JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: FOR THE MUSLIM WORLD IT”S NOT A SAFE OR EASY PATH TO MODERNITY – A COLUMN BEGS THE QUESTION OF WHEN IT IS EVER SO FOR ANY SOCIETY – SOME HISTORY   Leave a comment

 

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DOUG SAUNDERS IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Sorry, the premiss of this piece is shabby.

There’s nothing special about “the Muslim world” which makes the path to modernity neither safe nor easy. Indeed, saying so, demonstrates not a good grasp of history and provides one more sad bit of evidence of the Islamophobia with which we are inundated.

Just a few hundred years ago, Christians were hacking each other into pieces and burning alive those who varied in some minute detail, such as the nature of the bread and wine at mass, in their faith.

Yet Europe today is generally regarded as the world’s most civilized and tolerant set of societies in the world, although the social impacts of heavy immigration are beginning to erode that view.

The path to modernity is never, never safe or easy, for anyone, and, truth be told, it is never finished. We are always playing catch-up in our laws with the social changes engendered by technical and economic change.

The idiot-savants at the Pentagon and the CIA would have us believe that you can just change an ancient society in a matter of years, but that belief is the equivalent of thinking you can remove an ancient, ailing oak tree from your yard with a hand scoop.

It took virtually all Western societies centuries to evolve even to the state of civilization we see now. The beginnings of the modern era go back about five centuries, a time span which reflects the emergence of a new standard in economic growth. Still, even those five centuries are filled with riots, revolutions, wars, and countless horrors.

Even in “the New World,” the United States took more than two centuries to become the approximation of a democracy we see today. In the wake of its Revolution, almost no one could vote, it being estimated that maybe one percent of Virginians could vote, blacks and women being excluded but also, often not appreciated, most white males. You had to have a certain amount of wealth to cast a ballot.

Even then, the Senate was appointed until 1913, the President was elected only by the Electoral College (a small group of the moneyed elites), the popular vote did not determine anything, and the Supreme Court dared not dream of enforcing the Bill of Rights across states so it remained an empty set of high-sounding words. It took decades of change and strife to get what we see today, including what was the bloodiest war ever experienced by Americans, the Civil War, in which it lost roughly twice the people it lost in WWII.

The immense turmoil and mass murders in getting votes and rights for blacks went on for most of the country’s history. In the 1920s, several black towns in Oklahoma and Florida were virtually wiped out by white mobs, the bodies of hundreds buried in mass graves.

Women only gained the vote in 1921 after a long and difficult struggle.

The truth is that democracy in some form and respect for human rights are virtually inevitable when an old society experiences consistent economic growth. Economic growth and the rise of a strong middle class act almost like a solvent on the customs and beliefs of old societies. It is a long process, and it is never without a good deal of pain.

Even in North America we are not through with the process of economic development affecting old ways: look at all the turmoil over matters like rising divorce rates, abortion rights, and gay marriage – all things which are necessary and, in a sense, inevitable for a free society which continues to grow and change.

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