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article imageOp-Ed: Innocence of Muslims and Rocks in the East China Sea

By Frank Kaufmann     Sep 28, 2012 in World
New York - Individuals are increasingly empowered by information technology to govern their lives, finances, communications, and more. Instead of working with this change, governments lean increasingly toward totalitarian responses.
Christopher Stevens, the man who President Obama, in his UN speech this season says “embodies the best of America,” together with three of his colleagues were killed by armed militants in a raid of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that lasted 5 hours.
The uninhabited rocks called the Senkaku Islands in Japan,and the Diaoyu Islands in China, are at the center of violent riots in China and Japan, disrupting 40 years of normalized relations between the two countries, and threatening annual trade of $266 billion.
The murder of Ambassador Stevens has been attributed to the airing of the anti-Islam short film Innocence of Muslims, but it is better grasped by Jamie Dettner in the Daily Beast as likely planning “mixed in with opportunism,” noting “heavily-armed assailants came well equipped with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns and were able to maintain sustained firefights with Libyan and American security guards at two separate locations.”
What do these two distant events, have in common apart from both having extremely destabilizing potential at global levels? It is that both events were triggered by irresponsible extremists who properly should be fully and wholly inconsequential, and now entire (powerful) nations have been dragged into enormous and deeply serious difficulties as a result. The film, Innocence of Muslims has literally nothing even remotely to do with the attitudes and opinions of 100s of millions of Americans. They reflect the addled and hate-filled impulses of an extreme fringe allowed to operate at the far and putrid periphery of America's properly upheld freedoms and rights. Similarly the furor of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that rages now (though not without important underlying issues) was generated by the hard-line nationalist,Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara who foists his own extreme and provocative habits onto the world stage by planning to have the Tokyo municipal government buy three of the five Senkaku/Diaoyu islands from their private Japanese owner. Why? We need this? Asia needs this?
The concurrence of these two tragedies and the plain insufficiency of governments to prevent the impact of extremist provocateurs points to the flowering of trends that put us all in constant danger, and require radical reform of political structures and cultural assumptions.
At the heart of this desperate need for radical reform is a curious blend of our finest avant garde, and a concomitant loss of an indispensable rear guard. The avant garde are the relentless and lightning advances in information technology. The rear guard is the lost glue of human integration, namely the mediating institutions through which we learn the rules and dynamics of being properly human in the world.
In the past, world affairs were dominated by centralized leadership. Governments were above provocations by rabble rousers, offensive cartoons against other people’s religious founders, attention getting “pastors” from inconsequential rural churches, or even the occasional demagogue elected to local office. They preferred not to go to war over such banal provocations. Now, in the age of social media, people of no legitimate influence can cause international destabilization. Even such unthinkable historical events as the murder of a foreign ambassador.
The reason why whole governments are now susceptible and are constantly dragged into problems caused by little persons is because the concept and structure governing does not match the world created by information technology. Movies made by tiny hate-filled people arrive instantly and directly at the doorsteps of hate-filled masses. So it is that these days big, lunking, billion and trillion dollar, national administrations are simply by-passed, not consulted. Wars are started without them, by small ignorant people.
Are we hearing solutions to this systemic disorder that shows no signs of abating? No. The response by big, constantly-caught-flat-footed governments to not being invited to the latest flavor of world-hate, is to move relentlessly and aggressively toward totalitarianism. World citizens in once free countries now are spied on by their governments to unimaginable degrees, using fear and force to compel compliance and the sleepy surrender of rights by once free peoples.
The unfortunate reality is, not only is this egregious, but it doesn’t even work. The simple fact is this, the seat of world movement devolves steadily toward individual autonomy, but the governance of world movement remains centralized in an archaic, unworkable habit of rule. What needs to be addressed is a double curse. Post-enlightenment influences have had the effect of corrupting and disintegrating the mediating structures needed for stability in human affairs, and which are needed to produce qualified leaders.
The mediating structures to which I refer, weakened by the force of modernity are family, church (i.e., my own religious home in whatever religion), and neighborhood. These foundational root-homes of basic, moral and ethical education provide the natural steps and progression that teach us wholesome social integration (cooperation and care for others), expanding naturally to citizenship (a gentle patriotism), and finally even informing proper behavior in the world (i.e., beyond my country … or ethnicity).
The double curse to which I refer results in totalitarianism. With the loss of mediating structures, human affairs crack into ever more centralized governing (increasing the use of force and constantly spying on citizens), and increasingly empowered private citizens with ever greater tools for self governance and decision making. The bridge between the two, structures needed to mediate bonds of mutual care between the ruling and the ruled have crumbled away. The ruled though increasingly empowered by advances in information technology are not served nor respected, but are met with ever greater attempts at control and manipulation.
Further, without family, church, and neighborhood, people entering the ruling classes (in all arenas, politics, economics, media and entertainment etc.) grow up malformed, lacking minimal relationships to the moral and ethical foundations required for them to manage their great positions of responsibility. I learned that bullying was wrong before I left home. I learned before I left home that physical violence when I am upset or insulted is wrong. I did not need the police, an army, public service announcements, or a thousand cameras in Times Square to learn the right way to bear insult and offense, or how to share and work things out instead of fight over things.
Leadership has failed to address the causes of world problems for two reasons. 1. They are not addressing what world affairs have become, and 2. they are not looking for ways to repair and recover what has been lost and must be regained.
What the world has become is an arena of direct person to person influence, for which an entirely new set of rules for healthy governance is needed.
What has been lost is the stability provided by those mediating structures which serves to create people who can be trusted to abide mutually with minimal, healthy basics intact.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about christopher stevens, senkaku islands, Diaoyu islands, Shintaro Ishihara, Information technology
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