Thursday, December 01, 2011

Extremism in the Face of Liberty is a Great Vice: Barry Goldwater's acceptance statement during the 1964 Republican presidential nomination "Extremism in the face of liberty is no vice; Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue" sank him.

Egypt voted yesterday in its first democratic election. One of the most compelling Egyptian statements was spoken in the interview of a taxi driver in Cairo about his opinion on the Muslim Brotherhood, for whom he voted, winning big. “They look to God,” the tax driver said “They must be just.”

I am dismayed by this statement but I am not shocked by it. It is what one gets when many if not most of those who vote are illiterate; so illiterate that pictures had to be drawn on ballots so they could more easily vote. The essence of those cultures easily elect those who in reality are the least democratic among us, tolerate no dissension of belief, view things in black or white and act accordingly violent when anyone transgresses or violates their prevailing belief. When the uneducated vote in our times they often vote for religious leadership. The patent absurdity of the notion “They look to God,” because “They must be just” is obvious to those of us who are critical of power, critical of religion and critical of dogma no matter who says it.

One need only look to our own country which sports some of the most religiously extreme candidates in the world from the Christian extremist right. It does not matter whether it is Islamic, Christian or Orthodox Judaic religiosity. When people from these groups win man as a whole looses. The ability to exchange a diversity of opinion even if that opinion eschews religious mythological belief becomes impossible. The essence of what it means to be a free speech democracy is severely compromised if not lost. Cultures who do this remain stuck and even regress into reactionary nationalist politics. They are uncompromising, extreme and, often, extremely violent.

There is nothing better than an educated populous that attains a balanced understanding of world history and the events that follow. A nation based on a religious litmus test is a nation which cannot and will not advance. It is only through secular leadership that man can develop his natural and genetically ordained ability to think, create, and scientifically grow using the intellectual gifts all of man is fortunate to possess.

In sum: those in the west who wish for "democracy" in the Middle East ought to be careful. You may get what you wish for and often it is not whom you want!

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