We live in difficult times for anyone who is wants to promote justice and equality. We are living through an era in which large, globalizing corporations have overwhelmingly dominated the political discourse for more than 30 years. And as the Neo-Liberal consensus has begun to show cracks and is basically breaking down, the rightwing has begun to ramp up its strategies of fear: fear of change, and fear of 'the other.' The primary target of this strategy of fear has been the relatively soft target of Islam. I call this a soft target because this has been a pretty safe target for Western leaders for hundreds of years. It is easy to feed on people's underlying bigotry, particularly religious bigotry. And the Neo-Liberal leaders of the West, desperate to consolidate their power and narrow our political discourse, thrive on religious bigotry. Oh, of course they will never admit that this is their strategy because that has become socially unacceptable. But they are fully aware that this is what is going on.
The most interesting (and tragic) part of this strategy is that for a long time now, Western leaders have been quite intentionally aggravating so-called Islamic extremism with the clear knowledge that they need this "enemy" to drive their economy of war and their politics of fear. The grandest deception of modern times is the portrayal of Israel as "victim." But the focus of political Zionism has been fairly clear from the beginning. The creation of Israel was orchestrated by violent "terrorists" like the Stern Gang who intentionally created as much conflict as possible with Palestinians in order specifically to create an image of Middle Eastern Jews as victims. They did this because it was the only ideological shield that they could use to hide behind as they took more and more Palestinian land. This strategy among Israeli leaders has continued unabated now for generations. Take Palestinian land, lock them up in giant prison camps and then portray yourself as a victim on the defensive every time the Palestinians fight back, meanwhile continue to take Palestinian land (in clear violation of international law) while everyone is looking at and blaming the Palestinians. It is a strategy has even deceived many Israelis as so well illustrated by the Israeli peace activist Miko Peled.
But our own leaders have more or less adopted the very same strategy. Part of this has been the simple and clear knowledge that failure to support the Palestinian people will continue to feed the ranks of desperate and angry groups who actively, and understandably, use any means at their disposal to fight back. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also been central to this strategy. The strategy is this - create conflict, ignore or exploit religious and ethnic differences, arm and incite these groups either directly or through proxy states like Saudi Arabia, and then use these enhanced conflicts to further expand war, military spending, and increased security powers in our own countries. It is, in fact, an age old military/political strategy; create conflict and then use that conflict as the excuse to enhance your power, military might, and surveillance or our own population.
It is a sad strategy in every possible sense. It destroys lives, creates chaos and death, and it is easily sold to a surprisingly gullible population. Part of the problem is that there is a significant conceptual deficit among people when it comes to the issue of power. Most people have only a one dimensional view of power which sees power moving in only one direction and misses the subtleties of how it is used to deceive and how it moves through structures and can expand backward toward the source. Thus, people in the West will, for example, demonize Islam or Islamic nations, failing entirely to see how Western nations not only created these countries (mostly during the First World War) and then exploited thees nations to enhance the need for continual war. It really is just a more complex version of using provocateurs, which governments and capitalists have been doing forever.
Arguably the worst by-product of this strategy of fear and one dimensional view of power is bigotry. You see it all the time and it is profoundly frustrating. People will see the terrible actions of 'the other,' (in this case Muslims) as the main source of conflict and evil, meanwhile they will ignore not only our own Western history of violence and evil, but completely ignore the active part that our governments and arms dealers play in the sustaining this history of violence etc. Thus people will ignore the fact that George Bush started a war almost solely for personal vengeance that killed over half a million innocent people, but they will drone on and on about a single murder perpetrated by 'the other.' This is the kind of ignorance that our leaders are actively promoting.
As Bertrand Russell once said, "Most people would rather die than think; many do."