Monday, November 26, 2001

Week of 11/26/2001

Forced Faith
- by David Matthews 2

"There is an accumulative cruelty in a number of men, though none in particular are ill-natured." - Lord Halifax

Ever hear of the term "co-dependency syndrome"?

You sometimes hear that term in regards to abusive spouses, abusive parents, or even abusive significant others. That’s when the victim of abuse is so conditioned to believe that he or she "deserves" the abuse they suffer that they will protect their abuser. Often when someone is concerned and want to step in, the abused victim will tell them to not get involved.

Even when the abuser is violent enough to put the person they supposedly love into the hospital, that victim will passionately defend that abuser. They will go to the grave if need be to defend that abuser. They have been thoroughly conditioned – by their parents, by their peers, by the abuser, and by themselves – to accept this abuse as their lot in life.

And I’m sure every single one of us would shake their heads and say "Well I will NEVER be like that! I would NEVER allow anyone to abuse me that way! I would stand up to them! I wouldn’t allow it to happen to me!"

And I’m sure we would all mean it too. Even the victims of abuse tell themselves that in the beginning.

Unfortunately, many of us have accepted this kind of abuse by a group of people who claim to care about us. A group of people who claim that they’re only acting in our best interests. That group is called our government.

Before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, it was believed by many people that government could do no right. People were skeptical of government, and of politicians in particular. They were self-serving little toadies who couldn’t change a streetlight without a petition and a generous "campaign contribution". They passed whatever law the special interests wanted, no matter if that group is the self-righteous God Squad or a bunch of obsessive environmentalists.

Granted, not everybody in government was inept, abusive, or self-serving. As a former firefighter myself, I can attest to the fact that there are plenty of government employees who work hard and do the job they are asked to do. Unfortunately, though, their contributions are often shadowed by the incompetence of those who abuse the system, and their job. And the very nature of government, with its bureaucracy and its kleptocracy, makes it next to impossible to weed out those inept and corrupt bad apples.

After the terrorist attacks, however, government suddenly became the body that could do no wrong. All government employees – even the bad ones – were socially canonized. You couldn’t question the government without being branded as a terrorist. The FBI even started handing out flyers that said that anyone who spoke out to defend the US Constitution should be reported as a terrorist. They were suspicious people, the FBI said.

Somewhere in the deepest bowls of Hell, the tormented soul of Senator Joseph McCarthy is laughing his ethereal ass off over this, wishing he were alive to churn the old "red scare" hysteria yet again.

And what government always wanted to have, government got after 9-11. Especially when it involved things that we once considered too intrusive. Unprecedented search-and-seizure laws? Done. Make any bank transaction over $10,000 a matter for the government? Done. Tap into your computer at any time without a warrant or notification? Done. Secret police? Done. Secret courts? Done. Big Brother’s shopping list was filled quickly and quietly without many members of Congress even being allowed to READ the bills being presented to them. Just pass them and read them afterwards, they were told.

And even though we’ve told ourselves that we won’t let the government abuse us this way, we’ve remained awfully silent over this. Many of us have simply nodded like good little co-dependants and said that it was just the price we have to pay for fighting terrorism.

So let me ask you… how has government improved to go from being inept to being unquestionable?

Are the airports any safer now that Congress and the White House enacted a law that would make security and baggage screeners government employees? Do you feel safer knowing that despite the presence of armed members of the National Guard, an airport like Atlanta’s Hartsfield International was able to be shut down for hours by some impatient passenger who forgot his camera bag?

By the way, how do you like those security lines now? If you thought flying was a hassle before, wait until you realize how much of a hassle it is now that you’re not only going to be in those lines even longer, but also that you’re paying EXTRA for it! Feel any better now?

How about your mail? Feel safer knowing that postal workers are treating your mail like nuclear waste? That they’re taking even MORE time to deliver your mail simply because of the backlog of mail that is being screened for anthrax, smallpox, and any other nifty biological threat?

Do you feel any better knowing that government is busy convincing members of Hollywood to crank out "non-propaganda" messages? Remember when the government violated their own Payola laws a few years ago to get Hollywood to crank out those "non-propaganda" messages about drugs? Look, if the writers, directors, producers, and actors want to show their support, they sure as hell don’t need the White House to encourage them to. They can do that on their own… and it makes their message a little more genuine. Now, the next time I see some studio sing the praises of the US Government, I’m going to think Payola.

Has government suddenly and magically "improved" itself after September 11th? Have all the incompetent, corrupt, and power-mad bad apples suddenly disappeared, replaced by saintly, gregarious, and understanding public servants? No, they haven’t. It’s the same government as before, only now we are seeing the generous abuser instead of the violent one.

So what can account to us clutching to government? Nothing but our own fear.

People instinctively turned to government to do what they were supposed to do in the first place… protect us from foreign invaders.

But let’s get brutally honest here… the operative word is "instinctive." We were scared. We felt threatened. We turned to government like children turn to an old teddy bear. Or like an abuse victim turns towards their abuser when threatened - for that feeling of stability.

But that didn’t stop President Bush from declaring that Americans discovered a "newfound faith" in government. His own subtle way of telling us that we once again deserve this government. That we were wrong, and government was right. After all, if government was still wrong, why did we turn to them in times of trouble?

Well, we do that for two reasons. First, because it has been practically hard-wired into our brains since childhood to respect government. We are indoctrinated to respect government in the same way parents indoctrinate religion to their children. Even if that authority is wrong, even if that authority is corrupt, and does things to hurt us, we are told to blindly respect it. Our "faith" is forced upon us by years of indoctrination by schools and parents.

The second reason is because one of the few legitimate reasons for government is to protect us from outside threats. Ask any libertarian, they’ll tell you. Do the words "provide for a common defense" ring a bell?

We didn’t turn to the government after 9-11 because of some mystical "faith" that government has improved any. We turned to government because that is their job! We expected them to go after Osama bin Laden and his pig bastard lackeys, because that is what they are there to do. And much to Da Big W’s credit, that is what is happening right now.

The sad part, though, is that if the US government DID do its job before 9-11, many of bin Laden’s lackeys would not have been in this country to carry out their terrorist attacks. Now, that same government is trying to overcorrect itself, thinking that it would make up for past sins.

And yes, some members of Congress are now claiming to be shocked and surprised at the level of government intrusion they had so blindly signed into law. But I think you’ll find that it will be mostly for show.

It will go something like this: So-called "concerned legislators" will make a big display for concern to reassure the voters that "they are on the case". Then Attorney General John Ashcroft will give a wink and a smile and utter that irreverent government line: "Trust me." And they will. Do you know why? Because he was just like them. He was once a member of Congress. He knows that this concern is just an act to impress the voters, and that deep, deep, down they really support such measures and more. He knows that like any abusive spouse, government will say all the right words to keep their victims from leaving them.

Folks, our so-called "newfound faith" in government is nothing more than an expectation that our government does the job that was spelled out to them in the US Constitution. It does not give them the authority to suspend the Constitution simply to correct their past mistakes. If they want us to have REAL faith in government, then they have to do more than just talk about the rights and freedoms they claim to cherish. They have to actually defend those rights and freedoms, not just from outside forces, but also and especially from themselves.

After all, the first thing any abuser has to learn to truly change their ways is self-restraint.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Week of 11/19/2001

On Teaching Freedom
- by David Matthews 2

"A man's worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes."
- Thomas Henry Huxley

It’s a new day for most of Afghanistan.

For five years, the people of Afghanistan were under the control of the Taliban, an evil theocratic force that ruled at the barrel of a gun. A theocratic force that forced men to grow long bears, forced women to wear head-to-toe coverings called burquas, and outlawed almost everything made in modern civilization. Pictures, statues, television, radio… anything that the Taliban believed "distracted" people from their strict interpretations of Islam was considered immoral, and therefore illegal.

Religious police scoured the countryside making sure their interpretations of Islam were enforced to the letter. Women who were accused of violating the laws of the Taliban were taken to a stadium and slaughtered. Religious police, often nothing more than eighteen-year old boys, would storm into people’s homes and whip or shoot suspected violators. And if women were accused, the men would sometimes be punished as well. The acts of atrocities that are the trademark of the Taliban are seconded in their violence only by the genocides of Germany in the 1940’s and of Bosnia in the 1990’s. And all of it done in the name of religion.

But now those days are over. The Taliban have been deposed, thanks in no small part to a combined and prolonged assault by US and British forces and with the aid of the Northern Alliance. Their control over the various cities is crumbling with every sortie of fighters and bombers in the air. The fear-mongers have become fearful of the commando strikes by US and British Special Forces.

And with the collapse of each Taliban-held city in Afghanistan, the brutal bullies that are left behind have become the victims of their own brutality. Dead bodies of Taliban supporters dot the streets like so much roadkill. They hang from the trees like demented Charles Manson Christmas ornaments. They’re found in the drainage ditches and sewers for people to spit upon, urinate, and otherwise show their utter disgust for their brutal theocratic regime.

So now cities like Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif are free. And the people there are tasting what that freedom allows them to do. Women no longer have to hide in their homes, or wear those ugly body-concealing burquas. Instead, they can show their face to the world, and even put on makeup. Men are free to shave their beards. Indeed, the busiest place in Kabul once it was liberated was the local barber shop. Men lined up to shave their faces and display their satisfaction of life without the Taliban watching over them. Radios, television sets, and video recorders were pulled out of hiding and put back into use. Children played in the streets. Gyms and boxing studios once again reopened to the public.

So now comes the hard part… what to do now that these parts of Afghanistan are free.

The people are enjoying life without the Taliban for now. But that may not last. Even now, old tribal forces are once again resuming their bitter rivalries, trying to divide up the cities as spoils of their victory.

Oh, sure, everyone agrees to the principle of a new united government in Afghanistan. But each group feels that THEY have to be the unity.

It is almost as if these various tribes have forgotten the five years of Taliban control that they all unanimously despised. As if they forgot that the real reason why the Taliban managed to take over more than ninety percent of the country was BECAUSE of the infighting between the various tribes. While they bickered and argued, the theocrats took over. As old as the tribal leaders are, you would think that they would also be wise enough to learn the lessons of history instead of constantly repeating them. Sadly, age is no substitute for wisdom.

So what needs to be done?

Well, first things first. The US needs to have a hand in helping the Afghan people get their act together. We’ve been supplying them with food and aid and weapons since the 1980’s. It’s high time we start putting a price tag on that charity, starting with rebuilding their government.

But we need to do more than just that. We need to do something that we have had a hard time doing of late… and that is teaching people about freedom.

It’s easy to teach people about democracy, and that’s what we’ve been doing. But democracy does not equate into freedom. Heck, even the Soviet Union had what they called "democratic" elections! Any two-bit tyrant can have a voting system set up and call that a democracy. That doesn’t mean that freedom reigns in that area. That just means that they too can be members of the Florida Election Commission.

We need to get the message out to the people of Afghanistan that if they truly enjoy the freedom they are tasting right now… if they love seeing women out and about and not covered up… if they enjoy hearing music and watching television… if they enjoy having a clean-shaven face… then they must be more than just bumps on a log. They have to FIGHT for that freedom! They shouldn’t have to wait for some other force to come by to liberate them, because odds are, if the Taliban didn’t protect Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qua’ada terrorist network they way they did, they would still be in control of that country for years to come!

Oh yes, we ringed our hands in frustration over what the Taliban did for five years. We watched in anger as their tanks destroyed centuries-old Buddhist statues. We saw the atrocities being carried out, and reported on them. But we wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. It wasn’t our place to do that. It was up to the people of Afghanistan to put a stop to what the Taliban were doing, and they didn’t lift a finger. So why should we?

Let’s get brutally honest here… freedom does not come FROM government, it comes IN SPITE OF government. It comes from people standing up and taking control of their own government instead of letting the government take control of them. Outside forces like the United States can help provide the opportunity for freedom, especially by helping to overthrow a tyrannical government. But they cannot provide that freedom itself. That only comes when the people WANT it badly enough to fight for it themselves.

Of course, it’s hard for us in the US to teach freedom when we really don’t practice it ourselves. We have universities preaching free speech, yet exercising censorship in the name of "tolerance". We’ve got our own Christian version of the Taliban who are frantically weaseling their influence into government in the name of patriotism. We’ve got politicians who pledge to support and defend the US Constitution, especially after the 9-11 attacks, and then quietly violate that pledge in the name of added security. It would seem somewhat hypocritical for us to serve as teachers for that which we do not fully understand ourselves.

And yet, if we won’t, who will be able to? Socialist France? God help us all if that is the case!

The only alternative to showing the people of Afghanistan the benefits of freedom would be condemning them to endless conflicts between the various tribes, waiting for the next batch of tyrants to step in and take over. Is that what we want? To have to repeat this whole matter five or ten years down the road?

We have at this moment a golden opportunity to help provide the Middle East with an alternative to the struggles they have endured. For countless centuries, these countries have known only two things: theocracy and monarchy. If a king isn’t running them, then some religious leader who claims to have a direct line to God is running them. Neither are healthy options. Both lead to the same end… an elite group with power, and the rest of the huddled masses just trying to get on with their lives without getting killed, and everyone else thoroughly pissed off. And that is the lesson that is taught in such countries to the great unwashed masses… a lesson of envy and hatred for those civilized nations. We have a chance to show these countries that the prosperity we enjoy is not just because of circumstance or providence, but also because of the individual freedom that we enjoy.

We have that chance to be the teachers of freedom, but that time is not infinite. The longer we wait, the greater the chance that the Afghan people will choose to go back to the same chaos that gave rise to the Taliban. And if that is the case, then everything we have done, and everything we have sacrificed for, will be for nothing.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Week of 11/12/2001

Whose Net Is It Anyway?
- by David Matthews 2

"Make men wise, and by that very operation you make them free. Civil liberty follows as a consequence of this; no usurped power can stand against the artillery of opinion." - William Godwin

For most people, the Internet is a relatively recent thing. Electronic interconnections that are less than a decade old, measured in life spans more designed for household pets than for humans. To say, for instance, that a website has been online and running for five years is an achievement equal to a store being in business for twenty years.

But the Internet itself is far from young. In fact, it has been around in one form or another for over thirty years. That’s actual years, not net-years.

For the first few decades, it was a way for the armed forces to communicate in the event of a nuclear war. It allowed the exchange of vital information to continue even if vital lines of communication were cut. Eventually, this access was extended to certain colleges and universities, and of course to the various companies developing projects for the Defense Department.

But then in 1988, the government got out of the Internet business. The Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union was self-destructing, and the fear of wide-spread nuclear war subsided, so there really wasn’t a need for the Internet as it existed then.

So the US Government gave up control of the Internet. A group of computer programmers called the World Wide Web Consortium got together and hammered out a common language and a protocol for this network. They developed File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and the Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), as well as the domain names that would be commonly used in place of the long string of numbers that identify various servers. They created the Internet that we know today.

But the problem was that even though the US Government got OUT of the Internet business, they didn’t want to STAY out. They kept on wanting to butt right back in, wanting to dictate how the Internet SHOULD be run.

First came the Communications Decency Act, government’s bullheaded modern-day version of the Alien and Sedition Act. Spearheaded by senile geriatrics and lobbied for by self-righteous anti-American organizations who claimed they were doing it for the sake of "the family", this law was not only in direct violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but also contrary to the very nature of the Internet itself.

Fortunately, some sane-minded judges (or at least sane for the moment), realized what was going on and they shot down the US Government’s attempt at seizing control of the Internet for the anti-American "pro-family" groups.

But the US Government wouldn’t stop there. They kept on writing more and more laws trying to once again take control over the Internet. The bastard son of the CDA, miss-titled the "Child Online Protection Act", otherwise known as COPA or CDA 2.0, was written and signed into law just months after the US Supreme Court granted the Internet full First Amendment protections. That law is expected to be reviewed by the Supreme Court this month, and hopefully the justices will be of sound mind to once again squash this law like its anti-American predecessor.

But the anti-American, anti-freedom groups didn’t stop at the federal level. Many states soon began passing their own laws trying to regulate the Internet, often at the insistence of these groups. Fortunately, though, the courts seemed to be more aware of the issues than the dumb-ass legislators who kept on listening to the anti-freedom crowd, and they ruled that states couldn’t control Internet content either.

But others soon began to get involved, taking their lead from the US Government. The French government felt they had a right to impose their laws on Internet providers around the world. A judge there ordered the Internet portal Yahoo to block all access of Nazi memorabilia listed in their auction site, in compliance to French laws prohibiting the sale of such items. Yahoo is an American company, whose servers are located in the United States, and yet a foreign government was ordering them around. Fortunately, once again, a federal judge (in America, mind you) ruled that an American company with no physical presence in a foreign nation cannot be held by their laws.

Of course, socialist France doesn’t like that ruling. Their anti-freedom crusaders are bitching and crying that such a decision would create a "safe haven for extremists and radicals." Apparently socialist France is so wrapped up in their socialism that they don’t realize that they’ve become no different in the collectivist mentality than the Nazis themselves.

Then there are other special interest groups who have decided that they should control what goes on the net and what doesn’t. The multi-label recording industry, for instance, has already managed to shut down one file-sharing company, and are rabidly trying to shut off any other peer-to-peer services. Their rationality is as old as the Betamax video recorders they used to rally against: that any recording device will only be used for evil purposes, and therefore must be banned. It is a rationality that has been successfully challenged in court numerous times.

So the question is whose Internet is it really?

Well let’s get brutally honest here… this is OUR Internet. Not just the United States, not just France, not just the recording industry, not just Yahoo, and certainly not just the anti-freedom special interest groups who buy and sell politicians like they were baseball cards. It is OUR Internet as well. We all have a stake in it. You, me, the neighbor down the street, the elderly couple in the retirement home in Illinois, the modern-day hippies living in Berkley, the preacher living in Key West. We all have a stake in the free exchange of information that the Internet provides.

And it’s not that these anti-freedom groups don’t understand the nature of the Internet. Quite often, they do. After eight years of being in the public eye, it’s hard NOT to know the nature of the Internet. These groups are not techno-phobic. They are freedom-phobic. They’re afraid of freedom.

These groups love the idea of one unifying medium of communication. They just want to be the ones to CONTROL that medium. They are afraid, petrified even, of the idea that the average citizen can access things that are outside of their control.

It’s sort of ironic that the Recording Industry went after Sony’s Betamax, when the company turned around and tried to dictate what kind of movies would be released in the Betamax standard. Although they had a much better quality, the Betamax standard for videotapes would eventually die from obscurity when compared to the greater latitude of films produced in VHS format. A very important lesson to be learned in that regard.

One of the reasons WHY the Internet has been so successful in a relatively short span of time has been because of the vast collection of ideas that are out there. That’s something that disappears once you have groups who take it upon themselves to determine what should and should not be online. You don’t counter unfavorable speech by censoring that speech. You counter it with even MORE speech.

The Internet is, by far, the best advertisement for what freedom really is all about. Real freedom is a collective idea, but far from a collectivist one. It is about the ability of individuals to make their own decisions, not of groups dictating what those decisions will be. It is a bitter pill for these groups to swallow, but one they have better get used to, or else they will go the way of the Betamax.

Monday, November 5, 2001

Week of 11/05/2001

The Real Enemy
- by David Matthews 2

"From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step." - F.A. Hayek

Ever since George Bush’s War on Terrorism started with air assault on Afghanistan, the two statements that have been constantly chanted has been that our response to the 9-11 attacks would be neither a war on the Islamic religion, nor would it be a war on Afghanistan.

And from a strictly US and UK perspective, it has not been a war with Afghan people nor with Islam. In fact, we’ve been bending over backwards to help out the Afghan people in terms of supplying aid to them. After all, the bad guys this time around are really invaders from Pakistan and a spoiled rich pig bastard from Saudi Arabia. This is something we’ve never done with any other war effort. We usually give aid AFTER the war. Here we’re giving aid before AND during the war.

As for the claim that our aggression is really a war against Islam, if that is the case, then why would the US bend over backward to get the support of Islamic states like Pakistan and Turkey? If we really were the bad guys, we wouldn’t be asking permission to play through, would we? No, we wouldn’t. We’d just storm in and tell them to deal with it.

Nor would we start out with conventional weapons if we were truly wanting to destroy Islam. Do you really think that an aggressive war-like nation with a history of using nuclear weapons against their enemies would simply sit back and allow some pissant group like the Taliban to taunt them? Just ask the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki if you have any doubts about our willingness to nuke whole cities if need be.

But then again, I have to remind myself that this is the perspective of the good guys. The ones who have been wronged by a bunch of pig bastards who hide behind women and children and are not above killing anyone who disagrees with them. From their perspective, OF COURSE it is a war on both Afghanistan and Islam. After all, the Taliban run Afghanistan, don’t they? Well, most of it anyway. And we want them out of power. And since they are also supposedly all theology students, they believe that they not only support Islam, but also arrogantly presume to BE Islam.

So from their arrogant self-righteous perspective, of course it is a war against Afghanistan and against Islam. That’s the message they are able to get their great-unwashed masses to chant whenever they see a member of our alphabet soup media.

And that is what makes this war so different than previous ones. Even if… or when… we kill Osama bin Laden and every member of the Taliban and restore Afghanistan to some semblance of order, our war against terrorism would still be far from over. There would still be scores of others around the world who would turn bin Laden and his wacky band of un-merry men into martyrs and excuses to cause even more trouble. And we would be obligated to fight them as well.

But the real difference between this war and the previous ones is that the real enemy is NOT just Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qua’ada terrorist network, or the Taliban. They are just one part of the problem, one face of the enemy.

Let’s get brutally honest here… our real enemy in this war is not politics nor a person, but an ideal, a belief. In this case, it is religious fundamentalism. The bastardization of a belief into a cult-like following where absolute compliance is the rule.

In his article to the New York Times, famed author Salman Rushdie points out how the Islamic religion itself has been taken over by fundamentalists who then use their religion as an excuse to persecute others who disagree with them. If there is anyone who would know about that, it would be the man who still has a death warrant against him by the Shiite clerics in Iran simply for writing a book they did not like.

Indeed, long before Osama bin Laden even thought nasty thoughts about the United States, the face of the enemy were the Shiite Muslims who were taking Americans and Europeans hostage all around the world. They were the ones calling for jihad against the civilized world. And they were more than just one person, or one country. It was, instead, a sect of people operating with theocratic beliefs that were bastardized by absolutes.

Unfortunately, Islam is not alone in this theological abuse. In the nearly two thousand years of its existence, Christianity has certainly had its share of fundamentalism. How can we forget the reign of terror caused by Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition? The zero-sum fundamentalist mentality he and his cronies exhibited was not just limited to Spain. Indeed, that mentality was pretty much standard for Europe during the whole Dark Ages. Self-righteous theocrats used the cross as not just their shield, but also as their sword, to smite those whom they felt did not live up to their beliefs. They turned Christianity from a religion based on love and forgiveness into one of fear, terror, and self-righteous tyranny. As Will Durant put it: "Protestantism was the triumph of Paul over Peter, fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ."

And sadly that mentality is still here today, and not just in the Middle East. There are quite a few religious leaders today who would beat their chests and say "Well, I would NEVER advocate the kind of carnage caused by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban." But then in the same breath they would talk about how they believe America is a Christian nation, and how everything would be better in the world if school kids would simply pray to their prayers and government was run in accordance to their beliefs.

Whether or not they accept it, the fact of the matter is that these self-righteous fundamentalist crusaders of modern-day Christianity are as much a part of the problem as the self-righteous fundamentalist crusaders of Islam. Their mentalities are the same. They strongly believe that their religious beliefs are so absolute and without question that they demand everything in the world conform to their beliefs.

Granted, our Christian versions of the Taliban do not talk about bombs and explosions and deaths, but that’s only because they have their own preferred weapon – government. They know that as long as they have the support of people who make and enforce the law, they do not have to take action themselves. They can have others take action on their behalf. And because we are talking about government, there is absolutely zero risk for anyone involved, even if the laws they lobby for and pass and enforce are wrong. It is a win-win situation for them, and they exploit it at every opportunity.

Imagine, then, what would happen if these fundamentalist groups in America were deprived of that power called government. What would happen if they did not have even the "unofficial" support of the legislators, the judges, the education system, or of law enforcement? What if they were to be considered by our society to be truly no different than any other group of people? To be given no more preferential treatment in government than… say… the publisher of Playboy Magazine? Would their political impotence force them to moderate their fundamentalist views? Or would their zealousness compel them to take to those drastic actions that they currently condemn?

It would be scary for us to find out, wouldn’t it? And yet, if we really do support freedom for everyone and not just the dominant groups, we would have to put that zealousness to the test.

Unfortunately, the signs are already there that zealousness would prevail over civility. Look at how one anti-abortion terrorist group in Virginia allegedly used the Anthrax scare to terrify 200 women’s clinics with fake Anthrax letters. When the anti-abortion groups fail to get government to do their bidding, some decide to use terrorist tactics.

Part of the problem with fundamentalism is that their more moderate peers are reluctant to keep these groups in check. You can see that today with the reluctant positions of the Arab nations in their condemnation of the 9-11 attacks. Oh yes, they condemn the action, but they won’t condemn Al Qua’ada or bin Laden, or of the Taliban in helping facilitate them. Yes, they’ll say, these groups are pig bastards… but they’re OUR pig bastards!

History has shown time and time again that civility and zealotry are not compatible with each other. Zealotry and religious fundamentalism are both the real enemies of any civilized world. Their rigid adherence to the status quo… or even for the status quo of the past… is contrary to direction of civilization. All you have to do is see the kind of abject poverty that exists in countries run by fundamentalists of any religion to know that it is not good.