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  • Afghanistan 2050: Tribes vs. Networks, cont. & cont.

    Posted by David Ronfeldt on August 27th, 2010 (All posts by )

    Here is another speculative scenario for the Afghanistan 2050 roundtable. It reflects themes in my August 13 post and is not inconsistent with my August 22 post:

    The Black-Flag Wars of the 20s and 30s were so fraught with religious strife and devastation that by the 40s many people in the region were ready for new ways to look at the world. That’s one reason why the New Theory of Prophecy (NTP) and the movement that formed around it, the New Word Network (NWN), suddenly spread faster there than anywhere before.

     

    NTP rested on a reaction in the Teens that too many people from too many religions, mostly in the Middle East, were claiming to act in God’s name, as His chosen people. NTP reaffirmed that Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad were God’s prophets. What it rethought was why they all appeared in the Middle East, when God could have placed them anywhere in the world.

     

    NTP hypothesized that if God had sent a prophet elsewhere, his Word might not have spread into the Middle East in due time, because its peoples were so extraordinarily tribal. Yet, this area was a crucial crossroads of world civilizations. Wiser, then, to put a prophet there, and have the Word spread out to the rest of the world. But with the first prophet, only his own tribe got the Word; it didn’t spread beyond them. With the second, the Word spread far outside, but not much more within the Middle East. With the third, the Word spread across the Middle East and farther around the world. But then, once again, too many people turned to claim they’d been chosen by this version of the Word and its prophet; they reverted to being extremely tribal, in ways that disparaged not only other peoples but even the first two prophets.

     

    Against this background, NTP counseled all believers against taking God’s name in vain and claiming to be His singularly chosen people, while NWN developed a noöpolitik* strategy to ameliorate the tribalization of religion. To its credit, NWN helped undermine the appeal of Al Qaeda’s narrative in North America and Europe, and motivate the accords between Israel and Palestine in the Teens. But for the next two decades, conditions in South Asia fell prey to the millenarian Black Flag Momentum (BFM) and its belief that a new prophet was imminent.

     

    BFM’s leaders disdained NWN and twisted the NTP to claim it meant a new prophet was bound to arise, this time for them. They’ve been wrong, and done wrong, for a quarter century — like past millenarian movements that provoked apocalyptic violence and always ended up losing. Now, conditions are finally too disastrous for even BFM and its allies to rationalize. NWN is fast gaining adherents in the region, helping people recover and reorganize. Rumors are still circulating about an imminent new prophet, but lately of one quite unlike what BFM and others had predicted — and that too is calming the region.

     

    [Excerpt from Dawgo Skatts, “Chronicles of the New Word Network,” draft (last revised 02/30/50). Accepted for inclusion in NoöSpherica Quarterly (probably the Spring 2050 special issue on trends in religion). Still being edited for sensitivity.]

    * For clarification of this information-strategy concept, see here.

     

    3 Responses to “Afghanistan 2050: Tribes vs. Networks, cont. & cont.”

    1. Joseph Fouche Says:

      Interesting take. I wonder if Middle Eastern tribalism is an intrinsic phenomenon stretching back to the prehistory of the region or if it’s an artifact of the spread of Islam and Arab culture (at least in long civilized urban and agricultural areas in the Fertile Crescent, Egypt, and Carthaginian North Africa.

    2. Paul Milenkovic Says:

      One word that is dropped in passing in the parent post is the notion of a tribe or a nationality considering themselves as “chosen people.” It is well known that Chosen People is associated with the Jewish religion, and the term Chosen People has been a focal point of anti-Semitic resentment and envy. I can offer what I think is a Christian understanding of the term, and others, perhaps, and inform me of a Jewish perspective.

      My understanding is that Chosen People does not mean you have to be Jewish to be “saved” and if you are not Jewish, you are not only “not saved” but in some way rejected as not worthy, but I believe there is a shallow understanding that it has that meaning. First of all, the concept of being “saved” is primarly Christian dogma, although the “saved” “not saved” division may be mainly Evangelical, and Catholic teaching focuses on “being in a state of grace” and “not being in a state of grace.” What I know about this is that Jewish teaching on this matter is somewhat more complicated or perhaps considered to be unknowable apart from speculation.

      My understanding is that just as among the Jewish people there is a priestly caste, transliterated from the Hebrew in plural form as Kohanim, the entirety of the Jewish people are meant to be a Priestly people, perhaps serving as a priest super-caste to the world at large or perhaps serving as role models to the world at large. Not all Jews are Cohens or Kohanim, which doesn’t mean that a non-Cohen Jewish person cannot be righteous or holy, and not everyone in the world is Jewish or perhaps even meant to be Jewish, but that doesn’t mean a non-Jew can never be righteous or holy either.

      The one question I have regarding this model, however, as the Jewish religion, unlike many others, is non-proselytizing and cautious of accepting converts, what is a non-Jewish person supposed “to be” in terms of religion? As a Catholic Christian, the dogma I am supposed to follow is that the hereditary priestly office of proper Jews is the “Old Testament”, and that this mantle has been given to the world of Christian believers in a “New Testament.” Hal Lindsey with his popular books taught much the same thing along with a kind of “dispensational theology” suggesting that some priestly role is reserved for proper Jews during some imminent “end times.”

      Perhaps influenced by the shame of Christian persecution of Jews, perhaps influenced by Mr. Lindsey’s writings, I have come personally to the belief that Christian proselytizing of Jews is not part of “The Plan.” Is Jewish thought a kind of mirror of that, that I am not to convert to being Jewish and that I should remain a Catholic, provided, I don’t take too literally some of the frankly anti-Jewish New Testament readings? Or is Christianity too blatant a heresy from a Jewish perspective and I should worship as a monotheistic Muslim, provided I stay away from some radical clerics, or better yet, as a Ba’Hai or perhaps a Unitarian? I am curious to other perspectives on this.

    3. david ronfeldt Says:

      joseph: many thanks. good question about the middle east. i don’t have good answer. my past area specialty was latin america, and this kind of question never arose. since then, i’ve read lots about tribes and tribalism in general, but nothing so far that provides the historical comparative analysis your question implies. i doubt the answer would be just about arabs, since my impression is that most cultures and ethnicities in and around the region have been very very tribal at times.

      paul: interesting point about the term “chosen people.” as a sort of lapsed protestant, and not well-read on religion, i’ve lost a sense it is so strongly associated with judaism. i have long regarded it as a term that may crop up in many religious contexts. quickly checking, i see wikipedia has an entry for the term that emphasizes your point, yet adds examples from other religions, including ones i didn’t know about. when i first came up with the idea, i was mostly reacting to the beliefs and behaviors of islamist terrorists, as well as sectarian and cult leaders of other faiths. perhaps substituting another term — select? anointed? ordained? special? sent? commanded? — would be advisable.

      by the way, the scenario is not meant to imply that any notion of feeling chosen is bad. to give a literary example, consider differences between don quixote and captain ahab: both believe they are on a special spiritual mission; but only the latter is seized with rallying his crew to wreak vengeance in a vainglorious streak of extreme tribalism. in a sense, my scenario implies that the don quixotes prevail over the captain ahabs of the world.