Sunday, May 15, 2005

Newsweek reported that at Guantanamo Bay Muslim prisoners were subjected to some sort of mental torture by showing them the Koran, the Muslim holy scriptures, placed inside restrooms, or even flushed down the toilet. Nevermind that the reports may have been premature.

Now, that's pretty reprehensible. First, the USA is in a fairly precarious position as far as world-wide public opinion is concerned. Second, it's been well established for over fifty years that these methods of interrogation do not work. Not one bit. Nothing. So what's the point? But my diatribe against the idiots currently running the USAn government must wait for another time.

Muslim clerics and national leaders around the world protested and called upon the USA to respond. Cool. People around the world should call each other to account more frequently.

The USA said they'd investigate. Eh. It's not as if we hadn't known about garbage going on at Gitmo. It's not as if anyone in our administration seems to really care, or they wouldn't have promoted Alberto Gonzales to US Attorney General: Gonzales, who masterminded the USAn policy on torture. (Yes, I know that a lot of people are arguing that the policy didn't say torture was OK. Tell it to the Marines.)

The Muslim world erupted in riots. Dozens were killed.

My reaction?

Hey, Muslims! You're a bunch of assholes!

Yes, yes. That's not very conciliatory, and not very polite. And perhaps the riots involved a mere 1% of the Muslim world. If I were in a position where my opinion made any difference at all, I might not be quite so blunt. But here we have a bunch of people who seem to riot at the drop of a hat. How immature is that? Are we dealing with an entire culture composed of manic depressives? Instead of sending soldiers, perhaps we should dose them all with Prozac?

It's not as if Muslims have any sort of respect for non-Muslim religions. While it hasn't always been that way, most Muslim countries these days place little to no value on protecting the sensibilities of Christians or Buddhists. Hindus better keep their heads down, and let's not even talk of Jews. Not that any of these religions have the sort of rabid reaction to perceived disrespect as we've witnessed on the part of Muslims these past couple of days. (Perhaps devout Jews might get equally excited at reports about a Torah intentionally left in a bathroom.) Still, by and large Muslims' behavior strikes me as amazingly irrational.

It's not to say that there aren't irrational people in other religions. There are certainly lots of irrational Christians here in the USA. Lucky for the rest of the world they are comparatively few, so that their misbehavior is mostly limited to a few raped teenage girls and a Waco type situation about once a decade. It's not pretty, but it seems managable. It's certainly nothing compared to what passes for normalcy in Muslim contries.

My theory of the human mind says that all people (barring disease or debilitating environmental conditions) are pretty much alike when it comes to how we think, what our emotional responses are to stress, etc. It just seems to me that I can't explain what goes on in Muslim countries without resorting to unflattering stereotypes. Is it possible that the lack of education, borderline starvation, miserable healthcare, whatever, for the past few decades might have created entire generations of mentally unfit individuals in these countries? What bothers me about such a supposition is that it comes close to suggesting that countries like the USA should always intervene in other countries if it seems that their social institutions are likely to create populations of socially unfit individuals. (Not that the USA is likely to bother, unless our corporations smell a profit to be looted. Witness Iraq.)

So I'm wondering: can anyone explain this behavior, in terms other than what I've already used?