Tuesday, October 18, 2016


A tourist in Myanmar has been sentenced to three months hard labor because he had switched off the loudspeaker in his room which prevented him from sleeping. It was a Buddhist prayer and he was sentenced because he had offended the Buddhist religion. How stupid and how outrageous can institutions be? Avoid Myanmar.

Fanaticism to the point of idiocy seems to be on the rise everywhere in the world, including religions that seemed broad-minded before, like Hinduism and Buddhism.
A few years ago, in India a very scholarly book on Hinduism has been taken out of the bookshops because it offended Hinduism. The writer, by he way, was more critical of other scholars than of Hinduism. My guess is that she didn’t take some Hindu scholars too seriously.

About Islamic sensitivities nobody needs to be reminded. Remember the cartoon where freshly-dead jihadists ate informed that heaven has run out of virgins. Till a few years ago the going rate was 40 virgins, meanwhile it has gone up till 72 virgins. What is the rate for girls who blew themselves up?
Scholars have argued that the original text most probably read: ‘plenty of green grapes.’ A transcription error of just one dot the wrong place, intentionally or not, could have shifted the meaning. The text about grapes would also fit, because grapes are mentioned just before too, while the virgins (‘green’ girls) fall out of the blue. Sorry for mixing up my color metaphors.

David Greer, writing about the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution once called fanatics the disease germs in the body politic. Religious fanatics are often worse than political fanatics, because common sense is even more repugnant to them.

What could explain this rising fanaticism?

Increasing exposure everywhere to an international world of finance, economics and technology diminishes local identities and local culture and that international world is clearly “Western”. Television does that, the internet and social media even more. If that is true, we are witnessing a backlash of threatened local cultures that cling to religion as an antidote to what might be an inferiority complex.

At the same time there is a backlash against liberalism, democracy, rationality and the acceptance of pluralism, even in Western countries. Part of  this may be due to a cycle of about 55 years in which progressivism and conservatism, right-wing and left-wing ideas change places. But only a part, I guess.

Unbridled capitalism bred socialism in its different forms. Narrow-minded socialism bred a return to neoliberalism and neoconservatism that spawned a world-wide financial system that is leaving behind so many disaffected that we get Occupy movements and worldwide blackening of multinationals.

The heydays of neoliberalists (read: neocapitalists) are over, though they still may assume they have the run of things.

Alternating waves are healthy - if they grow less and less extreme. But they also may grow more and more extreme.

Meanwhile, be careful in you holiday planning. Especially if you look like a Westerner.

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