Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Death of Curiosity

 
In a culture where curiosity has space to roam, play and experiment, its political and economic spheres are vibrant markets for the exchange of ideas. For what, in the realm of man, can move faster than the speed of thought?

But what about those cultures where sanctuary is found in orthodoxy, where the fear of being wrong trumps liveliness, where straitjackets of correct thinking/believing are donned by its inhabitants in order than they might live in security?

What indeed. These polities leave their citizens with two ways to maneuver in the world. Boredom is one option. Mayhem is the other. DavidWarren starts in the middle by conflating these two processes but his take on these phenomena, particularly as they pertain to the Middle East, is insightful:

            Boredom is seriously underestimated as a motive cause in history. And among the more intelligent young, it is always potentially lethal. The madrassas and "universities" of the Islamic world -- places like the venerable Al Azhar in Cairo -- do in fact produce sharp minds. But educated in a strict monotheism that is, if anything, over-focused. The symbiotic relationship between the terrorist gangs, and the Muslim world's madrassas, is almost too easy to explain.

In order to see this more clearly, it is important to go back to the beginning, when curiosity begins to be suppressed. Several examples would serve to demonstrate the results -- the development of the human being within the family comes to mind on the microcosmic level; for the macrocosm the development of a culture will serve. Let's take, say, Islamic culture as the model. For a model which uses both, one could take the Muslim child as he develops within his family.

First, he has to be given the reasons for his incessant "whys" -- particularly those "whys" which begin with "why do I have to," the ones that are answered "because Allah wills it so." There is little wiggle room here, little mental space in which to play with ideas that don't jibe with the received wisdom of his family. Children, who instinctually recognize their dependence on the grown-ups, surrender their questions in exchange for emotional security. Not a bad trade for the very young. Unfortunately, the consequence for the child is boredom of a most exquisite nature. The world is small, predictable, and increasingly colorless and uninteresting.

And then... and then... along comes adolescence with all its attendant turmoil. Boredom driven by hormones and the idealism of youth transmogrifies to mayhem -- and it's off to jihad we go. By now, this hypothetical child is thoroughly immured in the necessity for submission ("Islam," after all, means "submission"). The drive for perfect submission degrades and perverts the most human of qualities: the desire to know. Perfect submission in Islam is a public thing, it drives out fear, replacing it with deadness so that the human heart is perverted to desire personal honor above truth, love or fidelity.

1 comments:

Just Another Richard said...

Once again a wonderful and thought provoking piece. Thank you Dymphna.

Having just read a long and incitefull article by a muslim living in London (linked by a commenter on LGF) sorry no link. This calm and articulate article, obviously by a moderate muslim, lays out the mindset of Islamic thought regarding their view of the inevitability of the advancement of Islam and the subjugation of all societies standing in the path of Islamic domination. Wishfull thinking you may say, well yes, but it is what they believe and as a consequence what motivates their actions. Anyone who doubts the intentions of the faithfull should read it and weep.

I'll try and find the link. The author is Yamin Zakaria