It is an exceptionally hot day in Jerusalem. Israel is hot in the summer, but today is exceptionally hot. So hot that your trousers stick to your legs, and the loud merchants of the market are too hot to shout. And that IS hot. The smell of sweat and falafel and cumin fills the air, and I find myself temporarily sticking to people as I pass them, in search of tomatoes.

I step behind a cart and begin to haggle with a merchant, when all of a sudden a loud 'BOOM' rocks the entire street. No one has any doubts or misconceptions about it. A bomb has just gone off. And it's the third one in two years to go off in this exact market. You might expect a few seconds of silence after the explosion, where the understanding of what just happened kicks in, but understanding kicks in all too quickly, and before the explosion dies down, already the street is full of screams and cries. There were about 50 metres between me and the bomb, so, with all the people in the way, I am uninjured. Then a window above me shatters and sends pieces of glass flying down all around me, cutting my arms in places. Nothing serious.

I look around, to see if there's anyone I can help right around me, but there isn't, and a couple of ambulances are already at the scene of the bomb. Sometimes there are two bombs that go off one after another close to one another. So it's not a good idea to stick around, especially if I can't help. So I go to my car.

When I'm about 10 metres from my car, I see a young Arab. He is about 16 and he's absolutely terrified. He's just been spotted by a crowd of people looking for revenge. Revenge is quick and swift, and extremely violent, and he looks for which way to run, as about 10 men come towards him. One of them even has a knife.

Now I'm not going to fight 10 men, so I shout to him to get into my car, unlock it and start the engine. He doesn't know whether he can trust me, and stalls for a second. But he sees the alternative, and quickly ducks into my car. Fortunately, it's a side street, and not completely blocked off by traffic standing still, so I can get away, in a shower of rocks.

I drive him home. I know it's stupid, driving into an arab neighbourhood like that. The looks that my Israeli license plates get confirm my fears. But (maybe because they see him in the car), nothing happens, and I bring him home.

Arab hospitality is famous around the world. They say that once you're their guest, even if you are their biggest enemy, you will be treated with utmost respect. He asks me in, and in I go. There is an expected amount of humdrum, though I can't understand all the arabic, and I am seated in an old and green sofa. I am served tea and baklava, and there really isn't much talking. Finishing my tea, I get up to leave. The father shakes my hand, and the boy says he'd better take me out of the neighbourhood.

He does, and we say goodbye.


This has been a simonc challenge.

Here's an interesting concept:

Go in, uninvited, and begin rebuilding shit.

Don't ask permission. Don't let them know you're coming. Just show up with dump trucks, cranes, earth movers, bulldozers, nails, hammers, wood and lots of tools. Look for a dilapidated, shot-to-hell building or house. Then begin fixing it. Make sure that every vehicle is brightly painted with your country's flag, to make it very damn clear just who the hell you are.

What will happen:

Some authority figure or neighborhood citizen will gripe at you, saying that you can't just up and fix stuff. To which should be responded with, "Go ahead, then. Kick us out for rebuilding your country. We're not here to make any demands or ask anything in return. We're just doing some reconstruction. That's all. And at no cost to you, we might add. It's a good-will gesture. You've been through a lot and we're helping. So go ahead and kick us out. You'll end up looking like idiots for turning away people who are helping you with no strings attached." Then turn your back on them and get back to work without another word. This will undoubtedly happen a few times, but keep that response handy. They might even get their military out there and point guns at you while you're raising a roof on someone's destroyed home, but the soldiers holding those guns will be hard-put to want to fire on you for any reason. At the very least, they'll be deeply confused, but they won't shoot because, hell, you're not destroying anything. Another important factor is to sever all (and I do mean all!) political contact with that country- no summit meetings, no televised appearances or handshakes. "We're through talking about this shit. Since you won't rebuild, we will." Yes, I know that it'll piss 'em off, but what're they really gonna do about it?

A house can be built by a team of twenty people in a surprisingly short amount of time- a few days, if they work steadily.

When one place is built, move on to another one- someone's business, another house, a mosque... doesn't matter. If it's broken down into a pile of rubble, find out what it was, get its blueprints and rebuild it. 1-2-3.

And don't ask for anything for your trouble. Just do the work and move on.

If someone makes noise about having to get permission from the UN, here's what you say: "Listen, we've got Iraq ignoring the UN's security resolutions, as well as Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt... hell, every damn country in the Middle East does all but give its finger to the UN. Destruction of an average citizen's property is at an all-time high because of this. So now you gripe about getting permission from the UN to fix and reconstruct these buildings? Are you mad? Tell you what: let us get back to what we're doing and if you want, you can even pitch in and help. But don't tell us to leave on the basis that we haven't gotten permission from an organization your country's leaders consistently ignore anyway. Have a nice day."

The beauty of this concept is that any country can do it. Although, that said, it should be mentioned that the first country to do this should be the United States. The US has pitted so many different regimes against each other that it's become impossible to keep track of it all. The US has a direct hand in at least 80% of the in-fighting that has gone on in the Middle East. The least the US could do is rebuild some of what it has helped to destroy. No explanation is necessary- everyone knows it's true. Just do the work.

To do this takes an absolute lack of giving a shit about what the leaders of whichever country is being reconstructed have to say on the matter. Let the people, the everyday citizens, decide. If there is a war that gets declared simply because some country wants to rebuild some broken-down shit, a revolution will shortly follow and said war will be quickly squelched.

To build a lasting peace in the Middle East is simple: build that which has been torn down. The rest will take care of itself.

Now, I fully expect that many (if not, all) of you will think this is totally ludicrous and naive. It isn't. It's unconventional, unexpected, different and unprecedented, but it most definitely is not naive. It's easy to destroy stuff. It takes some hard work to actually build something. Work is action. Actions speak louder than words. Let a country's actions speak for that country. You want to build a lasting peace? Then physically build something- doing so would speak volumes- and keep your mouth shut about everything else.

Should the military branches be involved in this project?

No. At least, not the fighting branches of the military. No guns, tanks or soldiers should be within sight. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers is perfectly acceptable, but all construction crews should be composed of non-combatants. They don't have to know how to speak any other languages. All they need to know is how to build something. "You can erect a solid wall? And you've never held a gun in your life? Great. You're hired. You'll be on the Jerusalem crew. Ask for Mike, he'll be your foreman. Oh, and don't talk to the locals. Leave that to your foreman."

Will the fighting and destruction continue?

For a time, yes, but pay it no mind. Just keep building shit. Eventually the locals will be so baffled at this that they'll just give up on destroying their own homes and sit back while you rebuild. "What the-? We blew up that building last week and they're rebuilding it already? What gives?"

Will the news networks ask just what the hell is going on?

Yes. Give them the same line: "We're rebuilding shit. That's all. Have a nice day."

Who's going to pay for this? I can answer that one already: the tax-payers. Won't they raise high holy hell about it?

Certainly. They'll scream bloody murder. Don't listen. If the tax-payers are so stupid as to believe that they don't have a responsibility to the rest of the world at-large, then they can go to some other country and try their luck there.

Will other countries demand that theirs is next for rebuilding?

Undoubtedly, yes. Ignore them. At the very least, just tell them that they'll be seen to in due time and don't concede to any demands for priority status. "Beggars can't be choosers," is a good quote to use in this instance. If they balk, let them. Then suggest that they might consider the idea of rebuilding on their own in the meantime.

Who's first on the list of rebuilding?

That's totally irrelevant, but a decent suggestion would be to rebuild the countries that have been seen the most damage- especially if the damage was inflicted by your own country. Again, don't ask for anything in return.

Do we have to rebuild the whole country? That'd take centuries!

No, you don't have to rebuild the entire country. Just rebuild in the areas that need it most- schools, hospitals, libraries, housing areas... you get the hint. Think "civilian". Leave their military and government structures alone unless said structures have a sincere civilian purpose, like courthouses or city halls.

Can this even be done?

Yes. Believe it or not, yes, it can be done. The more important question to ask, though, is: will it be done? That depends on how intelligent some people actually are. Honestly, though, I doubt something like this would ever be implemented.

Why should we do this?

Why not? Peace is constructive, yes? So be constructive and construct something. The alternative, to deconstruct, hasn't gotten us anywhere and has, in fact, been a disaster.

Won't they just destroy it all over again?

They might. They might not. That's not your problem. Actually, to appease the tax-payers, here's what you can do. Make only one condition: "If you guys break this shit again, after we came all the way out here just to rebuild it, we will send you the bill for services rendered. And you can bet that we'll be standing before the UN if that happens."

Will this get downvoted to oblivion?

Probably, but I quit giving a damn about XP a long, long time ago. Someone asked how to build a lasting peace in the Middle East. I've provided a suggestion. If it's too radical a concept for you to grasp, that's not my fault. Downvote this if you don't understand it- though I fail to see how one could not understand the simple, basic concept of rebuilding something. If, on the off chance you don't understand, here's a suggestion: get an Erector Set and see what it's all about. Building shit can be fun.


I would also like to add that PendragnNERO's suggestion is perfectly doable- in its own right. But imagine the effects of both these suggestions put into action at the same time... the world can change, take a hairpin turn on a dime- all it takes is a little imagination and, as hokey as it sounds, a fair amount of hope.



EDITED: March 21, 2007

Upon further consideration, I should point out that simply sending non-combatants into a war-torn area with the single objective to "rebuild", while extremely noble, is also asking several people to sign their death warrants or, at the very least, to subject themselves to various types of abuse or torture. We're all quite familiar, by now, with stories of civillian engineers or technicians being kidnapped for extended periods of time and, in most cases, simply slaughtered.

This is a deplorable scenario and one that I do not, under any circumstances, relish. I could not, in good conscience, ask people to put themselves in harm's way without affording them a way to defend themselves. It's a cruel and tough thing to imagine...



However!

Consider this: Yes, at first people would undoubtedly die in this kind of endeavor. They most certainly would come under attack, possibly even be completely wiped out. DO NOT LET THIS DETER YOU!!! As cruel and maddening as it may seem, I would suggest that throwing even more people at such a massive endeavor is the wisest course of action. Mourn those that we lose. Denounce the evil creatures who would kill them. But don't stop and don't be cowed by fear. Push, hard, with peaceful and unrestrained resilience. Keep rebuilding, no matter how many people are abducted or killed. Keep sending them with the charge to rebuild and reconstruct. Show the world what true martyrdom really is. Set the golden, shining example and light the path towards peace with selflessness and courage. I would do this. I, myself, would enlist to join such a program, if it existed... and if I didn't have a wife and kids to worry about- those three individuals are my sole purpose for living now and I cannot afford, for their sakes, to be so cavalier with my life. But so many yearn for peace even while they fear having families of their own in this hard world... perhaps those people could embrace a courage which might provide a better tomorrow for all peoples?

It's a simple proven solution, but it takes time, determination, and a unified vision. Non violent protest.

It might even work. See one of the greatest problems that the Muslims face in trying to achieve their goals is that there is a perception, in America, Israel's largest supporter, at least, that Israel has the moral high ground. I'm not going to debate whether Israel really does have the moral high ground or not. The impression that most Americans have is that the Muslims blow up innocent people with no warning and no regard for the fact that they are civilians, and that the Israelis shoot terrorists in response.

That impression leads to America's strong support for Israel, especially in the wake of the attacks of September 11th 2001. One possible solution, at least as far as the Muslim community is concerned, is to simply stop. Don't blow shit up. Don't shoot a single Israeli, it doesn't matter if they are a soldier or not. Don't throw a single stone again.

It won't change a damn thing for a week or two, the Muslims will lose lives, it's important that they don't respond violently. The only thing The Muslims should do in response to an attack is hold another, bigger, non violent protest. Eventually Israel, the US, and the world will see what's going on. People will see that innocents are dying on the other side too. People will see that the Muslims aren't a "Bunch of Terrorists," that they are people just like you and me, people who go to work every day to try and provide for their family. People will see what the rest of the Arab/Muslim world sees now.

All this is well and good, but it doesn't in and of itself solve the problem, it doesn't create peace. What it does do is give the Muslim people the moral high ground. This puts them in a position of much greater power to create a peace.

It's not as easy as it sounds, not nearly as easy as writing this has been, but it is do-able. Ghandi did it, and defeated what was at the time the most powerful nation in the world. I have every confidence that there is a Muslim leader out there who can do it in the here and now.

That's important too, do it now. Parts, the important parts, of the US government want to wage war on Iraq, one of the largest obstacles to it's ability to do so is the fact that large portions of the Arab/Muslim world loathe the US for it's support of Israel in the continued conflict. That's something the Muslims can use to their advantage too, the US Gvt may not be saying so publicly, but they would be over joyed if this problem would sort itself out, it'd be one less reason for the Muslim community to hate us.

There is a terrible disease spreading in the middle east. There is a certain movement within Arab and Muslim countries that centers around a deep hatred of the West, particularly the United States. People in the middle east are very proud of their culture. They believe that they are God's people, that their religion is the True Way. Their holy texts tell them that their religion will one day rule the world.

And they, as a people, as a culture, and as a religion, are failing.

The people of the middle east generally want what everyone else wants: a job, a happy, healthy, well-fed family, and a home. They also enjoy having sex, listening and performing music, and living their lives in a generally unregulated way. They want to be successful. An alarming number of people in the middle east have few or none of these things, and they blame it on the West. Why? Because they are told to. Who tells them to? Their governments, who are uniformly autocratic, tyrannical, corrupt, and brutal. The media in the middle east is generally under the control of these governments, and the people under them have no choice but to believe what they are told. Information is tightly controlled, and the majority are left with only one side of the story.

Therefore they firmly believe that the culture of the West is illigitimate. It is a mongrel, patched together from the worst pieces of many cultures, and it is decadent and sinful. And the worst part, for them, is that it is winning. People are lured away from the "True Path" by this culture, which most people have a tendency to enjoy, because it stresses individuality, personal freedom, and the idea that everyone is entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor. This luring away of people is considered an attack and an affront to their culture.

But most importantly, we are rich, happy, fat, successful, and our way of life is expanding all over the globe. They are starving, thirsty, poor, unemployed, oppressed, and their culture is shriveling. Very few important technological or cultural advancements have come from their part of the world for centuries, where as once it was THE pinnacle of art and learning.

The way to make lasting peace with the Middle East is difficult and bloody. Their governments must be removed and replaced with secular, democratic entities. Capitalism must be encouraged. Women must be allowed to enter the work force and contribute to their nation's well-being. This is already beginning to happen, for instance in Iran where students are protesting the brutal government (which was itself put in place by protesting students), and the United States and other select countries are going to give the process a big push.

We're going to remove Iraq's leadership, and, much like we did with Japan and Germany after WWII, we are going to install a military government whose sole purpose will be to erect a new, secular, non-aggressive government that has the people's interests in mind, not its own. When this happens, it won't be hard to substantially increase the standard of living in Iraq. The people will no longer be afraid to speak their minds; they will no longer fear the secret police or government informers. They will no longer fear bombs from US and British aircraft. They will finally, at long last, be at peace, and they will quickly get back to the business of making their lives better.

With our help, they will show the world that a nation that is mostly Muslim and have a successful, secular government, and that the people there can have a good standard of living. The people in the surrounding nations will see this, and unrest will grow. In response to this, the other governments will become increasingly brutal to repress their people's clamoring for a better life. This escalation will continue until revolution occurs or the international community steps in and stops the killing and the oppression.

Eventually, democracy will rule the Middle East. The corrupt, autocratic leaders will be gone, and the people there will be able to live free, informed lives. They will all be able to go to school, have jobs, and own cars, even if they are women. Instead of being impoverished, angry, and humiliated, they will be successful, rich, and happy, and they will once again become important contributors to the world's art, learning, and technology.

This is the only way that there can truly be peace in the Middle East. The people must be satisfied with their lives, and only democracy can do that for them.


We really need a better way to discuss nodes like this. I got a pile of messages after writing this node, most of them saying things along the lines of "You have bought all your government's lies" or "Your country deserves it after all you've done to them." Well, first of all, my government doesn't really say a whole lot about the issue aside from its accusations of weapons of mass destruction and such. It can't say things like this about Arab culture in general, because that's extremely undiplomatic, and we need the help of some of these disgusting regimes before we can facilitate their destruction. Generally, my government has taken the policy of speaking softly while carrying a big stick, whereas those of others, such as France, Germany, Russia, and of course most of the middle eastern nations, will not shut up about what we're doing wrong, what we shouldn't do, and how terrible we are for wanting to use force against nations that laugh in the faces of those who want to give peace a chance. And another chance, and another, and another. And they do nothing. Why? Because those nations in particular have large outstanding debts with Iraq, and if the US moves in and replaces its government with one that doesn't dissappear husbands, leaving their wives unable to remarry and having to somehow fend for their entire family, they won't get paid. Every country involved in this situation is looking out for its own interests; it's just that some are hippocritical enough to play the "multilateralism" card. Our actions will be multilateral. They just won't include those countries that are prone to inaction.

Secondly, people like to throw around the term "root causes." They say that since the united states has historically supported those totalitarian regimes, and because its economic policy (which includes importing vast amounts of middle eastern oil; a terrible thing, I know) the citizens there blame us rightly for their current misfortunes, and are therefore sick and tired of us and support any and every movement against us. However, this doesn't explain why their aggression is aimed mainly at the US, or why this kind of homicidal attitude is prevalent only among Arabs. Other countries, including France, Britain, and Russia, have all had a hand in contributing to the horrible political climate in the middle east, some much moreso than the United States. Also, the United States, in some of its more misguided and regrettable policies (which every country has, by the way; ours seem bigger only because we're more successful and affect people more with our mistakes) has done harm to many regions, most especially Central America, but do they indiscriminately bomb our civilians? No.

Why, then? Why just the Arabs and Muslims, and why just the United States? Because we are the strongest contrast to their failure as a society. Because our culture is considered inferior, even a non-culture (a view co-opted from the Europeans, if you can believe that) and yet it is growing, expanding, and taking over. I've seen a lot of other reasons to replace this one, but none of them really fits. They're all refuteable or weak in some way, but this one seems to link all the other pieces together.

On a side note, I find it somewhat depressing that after everything we've done for Europe and Europeans, most of them feel zero loyalty towards us. While our nation is under attack, all most of them have done (the government of the UK excluded) is to tell us how terrible we are and how ashamed we should be. Bullshit. The United States is ultimately responsible for keeping the free world from decending into Naziism AND Communism, and it's responsible for most of the development seen in Europe after WWII. And all this has been fogotten. At least, Europe's debt to the United States has. In our time of need, what use are they? In fact, many, especially France and Germany, have been detrimental to our cause. Allies indeed.

Soon we will use our massive military strength to give the impoverished and oppressed multitudes of the middle east a chance to govern themselves. We will open the middle east to western business and give them jobs, with which they will earn money and build better lives for themselves and their children. We WILL go in and start building shit. We'll pump huge amounts of American money into their economy to buy their oil, and instead of that money going to an elite and corrupt few who spend it all on military hardware and weapons research, it will go back into the economy and pay for schools, roads, libraries, bridges, public health, irrigation projects, housing projects, public transportation, and a myriad of other things that have languished under the current regimes. And the people will be happy. And there will be peace.


Gritchka responds with some absurd anti-Americanism: "The United States is the model of a failed culture. All the rest of the world is horrified at the thought of being taken over by the hell-hole we watch with horror over there."
I realize that if you hold this kind of view, there's absoultely nothing I or anyone else can say to make you change it. So, repeat that statement over and over, clap your hands, and believe in faeries, and maybe, someday, it'll actually come true!

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