October 12, 2004

The Coalition of the Circumcised

When you start digging into history, it's not always a pretty picture you come up with. I am ready to accept that the past is not rose-tinted, but definitely another country, one where we have emigrated from.
The recent Robert Fisk commentary/reporting (I love how he can mix both of them without losing his sense of urgency, anger and the broad sweep of his subject) makes you wish that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair had studied their guru and mentor, Sir Winston Churchill, a bit better on how he dealt with the Middle East before they had a go themselves.
I think most major and minor conflicts around the world involve a large degree of religion, especially the monotheistic kind, of course linked to the other usual suspects in conflict stirring, such as nationalism and economic strife.
But if you add the various cultural wars that are being "fought" in the developed world - abortion/gay rights/church-state separation in America; religious symbolism and its relations with the state in 'decadent' Europe; and even in Australasia the flap over the Civil Unions Bill in NZ and the gay marriage prohibition in Australia - I am impressed about how much it all boils down to contemporary religious revivals trying to do down a few short centuries of Enlightenment and rationalism.
As a baby boomer growing up in a post-war largely secular (but never underestimating the grim tenacity of Catholic hierarchies) welfare state in the first world, I and my peers considered ourselves grown men only when we didn't go to church anymore and made it our point (or part of our subculture) to lead a rational and irreverend life as much possible. Since before the turn of the millennium I feel we live in the Dark Ages again, where crusades and pogroms are again considered part of contemporary history and national dialogue, and where it is respectable again to believe in superstition (even of a secular kind).
I can't say I am very pleased to be ranged against this coalition of the circumcised.

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