31 July 2006

Slaughtered in Seattle

Naveed Haq is mentally ill. The experience of mental illness is unique to each individual so afflicted, but the expression of mental illness is often shaped by the culture(s) with which the afflicted individual identifies. So it is that Naveed forced his way past a employee opening a security door and entered the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, carrying a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol.

"I am a Muslim-American, and I am angry at Israel," he announced before he shot 6 women, one of whom was pregnant, and one of whom subsequently died.

Hog on Ice has some choice things to say about the incident. But I think he misses the implications of Naveed being a nut-case who was acting alone without any connection to Hezbollah. This, even though he did his shooting a day after the FBI warned that Hezbollah (actually Hezb' Allah, or Party of God) leaders in Lebanon and al-Qaeda had called for the war in the Middle East to be taken to America.

Part of Naveed's cultural conditioning is his use of the politically correct English he learned growing up in western Washington state. He even used what John Tompkins calls "owned" or "Green Language," by describing his own feelings rather than disparaging the group about whom he has those feelings. It lets one know that political correctness is no bulwark against rage - one's own or another's.

The other part of his cultural conditioning is his apparent participation in the tribal system of managing violence. Under the tribal systems practiced in say, parts of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Chechnya (among others), violence is not rampant, but contained. It is best explained by example.

Tariq murders Hasan. It is now up to Hasan's extended family to avenge his death, preferably by killing Tariq. But not necessarily. If Tariq goes into hiding, then any member of Hasan's family may kill any member of Tariq's family, and claim that vengeance is satisfied. This accomplishes two things. (1) It enables a kind of justice to be done in the absence of formal material and social structures for law enforcement. No elaborate police force, judicial system, or prison system is necessary, which is a big plus for societies that can't afford them because they are either on the edge of subsistence or nomadic. (2) It engages the basic structure of tribal society - the entire extended family - in discouraging the initiation of violence as well as over-reaction when violence is to be redressed. It works well enough for these societies, considering that they have been in existence for thousands of years, while Western Civilization is a relative new-comer.

Naveed's was a mentally-distorted act of tribal indirection. He wanted to redress what he sees as an over-reaction by Israel to Hezbollah's rocket attacks and the kidnapping of its soldiers. Since he couldn't get to Israel to kill some Jews, he did what he could. He shot a group of unarmed women whom he could presume to be either Jews or sympathetic toward Jews.

And so the shrinking of the world brought about by Globalization has not been entirely a "leveling up" as hoped by Thomas Friedman, and by those modernized societies who founded the United Nations. There has also been a "leveling down" of human behavior as tribal societies go global with their notions of how to run the world.

In part this is due to the West losing confidence in itself after the collapse of colonialism, and the collapse of Christianity in Europe and America as an undisputed source of meaning - as a way of knowing one's place in the universe. We no longer seem to know the way forward. Westerners want it to emerge as some kind of consensus between themselves and all the other peoples of the world. This creates a vacuum of leadership that sucks tribalism onto the Global scene.

The West is paying an increasing price for its lack of vision, unity and resolve. The tribalists so far have paid little that they cannot accept. So far.

But there is a price, and it will be exacted once some tipping-point in the West is reached. I remember a visit to the town where I grew up in Appalachia. It was dusk as I approached the front porch of an old friend. He waved his 9-mm semiautomatic pistol at me. It was a friendly wave - you can tell by the way the muzzle of the gun is pointed away from you at all times - and I thought nothing of it. Where I grew up that sort of gesture is normal. It was only when I got back to the West Coast that I realized that where I live now, that would have started a major incident with the law enforcement community. What the world and even the West itself little appreciate is how much of the West (in both Europe and the Americas) is made of people like my old friend.

So far, America has been a great place to be a Muslim, or anything else for that matter (at least since formally instutionalized racism was ended in the 1960s). I would recommend to Hezbollah sympathizers that they keep it that way, and leave their tribalism in their tribal lands. It would be most regrettable if they were to awaken the West's own tribal past.

There is one last point to be made from Naveed's individual act. Although Naveed is a nut-case, unlike most terrorists studied by Marc Sageman, he is nevertheless a volunteer, a wannabe, a free-lancer, if you will, for Muslim Terrorism. Domestic terrorist organizations in the US often operate by stimulating free-lancers to act on their own, without any actual connection to the organization dispensing the stimulating ideology. It's almost the only way they can keep operating in our law-enforcement friendly environment.

So, don't look for too many actions by organized Hezbollah groups in the US (even though they are here). If they get active, look for more "volunteers."


Scooper said...

See also this article at www.annaqed.com

Scooper said...

You'll have to paste this into your browser. The above link doesn't work.