Why are the Afghans so angry and violent toward us? The answer is revanche


After the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the First Crusade, became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, July 1099. Wikipedia

In any relationship one of the biggest challenges to happiness and continuity is buried emotion – old history.  Arguments between people, peoples or nations can be about anything; but sometimes the argument is really about something that is never mentioned at all.  My ex-wife and I did not argue much and when we did it was about silly stuff, the garbage, going shopping, doing laundry or some other trivial part of the routine of our lives.  We never argued about her smoking; she tried to hide or disguise it and we both pretended it did not exist.  She tried to quit, but try as she might, she was not able to give it up, until our marriage was in its death throws.  Nor did we argue about my running or the amount of time I spent at work.  I ran as many as 20 miles a day at some points in our lives, and never less than 10 miles a day and I worked at least 10 hours a day, six or seven days a week.  Needless to say, there was not much time left over to be a husband, companion or much of anything else. We never overtly argued about either; but we did argue about them all of the time, all of our arguments were about smoking and running. The garbage, shopping and laundry were just excuses to vent our anger and frustration.

I suspect that is true much more often than most people realize and not just between people, but between peoples (as in tribes or ethic groups of people) and nations.  Sometime in the fall when my lungs were filling with little blood clots, I kind of moved away from studying Islam and the Middle East into reading about Africa and colonialism.  In the end, it is just an extension of studying Islam and the Middle East because it is about western- Christian nations and their policy toward all other nations and faiths. There is a great account of French policy in respect to England – in terms of the current events France would have been better off forming a partnership to colonize Africa with England.  They could have split the continent between them and kept the Germans, Belgians, Turks and Portuguese out.  But they did not, instead in not so overt ways both France and England worked their own agendas and tried to sabotage the other country’s agenda. I read a great tale of the French navy in the 1860s and 1870s determining the course of French policy; the navy voiced noble and convincing reasons in public for the actions it recommended; but in private the officers discussed the real story, it was  the defeat of Napoleon and the destruction of the French navy decades before.  The navy wanted to get back at England; the French even invented a word of the concept – revanche.  The denotation of the word is the same as our revenge – to get even; but the 19th century connotation of the word became something else, to recover what a nation had lost – sometimes that was land, a navy or its honor. France wanted its revanche.

That is what the people in Afghanistan want, revanche; it is what the people in Egypt want revanche; it is certainly what the Palestinians and their supporters want.  They want the honor and integrity of their country and their peoples back.  The exact details vary according to the country – but it is always something they lost a very long time ago.  So when someone burns a Koran in Afghanistan and senseless violence erupts, revanche is at is heart.  When a few Americans are freed in Egypt and a tidal wave of resentment irrupts – revanche is at its heart. Some members of the Egyptian parliament are calling for a complete diplomatic break with the United States, others are calling for a resignation of the current governemnt and still others want the judges in the NGO case judged.  Why all of the emotion? The average Egyptian thinks the Untied States bribed Egyptian justice system.  They have reason to suspect both us and the Egyptians involved; the army has been getting billions of dollars a year from us for a long, long time.  The average citizen resents that – the people don’t think they got anything.

That is part of the revanche, the people resent what the army has gotten and what it has done with that money.  But in truth, it goes deeper, it goes to rape of the Egypt by the French and the English in the 19th and 20th centuries.   So why us? Because we are just another Christian nation- another nation of non-believers – in a long line of Christian nations, going back to the crusades.  We may have forgotten the crusades, but the Islamic world has not.  That long line of outsiders trying to takeover the country and convert the people to another faith is still very fresh in their minds.   That faith has not always been religious, it has also been political.  The political faith of the Egyptians has varied over 20th century as the region went through its nationalistic, socialistic, communistic and lately militaristic political eras.  The west has been consistent, capitalistic and Christian.  There is however, another and deeper cause, the conflict between Islam and Christianity and that is at least a thousand years old, it is buried deep in the sands of the desert and in the souls of the people.

It is startling to us, just as my wife and I were startled by the anger of our partner, an anger that could erupt over something so unimportant and trivial as taking out the garbage or going shopping.   If we don’t learn to recognize and understand the underlying issues in the Middle East we will never achieve any degree of mutual agreement or peace.  Up to this point we have tried to make peace with the leaders of individual countries by giving them money, military aid and support – those leaders eventually always die or are disposed and the people beneath are deeply offended by our policy, ready erupt into anger at us; each new incident, regardless of how trivial it is to us,  once again recalls their loses to previous Christian armies and it calls out for revanche.

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2 Responses to “Why are the Afghans so angry and violent toward us? The answer is revanche”


  1. 1 lynne rosner March 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    This word revanche, I like it. I have used it at least three times today.


  1. 1 Interesting Current Events | Living History Trackback on March 27, 2012 at 4:47 am

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