Somewhere on A1A...

Friday, July 25, 2003

Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam is the concept of Repairing the World, of making the world a better place. From Deuteronomy 16:20 “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” I believe it is everyone’s duty to leave the world a better place than it was when we arrived. I believe we should pursue Justice for every one, and I believe that our society is better than any previous or existing society in providing justice for all. It’s far from perfect, but a wider spectrum of our society enjoys more individual liberties and comforts and is more educated than any before.

Whether or not you believe as I do, you have the same choices to make on whether or not to put your ability to work to improve our world. By acknowledging that our world is imperfect, we cannot help but envision ways to improve it, and the vast majority of us try to make some difference. Different cultures and different people will have different ideas on how to make those improvements, but the aim is the same… to make things better.

The Armed Liberal in a post at Winds of Change, makes the outlandish statement,

And here’s my fear. I don’t want to be a part of a society that eradicated another culture; I don’t want to commit genocide.

I don’t want to be put in a position where genocide is either a reasonable option, or where my fellow citizens are so enraged that they are willing to commit it, and my opposition will be washed away in a tide of rage.
His fear is paranoiac, and his use of the term is offensive. It's not genocide to encourage another culture to modernize at least to the point that they can have peaceful relationships with its neighbors and trading partners. It’s not genocide to advocate changing society for the benefit everyone.

All cultures change over time as they adapt to modern realities. Some deal with the change better than others. The Arab Islam is struggling to fit into a modern world that doesn't quite fit their culture. For at least 600 years they have been struggling with the problem of modernizing while maintaining their culture. They have not been particularly successful.

Some, we call extremists, are demanding a return to the ways of old. Others are living in western society, trying to assimilate and to exert influence to make changes in their host nations. Do you accuse the latter of genocide if they work to institute some form of Sharia? The glory Days of Arabia are far in the past, that culture is no more… was it genocide? No, of course not.

A progressive culture and progressive people cannot preserve other cultures while, at the same time, extending a hand of cooperation for our mutual benefit. Peaceful coexistence demands compromise.. from all sides. How can one be an advocate and believer in making the whole world a better place while keeping distinct cultures isolated and stagnant?

To be progressive is, by definition, to be an advocate of change. We hope and work to make the change for the better of everyone. It is not genocide to work for change in Western culture any more than it is genocide to advocate change and modernity in Arab Islamic culture. The problem is that segments of the Arab Islamic culture are resisting any change, both from within and without.

Much of that resistance is violent and involves confrontation with non-Muslim modernity. But the fact remains, the Islamic world is changing, and as it changes, as it struggles to find itself, it is trying to keep its culture distinct from the West. But change is inevitable and it is not committing genocide to advocate change for our mutual benefit.

I refuse to apologize for Western strength and cultural dominance. While not perfect, we have much to be proud of and there is much that even the Arab world admires about our culture. We have much to teach but we also have much to learn from others as we all try to repair the world. Our culture, too, will change... it must...and it won’t be genocide.

As part of the ongoing struggle within the Arab Islamic world, called a civil war by some, we have been and are being attacked. We inserted ourselves squarely into that civil war by invading Iraq and ousting the Saddam regime. I think it was the right thing to do.

In changing the government in Iraq and managing a change in that culture that encourages personal freedom, respects individual liberty and gives the Arab world a working view of our democratic values instead of the Hollywood view they’ve come to know, we are doing a very good thing. Just by getting rid of Saddam we have made the world a better place. By giving the Iraqis the tools to provide themselves with liberty and prosperity, we are showing the Arabs how they can modernize while preserving the best of their culture. That’s far from genocide.


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