June 6, 2007
On the Division of Peoples
The latest, greatest U.S. plan in Iraq is to divide the country into a Sunni state, a Shiite state, and a Kurdish state with an overall, national government in Baghdad. I would imagine that the idea is based on the States in America and our federal system, but there's one main difference. The American states were divided based on the land. The Iraqi states would be divided based on the people. This is a bad idea.
You cannot divide people and expect them to get along. This has been the major flaw of Western policies in the region since the 1800's. Before Britain divided the region following the two World Wars, it was multicultural and peaceful. Jerusalem was not divided into Muslim and Jewish Quarteres like it is today, and unlike today, the city was completely harmonious and Muslims and Jews and Christians and all other religions existed peacefully.
The problem is not just in the Middle East, nor is it even based on religious differences. State-Enforced culture is doomed to failure. It didn't work in the Soviet Union. It didn't work in the United States, and it doesn't work in the Middle East either. A formerly multicultural state or region cannot be separated into unicultural ones without major backlash from the people. This is especially true if some foreign influence is behind the separation.
A big reason for this is the mindset that exists to argue for the separation in the first place. That mindset is that the cultural differences are unreconcilable and the people are not capable of co-existing. This is blatantly wrong. History is full of stories of distinct cultures co-existing and prospering. I think that most people know in their hearts that this is true. Only the truly narcissistic believe that they themselves cannot exist alongside someone different. The only argument that can be made for such exclusion is that one way of life (i.e. mine) is inherently better than the other. If the recogntion that both cultures are basically equal and deserve to exist is there, than there is no way to justify an inability to exist with others.
The real problem with these separations, however, lies in this relationahip in the reverse. When one is only exposed to one culture or one way of thinking, then the tendency is to view that one way as the best. Since this person is, if only because they know no other way, doing everything in a "better" way than someone else, then they are going to come to decide that they are a better person and that their way of life is better. Such "superiority" is the basis of every ethnic cleansing or genocide that has every happened.
The stratification of people is what leads to true divisions. If two individuals don't like each other, than separating them will reduce the physical confrontation for now, but the animosity remains and the violence will erupt when the two see each other again. To artificially separate cultures is to reinforce differences and widen any rift that exists. It solves nothing.
You make some good points. But I can see the rationale...I mean imagine this, and i'm just kinda gonna think out loud here:
Pretend a nation is 25% atheist and 75% Orthodox Christian (this is an extreme example as in reality the region in question is all Muslim, just different sects). The atheists would want money for scientific grants and would want evolution taught in school. The Christians would want ID taught and would funnel lots of money to churches. Since the Christians make up the majority, they would get their way almost all of the time. The atheists, presuming they all live together in say the northeast corner, might want to have another tier of government, like a state, to be able to deal with things of that nature as they please.
The atheists may even go so far as to break off completely if the central christian government starts taking more and more power away from their state government because they see the atheists as vile and evil. The christians might be okay with this, "Fine, we'll seperate and God will smite them, and we don't have to worry about it." On the other hand, the atheist may control 75% of the nations oil, which would be a blow to the economy of the christian side. So they'd war, and it would suck.
I guess I'm not getting anywhere. I don't know what to say other than "sucks to be a minority". I suppose exposure to other cultures can help people to understand each other and can moderate opinions through generations, but what do you do when each group already thinks itself supremely superior to the others without the boundary's to begin with?
Really, all i'm getting out of this is that the Middle east is a lost cause and we should just leave them to kill each other until they're either all dead or are too tired to fight anymore (like where ireland appears to be for now). its kind of scary how uncivil the birthplace of civilization is though...
Honestly i think we just need to get out of there. any government that doesn't form organically is doomed to failure. and let them hate america while they're at it and start reducing any oil dependency we have.
Comment by: mallio at 5:06 PM, June, 6, 2007
Your hypothetical situation is pretty spot on in regards to what has actually happened. However, you've already separated the two groups. Presumedly, before the groups polarized, they were living together more or less peacefully, which was the case in the Middle East. I would argue that the polarization itself is a large reason the groups are choosing not to coexist.
Religion is everywhere, and no major religion requires the attendance of a specific church/mosque/synagogue, any of them will work. People move for economic and political reasons. They don't go to live among other atheists because they dislike religion, they do it, in this case, because the government forced them to.
The radicals in any religion are the minority. Most of your Orthodox Christians are going to be willing to let the atheists live their lives however they want as long as the Christians can practice their religion in peace. Therefore, the majority of the leaders that get elected will be near the center and won't be trying to force their religion on everyone else.
Comment by: neil at 12:43 PM, June, 7, 2007
"Any government that doesn't form organically is doomed to failure."
It's been over a year so I'm not sure you'll ever read this, but I've thought about this particular sentence a lot and I have to say that ,on the whole, I agree. I'll probably quote this line in the future (with recognition, of course) but I try to give credit where it's due, hence this comment.
Here's to intelligent discussion, such a precious commodity.
Comment by: neil at 1:43 AM, June, 22, 2008