Friday, October 13, 2006

Racism and Such

An interesting thing about racism is that it's not usually a case in which "one bad apple spoils the bunch", as much as "one bad apple spoils every apple on earth for time and eternity!" Because racism involves a mental framework, or what Robert Anton Wilson called a "reality tunnel", the slightest slight from a member of the suspect ethnicity becomes evidence of the tendencies of the whole 'community'.

Consider the Apple building controversy. Apple is building a glass cube in Manhattan to advertise their products. When covered in black wood, it looked like the ka'ba, and so a Muslim was offended by this and said so on some message board. Seriously, this is the extent of the controversy. What happened is that the group MEMSI, which is a mess anyway, reported the very important news that a Muslim was offended on a message board, and very soon the Internet and various news sources lit up with reports that "The Muslim Community" is outraged over the Apple building, and perhaps over all cubes. I'm guessing that Apple is loving the publicity.

So, happily, a lot of Muslims have come out to say "Hey, leave us alone! We're not offended!" But, it's fascinating how the slightest comment from an anonymous Muslim internet user is blown up to "Well, there they go again! Billions of Muslims up in arms over nothing!" On one hand, yes, we know that Internet users can be painfully stupid. But, I think it's also the case that the news media runs almost entirely on a soap opera model now- anything even slightly dramatic is reported, with little to no contact to reality.

Even the idea of a Muslim Community is fantasy. Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no organized Muslim Community. There are no central authorities, or Mosque hierarchies, or even a core organization. So, expecting that the community will function in a cohesive way is unrealistic- us imposing a Christendom form on the chaos of a different reality. And, if even one Muslim nutter somehow taints the billion others, than Muslims will have nothing to do with their lives aside from trying to police every Muslim on earth. So, cut them some slack, huh?

And, I feel a bit guilty here, because you know, there were no Muslims who complained about that Opera in Berlin that had to be closed over "muslim outrage". Not one. So my comments there weren't in relation to reality either. The reality tunnel is not reality. This is the scientific mindset- constantly re-jiggering your perception of the world to match the world. The opposite mindset would be constantly ignoring larger chunks of the world to preserve your perception of the world. So, excuse me while I readjust my perception.


Hiromi said...

Oh man that happens all the time. See, we have to treat with great seriousness and weight every utterance made by a "native" about "their" culture.

thanks for bringing this to my attention. I've been really annoyed recently with having to challenge certain stereotypes that are given credulity simply because they're reiterated by a member of the group in question.

Rufus said...

Yeah, it's like an urban legend, isn't it? "Well, I've got this black friend, and he says..." Does this happen a lot with the Asian stereotypes?