Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Earth in the 21st Century

At first I was going to title this post "pictures from another world" or something like that. But it struck me that the pictures I was going to link to weren't from another world, really. What's more, they aren't from another time. They're this week's news.

I came across these when I clicked on a misfiled photo and found myself watching the slideshow labelled "Muslims Offended by Danish Cartoons" on Yahoo's news site.

There's a lot of ugly images in that slide show. Lots of pictures of burning flags of various nations, free speech protesters in London with the cartoons on their signs, protestors in Jakarta with banners saying Condoleezza Rice wasn't welcome, a dead Palestinian girl, victims of shootings by "suspected Islamic militants" in Thailand, funerals in Pakistan and India... Grenade wounds. Angry crowds. Blast sites. Tear gas. A picture from Guantanamo Bay.

But there are four that really struck me. They don't really have anything to do with the stories mentioned in their captions. They're just everyday scenes. And they're not from another world, and they're definitely not from another time.

A skyline

A man reading

Kids being lectured

A woman in the city

And then from the Afghanistan slideshow:

A kid with a kite

A cup of tea

The beginning of spring

(Here's another stunning picture of that and one of
women celebrating

Of course, not all the pictures look like this. Some are ugly, like I said. And some just look like the kind of candid snapshots we all have in our albums. But some of them are magic, a kind of magic our culture doesn't know (though we have our own kinds, of course). Can you blame anyone for wanting to preserve this way of life, or for seeing us as a threat to it?


Anonymous said...

"this way of life" is not necessary exclusive of basic respect for human rights and the establishment of a democratic process. however, it is incompatible with a normative liberal tradition that would vanquish all religion and culture from the public square, replacing it with a "neutral" Rawlsian veil of ignorance. George Weigel--a "neocon" to some--keeps insisting that we will never see democracy flourish in Muslim countries if we expect them to privatize their religion and become Rawlsian liberals. We need to attempt to reconcile liberal democracy with orthodox religious traditions. The catholic church has been so far the most successful of the great religions in reconciling itself with liberal democracy while at the same time not capitulating to its demands for public "neutrality".


Anonymous said...

maybe I should have said: "this way of life" is not necessarily incompatible with basic respect...


Anonymous said...

Remember that the "way of life" you respect being preserved includes swathing women in full-body burkas, denying them education, and forcing them into marriages with much older relatives.

Pyracantha at ELECTRON BLUE

Mary said...

Yeah, I know. Our culture does some pretty terrible things to women too, though. Makes 'em feel worthless if they don't look like porn stars, makes 'em feel cheap if they do. Makes 'em anorexic or obese. Makes 'em single mothers. Leaves 'em high and dry.

Sure, you and I would choose our culture with its faults over theirs, but we've got to be prepared to believe that many Arab or Persian or Afghan or Indonesian women might prefer the cultures they grew up in. Not all of them. But probably a lot. It's not just the men who look at us as invaders.

I'm just saying... Americans should try to understand what these people are fighting for.