keskiviikkona, syyskuuta 27, 2006

Authorities, church, and the Islamic world

Here in Europe, we have a tradition of having two 'authorities' to complain about. Parties that have kicked our individual asses and caused a lot of problems. Not everybody, not even most people, agrees with my assesment, namely government and church*. But still it is there, within our culture to complain about those two parties, if they ever do reach out and do bad enough things. It was the time of enlightenment that brought these ideas into light and very much delegitimized church and government as institutions of authority (which does not say that it succesfully delegitimized them as institutions, but only as authorities).

People are apt to complain about government and about church, if they do anything that goes past their bounds. We have also developed a culture where free criticism of these institutions is important, accepted, and any attepmt to silence such criticism is met with harsh condemnation (again not by everybody, but by many enough to say that it is part of our culture).

In contrast, the people in most Islamic countries have grown up with three different classes of authority. The church, the government (which are sometimes almost one and the same), and the western world. Through past centuries, western countries have ruled many of the islamic areas with force of arms.

Therefore, the situation becomes more complex, unfortunately. The westerners react to Islam, as they would to any religion trying to impose its belief system upon non-believers. Mohammed cartoon episode is a great example of this reaction. Ridiculing the religion who asserts authority has been the important western way of delegitimizing the authority of a religion that is pushing itself too far - in our opinion. So far so good.

But from muslim perspective, it is not a battle between people trying to rid themselves from the authority of church, but a western world that is trying to impose its authority upon the islamic world (the church). The image of the case becomes, not a fight of people trying to rid themselves of the authority, but a fight between one authority trying to impose over another authority.

So our perspective of the situation greatly differs from the perspective of the muslim world. The problem then becomes, how can we get to a world, where we can ridicule a religion that is trying to impose its authority and nose where it does not belong and where the muslim world does not look upon that as western imperialism.

It's a hard problem to solve, but if we don't manage to solve it, we will either have to get used to a lot of muslim world having hostile reactions to criticism of Islam, or to get used to not criticising it. Neither of the solutions is preferable, thus it is important to figure out ways of proceeding towards better future. As an optimist, I think it is possible - world is, in many ways, what we make of it. And even more importantly, what problems we choose to see and solve.

* I should probably add the 'invisible hand' or the 'free market' as another 'authority' in the discussion, but I will omit it here, firstly because it is not relevant to our discussion here and because the free market is an idea, not a group of people and the invisible hand does not have a spokesman who would speak on his behalf - after all it is an aggregate of all the individual decisions we do on the statewide (global) marketplace. (Though in some ways the hatred over the 'authority' of free market and the hand resembles the hatred of the 'authority' of the western world.)

6 kommenttia:

Anonyymi kirjoitti...

Suurin syy miksi islamilaisia ei saada luopumaan uskonnosta on länsimaissa vallitseva tekopyhyys. Länsimaissa on varsin paljon uskonnollisia ihmisiä (lähes kaikki). Ja toinen asia on länsimainen imperialismi. Miten muka islamilaiset saadaan ottamaan länsimaiset arvot tosissaan, kun me itse olemme täysin tekopyhiä ja rikomme niitä arvoja joita väitämme puolustavamme. Islamilaiset pitävät länsimaisia täysin tekopyhinä ja arvottomina (ihan syystäkin) samalla lailla kuin me niitä.

P.S. Pilakuvakiistasta hyvä artikkeli:

Mikko Särelä kirjoitti...

I don't think that's the biggest reason, but it is an important reason. There are quite a few others, but that and some others make western help problematic.

Anonyymi kirjoitti...

Auktoriteetissä ei sinänsä ole mitään vikaa. Kyse on vain siitä mihin se perustuu. Jos se perustuu väkivaltaan, niin se on huono asia. Sen sijaan tietoon tai laajempaan kokemukseen perustuva auktoriteetti on yleensä hyvä. Tällainen voisi olla esimerkiksi lääkäri, joka tietää paremmin mikä on minulle hyväksi. Tosin aina kannattaa kyseenalaistaa auktoriteetti.

Mikko Särelä kirjoitti...

That's the difference between being an expert and being an authority. Expertise is a good thing and we should use expertise that other people have.

Authority, on the other hand, is something that relies on it not being questioned. Whether one is an authority or an expert often depends on the other person. It is a bad thing to trust your doctor to always know what's good for you as much as it is a good thing to utilize the knowledge your doctor has to better your life.

It is a question of who is in control. Not whether the person in control is right.

Anonyymi kirjoitti...

Kyllä sanakirjan mukaan esimerkiksi lääkäri on auktoriteetti potilaalle, kuten on myös omat vanhemmat lapselleen.

Mikko Särelä kirjoitti...

I guess I need to explain something. There is the dictionary definition of authority (probably a few of those, actually) and then there are concepts which are in need of a word.

In the post above, when I said authority, I have a particular concept in mind and I am trying to convey that concept as best I can. In this case, the word authority is the closest word that I found.

If it makes you feel better, let me define my terminology. Let febblity be a new word I define and let it mean approximately following: febblity is a situation where one person or party is given the right to make decisions on behalf of others regardless of the goodness of the decisions. It also often involves a tradition that makes criticizing the febbler is forbidden, or tabu.

Now, you can search and replace all the words authority in my article with the word febblity.

I hope you forgive me for not defining a new word for the occasion, but using an existing word that most closely resembles the concept I had in mind.

We should be interested and looking for concepts that describe/explain something and try to find words for them rather vice versa, i.e. getting a word and then try to understand its definition. Whether I speak of febblity, or authority, the underlying concept that I am trying to speak of stays the same. The possibility for understanding/misunderstanding differs, though.