Anyone else feel hopelessly pinned between religious/political fanatics and alarmist?

This is my first post on the BBQ pit. I never thought I’d do it, but maybe it’ll turn out to be therapeutic.

I want to know if there are any more Dopers out there who just feel hopelessly enveloped by a world full of people who already know all the answers. The people who “know” that the other side is at fault, and no (or very little) blame is due to them. The ones who seem to believe that some countries can carry out certain actions, though for another to reply in kind is disgraceful. The people who believe that there is nothing subjective in the word “terrorism.”

To be clear, I’m talking about people on all sides. I’m talking about red-state patriots who are sure that Islam is inherently violent and that there is nothing political about religious fanaticism, the Muslim who is sure that all Americans/Westerners are greedy/violent/immoral, and the Chinese person who doesn’t think of people when he talks about Taiwan (and vice versa), just some abstract, rogue territory.

I feel more and more that I’m one of the people who is actually trying to sort these things out, trying to see the nuance. So often, these black-white-world people I talk to have never left the country, or they have never made an effort to mingle in the country they are in.

Yes, I pride myself on the fact that I have gone out in the world. I have lived abroad several times (and will be leaving again in a month). I have strived to understand what “they” are like and who “we” are. The problem, is that the more people I meet and the more places I go, the less I understand the distinction between “us” and “them.” I just see a world, largely, full of people who want to get by.

But, there was a bomb on a plane today. The bombers, I suppose, were set on striking out against a monolithic, monochromatic enemy, while I’m sure plenty of people are waking up here in the US struck by the fear of what they see as a homogenous enemy that needs to be uniformly wiped out.

Yet, I feel that the answer is so much more complex and simple at the same time. Complex because it requires a concerted effort to look at things from all sides. Simple, because it’s not hard to understand why people do a lot of things they do when you put yourself in their shoes. I don’t mean accept what other people do, only understand.
I’m just rambling. What am I getting at?

I feel like there are millions of people in the world who are forming their understanding of the world based on a system of images, stereotypes, and preconceptions. Worse still, I feel that there are fanatics who never stop to question.

Then, stuck in the middle, there are people who think, well, everybody’s at fault, but to try to express that is preposterous to a lot of others. You’re either for Israel or against it. You’re either with us or against us.

You can’t simply be for everyone, and place fault where you see it, which is pretty much everywhere.

I feel a little better.


I think sadly that only a minority of people have nuanced views. And those views are often misrepresented as pro- the other side (check any thread about any controversial subject on the SDMB) by those with a simplistic worldview.

BTW, where was the bomb - or did you get the wrong end of the stick? Why do you hate planes?

P.S. not enough swearing, you cunt.

The way I see it, the world isn’t perfect, and neither are any of us.

Yes, some people are more worldly understanding than others, but we are all arrogant and stubborn and “black-white” thinking to SOME extent. Some people obviously have it worse than others.

I agree gitfiddle. Though I also find myself frustrated when I find people who aren’t willing to judge anyone whom they feel that they don’t have a complete understanding of.

Everything is certainly much much much more complex than it might seem on the surface. Too often that leads to people refusing to see that something might be wrong, or refusing to act because all consequences of an action won’t be good.

But, because those same people assume (usually wrongly) that they have a complete and utter understanding of what is familiar to them, they are more than willing to judge, accuse, and belittle things done by the culture that they think they understand so fully.

I love planes, and I love airports. Why do you ask?

The bomb “on the plane” was actually a badly worded reference to the bombs found today at a security check in London (Heathrow, I think), so it wasn’t actually *on *the plane (I don’t think).


Bollocks on that plot to pop the planes says I, the paranoid. I didn’t used to be this cynical. Humans are animals. Animals default to patterned behavior. With effort, humans can break from patterned behavior. Those who succeed see humans for what they are: a flock. Some choose to tend the flock, others to prey upon it. And that is the way of the world.

the vast majority ofpeople believe what they are told to believe, and it is typically the predators who can conscience telling the flock what to believe. Thus we have institutionalized hate rallies in Persia, and our own version of that in The West. It’s always been that way. The flock has been told to hate Jews, Japs, Reds, Krauts, Ragheads…and if you look closely, did the flock get any closer to achieving a peaceful existence? Or did the predators instead get to test their ambitions?

You’re fucked now, gitfiddle. Because you’ve risen above the patterned behavior of your fellow animals, and you’re not a predator. It will be very difficult for you to conscience, or efen effect, awaking the flock to the predators, so now you must sit back and watch the feeding frenzy and try not to get bit yourself.

You have the wrong end of the stick: there were no actual bombs; it was a thwarted plot.

Well see, that’s your problem right there. Curb that curiosity and you’ll be much happier. And as a bonus, you’ll also be certain that you are correct and everyone who disagrees is not.

I’ve heard Mike Wallace level accusations at people over the years, but he recently referred to GW Bush as “singularly incurious” or words to that effect, and it came across as being one of the most damning indictments that I have ever heard him utter. There seems to be an attitude in this administration of “I knows what I knows, and don’t confuse me with facts.” You’ll also see it with religious fundamentalists as well, so your assessment is spot on, as far as I can see.

Of course, I am welcome to opposing opinions. :smiley:

“I welcome…” or “I am open to…”

Your choice.

Damn. :smack:

The world has extremeists and fundamentalists in all forms, religious affiliations, and political stances and these people scare me. The bible thumping family who believes your going to hell unless you accept JC as your savior are just as nuts as the Muslim extremists who think the US is the incarnation of satan.
Yes, the extremists who act out their aggretions are worse in my view but both mindsets are dangerous.
Extremes are also, unfortunately, what gets attention (squeaky wheel theory).
Everybody listens to the Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs, Michael Moores of the world and is asked to “take a side”. If you take a stance of seeing both sides with their pros and cons you are labled “wishy-washy”,“fence-sitter”,“flip-flopper”.
The republicans want their extreme conservative and the democrats want their extreme liberal. Try to be somewhere in-between and they leave you in the cold (bye-bye Joe Liberman).

The black/white view some people hold is represenative of their ignorance and laziness to “think” about an issue and analyze it for themselves. They prefer a simpler “lableing” system to keep track of good vs. evil, us vs. them, right vs. wrong.

Between religious/political fanatics and alarmists? That makes it sound like they are opposing sides. I find a lot of alarmism expressed by religious/political fanatics, and I would have said I feel pinned by them, not between them.

That said, yes, I know the kind of thing you’re talking about. And it comes from more than just one side in most controversies.

An experience I’ve been having lately: I’m talking with people with whom I agree about an issue, with whom I am almost entirely in sympathy; once they see I’m on their side, they seem to want to go further and further to the extreme, as if to test how far I’ll agree. Some of that is natural, sure, but still… People I trust and have known for years get so mad about these issues that they take action – which is good, in a way, they’re taking action – but they tend to have so little trust for the system that they always seem to advocate going too far RIGHT AT THE START.

Now I could see being driven to frustration as your issue is ignored and eventually going too far, but these folks want to START OUT going too far.

My friends on the right, taking their cue from that guy in the news who fired his gun over Cindy Sheehan’s head during her first campout in Crawford, made jokes about shooting her. That was before she became such a political gadfly, remember – she was just a bereaved mother waiting to speak to the President. These pro-American, pro-military, “I have sacred rights” guys were so dismissive of the rights/desires of a bereaved mother of an American soldier to speak to her President, a public servant accountable to the people, that they thought of shooting her as funny. And they thought of it as a first solution, instead of talking to her. I point out that they demand that politicians answer to them, and they love moms and soldiers, and I’ve lost their interest before we get any farther.

My friends on the left, when they hear about some corporation violating the law, want to protest it – which is legal and their right, and probably a good idea. But they have so little faith in the system that they talk about breaking in to the corporation’s headquarters, or stealing property, “because the corporation is evil and you shouldn’t have to let evil stand for any length of time simply because of some law.” I urge them to obey the law and start out with their noses clean, saying “you can always try it aboveboard first and see if that works,” and they roll their eyes at me.

Here’s something I’ve personally witnessed. At a protest, these friends go out into the street to hand flyers to passing drivers – even after a policeman has warned them it’s illegal to be in the street or on the median soliciting for ANY cause. But a block down the same road, the volunteer firemen are in the median, passing the hat for some charity of theirs, and the police don’t tell the firemen to knock it off. Are the police showing favoritism? Are these friends right to lose faith in fairness? Or are they breaking the law while holding themselves up as morally superior?

I talked with that same police officer, and he eventually admitted that it was okay to hand things to passing drivers, even in the street, as long as said drivers showed an interest (i. e., you weren’t throwing something into an unwilling car, I guess). So why had he misrepresented his interpretation of the law to the protestors? I don’t know.

Years ago, my brother made a salient point I’ve long remembered. He said “Nobody is really debating the merits of issues any more. We’ve already decided on each issue, and we’re all advocates. When the other guy is talking, we’re not listening and thinking about what he says; we’re just waiting for our turn to sell our own position.”


Yeah, I see now. I had woken up when I wrote this. I was woken by my mother who gave me an exaggerated, motherly synopsis, because I’m flying to the other side of the world on Sept. 11th.

She told me that people were having to get off the plane, and I made the assumption that the bombs had actually been found therein.

I took a literature class in college on Globalization in the 18th century. One of the books we read was Gulliver’s Travels. When discussing how Gulliver ends up spending all his time in the barn with the horses, I remember someone blurting out, “So, wait. Do you mean to say that if you go abroad and learn, or whatever, you’re not going to be able to come home and associate with people like you used to.”

I had already accepted it without even noticing that it wasn’t common sense.

I disagree, to some extent. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I don’t think it’s necessarily ignorance or laziness. I thinks it’s conveyed (at least here in the South) in our education system. I never realized it until I was a sophmore in college and a professor almost failed me for a paper that I thought was really good. I went to him and asked him how he could do that, since I had come to every class, reiterated my knowledge of what had been talked about in class, and found plenty of outside sources to back it all up.

He said, “Yeah, the paper’s fine, except for the fact that none of the arguments are yours.”

I almost asked him, “Wait, so I can make my *own *arguments?” Sadly, I was already 20 years old the first time anyone ever made me believe I could, or had to, even, think for myself and that it was my responsibility to question what I read, even though I don’t have any degrees or anything that give me some sort of moral authority on any subject.

I wasn’t lazy before that. I had made good grades my whole life. My only ignorance was that I didn’t believe my opinions were relevant. No one had ever encouraged me to formulate my own opinions.

Moreover, I think most people are just complacent. Maybe, that’s what you meant by laziness, but I just don’t think enough people care unless they believe something effects them directly.*

*I say “believes” because I’m under the impression that everything that happens in the world effects everyone in a pretty intimate way. Civil war in Nigeria shuts down oil refineries, a fourth of the pollution in California comes from China, failed states breed terrorism, sand from the sahara causes coral erosion and asthma in the Carribean, etc.

Sailboat, I think you illustrate pretty well what I’m feeling right now.

I’ve also been thinking quite a lot lately about what you mention at the end, and I think it’s true. Think of the disparity between how people percieve any George Bush speech. He’s either a sincere defender of our “freedom” from “those who hate freedom” or an inept, deceptive leader who is lying through his teeth to cover his ass after a failed attempt to grap hold of Iraqi oil, depriving the “haters of freedom” of their own liberty in the process.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t do it, but, in my defense, if politicians actually talked about *how *they were going to do things, rather than *what *they’re going to do, I’d be much more inclined to give them a chance, holding them to their word.