Consumerism vs Islam

islamic door

by Jerome Grapel…….

I recently saw an interview with the philosopher Sam Harris. Harris has made his mark in the world defending the atheist position against the tidal wave of religious acceptance that is the status quo for most of the world. Being that I am not a “believer”, and being that such a mind set almost always goes unrepresented and extremely under estimated in the American narrative, I’ve always been fond of Harris’s work. It is usually precise, empirical, and easily digestible.

But he recently co-authored a book with a Moslem scholar from England where he ventured outside the yes or no God corral and into a discussion of the geo-political situation in the Middle East. The foundation of the work claims the Moslem religion itself, with its aggressive, warrior mentality, must shoulder much of the blame for not just the turmoil in the region, but the angst and fear now pervading much of the world. Surprisingly, Bill Maher, the super star political pundit — whom I also admire — has voiced similar thoughts on his TV show.

In the interview, Harris constructed the debate as a battle between himself and another great thinker, Noam Chomski. Chomski casts most of the blame for the world’s general state of fear and unrest on the imperial policies of the United States. It is difficult to read Chomski and not be impressed with the detailed minutiae of his work and the conclusions he reaches. When Harris began to make Chomski the boogeyman for an idiotic point of view — and he did so with an ire beyond respectful intellectual disagreement — I could not help but feel personally attacked. And yet — I’d be letting myself down if I did not give Harris his day in court.

Extra, extra, read all about it. Harris attacks Chomski on the Middle East and the world in general. It was a one sided fight with Chomski not in attendance, but for those familiar with his work, he was there in spirit. In this judge’s opinion, this is how it came out:

The first thing I mulled over after pondering the material, were what factors may be influencing Harris in a subconscious way. Remember, he is an intellectual atheist, which would have to entail an anti-religion, anti-clerical stance as well. To be able to blame much of the world’s woes on religion would seem to fit into his world view. I’d also guess — and check me if I’m wrong — that Sam Harris is Jewish. Although I know nothing with regard to his feelings in this sense, you don’t have to be religious to be a Zionist. I make no claims with regard to either of these possibilities, but I mention them for whatever relevance (none?) they might have.

Ironically, although in the end I do not accept Harris’s basic premise, I do not deny the assertions made about the Moslem religion. But I think he is confused as to what caused the current conflict and what motivates it. Harris makes a familiar mistake here: although religion seems to play a role in this whole Middle Eastern quagmire, it only does so superficially. This is not a religious conflict. It is much more a classic imperial-colonial conflict.

The Moslem world stretches in a long swath of territory from the western shores of North Africa to the fertile plains of India. It is primarily an Arab world until we get to Iran and eastward, where other ethnic and language groups swell the Islamic ranks. Regardless of the diversity included here, one thing is constant everywhere: the Moslem religion is the galvanizing social force in all these places. (The exception is Turkey, where secular and religious ideas are involved in an emotional civil war. But even there, the religious influence is still the Big Dog). Islam, in whatever form it comes in, is the primary guide, both legally and socially, for how to conduct your life. The State itself is generally just an administer of these principles. In the Moslem world, religion, one religion, rules.

Sam Harris is correct in one sense: nobody has ever accused the Moslems of being timid pacifists. Their prophet was a warrior. As we’ve all come to know, military action, violence and terrorist mayhem of a horrific nature will not stain the conscience of a substantial part of the Islamic population. Their definition of right and wrong can easily accommodate such behavior. They will not back down physically when they feel aggrieved and their actions, as barbaric as they may be, are justified by the cause.
But does that throw the majority of the blame on them for the current madness in the world?

Let’s examine their foes in this conflict, what I’d rather refer to as the occidental-developed world more than the Christian world. To some extent, as the world has become a smaller more familiar place for everyone, all the nations of Europe, North America and some outlier offspring scattered here and there (Australia, etc.), have very similar cultures. The Christian religion is almost singular in these places, but, unlike the Moslem realms, it is far from being the primary socializing mechanism for human behavior. It plays a secondary role, if any, to the ECONOMIC system and its incentives. In the developed world, what drives human behavior is wealth, commerce, trade, acquisitive power and — cue the trumpets — CONSUMPTION. When it decides to protect its interests militarily, this is what it is fighting for, not some religious code or spiritual concept. This economic concept is so omnipotent in the west we might even say religion has been absorbed into it. Even for the evangelicals — who I like to refer to as the American Taliban — whether they know it or not, their behavior is being shaped by secular concepts more than religious ones.

So what we have here is not a struggle between Christianity and Islam, but rather, a struggle between Consumerism and Islam. In order to explain this, let’s get some historical perspective:

One of the signature developments in the evolution of Occidental history was the Industrial Revolution. It was the beginning of a technological explosion more like a dam giving way than a methodical march forward. It was the catalyst for the idea of “mass production”, a productive mechanism that made almost all of humanity relevant as potential buyers and sellers. It was the genesis of the paradigm of our current culture, which I prefer referring to as “consumerism”. The ability to produce and distribute goods grew exponentially with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. With this spectacular growth came an equally spectacular growth in the need for energy to fuel this behemoth mechanism.

As we all know, the primary food used to feed this hunger has become oil. Equally obvious is the fact that the most abundant supply of this foodstuff exists in Moslem lands. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Occidental colonial apparatus began its incursion into these lands in an effort to secure control of these energy resources. Everything that has happened there since is the result of this effort. Much of what Noam Chomski writes about is related to the lies and subterfuges used by western interests to deodorize this exploitation, an exploitation that has eventually led to the geo-political unrest that pervades the Middle East and beyond. And, just to rub it in, if we add to this the dubious creation of a Jewish state in what had been Moslem lands for centuries — an idea that perhaps would never have been brokered without the fecund energy sources nearby — some form of local resistance is not difficult to foresee. If this resistance, in the western mindset, has taken on tints of barbarism and uncivilized behavior; if this behavior, as claimed by Sam Harris and others, can be related to something inherent in the Moslem religion or culture, this does not change the historical context of the current conflict, where Occidente, now led by the United States, has to be considered the aggressor.

But let’s get down here. Let’s get real. Let’s be honest with ourselves in a way our socio-political narrative never is. If we look back in history, even recent history, can it really be said that Islamic behavior, led by its religion, is any more cruel and aggressive than western culture, led by its economic incentives? I’ll let the readers mull that over on their own, but for this writer it’s a wash, a pick’em, even money.

Noam Chomski, in his ongoing efforts to pick through the rubble of the geo-political reasons for this mess, is far closer to unraveling the truth than Sam Harris with his psychological assertions with regard to Islam. If I had the chance to talk to Harris, I’d say this: if not for this unending thirst to fuel the consumer society, we’d have no problems with Islam.

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15 thoughts on “Consumerism vs Islam

  1. One of your best ever, Jerry. Not only content, but writing style.

    “In the developed world, what drives human behavior is wealth, commerce, trade, acquisitive power and — cue the trumpets — CONSUMPTION. When it decides to protect its interests militarily, this is what it is fighting for, not some religious code or spiritual concept. This economic concept is so omnipotent in the west we might even say religion has been absorbed into it.”

    Seems obvious as soon as you say it. Key to understanding the differences. And I agree, at the end–“Pick-em.”

    1. Rick, For me, simply having you responding to anything I’ve written is something that makes my day (screw Clint Eastwood). I guess what we have here is a classic example of reciprocal idiocy, but at this time in history, we are the impetus for it. Thanks for the vine, ciao, Jerome

  2. the wars are not between nations, religions, civilizations, or cultures. they are wars waged by, and on behalf of the international bankers to bring the world under their control. and they have largely succeeded.

    financial neophytes like Shaquille above, will yammer on about capital flight, currency manipulation, interest rates, and the other meaningless minutia of money theory, but it is the private creation and control of money that counts. a simple correlation between the nations that are “evil” and those without a Rothschild owned central bank, will disavow anyone from the notion that wars are not bankers wars.

    ok, let the tin foil rants begin….

    1. keysbum the ultimate purpose of central banks will forever be lost on ‘progressives’ like jerry since thier collective methodology and thought training stands as a mental block sad to say.
      then again i could be mistaken and they really like marching to the sound of the same group drum of safety in numbers perhaps? i’ll bet they choose hillbillery for thier next vote! cheers wjm

  3. Jerome…A few thoughts…I like how you process data. Noam Chomsky is “The Man” and has been for decades. He has been pointing out the Emperor’s nakedness for decades, but has been metaphorically kept at arms length by corporate media coverage and poo pooed as radical fringe. We don’t shoot our prophets and truth tellers in this country, we invalidate and relegate. Heaven knows, the corporatocracy does not suffer martyrs…

    Another thing…I’ve always thought what a brilliant marketing strategy in the dove-tailing of the Christian/Judeo biblical “dominion over all things” and corporate rape, pillage and exploitation of natural resources is…. God gives ExxonMobil a free pass to destroy our planet…BUT don’t worry, if we’re good little robots and don’t question anything, we’ll go to a glorious after-life. Brilliant! George Carlin used go on about that crap…I think his words were, “Holy Shit!”

    Oil…mother’s milk…One doesn’t need to strain one’s brain to know if you happen to live in a region with zero oil, you won’t be seeing any American troops killing you and bringing “peace and democracy” to your village. We have directly or indirectly made every “terrorist” out there that hates us and our Military/industrial/Corporate/Media complex needs haters to stay in business. A win win for our reigning Pathocracy.

    Always enjoy reading your work. Thanks.

    1. Alex, It always amuses me when a few cut off heads are considered something far more barbaric than high tech, massive killing. In the end, the result is the same. Now, are we more justified in our high tech killing than ISIS is with their guillotine? Maybe Donald Trump can figure that one out for us. Thanks Alex, your attention is always appreciated. ciao, Jerome

  4. Keysbum, I’d say you are agreeing with me. If you talk about the western world and what motivates it, yes, banks and such play a fundamental role. We are really talking about the same thing. One more thing: I happen to have a lot of respect for Mr. Boettger and his intellectual formation. If you are going to refer to him in response to anything I’ve written, I’d appreciate it if you’d give him the respect he deserves. Just because you don’t agree with someone does not mean you have to be demeaning. That is a sign of weakness not strength. As always, your attention is appreciated, PCM

    1. Mr. Grapel… I am not agreeing with you in the least. As usual you guys have selective retention when you read my words. I am saying it does matter what the western or eastern world, or any other world seeks as motivation; they matter not. What I am saying is that the power structure of the world cares not about social or political systems, geopolitical squabbles and stratagems, or even economic systems. Consumerism is inconsequential. How can you look around at the present state of affairs and argue that consumerism is the nefarious culprit that describes our present condition? Does 1/6th of the population on food stamps, or the lowest labor participation rate in history, speak consumerism to you? The banks do not play a fundamental role, they play THE role! And they play for POWER.

      As for Shaquille, well, you’re just going to have to tolerate my little vendetta. I guess you don’t remember the article he wrote that disparaged me and ended with a challenge to go “all Shaquille” on me. I took that challenge, but of course this inconsequential little man shriveled up like the di…… intellectual bully he’d like to be, and has failed to stand up for himself. That is hardly a recommendation for respect.

      1. Keysbum, Sorry, you are agreeing again. Consumerism is the result of exactly what the people you talk about do. It is their creation. And, hey, the people on Food Stamps in the developed world are living extravagantly compared to 3rd world poverty. Thanks for agreeing with me. ciao, PCM

        1. consumerism defined is the belief that it is a good thing that people spend a lot of money on goods and services, yes?

          so exactly how does that correlate to 50% of americans earning below $30,000? or being on welfare? not having a job? not able to participate in the “consumer economy?”

          it would seem to me if consumerism was the objective, the powers that be would unleash the money and let the people spend, spend, and spend some more. but they don’t.

          and that is because accumulating money is not the objective. selling 100,000,000 iphones is not what they’re after. power is the objective, power and control. power and control over the most valuable resource of all, us.

          1. Keysbum, Are you kidding me. Even the “poor” people in our society consume mucho-mucho. Check the windows in the project housing around KW. Air conditioning, as well as TV’s, I-phones, etc., even they are consuming big time, they count, they are part of the whole commercial scene. OK, here is my grand finale with regard to this whole subject: you seem to think you have invented the wheel with your theories on who is running the world. Dude, we get it. Sure, there is this cadre of “literati” at the tippy top of the economic pyramid that want to maintain and grow their wealth and power. Wow, like YOU are the only one that gets that? Now, if you cannot see the connection between how the consumer society works and how fuel figures into it and how the “literati” are involved in all this, then perhaps I am over estimating you. ciao, PCM

          2. no mr.grapel… you don’t get it. and unfortunately it looks as though you don’t have the capacity to ever get it.

            too bad.

  5. Jerome,

    Extremely well-written & laid-out…Excellent presentation….

    It’s my experience that a Self-Realized & Self-Actualized (intellect/consciousness/spirit) trumps the lingering influences of consumerism/islam/christianity/judaism and the like.

    I’ve come to know, the answers lie within the unexplored & underdeveloped potential, untapped within each individual. From this reservoir of enlightenment, all things are possible.

    Great essay. Thank you.

    Blessings & Respect

    1. John, It is rewarding to have you chip in about my stuff. If it interests someone like you, I can’t be wasting my time. John, yes, self realization, some of us actually get there. But how many more never arrive, living under the hammer of media propaganda, a force too strong for most people to transcend. I am not as strong as you. It depresses me. Thanks John, Jerome

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