I think this post went the way it did for several reasons. I love books and I have a lot of them. I’ve finally focused my collecting on history and religion. But, my oh my what I used to bring home from the library. Everything from Ben Hur, unabridged in the fifth grade to submarines, rivers and fish almost any year. From Gone With the Wind to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. That was the ninth grade. My parents didn’t censor what I read. They may have wondered what the heck I was thinking but they didn’t try to stop me. Thinking back, fourteen may have been a little young to start digging up everything you could find on the Nuremburg Trials but it’s too late now. So, in a lot of ways this entry is from someone drunk on words who hates to see them misused and abused. Just think of me as a terminally curious wordaholic
I believe this mess over Pope Benedicts’ use of a quotation attributed to one of Byzantium’s last rulers illustrates several things.
One, this Pope is no teacher and he doesn’t have the instincts of a teacher. As a cardinal, Benedict was the head of what used to be called the Inquisition. It’s now the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith or some darn thing. A teacher might have gone ahead and used the quote, but put it in context. He would have explained that Manuel II’s views of Islam were influenced by the almost constant warfare with the Ottoman Empire. An honest teacher would probably mention that Manuel’s opinion of the Roman Church may not have been much better. (I’m stopping there with this guy’s name. The names of Byzantine rulers were, well, Byzantine. Very long, hard to spell and almost impossible to pronounce.).
And we’re damned lucky to have a public school system in this country. In far too many countries if you can’t pay the fees, your kids don’t go to school. Contributions from Muslim radicals and oil money from the West funneled through places like Iran fund the religious schools in the slums of too many countries.
Think parochial school with one subject. These kids learn the Koran. Period. And they learn it by rote, in Arabic. And these are the only schools available. The rioters probably aren’t a majority in any of their countries, but too many are illiterate and don’t have anything approaching what we would call an education. I won’t even go into over five decades of policies and decisions by members of both parties that helped put and keep dictators in power who continue to abuse their own people. I can almost feel sorry for the demonstrators. Almost. The men who created them keep them focused on us so they won’t turn on them. We’re all riding the tiger and we can’t get off.
It’s also a warning. It’s no secret that certain groups in the Christian far right don’t support public schools. A lot of reasons form the smoke screen. But, I believe deep down it’s because they can’t control them. They want the public system gutted and replaced with one they can control. Gee, that sounds familiar.
You think mobs in the streets of Karachi are scary? Try to picture this. It’s forty or fifty years down the road. The middle class has ceased to exist in large sections of the country. Public schools and libraries in these areas have almost vanished. College? Forget it. Besides they’ve been gutted by the proposed student’s bill of rights that makes damn sure students who manage to make that far don’t have to hear anything they don’t want to hear. Parents have to choose between food, clothing and rent or school fees. The only schools available are run by smiling folks who make Pat Robertson look like a liberal. Think it can’t happen here? Now imagine what will happen when some of the “graduates” of these schools get a look at what somebody like me has been buying through places like Amazon and Alibris as I explore other paths of belief. Feel the flames licking at your toes yet?
Someone said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” I don’t think he had schools and libraries in mind at the time. But, that’s where it starts. So, the next time somebody starts talking about how the schools need to be streamlined and focused to fit the needs of the workforce, ask why. When certain activists want to make room in science classes for ideas better taught in a philosophy class ask why. When art, music and everything that isn’t covered by the almighty test keeps disappearing ask why. And keep at it until you’re blue in the face and they start resembling a well-cooked Maine lobster. Of course you may get what Socrates got when he did the same thing. Keep being an irritant and who knows how big the final pearl will be.
Ignorance is an equal opportunity demon. It comes in many forms and can be found anywhere. And it’s a busy little demon with thousands of brothers and sisters. All of them alive and well and whispering in the ears of the rioters and the chuckleheads making the majority of the posts on the subject over at AOL.
Funny, I intended to start with the Pope and go to Muhammad. How he acted like the typical reformer. What needed to be done was so obvious to him. When other people didn’t automatically see what he saw and fall into line, well a lot of them ended up dead or on the road as refugees.
Sometimes you go where the words take you. And there go both my breaks. Again. LOL
Note: I found what appears to be at least part of the text of the speech posted on the AOL boards on this. Don't bother trying to find it there. Folks are posting so fast it's buried by now. Maybe there's something posted on the net. Maybe I'll look tonight. One or two sentences in a long section discussing verses in the Koran had changed from earlier verses to newer ones etc. One sentence taken out of context being used by ignorant men and women to stoke the fires of hell on both sides. One side screaming "death to infidels" and the other side screaming "bring it on." I'm tired. I need a cat to pet.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1535672,00.html Try this link for an exceprt of the speech. A learned man speaking to other learned men and probably not realizing who was listening. What I said about the inquisition still goes.