Take a look at this excerpt from the remarks President Bush delivered earlier this week in Istanbul.
“In some parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there is a wariness toward democracy, often based on misunderstanding. Some people in Muslim cultures identify democracy with the worst of Western popular culture, and want no part of it. And I assure them, when I speak about the blessings of liberty, coarse videos and crash — crass commercialism are not what I have in mind. There is nothing incompatible between democratic values and high standards of decency. For the sake of their families and their culture, citizens of a free society have every right to strive peacefully for a moral society.”
Let’s ignore for a moment how irritating it is when rich guys (who are in the process of spending a couple hundred million on crass commercials) complain about crash crass commercialism. And let’s pretend that Middle Easterners are not at all irked by Western oil interests that help to line the pockets of their oppressors while, until 9-11, making no demands regarding the treatment of the citizens who happened to reside on the land above that oil.
It is in fact Bush’s own misunderstanding that is driving his argument here. The wariness towards the evils of democracy (sexuality, commercialism, coarse videos, low carb beers, etc.) is a creation of those in power in the Middle East. It’s not that these things are really evil. I thought everyone sort of understood the way this worked.
Just in case, let’s take a quick refresher course on how to dominate a people without having to give up any of your own snorting, shooting, drinking, humping, bumping, cash flow excesses, travel, and really comfortable robes. First, you start making a hell of a lot of money from a resource that is in higher demand than a bowl of linguini at an Atkins clinic. Then you figure out a way to keep the general population from rising up against you. Hey, here’s an idea. Let’s try a repressive religion whose tenets we’d never dream of following ourselves (at least not until we’re done impressing the ladies with a Playstation2 game on our 64 inch plasma screen stretched out in front of the hot tub in the back of our Hummer limo). Now, everytime there are stirrings among those who complain about a lack of freedom, we will remind them of the evil decadence of the west, the wanton sexuality, the dirty movies (and the other stuff we love so much) and tell them that they will not be rewarded in the afterlife unless they avoid these terrible elements that come along with democracy. We’ll convince them they are better off being oppressed than they would be if they were free. Great trick, eh?
Can you believe that our President doesn’t get this? Just because Osama bin Laden tries to convince his followers that elements of democracy are bad doesn’t mean that we have to agree with him on any of his points. He’s wrong. The Saudi ruling family is lying about this stuff. That’s the point.
No, Mr. President. Citizens of the Middle East cannot have democracy without crass commercialism or coarse videos. And there’s absolutely no reason they should. They cannot have democracy and freedom while half of all citizens are forced to cover up and stay home unless they have an escort. The problem is not our freedoms, Mr. President. The problem is that those in power in the Middle East seek to distort the perception of our freedoms just as they’ve distorted the value systems associated with their own religion. The wariness about any of the elements of democracy you cited have been created by endless brainwashing efforts by a tiny minority looking to keep a thumb on a massive and increasingly frustrated majority. The goal is to retain tyrannical political power.
And believe me, dictatorships are a whole lot harder to cope with than dirty movies.