Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throwing Shoes

I don't want to push this too far, but the wave of support for the Iraqi shoe-thrower could actually be a good sign for civil society in the Mid-East.

I know that sounds nuts, but hear me out: a sign of a healthy political structure (and of a healthy society in general) is the ability to have disagreements, even very heated disagreements, without resort to violence.

Now, throwing a shoe at someone isn't really "nonviolent." But it's a lot less violent than what often passes for disagreement in those parts. Think of it as the state-carnival version of civil disobedience.

So I'm quietly hopeful -- assuming this guy doesn't disappear, only to show up in a shallow grave in six months -- that this will be a lesson to a whole lot of people that it's possible to motivate the masses to a cause without death threats, bombs, or guns. It's only one step in a long, long road, but it's a better road than Iraq has seen for a while.


Kaz Augustin said...

Andrew, throwing shoes or showing one's feet to another person, has been the kind of heinous insult people in that region have been using for CENTURIES. It's not a new, innovative, insult. Recall the image of an Iraqi hitting the poster of Saddam Hussein with his shoe when the Americans rolled into Baghdad. Or the rumblings in Somalia when US helicopters carried soldiers who sat with their feet dangling over the sides, visible to everyone below. Yes, it may be hard to believe, but Arabs and Persians have not been bombing each other into oblivion over every single slight ever since the Chinese shared the secret of gunpowder with them. Who knew? In fact, it looks like the idea of using bombs to blow up vehicles was introduced into the Middle East from elsewhere post-WWII.

Getting back to the point, what will contribute to civil society in the Middle East is not having every imperial power of the day interfere and start massacring and deliberately dividing societies along particular lines, based on its own whims and fancies. I wonder what a country like England, say, would look like now if it was subject to the kind of machinations that Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine had been. Oh look, Northern Ireland!

Andrew Wheeler said...

Kaz: Thank you for missing my entire point.

Kaz Augustin said...

Which was?

Kaz Augustin said...

Oh darn, I'm all ready for some intellectual fencing and you've gone to bed, haven't you? Damn you, planet large enough to contain multiple time zones!

Ah well, never mind. By the time you're up, I'll be unconscious. Move along and forget I ever said anything.

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