Sunday, November 08, 2009

Metaphysical conversations and events of the day

LD and I were looking forward to a nice blogging conversation on a rather metaphysical topic like feasting and fasting, but have been kept from it by events of the day. First, I had to commemorate a man to whom am indebted for what his books taught me concerning men's acting and thinking in society; but that didn't really take me away from the topic, because feasts come as moments of human exchange in which people come together to celebrate. But now…

An Army major, and a psychiatrist at that, picked up guns and shot thirteen people dead and thirty wounded at Fort Hood. And this, given the identity of that major, would require some comment.

The House voted a text of health care reform, in whose favor there is at least to be said that it is acceptable for anti-abortionist. Whether it also suits the general public's demand for the best possible health care system, to be made accessible to the greatest number of people, it is another story, also worthy discussing.

Events of the day are pressing on the front, while metaphysical conversations go more to the heart of the war being fought.

I'll try, to my best, to keep them together.

I'll keep away from the second issue, on which I am no expert. (I can only say that here in Italy, where there is health care directly run by government, people are not particularly happy with it. People, when they want to have a speedy and fairly reliable treatment, tend to resort to the private sector. Not to speak of the waste and the corruption to which the government run health care system lends itself.)

I revert then to the shooting spree at Fort Hood.

Lévi-Strauss helped me to understand human exchanges, by recognition of the principle that rules them: reciprocity. However, as we have positive reciprocity, so we have negative reciprocity.

There is discussion on the press and in TV whether major Nidal Malik Hasan's deed ought to be considered as an act of jihad. This risks being an hair splitting question on the definition of what makes jihad.

I prefer to ask the question: why so many leading newspapers and TV channels seem so preoccupied to find justifications, so to speak, for major Hasan's deed, that minimize the import of his quite strong Islamic faith?

In more general terms: why so many smart people tend to be so over respectful of Islam, when not in outright sympathy with it?

It is actually strange, considering that Islam goes against everything that they otherwise say to cherish: one thing for all, women's equality and emancipation.

A short and (relatively) simple answer could be: because of a lack of understanding the reciprocity required by communication among people – in order not to have positive reciprocity turn into negative reciprocity.

Another anthropologist, the American Marshal Sahlins, stressed the unilateral character of what he called "the mystique of western superiority". Remarkable is that he used this expression not to stigmatize nineteenth century colonialism, but while commenting on the widespread idea that contact with western civilization brought disruption into the life of natives all over the world, as if, before, people were living everywhere in some kind of earthly paradise without any history of peaceful or warlike communication.

The same sense of superiority turns from self affirmation into self negation: if Arabs, then, and in general Islamic people, show such anger against us, it must be because we have victimized them.

The most vociferous Arabs or Islamics do actually feel victimized, whether it is true or not. Thus they mirror their western sympathizers. With no greater understanding of reciprocity than these have, they show to know just negative reciprocity. Such appears to be the case for jihadists: they feel other people as negating them, so they negate those people in turn.

It would be metaphysically worthy pursuing further the point, to ask whether there is something intrinsic to Islam as such that goes in this direction. Also in the other event mentioned, however, we could easily find a metaphysical side worthy discussing, to make thus possible the prudential judgment LD advocates.


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