Just now I followed the Trackback link at the bottom of my Political Pooftah Bashing post immediately below, and found myself at Tim Dunlop’s place. It was a fortuitous visit because, as well as kindly linking my post, Tim has just published a fantastic and fairly extended analysis on aspects of the nature of Al Qaeda, or at least the Islamic fundamentalist thinking that underpins it.
One quote from Islamic fundamentalist thinker Sayyid Qutb has a quite scary resonance with aspects of my own thinking:
To attain the leadership of mankind, we must have something to offer besides material progress, and this other quality can only be a faith and a way of life which on the one hand conserves the benefits of modern science and technology, and on the other fulfills the basic human needs on the same level of excellence as technology has fulfilled them in the sphere of material comfort.
Not long after I first started blogging a couple of years ago, I published an extended post about Adam Smith and morality, where I mused:
Although in general terms I accept the logic and evidence for at least part of the neo-liberal project (“market fundamentalist” or “economic rationalist” are alternative terms for the same belief system): namely that reasonably free markets are the most effective means so far found to maximize human production of food, material goods and indeed wealth however created. However, it has always seemed to me that there was a moral and spiritual hollowness at the core of market capitalism, the result of which is that a society organized in accordance with neo-liberal prescriptions may be a lot wealthier than a socialist or feudal economy, but is also a profoundly unsatisfying society in which to live: a moral and spiritual wasteland. In part, that is what Muslim fundamentalists are reacting against.
Tim’s post should be prescribed reading for anyone wanting an understanding of this ubiquitous issue that’s deeper than the daily shock-horror tabloid headlines and superficial discussion that passes for analysis even in broadsheet media in Australia.
Although I frequently disagree with Tim, his pre-eminence among “serious” Australian political bloggers is really beyond question (at least now that Don Arthur seems to have gone into permanent retirement). Tim has not only read most of the scholarly works on terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and the like (something I have neither the time nor inclination to emulate on that level), but he has the rare gift of being able to render them accessibly to a general audience without condescension or over-simplification.
Moreover, the dialectic maintained by comment box facilities, not to mention inter-blog discussions facilitated by MT’s Trackback feature, ensures that much of the inevitable bias and selectivity inherent in any individual’s coverage of an issue (not just Tim’s) will usually be exposed and dissected. It’s one of the main reasons why I continue to see blogging as a uniquely powerful medium for civic dialogue, despite occasional periods of disillusionment.
Unfortunately, the increasing tendency for left and right-leaning readers and bloggers respectively to remain within their own comfort zones and only rarely venture into the comment boxes of their ideological opponents, rather undermines that priceless “informal peer review” aspect of blogging. Despite the evident propensity of many of us (including myself) to shout past each other instead of engaging in a mutually respectful thoughtful dialogue, I can’t help wishing for a partial return to greater willingness to discuss issues on opposing ideological turf. You’ll probably get slagged by some of the idiot element inhabiting both sides of the divide, but you’ll be contributing to an organic peer review process that the mainstream media simply doesn’t possess. It’s one of numerous attributes that make blogging such a compulsively, addictively readable medium.