Sunday, February 08, 2004

The "Real" WMD

Thomas Friedman wrote something that's been rattling around in my brain for the past month:

"(T)he real WMD that threatened us, and still do, are the young people being churned out, year after year, by failed and repressive Arab states, who hate us more than they love life and therefore are undeterrable. I am talking here about the boys of 9/11. I am talking here about all the youth identified in the two U.N. Development Programme Arab Human Development reports—youth who want to run away from the Arab countries they were raised in because they are so frustrated, angry, and humiliated by how their governments and society have left them unprepared for modernity. Sept. 11, I have always believed, was produced by the poverty dignity, not the poverty money. It was the product, as Egyptian playwright Ali Salem once remarked, of young men who felt so humiliated by the world, they felt like dwarfs, and dwarfs search out tall towers to bring down in order to feel tall. Humiliated youth, ready to commit suicide using instruments from our daily life—cars, planes, tennis shoes—and inspired by religious totalitarians are the real threat to open societies today." (italics mine)

This bit resonates with me. I can't help wondering how many of us - adults and youth, alike - are actually "prepared" for modernity. Perhaps the difference between adults and youth is one of kind: adults are (I hope) less prone to extremism. Youth, well ... in my rural community, it's not at all uncommon for the weekend to be punctuated by police cars, brought in to deal with violent altercations. Parents here wonder if their kids might not relax a bit if they had more of the big city's amenities. It's possible, I suppose. But part of the challenge we all face is to square our immediate reality with the various images and "alternate" realities presented to us, not just by our chosen religious leaders, but by our media as well.

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