In the halcyon days of the 1960's, when the counter-culture started rolling and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations were exciting and raucous ways to spend the day, there were large demonstrations taking place on a regular basis. At times the combination of provocative youngsters (and some agents provocateurs) and nervous Police and National Guardsmen led to violence, the worst of it the tragedy at Kent State. Most of the time the demonstrations were peaceful despite rhetorical excess.
[Some of the abuses by the most privileged, college students at Ivy League Universities among them, have been effaced from history but the worst abuses involved property damage, by and large, with an occasional punch thrown. The violence of the Weathermen occurred on the fringe of the anti-war/counter-culture constellation.]
The counter-culture engaged in mass celebrations as well. Estimates at the time suggested over a million people congregated for three days of mud, music, sex, drugs, and rock and roll in August 1969. There were no reports of violence at Woodstock.
Contrast the behavior of the crowds at anti-War demonstrations and counter-culture events with the behavior at the mass demonstration in Cairo's Tahir Square last Friday:
Lara Logan set upon by mob in brutal sex attack
"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, "Jew! Jew!" as she covered the chaotic fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's main square Friday, CBS and sources said yesterday.
Before you set upon me for making a blanket accusation that the Egyptian democracy protesters are rapists and Jew-haters, consider the culture in which this occurred. A week ago I discussed The Triumph of Feminism*: Porn Star Sex! (now cross posted at my Psychology Today blog) and pointed out that the prerequisites for equality between men and women has only existed for a short time:
The notion of sex being an intercourse, in all the multiple meanings of the word, between men and women meeting each other as relative equals in a mutually gratifying and enriching, occasionally transcendent, experience, is a relatively recent development in human history. We need only recall that it is just within the last hundred years that men and women have become enlightened enough to re-define the words "All men are created equal" to mean men and women. For most of human history, women were the property of their men (as they remain in much of the world today, including, especially the Muslim World); if there was love and affection in a relationship or a quasi-equality (since there was no legal equality) it was simply the great, good fortune of the woman involved to have been found by a liberal minded man. Romantic love, which is lust leavened by love and affection, was idealized because it was so rare as to be a fantasy that both men and women aspired to.
Lara Logan left Egypt after the assault, in part because were she to report rape to Egyptian authorities, she would be blamed and probably arrested. (I do not know the applicable laws in Egypt, however, under Sharia a women needs the corroboration of four male witnesses to rape; otherwise the presumption is that she engaged in adultery and the punishment for adultery in most Muslim lands is Draconian.)
There is no way to predict which direction the Egyptian revolution will take. The portents are not good. Between our benighted administration's blindness to the evil and threat of Sharia and Islamism and the fecklessness of our "news" media, we are not being well served. Within one week of the departure of Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood is already making inroads: [All emphases added: SW]
The initial decisions of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces upon taking over the Egyptian government included a commitment to make changes to the country's constitution. The council has imposed a 10-day deadline on that process. That is ambitious to say the least, but if it can be done, it is a good thing. The sooner the military relinquishes control of the country to an elected government, the better.
It is important that the new Egyptian government be truly representative of the population and at the same time be protective of minority groups. The constitutional changes must reflect those goals. However, a look at the eight members who the military council has named to the panel that will recommend changes to the constitution is not comforting. The judge heading up the effort, Tariq al-Bishri, is an avowed critic of secular government, favors the introduction of Shari'a-based laws and openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian law over the past 40 years certainly reflects a basis in Islamic law, but strict Shari'a code has not been fully adopted.
The committee will not rewrite the entire constitution, but focus on six articles, including those that deal with the nomination of presidential candidates, the presidential election process, the election of members of the parliament and how to amend the constitution. That is a good thing. I do not want a panel with an Islamist Shari'a advocate and an avowed member of the Muslim Brotherhood addressing the legal code or individual freedoms.
Yes, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The council named Subhi Salih, a lawyer who is a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Coincidentally, the Islamist organization announced it will become a formal political party. In just a few short days, a formerly illegal organization is now a well-organized political party and has a representative on the panel that will rewrite significant portions of the Egyptian constitution. The Brotherhood released a statement calling for "the establishment of a democratic, civil state that draws on universal measures of freedom and justice, with central Islamic values serving all Egyptians regardless of color, creed, political trend or religion."
Egypt and the greater Arab/Muslim world are inhabited by cultures that explicitly deny full humanity to women and non-Muslims. This is an inseparable part of Sharia. Perhaps there will some day be a Sharia that respects others but it is not currently a very significant factor in he Arab World.
We remain, almost 10 years after 9/11 at almost the same spot where we started. There is a titanic clash going on in Islam between their traditional way of living, based on Sharia, and Modernity. Either the Arab/Muslim world has an internal evolution/revolution which moderates Sharia so that it can function in a modern world (which some insist is possible and others complain is a contradiction in terms; I do not know enough to form an opinion on the matter) or there will yet be a clash of civilizations between 1.3 billion Muslims and the Modern World.
Speculative question for the day:
How does China respond if the rising tide of unrest in the Middle East (all independent of Israel; could someone please inform the New York Times) causes oil prices to rise to levels that threaten China's ability to maintain its economy?