Theme parks for peace – Bin Laden and Seven Dwarfs


Jokhang temple in Lhasa, Tibet

A worshiper at Jokhang temple in Lhasa: Chinese authorities say proposed theme park would reduce tourist pressure on the city’s main sights. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian, Guardian, 7-6-12

It is the 21st century of the modern era.  However, if you count human civilization by the archeological evidence we are twelve thousand years into civilizing ourselves.   However, we still have a ways to go; who could call the thousands of murders and millions of other crimes that are committed daily civilized?   Who could call the events in Syria or deadly wars being fought all of the time in Africa civilized?  It would very difficult to find any time in history when there was no war or killing.  Isn’t it time to stop war – to stop killing, maiming and dehumanizing each other?  Of course it is, but how?

It is not possible to unilaterally declare the end to war – everyone has to agree and sign up for the peace.  That is not an easy proposition, regardless of the level of civilization we have achieved.  Even if one could get all of the nations in the world to agree to end war, what about the discontented individuals that raise so much havoc?   I thought about this a lot after September 11, 2001, the ultimate act of individualized war.  We might not want war, but what was to be done about Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda?  We did not even have a strategy for fighting them; they declared war on us – but they were (and still are) a very difficult enemy to confront.  We could not send our armies against them, although we tried; they had no territory, no government, no substance and were more like drops of water moving and flowing all of the time than a human enemy – how does one fight an enemy like that?

They were sworn to destroy us and were unwilling to negotiate, so we had to do something.  It is an old maxim that one must always understand one’s enemy.  When thinking about it, I tried to understand who were the people that joined Bin Laden and flew airplanes into buildings.  Silly me, I thought there could not be very many of them. But 11 years later when every day someone straps on a bomb and walks into a crowd somewhere in the world, willing to die for a cause, it is clear there is no shortage of such people.   But who are they?   To fight them, we have to know what motivates them.  Naively, I thought they could not be businessmen or fathers or anyone with solidly grounded in the economy or society.

They had to be the disenfranchised, the poor and the downtrodden I postulated.   And because I framed the issue in economic terms, an economic solution seemed the answer to me; give them Walmart I thought; spending money, buying stuff that is the answer.  They need to be connected to the internet and so they can buy to their heart’s content.  After all that is the way we have been pacified, it was long ago demonstrated that consumers with money to spend and things to buy are not revolutionaries – they are solid citizens and defenders of the established order.    However, after all years watching individual acts of war spread to dozens and dozens of different places, it is clear my thinking was naive.   It is not an economic problem and it is obvious that  I do not understand the conditions that create the phenomenon.   They cannot be bought off , talked away or marginalized by simplistic economic or political strategies.

However, in my defense, I am not the only one to think that way.  An article in the Guardian today suggests that China thinks as I did.  The Chinese government has conceived a plan to eliminate the pesky Tibetan Buddhists and their discontent that very much resembles my Walmart plan.   China is going to build a $6 billion theme park in Tibet.  The government predicts it will attract 15 million visitors a year and generate $3 billion in annual spending.  The Buddhists will no longer be symbols of resistance to communism and Chinese domination – instead they will become Mickey and Minnie in the Temple of Peace and Unity.   And there will be plenty of money and jobs going around to end the discontent and bring unity to all of China including Tibet.  A great plan for neutralizing and marginalizing Tibetans – peace at last.  That does not solve the problem of war, but it does solve the problem of the angry individuals willing to die to destroy us.  Now, why didn’t I think of that.  Walmart was not solution, but Disneyland – an AL-Qaeda theme park with  Bin Laden and the 7 dwarfs playing in the mountains of Afghanistan.   Hell, we could even put a Walmart in the park.

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