Time to Dust This One Off–Anticipated Radical Islam and Offers Core Ideas for Surviving,
Leon Uris is quoted on the cover as saying that this book is “an act of astonishing intellectual courage,” and I will say that the author has pulled together an extraordinary collage of details in an intricately assembled “story” in which he challenges the assumptions of a number of major conventional intellects. There are 58 “parts” to this book, each part between two and six pages long, with an astounding array of multi-disciplinary quotes and footnotes. No scared ox goes ungored.
Some of the history in this book, of the origin of Mohammed as a possible lunatic and then a vengeful warrior using religion to grab real estate, and of the early split between Sunni and Shiite over the issue of the succession, is very useful today.
The author centers the disparate and very broad-ranging pieces of the book on three core ideas: Earth as a superorganism within which a tribe or religion is itself a superorganism; memes as unifying ideas that create us versus them for the sake of changing the pecking order and feeding off weaker tribes, and–in the only optimistic note in the book, at the end, of collaboration and information sharing as the only means to break out of the pattern of dog eat dog.
He specifically slams religion, and especially fundamentalist religion, as a false god that substitutes faith for control, and as a tool of controlling elites who need to keep the impoverished masses from waking up to the raw fact that masses of people can indeed “take over” factories and estates.
On page 94 the following quote struck me as applying equally to George Bush and Osama Bin Laden: “Leaders like Orville Faubus and Fidel Castro have skillfully manipulated a few basic rules of human nature: that every tribe regards outsiders as fair game; that every society gives permission to hate; that each culture dresses the demon of hatred in the garb of righteousness; and that the man who channels this hatred can rouse the superorganism and lead it around by the nose.”
There are numerous gifted phrases throughout this book, and I can understand the frustration of some in absorbing this dizzying array of data points, but it is surely worth making the effort.
He makes much of the evolution of the brain from reptile (survival) to mammalian (social) to primate (individual) and emphasizes that even the most advanced humans still have all three brains in some form, with the lower forms subject to arousal.
Overall I rate this book one of the ten most useful books relevant to understanding and defeating radical Islam, which the author says is “a meme growing ravenous,” a sleeping giant that has been awakened. He goes back in time to look at how the US, in forcing the French and English to give up the Suez Canal, actually helped inspire Arabia to plan for a day when the West might be sent packing. Similar, the first Gulf War, when the Coalition defeated Iraq, undermined secular Moslem regimes, and further inspired Islamic fundamentalists.
In the author's view we erred gravely in not understanding the asymmetric scope of the threat of Bin Laden and post-Taliban Afghanistan, and we appear to have erred in a truly gigantic way in not seeing that the second Gulf War was in fact doing Iran's bidding and accomplishing something Iran could never have done on its own. The author views Bin Laden as having replaced Russia as a “friend” to the Third World, and anticipates both a rapid spread of Islam among the poor, and a plague of animosity toward to the USA specifically.
The book includes a fascination discussion of psycho-social aspects of nations and tribes and other social groups including religions. While some have been derisive of his discussion of “pecking orders” I believe–having lived overseas most of my life–that he nails it. Not only does instability cause the accepted pecking order to go out the window, but prosperity actually destabilizes established pecking orders. When we eventually implement the grand vision of Jeffrey Sachs (see my review of “The End of Poverty” we will need to be very mindful of the animal force that will be unleashed at the same time, and not make the mistake we made in Iraq, of failing to plan for stabilization and reconstruction.
The last two ideas in this book that really grabbed me are from page 292, on how America began a perceptual shut-down and decline from 1973 onwards, culminating in the cheating culture and lazy obese children and parents that are the bane of most teachers' lives today. America is in “slow” mode and has lost its competitive drive.
The book was hugely ambitious, and it is easy to be snide, as some reviewers are, but I for one found this as close to genius and as close to breath-taking intellectual derring-do as any book I have read in a while. If America is to survive the multiple threats to the Republic, it will take leaders capable of reading and understanding this book, and implementing a 100 year strategy for winning the six front war, beginning on the home front with a draconian reform of our educational and information sharing and distance learning environment.