Monday, February 19, 2007
A couple of points of interest. In some countries, such as Poland and India, there are fewer people who are convinced that this 'conflict between Islam and the West' is about 'power and interests' than in other countries. That said, even fewer believe it is about fundamental cultural conflicts. Muslims (55%) are somewhat more certain than Christians (51%) that the problem mostly derives from political conflict. There are reasons for this that automatically suggest themselves. But here's the thing that stands out to me: in only one country is it believed by most (51%) that a 'violent conflict' between 'Islam and the West' is 'inevitable', and it is Indonesia. Yes, I know, I know: Indonesia is thickly populated with Them. All the pseudo-internationalists remember Bali (but only as far back as 2002). However, Political Islam is far from a mainstream current in Indonesia, and the main Islamist party, the PKS, lost support when its agenda shifted from issues of corruption and democracy to issues of piety (from 10.1% of the votes to 2.7%). Further, most of those questioned there do not put the conflict down to one of 'values', but to 'power and interests'.
I simply raise this because it points to what kind of 'power and interests' we might be talking about. The interviews in Indonesia were conducted in urban clusters (it would be difficult to get in touch with the poor rural communities, and I don't think West Papua or Aceh fell under the survey's remit). On of those clusters was in Surabaya. Another was Bandung. Of course, the main sample was in Jakarta. Respectively, the scene of the heroic routing of Dutch forces (backed by 6,000 British-India troops); the scene of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference where postcolonial states met to position themselves in the Cold War, which ultimately led to the Non-Aligned Movement; and the centre of the biggest, most intense counterrevolutionary massacre of the 20th Century that inaugurated decades of dictatorship and created the Indonesian warfare-national security state that even today is committing atrocities to keep the sweatshops open for free enterprise. Suharto is gone, but the state has not ceased to be repressive, and the hyper-exploitative arrangements based on the obliteration of organised labour and independent political parties have not gone away. Western governments continue to supply the government with hawk aircrafts, torture equipment, tanks and anti-crowd weapons; Western capital continues to work labour to the bone. (I suppose an example must be the polling organisation used to collect the information, Deka. I don't know if they pay more than the highest minimum wage of $878 a year, or 710,000 rupiah, but market research companies aren't the highest paying outfits in the world even under the best conditions.) In other words, I'm saying that if 51% of Indonesian people feel this way, it probably has to do with persisting and prolonged iniquities that they have suffered, ranging from massacre to torture to slave labour.
Do you see what they mean by 'power and interests'?