Posted by: aboutalbion | November 16, 2015

Paris … and the question of texts

I spent yesterday in the company of three citizens of France, and I assured them that my thoughts and sympathies were with the people living in Paris.

Although I’m very alarmed at the murderous events of three days ago, I have to confess (as I have posted before) that it would not surprise me if further convulsions occurred for the next few decades as the centenary anniversaries of several events in the Middle East that involved Britain and France and Russia as ‘Great Powers’ are remembered.

For example, 16 May 2016, will be the centenary of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement in which large areas of the Middle East were carved up between the ‘Great Powers’ for their own control and influence.  It might be very unwelcome, but it is surely understandable that sooner or later the descendants of the residents of these territories might make their protest in public in unacceptable ways.

Where does the analysis begin?  Some will start with the primacy of the “human rights agenda”.  Some will observe, “There can be no settlement of any issue in the Middle East until the Palestine / Israel question is resolved.”  Some will begin with the question, “Who has the right to say who an extremist is?”

My own analysis begins with my opinion that modern liberal economic Western culture (in which I live) is talking past older authoritarian Middle Eastern religious culture.  I sense no engagement.

My view is that Western economic culture has in recent centuries talked itself into believing that politics and religion are separable.  I also hold that ‘assertion without evidence’ is not rational.  For myself, I have yet to see any persuasive evidence that a political social formation is essentially different from a religious social formation.  Both social formations talk the language of aspiration to attract supporters, and both social formations organise and deliver real time social benefits to subscribers.  My conclusion is that Western economic culture is a culture whose leaders (rivals to each other) believe that they are the authorised interpreters of sacred economics texts (which assume that different groups – and individuals within these groups – have a monetary value).

By contrast, I sense that Middle Eastern religious culture [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam] believes that politics and religion are not separable.  Hence, I find that their culture is a culture whose leaders (rivals to each other) believe that they are authorised interpreters of sacred religious texts (which assume that different groups – and individuals within these groups – have a soul value).

I think most people would agree that there is no limit to the interpretation of one sacred text, let alone multiple sacred texts of two fundamentally different genres.

So far as I can see, the basis for a meaningful dialogue between representatives of the modern culture and the ancient culture is missing.

That being the case, I hope our thoughts and sympathies will be not just with Parisians but also with the whole wider world.

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