Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark... and Saudi Arabia... and the United States... and...

By this point, I'm sure everyone has heard about the Muhammad cartoon controversy. In case you've been living under a rock the past several months, Wikipedia has a great summary of the controversy. The events began in summer of 2005, when Danish author Kåre Bluitgen was writing a children's book about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. According to Muslim tradition, any visual representation of the Prophet (even a respectful one) is idolatry, and is therefore not allowed. Bluitgen had great difficulty finding an illustrator for the book, eventually finding someone who would illustrate the book anonymously. Illustrators were afraid of reprisals from fundamentalist Muslims, such as the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

On September 30th, the right-leaning Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article about the controversy, including a satirical cartoon. The cartoon showed twelve "design sketches" that the illustrator could have had. One showed a middle-aged Muhammad standing in the desert. Another showed Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb.

Conservative Muslims in Denmark were offended and angry, but there wasn't much controversy initially. But Muslims in Denmark showed their family and friends in the Middle East, and by the end of the year, it led to a massive controversy. By December, people in Saudi Arabia were holding a boycott of everything Danish (even those awesome butter cookies). In early 2006, Muslims all over the world held increasingly large protests against the cartoons, even setting the Danish embassy in Syria on fire. So far, at least 139 people have been killed in cartoon-related violence. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has described the controversy as Denmark's worst international crisis since World War II.

So that's where things stand now. Everyone and their pet moose has an opinion about the controversy, and I don't want to rehash all the opinions here. I think the most interesting thing about this is one thing that no one has mentioned. One political newspaper in Århus published the cartoons, and Saudis responded by boycotting ALL Danish products. As if everyone in Denmark was responsible.

This is an example of what social scientists call the "outgroup homogeneity bias." Basically, the outgroup homogeneity bias is the idea that "we" have lots of interesting differences, but "they" are all the same. In reality, as the TDEC can attest (she's been there), there are lots of different people in Denmark. Denmark has conservatives, socialists, physicists, rap MCs, insane soccer goalies, and even one lonely moose. But, looking from outside, Saudi Muslims see only one kind of Dane: the creators of the Muhammad cartoons.

But now, mainstream Americans are doing the same to Arab Muslims.* Most Americans oppose the sale of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of the U.A.E., and some of the funding for 9/11 came from the U.A.E. But should we really believe that Dubai Ports World had or has any responsibility for the 9/11 attacks? That anyone who works for DPW is trying to sneak terror materials into the U.S. That DPW ownership will prevent American port workers from investigating containers as they always have? Do we really believe that all UAEers are the same?

Sadly, it appears that we do.

*It's important to specify "Arab Muslim" here, because only 1 in 5 Muslims is Arab. Few Americans know this - the outgroup homogeneity bias at work again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a comment on the DWP controversy. One of the less reactionary and more thought-out arguments against the DWP takeover is that a State wouldn’t want a company owned by another state to run its ports. It seems that Dubai does own DWP . The argument goes, that because a port is a strategic point giving a government access to the defense of that port is opening yourself up for attack.

What I don’t like about this argument is it assumes that foreign companies are more trustworthy than are foreign governments, which I’m uncomfortable with. Also, what keeps foreign governments from infiltrating any company?

I’m just saying. If ports are that important, why aren’t they nationalized? That’s right, because we trust our corporations more than our government too. For more on how smart Americans are see the following link.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006 1:07:00 PM  
Blogger CB said...

I also wondered about the questions of liberty, of agency and social. Seeing the interviews with the editors of the cartoons this act was intended as provacative. The question is why the provocative was treated so provocatively.

Friday, March 03, 2006 7:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, the outgroup homogeneity bias is illustrated by Star Trek. The humans have a number of cultural groups whereas the aliens only have one culture each.

The ancient Greek idea of the music of the spheres was that all motion was at a constant speed in a circular direction. The wheel was sacred to them. Light came out of their eyes, rather than going in, and a well-balanced life consisted of dividing one's time effectively between the different spheres in life. Hence, the value of "simple" approaches like the Golden Mean.

In fact, the Greeks thought that the planets revolved around the earth in epicycles. Therefore, it would appear to be literally possible from a mathematical basis to find loopholes for yourself, so long as you take as a given that your own perspective is the only one that exists. (There is no sun pulling in the events in your life around.)

In 1000AD, Alhazen, an Arab scientist (which was rare in Arabia where they also liked the Greek idea that maths is acceptable but vectors do not exist) proposed that perspective comes from light reflected off an object into our eyes. Isaac Newton introduced a number of new concepts into the equation with time differentials, infinitesimals, vectors, gradients, tangents etc. These days, physics conceives of a circle as being a bunch of tangents.

Gotta go now.

See ya round.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 6:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on previous post about Greek influence on our culture and nature of justice:

Of course, the Greeks believed that the sun existed. It served as a constant source of mythological inspiration with which to "educate" the populace about moral behaviour and self-determination. Its function as a literal heavenly body was limited compared to what we know of it today. Einstein's theory of general relativity seems to be heading back to the ancient Greek model. It also happens to be missing one feature - electromagnetism. It's a dark universe.

So we have the "scales of justice" where there is no direction. It's all just calculations of magnitude. Going to court is really supposed to be your absolute last option, because it's viciously calculating.

I am a Christian. It could be said that Jesus has been used in modern culture the way the ancient Greeks used the sun for social engineering purposes. The mythologies abound, but they are merely to tell the populace either to behave or to take more responsibility for EVERYTHING. As for Jesus being a real heavenly body inspiring movement in the universe on a constant basis, John chapter 1 says so.

It really seems that matters of traffic are a constant talking point. Agoraphobia can be dealt with (although not effectively cured) by means of taking objects, people or ideas with you in public that represent movement to you - knowing the "right" people, owning the "right" car, a walking cane, a bike, a skateboard etc. Hence all the arguments about who owns which bit of the infrastructure. It's the arguing about it that seems to placate people that at least they're having a part in it.

It's the same question that's been around since the fall of Lucifer - is the freight fraught with danger? Where are the biggest risks in life? Is it swimming in ocean rips, or is it having a "real" conversation with your partner?

There are so many crutches that people use to feel like they're in the loop and the powers-that-be like to keep it that way.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 6:51:00 PM  
Blogger Héctor said...

Congratulations for your blog.

First i want to apologize because i´m spanish and i speak english very bad.

Your analysis is very great. You have made a good job.

I study sociology and your blog is very interesting for me.

See you!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008 11:10:00 AM  

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