fact has remained occupied and/or divided
by England. While the rest of Western Europe engaged in Colonialism.
England had its empire which stretched across the globe from most of Africa
to India, Malay and (Hong Kong) China in Asia. While, similarly,
France had a vast empire in Africa and Indochina . Spain had Mexico, and
the areas of what is today California and Florida, as well as Central America,
Chili ,Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia and Peru. Portugal had Brazil.
Belgium had the Congo. The Netherlands had Indonesia, while
Germany had Tanganyika in Eastern Africa, and Italy had Libya, (Abyssinia)
Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
The case of the United States
is obviously the best example, with its never ending expansion through
its many genocidal wars. Such as the extermination of the Native
American Indian Nations, invasion of Mexico in 1846-1847 and
forcing the Mexicans to cede the northern half of the country (California
and Arizona) and also to give up any claim to Texas.The Spanish-American
War in 1898 which led to the occupation of Cuba, Panama (originally
part of Columbia), Hawaii 1893, and the Philippines (1899-1902) and The
Moro Wars against Muslim population of southern Philippines
(1901-1913) in the Pacific. In this century alone, the occupation
of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.
To further prove my point,
let's take the example of Israel and its stealing of Palestinian lands
filled with its citrus and olive groves, green fields of al-Jaliyl and
Jabal al-Karmal , the plain of `Akka and Marj bin `amir. These lands
were given to Zionist colonists from Eastern Europe for nothing (i.e. no
overhead), hence its relative "great western transformation" at the expense
of the native Palestinians. Had they stayed where they were, they
would have shared the same fate of "falling behind", but given the great
bounty of Palestine, they were able to "colonize" the people and resources.
Japan is another case.
At the eve of WWII it nearly achieved military parity with another major
power: the USA. Starting from the beginning of the 20th century,
Japan was already expanding its empire in Manchuria.
During the period between the two great wars, it had already colonized
a great part of China, Korea. Due to its early policy of expansion
in Asia, Japan had already experienced a great transformation without
the slightest hint of democratization. Though badly defeated in WWII, Japan
has retained all of the elements of highly skilled manpower along with
the expertise of complex industries and technologies, which helped her
to get back on her feet in a very short period of time. The same
transformation could be easily applied to China today, this despite
its intense aversion to all western forms of democratic traditions.
There is no doubt that the
cause of "this great western transformation" was due to practices other
than the alleged "Democratization" outlined by Armstrong. The plain
and simple fact is that it had to has to do with Colonialism, without which
this transformation would not have been possible.
meets the author of "Islam, a short history"
Times, October 9, 2000
For years she
was tagged the "runaway nun," the rebellious ex-Catholic with outspoken
opinions about religion. Now, with her 12th book, "Islam, a Short
History" (Modern Library), Karen Armstrong has changed her image. She can
still be sharp-tongued, inclined to draw conclusions that get a rise out
of critics. But something closer to reconciliation, rather than anger,
is propelling her.
Her life in
a British convent is 30 years behind her. She spent seven years in the
Society of the Holy Child Jesus during the 1960s and later wrote a tell-all
book, "Through the Narrow Gate" (St. Martin's Press, 1982) that bemoaned
the restrictive life. (The frightened nuns did not know the Cuban missile
crisis of 1962 had ended for several weeks; they were not allowed to inquire
about the outside world.) Armstrong is still hearing about the book: "Catholics
in England hate me. They've sent me excrement in the mail."
have followed her lately are learning her more optimistic ideas about what
Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common. Three of these books--"A
History of God" (Ballantine, 1993), "Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths"
(Knopf, 1996) and "The Battle for God" (Knopf, 2000)--show what unites
the faiths. Each, Armstrong writes, has developed the image of one Supreme
Being who was first revealed to the prophet Abraham. All have historic
links to Jerusalem. And more recently, each has built up a rigid conservative
strain as a reaction against the modern world.
the Islamic Center of Southern California honored Armstrong as a bridge
builder who promotes understanding among the three faiths. On a book tour
last week that included Los Angeles, the Londoner met again with members
of the center in a Santa Monica home.
To view Armstong's article in
its entirety click below