Friday, August 03, 2007

The following are the excerpts from the same article :

History is populated with men and women like my companion: intellectuals and professionals who turn their backs on easy lives because they prefer to fight for whatever values they believe in. When we share those values we look at such people and describe them as heroes. When we don’t, our imagination appears to fail us. Not only do we condemn them, but we often refuse to understand anything about their motivation. In doing so, we deny ourselves the ability to see the world as it is, rather than as we would like it to be.

Even if guilty, these men were successful professionals, and people who had taken oaths to heal, not to harm. The realisation that those oaths could be overridden by a deeper imperative was a shocking one. Underlying the disbelief was the assumption that no one leading a successful life in western society was likely to reject its values in favour of other beliefs.

“Our values are not western values. They are human values, and anywhere, any time people are given the chance, they embrace them.” These sentences betrayed a total ignorance of the range of customs, convictions, and prejudices that govern human behaviour in a multitude of different societies. Mr. Blair talked as if he thought that people around the world were essentially blank sheets, who would adopt all western values wholesale as soon as they encountered a can of Coke, a job in a clothing factory, and a gender rights worker.

I myself admire the Buddhist philosophy of detachment from possessions and emotions, but in practice I am programmed to want pianos and clothes and strong relationships, and that overrides any intellectual flirtation with anything else.

The difficulty for all of us is that we are happiest living in an environment that reflects our metaphysical beliefs, and profoundly uneasy if we are not.

The same sense of mission drives small groups now. They too are buoyed up by the belief that they are fighting for a better world, and that their sacrifice gives their existence meaning.

Fifteen years ago, when he published The Culture of Contentment, the economist J.K. Galbraith wrote about the complacency of powerful societies. All civilisations, from Rome to the French kings and today’s capitalism, ascribe moral virtue to the values that have allowed their elites to dominate others. They are all reluctant to read the warning signs that tell them their beliefs are not universally shared. A blind faith in the obvious moral superiority of our own way of life, and a refusal to recognise others’ search for meaning in their lives, is not going to provide any kind of answer to the question of why we now fear a terrorist threat.


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