Tag Archives: Islam

The Way of the World, David Franklin

Browsing a Vegas Goodwill shop for some throw-away layers to wear at the cold early-morning start of a marathon, decided to pick up a lightweight travel–read as well, and this slim volume peeped out from among the shelves and shelves of generic cops and lovers. In 239 highly-readable pages Franklin traces human-kind’s progression from purely survival-driven tribalism to today’s globe-girdling, technology-dependent, relatively-rational and somewhat-open-minded civilization, postulating 8 major steps that got us here:

Becoming Human; Inventing Civilization; Developing a Conscience; Seeking a Lasting Peace; Achieving Rationality; Uniting the Planet; Releasing Nature’s Energies; and Ruling Ourselves

Echoing others who have called the Twentieth ‘The American Century,’ he presents a case that the USA’s eminence is due not to any inherent moral superiority but simply to the lucky accidents that allow it to embody humanity’s most progressive (most progressive to date, he might caution) traits and achievements. With that as back ground, he then speculates on what the next century might hold for our blue, white, green and brown orb. Nearly twenty years in on that adventure now, it is interesting to note that Franklin wrote here in 1998 of the threat posed by the most-radical factions in Islamic cultures (and fundamentalism in general), rightly characterizing it as a rejection of rationalism; a willful step backward on our communal journey. Clear evidence, if any were needed, against those who imply that those forces only became visible on 9/11, and a prescient analysis of our current big picture.

Most striking of Franklin’s observations are those which connect over the centuries – ancient Greek thoughts and actions which seem eerily apt descriptions of contemporary ones; and Rome’s struggle to survive, which appears so similar to some scenarios of our own system’s woes. Of course this author is not the first to make such connections, as he himself points out.

Ultimately optimistic in its view of a species whose intelligence has, for six thousand years, led to the gradual but unmistakable improvement of most persons’ lives, this is also a cautionary tale – progress is neither continual nor assured. But, the record suggests that it is possible, and should we continue to avoid self-destruction, any periods of stagnation or back-sliding are likely to be followed by eras of further progress.

A comforting outlook that extends past any one moment of circumstance; the very exemplar of why History is worth studying.

Unlike the second-hand hoodie I purchased that morning and tossed onto a pile near the start line outside St. George, this book is staying on my shelf.

Images of The Prophet?

In the aftermath of Paris, we’re hearing a lot of talk about whether or not Islam truly prohibits images of the Prophet, but that is an entirely wrong-headed question for the broad public debate. 

Sure, that particular question is important to practitioners of Islam, and if they believe it is so, they should be (and so far as I know, are) free to not create such images, not display such images in their homes, their mosques, etc., and to not purchase materials which contain such images.

But their freedom to practice their religion cannot be allowed to create a constraint on the equal religious freedom of others.  I am not a Muslim, and I do not accept that their religious teachings have any bearing on whether I wish to draw, sell or view images of the man they call The Prophet.  To accept or legislate that would be an abridgement of my freedom of religion.

If you are offended by Charlie Hebdo, don’t buy it!  If you are offended by even seeing it for sale,  stay away from places that sell it – or better yet, take control of your emotions, and walk on by.  Any human being can be (and probably is) exposed on a daily basis to appearances or behaviors they do not like, or by which they feel offended, but your feeling offended is not sufficient reason to curtail anyone else’s freedom.

Which exposes the true breadth of the issue at hand; that if criminality or prohibition of any behavior is determined on the basis of whether or not someone is offended or their feelings hurt by it, then all semblance of rationality, consistency or proportionality is lost, because persons can choose to be offended by anything.  That is neither freedom nor justice.