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The Islamic Quandary: A Response to Ali Sina   

By Terrence Robertson

Dear Ali,  

I read and must have been somewhat misunderstood, do not lose sight of the forest for the trees. What does it take for democracy to take root?

In my field, software, we use a lot of, what are known as, 'logic trees' to answer the basic question of; "which came first, the chicken or the egg." This is not a mere academic exercise in philosophy; especially not when tens of millions of dollars are on the line for a company. The purpose of 'logic trees' is to 'drill down' to the 'root causes' in very complex decision structures in order to clarify those structures that require amending. As cultures, governments and economies are very complex structures, 'logic trees' are ideal for discerning the root causes for the success or failure of nations. And as democracy is viewed worldwide to be the ideal form of government for nations to aspire to, for a democracy to succeed, we must ask the question as to what precursors must exist for democracy to succeed.  

Fortunately, we do not have to go too far into that exercise as the historical precedents available provide ample sources from which to draw upon to answer that question; what precursors must exist for democracy to succeed. Look the world over and answer me one question; is there a single true practicing democracy that is an economic failure? And by economic failure, I am, of course, referring to the living standards of that nation's average citizens; because just as governments are derived drawing their legitimacy from the consent of the governed, economies must serve the needs of the entirety of the citizens within that economy.  

Now, let's look at the topic of terrorism; is terrorism a uniquely Muslim practice? If so, what would you call the practices in Columbia and Mexico , two staunchly Catholic nations, of kidnapping, murder, and ethnic cleansing? What would you call the practices in and between animist societies in Africa of ethnically cleansing whole tribes from regions where the lack of resources and changing times jeopardize the continuing well-being of one tribe leading in centuries past to sell off members of a conquered tribe into slavery? What would you call Hitler's ethnic cleansing of Jews in Europe during the Second World War.? Now, are those not also terrorism?  

So, I have established two things;  

  1.  No true practicing democracy is an economic flop for its citizens, and

  2. Terrorism is not a uniquely Muslim practice (Do understand, though, that this is most definitely not a defense of Islam).  

Therefore, the next step would be to ascertain which came first in true practicing democratic societies; democracy or economic success. Again, history abounds with the answer to this question; when democracy was defined in Greece (I am of the opinion that Greece did not originate the concept; rather they observed democracy in less organized societies in the Balkans and in Anatolia.), Greece was already quite prosperous. Rome was founded as a republic, and until Rome 's quest for Spain while denying Spanish peoples Roman citizenship thus resulting in the continuing saga of the Punic wars, remained a republic. But as Rome chose to subjugate Spain , and Rome 's citizen soldiers were impoverished in service to Rome (remember that Rome 's citizen soldiers were land-owning farmers who lost their farms when their tours of service were extended during the Punic wars), Rome fell into chaos resulting in the rise of the Caesars (Latin for king). As we continue forward in history, let's look at my country, the United States . Which came first, prosperity or democracy?  

The founding fathers of this country were all prosperous people. As mills expanded throughout the east in the 19th century, the old adage was that 'you couldn't keep people down on the farm.' But even that wasn't the first time that Americans learned 'you couldn't keep people down on the farm.' From the 15th to the beginning of the 17th centuries, one means that people used to immigrate to America from Europe was to agree to work someone else's farm until their passage was paid for. And this was the one big problem that led to slavery. Virtually from the time they alighted on our shores, they obtained land and became prosperous. And it wasn't until Britain decided how Britain would divvy up seats in Parliament that democracy entered the scene in America . Since the founding of Parliament 800 years ago, seats in Parliament had been divvied up according to the number of land-owners. The vast property in America and the number of land-owning farmers in America raised a quandary in Britain for divvying up those seats, because America 's number of land-owners would have shifted the majority of representatives in Parliament from Britain to America . And it is because of this that the American battle-cry for independence was "No taxation without representation!"  

America , however sat an ocean away from the mother country, and we won our independence by inciting a war between France and Britain . Thus tying up Britain in a world wide war with France , Britain had to 'settle' with America .  

Another Scotsman, Alexander Tyler, 300 years ago in Edinburgh writing about the Athenian Republic , wrote; "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years.  

These nations have progressed through the following sequence:

  • from bondage to spiritual faith,

  • from spiritual faith to great courage,

  • from courage to liberty,

  • from liberty to abundance,

  • from abundance to selfishness,

  • from selfishness to complacency,

  • from complacency to apathy,

  • from apathy to dependency,

  • from dependency back to bondage." 

The Middle East today is at the stage of spiritual faith, and is striving toward great courage. But the Middle East that has oil remains under the bondage of the petrodollar. While the petrodollar defines the quality of life for people within the Middle East, the Middle East will remain in bondage. Just as the Middle East is under the bondage of the petrodollar, Columbia is under the bondage of the narco-dollar and Mexico, as well as pretty much most of Latin America is under the bondage of an oligarchy that limits virtually every option they may consider. Oligarchies are notorious for their corruption, and it is that corruption that motivates people to terrorize their neighbors. Sadly, thanks to the neoconservatives in the Republican Party in America , of which Bush is one, America now is falling under the corruption of an oligarchy.  

In every society, money is power. Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In order to drain this swamp, we're going to have to take money out of the political equation. And there is no 'logic tree' yet created that has determined how to achieve this feat other than to recognize that since money is "a power," then money has to be addressed as "a power." A former Methodist pastor of mine wrote a trilogy on 'the powers.' Rev. Walter Wink is not what you might consider to be a fundamentalist. Most fundamentalist preachers, in my humble opinion, are not much different than your Wahhabiist fundamentalist imams. So Rev. Walter Wink's views on 'the powers' may come as a breath of fresh air for you in how to defeat "a power."  

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