Social Question

Joybird's avatar

Give me an example of what's wrong in America.

Asked by Joybird (3159points) November 6th, 2010

Consider this your own little economic gripe fest. I’ll start. I went to consolidate my eldest daughters school loans because it would just simplify life for her. As I started the application process I noticed an icon for current interest rates and opened it. That created that needle dragging across the record to silence moment as I realized that in order to consolidate her loans according to the new government plans it would raise her interest rates 2.5 points. Now I don’t know about you…but that happened in a bait and switch mortgage scam that led to me sitting at a closing with a mortgage rate 2.5 points higher than discussed. It really increases the amount of interest you pay back. It’s just another underhanded way to rape the masses of hard earned money under the guise of doing good. It was my husband responsible in part for the mortgage debalacle because I asked if he had locked in the interest rate and he kept saying…yeh,yeh,yeh, because the mortgage broker was a man who acted with authority…yeh,yeh,yeh. But I see this kind of thing all over lobbied out under the guise of help. Are you really helping my kid pay off her school loans by raising them 2.5 percent? I don’t think so. And of course that goes into government coffers that gets funneled up the class food chain in one way or another.

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55 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

@Joybird is the loan actually paid back to the government, or did private banks actually fund the loan?

I need to think of some of my own gripes. I like your question.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

What’s wrong in America? Where would I even begin? This group thinks they’re entitled to shit they haven’t earned, that group thinks they’re entitled to shit they don’t even begin to deserve, and yet another group fights back against the first two groups and gets labeled as either racist or selfish.

Then there’s the government. Too big, too powerful and too damned greedy.

That’s all I’m allowing myself to say so I don’t get all worked up on a pretty Saturday morning.

john65pennington's avatar

Here is a serious thought…...........had we better enjoy the comforts we have now in America, for as tomorrow they may never exist?

I feel America is slowly fading into the sunset and we may never again enjoy what we have today. jp

mammal's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate i agree, too many top bankers getting millions more than they deserve, cut the government in half, and the military in half and in half again, in fact scratch the government and the military all together, and we can all live happily ever after :)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

A feeling of entitlement. Examples:

People going to college and assuming so is going to automatically deliver them into better than entry level jobs.

Teenagers being angry and resentful if their familys don’t give or buy them a car.

Couples who think because they say they love then that’s enough for the relationship to develop and support itself.

People who think if they ask for forgiveness and say how sorry they are will negate stupidity, hurt and harm.

janbb's avatar

The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

Well I could go on until the world ends about everything I think is wrong, instead I’ll pick one. The justice system is too set on treating everyone “farily” that murders, rapists and pedophiles walk free sometimes just because of a technicality. We need to focusing more on what’s right and wrong, rather than “fair” and “unfair.”

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t like this question. I don’t like these types of questions in general. I could give you 50 or 500 things that are “right” with America for every one that you find “wrong”. And I don’t deny that the list of “wrong things” is never-ending. But the list of right things is still longer.

I’m not saying that we should ignore wrong things. Not for a minute. I’m no Pollyanna; I know a lot of things that are really wrong. But it does very little good to list them and complain about them, except to put the listers (and readers) in a bad and gloomy mood and focus their generally amazing minds down in the gutter. Who benefits from that?

If anyone wants to recommend a solution for a recognized bad thing, then fine; I’m all ears. And I might point out flaws in the recommendation, but not because I like to look at negatives, but because if something is going to be presented as a solution then it shouldn’t come with its own new list of “unintended consequences”, or at least those should also be recognized and addressed.

So I’m going to pass on the gripe-fest and think about a great thing coming up soon: Thanksgiving. Use it.

Mikewlf337's avatar

As an American I will say that the people in this country have a false sense of entitlement. They think they deserve that big house they don’t need each driver thinks he needs multiple cars and then a sports car because he feels his current car aint fast enough. Everyone thinks that because they went to college that they should be some sort of big shot. Everybody demands their rights while trying to take rights away from from their fellow Americans. They try to tell others how to live their lives in America and abroad. Americans idolize celebrities and athletes. Giving them what they want while a teacher, fire fighter, cop, etc gets lousy pay and no respect. Everybody thinks they are a rockstar and thinks everybody should treat them like one. People can sue anyone for anything. Women dress like sluts and then complain about sexual harrassment. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Can no longer spank your kids because they label it abuse while the kid brutally disrespects his/her parents, teachers, etc. We used to be an industious nation and took pride in it but we continue to allow businesses to ship jobs oversees to provide jobs to countries who don’t care about us or even hate us while letting our workers lose their jobs and everything else. We may not know it but we are letting our rights slip away because people are crying about how this and that is not right. Alot of people are greedy and will not think twice about destroying another person if it benefits them. This is not what America is all about. This country was founded on freedom. I love this country but many people need a reality check

MeinTeil's avatar

^ Anti American terrorist. Have you disposed of every single one of your American developed or produced products yet?

If you haven’t the thread will wait until you have.

YARNLADY's avatar

The people in general have given up their right to self-government by taking the attitude “I don’t count anyway” or “Let some else do it, I don’t want to take the time necessary”. With this, the smallest number of people have taken over the greatest power and the potential for misuse is huge.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hmmm. I think that as a rule Amercians (or maybe just people in general) tend to go with what they think the majority are doing, and they don’t think for themselves.

woodcutter's avatar

America as well as capitalism as we know it now will eventually collapse in on itself. There’s just no way it can’t. It’s only a matter of time. I’m not an end of days prophet or anything it is just headed that way right now, rattle and hum.

ETpro's avatar

Partly, we are the victims of our own success. We got so far ahead of the third world a day of reckoning had to come. Even today, while we are only 5% of the Earth’s population, we consume 25% of all its energy. Also, largely because of our thirst for energy, we spend more on our military than all the other nations of the Earth combined. Ultimately, it will be far cheaper for us to let the third world catch up a bit than to keep killing anyone who even might threaten our divine right to our oil simply because it happens to have been placed under their land by a fluke of capacious nature.

The other big problem we face while doing this is that our wealthy class has become so addicted to the endorphin rush that making a huge killing brings that they now want an ever larger share of what is now a shrinking pie. The wealthiest 1% now own well over ⅓rd of all the wealth in America, and they fund conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation to come up with spin and sloganeering that will resonate with enough middle class dupes to constantly cut themselves tax and investment breaks and deregulations so that they can transfer more and more of the nation’s wealth to themselves. In 1980, the top 1% earned 12% of the gross income in the USA. Today they earn 27% and they want way more. That means social programs must be cut, eliminated or privatized and driven through the roof in costs. We have to balance the 13.6 trillion dollar debt on the backs of the poor so the wealthiest among us can have unimpeded access to what’s left of the nation’s wealth.

Those to forces, letting the third world catch up, and transferring all wealth to the rich, are in direct competition with one another. If we do not reverse course, the angry Tea Partiers will sooner or later wake up to the fact that they have been used as water carriers for the very people seeking to drown them in debt. When it dawns on them, the anger we have seen recently will turn to torches and pitchforks rage.

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro It won’t be torches and pitchforks. I believe you’re right about the middle class rebelling after enough of the wealth trickles up out of reach of ordinary people. It won’t be torches and pitchforks.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter That was a polite metaphor for what is likely to come if the wealthy get too greedy.

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro I know, which is why the liberal extreme seem to think that getting rid of the very insurance policy set forth by the founders who saw this coming confuses me.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter I don’t know about the liberal extreme, but I am in no mood to toss out the 2nd Amendment just now.

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro Well too many people like to mince words when they discuss 2A. Those who believe 2A is for goose hunting or for recreational purposes. The real 2A has High capacity magazines in upper case letters on the header. And thats the 2A that will be any good at all the next time Wall Street fucks up, and they will. It’s gonna be exiting.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter Re Wall Street, I know a repeat is coming. They have the money it takes to buy the legislation to let it. Last time, they made off with several trillion dollars of taxpayer money. At least in their eyes, what’s not to like about doing that again? It’s like leaving a end-stage alcoholic as a night watchman in a liquor store. You KNOW ehat’s going to happen.

woodcutter's avatar

@ETpro If the same generation has to endure another world meltdown there will be no quarter. There will doubtfully be bailouts of any kind and the world economy will collapse as well as ours. There will be blood. The head of homeland security is already bracing for it. Remember that study? Why is it G.W.B. said he would sign a new AWB if Congress sent it? GWB, a Republican? Hmmm. It’s like they know it’s coming, they are doing it and they want to survive it. It might happen in 10 years or 12, or next year. Our best years are ahead of us but there will be a bloody mess first.

ETpro's avatar

@woodcutter Well lock and load, because I see it coming. The pain and fear of the last Great Depression helped touch off WWII. Final death toll was around 60 million. And that was before the world had 30,000 nuclear warheads laying around. I hope I am wrong, but I see Wall Street pouring money into politicans’ pockets to help them deregulate so the dreivatives market can shoot back up to $69 trillion a year. If that happens, it’s only a matter of time till some small correction like the sub-prime failure of 2007 pulls the rug out from under that massive house of cards yet again.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. These would be some of my top gripes:
Military: All this talk about evil investment bankers and the money they waste or spend, we are sinking BILLIONS each month in some Middle East sand alligator and most acquiesce to the fact. There is no outrage, the politicians who keep approving the spending of this money we don’t have are not rebuked. Fire stations close, schools get shuttered, roads and such go unrepaired because there is suppose to be no money, but if you are some ill fought war the money will get pulled out of the wazoo somehow to pay for it; maybe out of my pocket in ever raising taxes.

The non-rich: Many people want to point to the rich as the cause or decline of America, because they don’t want to look in the mirror. The poor, working, and middle class want to live large like they are rich when they don’t have the cash to do it. They want to have the sprawling house, the better schools, a pleasure craft, etc. and to have it all and have it now they pile the cost on the plastic. Not only do they want something now they want it cheap. How do they expect that to be done when Megamart won’t be able to give then that $14 clutch purse if the factory that makes them has to pay their union workers $18 bucks and hour, 2 weeks paid vacation as well has health benefits? If you want quality and you want it made in America better stop being cheap. To get that $14 clutch purse Megamart will have to choose a factory in Jakarta or Johannesburg not Denver. When that happens John Q loses his job because Billy Bob don’t want to spend $67 or more dollars for the same clutch purse made here in America. Because many was so scared not having the “American Dream” that house with the white picket fence the dove in to mortgages that were trouble from the start. If you could not afford a fixed rate that should have told them something. If you can just slide into a house at the very cellar of the rate scale there is only one direction it can go, up! What will happen when that rate goes up 1.8% when you can barely pay it at the entrance rate? If you want music better be prepared to pay the piper.

The rich: Entitled and clueless. They worked to get there (some got their by way of connections or family ties) so they can spend their money any way they dang please. Do one really need 760$ boots or $180 sunglasses? I think the rich get into a mindset that is has to be expensive to be any good. Enjoy your money but don’t be silly wasteful with it and appreciate what you have because some people don’t even have $14 dollar boots to wear.

Government: Pretty much ran by a bunch of egomaniacs many with deep pockets that will spend 50 times more getting the job than they will earn back from it. They just want to be there to try to be the hog with the big nuts, calling shots and taking names. If they are not polarizing along party lines be it good or bad, they are spending money like crazy to hogs with bigger nuts in their district because they are whoring for votes come the next election. Government is too big and too bogged down with redundant spending and tons of red tape. I see nothing wrong with making government run more like a business, a business can’t f*** up and then go raid the neighborhood it is in to make up for it; sucking money right out of the pockets of those who live around it and those people have to do it or the business will come take their house. Would it be wise for a shipping business to have the dock captain, logistics coordinator, and the plant manager all directing protocol and traffic for the trucks loading and unloading good and on top of that each has its own standards that has to be signed off on or addressed? That could hold up a truck that could have left with a single voice and a single signature having to wait an extra 6 hours and have more voices and 5 signatures, not very efficient. Government don’t have to be efficient because if they do lousy and do poorly they can just come back to us, the surfs who serve the lord of the castle.

End of now.

ETpro's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central What you say is true. But it is also true that the income and wealth disparity has shifted greatly to the top over the past 30 years of continual tax cuts and additional loopholes for the rich. The top 10% are rather better off today in inflation adjusted dolars than they were in 1980. The top 1% are fabulously better off. The bottom 90% have lost ground. The bottom 60% have lost a lot of ground. This isn’t because they suddenly became lazy, It is because Ronald Reagan cut taxes for the top bracket by 60%. The tax system has gone from heavily progressive to almost being entirely regressive. And as that wipes out our previously stong middle class, they are no longer able to do the spending that drove our consumer based economy.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Problem: we have so many guns but we never point them at the right people.

jca's avatar

I am a government worker who started working in local government in the 90’s, when everyone else (private industry) was making big bonuses and big raises and few wanted a government job. Nobody then cared that the government workers’ benefits were great, and were a trade-off for the government worker’s salaries being on the low end. Government workers were looked down upon by the private industry workers, the Wall Street-ers, and nobody cared. Now that the economy is in bad shape, the private industry workers and the Wall Street-ers are now looking at government workers as greedy, we should not get raises, we should not get such good benefits. Hello, these were jobs that nobody wanted 20 years ago.

Also, people talk about cutting government to lower taxes. However, I see people wanting the programs that benefit them. “Cut government, except where it benefits me.” I work in a program where people who get Medicaid can get help at home, to keep them out of nursing homes. They can get help with their personal care, such as bathing, toileting, etc. and they can get help cleaning up at home, cooking, etc. Half of them don’t need it, either because they’re not that bad off physically or because they have so much money but it’s hidden in shelters, funds or other legal ways to hide money and qualify for government assistance. 30 years ago the family would have had to chip in to help, but now the family can throw their hands up and the government steps in to save the day. I am willing to bet that half of the families that we service have voted for politicians that advocate smaller government and reducing taxes, yet they want the program that benefits them. This is just one example of people wanting tax reductions and yet wanting government to help them where they need it. How does that work?

woodcutter's avatar

@incendiary_dan there is no such thing as too many guns, or too much ammo. Too many have guns who shouldn’t. That being said, there are those who are more or less “pointing” at the right people but they are waiting for the shot. The political right advocates for gun rights, which is good. We all should be doing that. But it is they who pander to gun owners for votes that could care less about 2A who will be the ones in the most fear when it all goes to shit. Ironic isn’t it?

ETpro's avatar

@jca Good points you raise. Right now with 15 million people out of work, you have to be some kind of special stupid to believe that laying off 2 or 3 million government employees would make the employment situation way better.

mattbrowne's avatar

Ultra-conservative influence.

MeinTeil's avatar

Inevitable liberal ruin.

One of the lamest and saddest excuses I hear for socialism in America is “well, Europe’s doing it…”

Why don’t they see that Europe serves as a warning instead?

Ironic that liberals claim that it’s conservatives that want mindless conformity.

JLeslie's avatar

@MeinTeil Newt Gingrich was just on The View stating that Germany has very low unemployment, focusing on manufacturing, and univesal health coverage through many many private insurers. I hope you are not dismissing Europe out of hand? Not that we should copy everything they do, I just worry when I hear such a negative tone.

iamthemob's avatar

@incendiary_dan – I sometimes think that should be @MeinTeil‘s screenname

ETpro's avatar

@MeinTeil This recession can’t be hung on liberalism. It’s the conservatives creation from start to finish. And even though it was bad enough to ricochet all around the developed world, the Europe you are so fond of hating recovered from it faster than the US is doing. Germany in particular came through it with flying colors thanks to an initiative they have that prevents layoffs by giving all workers reduced hours.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s a sad fact that many ultra conservatives are not well educated so they can’t understand the meaning of the word socialism. I know, using an encyclopedia can be challenging. I wonder whether the soldiers in Iraq should depend on charity from American individuals. How dare socialists like Bush force the American taxpayer to pay for this?

Please excuse my cynicism.

MeinTeil's avatar

Ok, I’m game.

How does my answer qualify as straw?

ETpro's avatar

@MeinTeil You are erecting Socialism as your straw man, then dutifully running it through with your conservative rhetoric. The problem is America is not a socialist nation. Socialism is an economic order where the government owns the means of production of goods and distribution of wealth. In the USA, we do not all work for the government. The banks aren’t owned by the government. Even our central bank, which controls our monetary process, is a private institution.

We have some social welfare programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But that is not the same thing as socialism at all. And most of us, once we get old enough to need those programs, are darned glad that some thoughtful liberals fought to get them in place for us.

janbb's avatar

@ETpro Have I told you lately that I love you? (and I never even know if you’re a man or a woman.)

ETpro's avatar

@janbb Come to think of it, nobody has told me lately that they loved me. So thanks, cause that’s a really nice thing to hear now and then. :-)

iamthemob's avatar

I’m beginning to think that, after some recent conversations, one of the most profound things that’s wrong in America is the growth of Islamaphobia.

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob The very fact that we seem to lurch from one demon to the next bothers me no small amount. I grew up learning to duck and cover when the air-raid sirens sounded an imminent nuclear attack by the filthy commies. Not content at just terrorizing us from witout, commies were everywhere in the USA as well, Senator McCarthy told us they were in the very halls of power in our nation’s capitol, they were virtually in control of Hollywood and were using its messaging power to subtly rot our minds.

We no sooner slay one windmill than another takes on the form of a dragon ready to attack. And off we ride to joust with it. When will those windmills ever learn to cease their evil spinning? Maybe then we would be able to turn our attention to those less significant problems, such as how we are going to pay down 13.6 trillion dollars in debt. But till the last dragon is stilled, there is no time for such trivial concerns.

iamthemob's avatar

I just….I just feel like I’m in the middle of a George Orwell novel.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – What’s wrong in both America and Europe is underestimating the serious dangers posed by Islamism (political Islam).

“Why confront Islamism? Because if we don’t it will continue to get more extreme. This is not Islamophobia, as many Muslims and their apologists protest. A phobia is a baseless irrational fear. Detestation of Islamism, the violent form of Islam, is based on irrefutable facts and it is not only rational, it is ethically imperative. It is a virtue to take action to oppose the hateful, vice to ignore it. It is a virtue to hate tyranny, misogyny, discriminations of all sorts, oppression, and all manners of violations of the legitimate rights of the individual and peoples. Islamism is a mutation of Islam into a terrible menace. It is religious fascism, a destroyer of liberty and much of what free people cherish. Therefore, it must be confronted.” (A. Imami)

In my opinion liberals should both fight the Christian Right and the Islamists using the power of our words. And we should seek the alliance with truly moderate Muslims who clearly state that secular laws (mandated by the people) rank over religious laws (based on belief systems and holy books).

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – The problem is making sure that the message is on-point. For instance – when you ask a question like “Why are all terrorists Muslim?” you inevitably reinforce the idea that Islamism is Islam. Even calling it “Islamism” sounds like a rhetorical trick to get people conflating the two – like mentioning 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence repeatedly without ever accusing Iraq of having a part in 9/11.

The terminology and the way the issue is phrased in headlines….that’s what creates the soundbite. We’re not fighting ideology – we’re fighting people. That’s the only way to make it neutral. Not coming up with terms that kind of sound like Islam but really aren’t.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – You should really take the time to understand the difference between Islam and Islamism. Nothing there is about rhetorical tricks. Islamists believe that Islam is both a religion and a political system.

Recently I read a highly interesting article called “What is the Threat – Islam, Islamism, or Western Sins? (August 23, 2010)” by Barry Rubin. Here are some excerpts:

“The current debate over the roots of Islamist revolution, clashes in the Middle East, and conflicts between forces in that region and the West involves two critical issues of interpretation:

First, is there a threat to the West from groups whose members are Muslims or does the fault arise from Western policies and shortcomings which, if altered, would make any conflict disappear?

Second, if there is a threat does it stem from Islam as religion or Islamism as political philosophy?

It is important to understand that revolutionary Islamists do draw on mainstream, accepted, and sacred Muslim texts. Their argument has the potential to be just as “legitimate” in believers’ eyes as does the contrary view. At the same time, though, Islam as a religion is not the threat, even though it is the threat’s source and rationale.

The best image to use in order to understand this situation is neither to see the car’s driver (Islam) as inherently bad (as does the “Islam is the threat” camp) or inherently good (the “Islam is a religion of peace” camp). A more accurate view is of a battle over the steering wheel by contenders who both have a claim to ownership. Both may be reckless drivers but the main danger is the Islamists, those who want to run us over and then drive the car and all its passengers over a cliff.

Islamism definitely draws on normative Islam and thus has wide appeal among Muslims. But, likewise, Islamism has many Muslim opponents who don’t accept it as their version of Islam.

There are many who do not want to accept the “Islam is the problem” argument because to do so is depressing (billions of people are against us!) or because it conflicts with their ideological assumptions (one cannot criticize any religion, or at least one that is not your own), or because it can be ridiculously labeled as “racist” (one cannot criticize anyone who isn’t wealthy or Western or “white.”)

These are fallacious arguments. But they don’t prove the “Islam is the problem” approach is correct, any more than do other fallacious arguments, that Islam is “really” a “religion of peace,” or that there is no threat, or that the conflict’s cause is Western sins, prove that revolutionary Islamism isn’t a danger.

Those who deny the nature of the threat often argue that when “properly interpreted” Muslim texts are not “really” radical, violent, and seeking political hegemony. However, one must quickly add that those “proper interpretations” are distinctly minority ones today, even if they predominated forty years ago.

The fact that Muslim texts do give backing to revolutionary Islamists does not mean that all or even most Muslims think that way. What it does reveal, though, is that unless they are going to hear counter-arguments, receive strong leadership by fellow Muslims, or enjoy Western support for fighting revolutionary Islamism they are more likely to think that way over time.

Most Muslims, even today, are not revolutionary Islamists. But in recent decades the current has flowed in that direction. I remember distinctly when a text like the Muhammad Abd al-Salaam Faraj’s book, The Neglected Obligation, calling for a revival of jihad, came out at the end of the 1970s, seemed so marginal. But the revolution in Iran took place in 1979. Then a small group of Egyptian jihadists assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat and launched a guerrilla war. Shortly thereafter, Faraj was captured and executed. Since then, Islamists have steadily gathered steam, despite an apparent decline in the late 1990s, and extended their power and support base.

The task of true moderate Muslims is to change the situation and make the moderate interpretations mainstream. They have a lot of work ahead of them and they are getting all too little support from the West.

Can they hope for success? Certainly. Christianity was an extremist religion in practice a thousand years ago and in some ways until a long time afterward. Of course, one can argue that its accepted texts are peace-oriented and that this religion’s founder, in contrast to Muhammad, opposed violence and a theocratic government. In making such an “obvious” (and factually accurate) argument, however, one must keep in mind that centuries ago such things were not considered obvious at all.

One can expect in the future, probably far in the future, Islam would still have the same founding texts yet will have developed to the point where moderate Islam dominates. That process could take in the Muslim majority world anywhere between 50 to 400 years or so. It is not likely to happen in our lifetimes and it is dangerous to expect otherwise.

Yet that doesn’t mean Islamism will triumph in the mean time. There are counter-identities and ideas among Muslims that block Islamism’s victory. They include the following factors such as ethnic-communal identity, nationalism, and individuality.

People have different priorities and psychologies. They often tend (though less often than people in the West think) to want a stable life having the highest possible living standard and most benefits for their children. We see this does not always work (parents cheering their children becoming suicide bombers) but often does.

One must be careful, though, about basing government policy on this assumption, thinking, for example, more prosperity in the Gaza Strip will make Hamas more moderate or lead to its overthrow. Even aside from the appeals of ideology or religious doctrine, a minority of militants can often persuade or intimidate a much larger body of people to follow them.


While those Islamists who actively use violence are the most dangerous, those with revolutionary goals are equally Islamist and a threat even if they are not using violence in the present. This, of course, refers to the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood especially. It is important to understand that the fact that they aren’t actively involved in violent revolution because of moderation but because they fear government repression. Their exact counterparts are Hamas and Hizballah, which are so radical and violent in their practice because they aren’t afraid of their weak rivals, the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority respectively.

The basic acceptance of modern forms of belief and behavior often associated with the West. As Arab nationalism and nation-state patriotism is the main barrier to revolutionary Islamism in the Middle East, modernism plays that role among Muslims living in the West. The failure of Western societies to seek energetically an acculturation or assimilation along these lines is thus very dangerous and tends to put radical Islamists in control of the communities. It is an interesting question to what extent “natural” factors, that is the day-to-day experience of living in a modern society with its good (freedom of thought, equality of women) and bad (drugs, alcohol, rampant sex) features is going to transform Muslim communities there. Again, one has to get the balance right. One thing that is clear, however, is that European state practices are inhibiting this process rather than helping it.

Focusing on Islamism as the threat teaches the central importance of allying with genuinely moderate Muslims whose lives and lifestyles are threatened by the radicals. This does not just mean the small number actively trying to “reform” Islam but also the much larger number who just want to be left alone, enjoy freedom, and participate in the benefits of modernity. This analysis, then, demonstrates why it is important to show how Islamism is rooted in genuine mainstream Islam and is not merely some hijacking of a “religion of peace.”

Equally, though, it is vital not to assume that because something can be found in authoritative Muslim texts this tells us that Islam is “inherently” radical. Only by comprehending this can we understand how radicalism may be fought effectively. Both of these points are extraordinarily relevant. If one doesn’t understand the first, disaster will come from passivity, wishful thinking, and actually strengthening revolutionary forces by mistaking them as moderate ones.

Yet if one doesn’t understand the second, all the factors subverting radical Islamism despite its claim to be normative Islam, one won’t know how to proceed strategically and tactically. An additional problem is that one will be written off as extremist by the dominant Western society. It is all right to be brave despite name-calling and delegitimization efforts if one is right, but doesn’t make sense when the analysis itself is not so accurate or helpful.


The anti-Islam argument can mobilize a small number of courageous defectors from Islam and critics among Muslims, the anti-Islamism argument, however, can ally with millions of Muslims and governments in Muslim-majority countries.

If the Western establishment view would be that Islamism is a big threat and problem, this debate would be less relevant. In recent years, however, the official view of Western governments has moved toward saying that only al-Qaida is the threat and that Islamists can be won over. This is an extremely dangerous position that brands both the “Islam is the threat” and “Islamism is the threat” analyses as “Islamophobic” and dismisses them without serious consideration.

This approach is highly dangerous for Western interests, democracy, and even for the future of millions of Muslims who face death or tyranny at the hands of revolutionary Islamism.

There are real “Islamophobes” in the sense of people who are bigoted. But the number is far tinier than Politically Correct forces claim. “Islamophobia” is a stick used to intimidate anti-Islamism. At any rate, those who are motivated by an irrational hatred of Islam are not the main threat to Western civilization and interests today. That role is played by far more powerful forces that ignore real problems and unintentionally assist revolutionary Islamists at home or abroad.

The “anti-Islam” argument is neither accurate nor strategically useful. The “Islam is a religion of peace and you can’t criticize even radical Islamists” argument is neither accurate nor furthers the survival of Western interests and democracy. What is needed is an “anti-Islamism” approach that also works with moderate Islam, the best alternative in principle yet regrettably weak, and a conservative, traditional non-Islamist Islam, the most practical alternative at this point in history.”

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – You’re missing my point. Yes, there is a difference, I understand that. Yes, that difference should be communicated.

What I’m saying is that when we continue to connect Islam, verbally, like the term Islamism does, people may hear the message but not understand the meaning. Islam already has its image problems here.

Why can’t we talk about X person, a religious extremist. Make it neutral. If you refer to Islam and Muslims, you create soundbites, easily decontextualized and used to confuse the issue.

It’s about being responsible in communicating the message as well as knowing the message.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – When I fight the Christian Right this term even contains the word Christian and not Christianism. People should know the difference i.e. that the Christian Right does not represent all Christians. Yes, we could call them religious extremists too, but for a serious discussion it’s too general, isn’t it? There are many differences between the Christian Right and Islamists.

It’s a problem that even many mainstream Muslims have trouble dealing with criticism. Very often this is seen as an insult which it is not, of course. Because of this reaction many Western liberals try to be extra careful.

Islamism is even an Arab word. See

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – I’m beginning to doubt the utility of that as well. I feel like the reason why we have a greater and greater divide is that people keep on using terminology that connects the ideology with the problem – rather than emphasize the approach that the person is using to influence others. Talking about the Christian Right immediately places Christians on the defensive, potentially.

I’m considering just talking about fundamentalist doctrine, or even evangelical although that gets too close.

mattbrowne's avatar

@iamthemob – What terminology do you suggest to distinguish between religious extremists who are Christians and religious extremists who are Muslims?

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – Is there any point in talking about the ideology it’s associated with? It’s both sides doing horrible things with religion. I associate automatically “fundamentalism” with Christianity more than Islam, and “extremism” with Islam more than Christianity.

But if we’re talking about Pat Robertson, we know what religion we’re talking about. It’s the people who are using the religion, belief, etc. that are to blame. Why even mention it? What is the real point, unless we’re admitting that there is a difference between the two systems that we’re trying to emphasize.

JLeslie's avatar

It does seem that Christians seem offended when we talk about Christian Right in America. They think those of us who are annoyed with the Christian right are lumping them all together, when we are not. I also think there is a movement in America to think all Muslims are bad, that they are all liars, and they’re religion supports lying, especially the religious, meaning the religious Christians are likely to listen, because they believe they follow their bible, and what their bible says is the gospel, so they figure Muslims believe that about their book, and must be taking seriously what is written in it, word for word. Religious extremist sounds better to me too.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is also a movement in Europe thinking all Muslims are bad and to me this is totally unacceptable and we have to fight this movement with the power of our words. At the same time both liberals and conservatives should unite to fight religious extremism which includes Islamists who reject the separation of state and religion, and who also reject equal rights for girls and women. In the West we should show solidarity with the more than 100 million oppressed girls and women worldwide who are forced to wear veils against their will, who get their clitoris cut away, who are beaten when they disagree, who are raped, who are being forced to marry men they don’t like and used as sex slaves, who are threatened with death when they criticize society or clergy, who are denied a good education, who are denied getting a fulfilling job, who can’t have any fun at all. We were able to show solidarity with the oppressed black people in South Africa during the time of apartheid.

Why can’t we show more solidarity with Muslim girls and women? Because this might look like Islamophobia?

I think the story of the brave Saudi woman called Hissa Hilal should make us think twice before we dismiss well-founded criticism

“Hissa Hilal, only her eyes visible through her black veil, delivered a blistering poem against Muslim preachers “who sit in the position of power” but are “frightening” people with their fatwas, or religious edicts, and “preying like a wolf” on those seeking peace. Her poem got loud cheers from the audience and won her a place in the competition’s finals, to be aired on Wednesday. It also brought her death threats, posted on several Islamic militant Web sites. Her poem was seen as a response to Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak, a prominent cleric in Saudi Arabia who recently issued a fatwa saying those who call for the mingling of men and women should be considered infidels, punishable by death.”

iamthemob's avatar

@mattbrowne – The concern that expressing solidarity for Muslim girls and women will look like Islamophobia should be unfounded. The issue has already been under discussion, consideration, etc. for years under the movements for international human rights standards as well as women’s rights specifically. There is absolutely no need to include the discussion of religion in the framework, in order to discuss practices that should be considered barbaric.

We can show solidarity…but how are we describing the problem?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@mattbrowne And yet Uncle Sam would NEVER think of giving up or rocking the boat against the Saudis. It is as if Uncle Sam stop being the Saudis errand boy but only to a point it don’t offend Israel the Saudis will take all their toys and go home. They can be just as Boorish as many the US would lambase but the US would never lump them in with those other regimes.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central – As long as we don’t increase energy efficiency and innovation in renewable energies we can’t boycott Saudi Arabia. We’re still addicted to oil.

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