Thursday, February 19, 2015

Conferring on Extremism

As a refugee from the world of high technology research, I must confess that I have a rather jaundiced view of conferences. It has struck me that such events have always been, first and foremost, an excuse for travel. When the excuse was to parade recent activities, I came to accept it as tolerable and even set the standard that if, over the course of half a week away from my desk, I had encountered one result worthy of attention, then the trip was a good one.

More insidious, however, are those conferences that are concerned more with policy than with results. These are an excuse for little more than jawboning. They may conclude with an agenda of action items, but action rarely emerges from such an agenda. As a result I was far more than a little skeptical when I read about the White House hosting a special conference on terrorism.

Having read Marwan Bishara's editorial this morning on the Al Jazeera English Web site, I was glad to see that I was not alone in my thoughts. Bishara was perceptive enough to look beyond all the usual gratuitous observations that were uttered and turn, instead, to what was not said. Furthermore, I chose to concentrate his enumeration of "sins of omission" on the conference's host, President Barack Obama. Here is the basic summary of that enumeration:
Obama said nothing about how proxy and other western wars have created the fertile grounds for the type of extremism that has been evolving and spreading in the Arab and Muslim world.
How the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan coupled with US/Saudi intervention on the side of the mujahideen led to the creation of al-Qaeda.
Or, how the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, coupled with Iran's interference, prepared the ground for the creation and expansion of ISIL.
Nevertheless, I think there is a broader view, which first came on my radar during the early heady days of the Arab Spring. It is not enough to observe that the world, as a whole, has lapsed into a "forever war" mentality. We need to home in on how that mentality is being sustained.

What we learned from the protests that arose during the Arab Spring (protests that, it is important to observe, extended to include the educated young citizens of Israel) was that the current generation of youth, particularly those who have enjoyed a rich education, is desperately concerned that they have no future in the world as it is being run by its current leaders. While Corita Kent believed that war was not healthy for children and other living beings, that slender minority that controls the lion's share of the world's wealth sees great value in war, particularly as a solution to providing for those of the "other class," condemning them to be little more than "cannon fodder" for the many new generations of cannons that provide a major chuck of revenue to the moneyed class.

In also is amusing to see how, through control of the consciousness industry, that class has tried to cloak its elite status with a smoke screen. The recent report about the top 1% controlling more wealth than the remaining 99% overlooked just how much of that top 1% has almost no control at all. That upper tier needs to be narrowed down to 0.1%, if not 0.01% before we can really appreciate just how unevenly wealth has been distributed.

In my "other life" of writing about music, I have recently been listening to a new recording of the songs composed by Claude Debussy. This last of these songs, for a single unaccompanied voice, is a Christmas carol for homeless children. Debussy wrote this in 1915 when Europe was being torn apart by war. Who speaks for the homeless today?

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