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 preface: 

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, fell behind."

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.   

Profile Of Karen Armstrong

Mary Rourke meets the author of "Islam, a short history"
Los Angeles 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."

Readers who 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.

Last year, 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          






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