Sheep following the shepherd: How accountable is the individual?

I'm reading through a side tangent in an Atheist News bit. The tangent is in defense of the Pope for having been a member of the Hitler Youth. It's what all the cool kids were doing in those days, so it's really not fair to hold the Nazi label against him today.

My mind then wanders to the too-many-to-count discussions here equating all Muslims with the actions of the fundamentalist few. 

I'm no fan of theistic ignorance and violence, especially the Abrahamic religions. I'm quick with a tongue-in-cheek, "So many Christians, so few lions" type generalization slogan.

But there comes a point when I think we need to remember that fundamentalists make up a very small segment of these religions. And even then, not all fundamentalists are actively violent or in support of it. Take the French burqa ban. I'm guessing that if every married couple where the wife sports a burqa were an active terrorist, they wouldn't have fled to Europe in the first place. Much as I abhor the practice, how much choice did either the wife or husband have in their family, extended family, community, to be taught there are alternative ways to live? They are simply doing what all the cool kids in their peer group do, just like Pope-Rat joining the Hitler Youth.

Then there are the moderates, who make up the other 99.99% of Muslims. We rag on them for not standing up to the fundamentalists. Though honestly, looking at how said fundies will issue a fatwa death sentence on a cartoonist, I can't imagine what they'd do if a fellow Muslim (in their view) were to speak out against them. That, and it simply doesn't make for good news in America where the goal is to dehumanize the 'enemy,' not illustrate that most of them really aren't the enemy. 

So I guess if I have a question here, it is: To what extent do we blame the individual for actively choosing to follow an ugly ideology, or to what extent do we pity the individual who is simply doing what his/her environment taught them to do? Yes, that husband in France whose wife wears a burqa might be very worldly and still choosing subjugation of women. But he might also be simply doing what he's been programed from birth to do for genuine fear of eternal hellfire and torment, not to mention alienation from his family, his friends, his community, and everything he's ever believed in if he doesn't. 

It's frustrating, I know. But while I certainly hold back little anger for the terrorist, some part of me also has to remember that terrorist likely had little choice in becoming what he became. 

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It seems to me that, 21st century sensibilities notwithstanding, we still live very much in a "go-along-to-get-along" world, where conformity is still the de-facto choice and rocking the boat or whistle-blowing, while an option, is neither a well-supported nor preferable one. Bob Heinlein spoke of this in Stranger in a Strange Land when he made his "brown monkey / pink monkey" analogy: an individual who dares to be different in a homogeneous society may be taking his life in his hands.

By the same token, those who wear burqas and those who insist that their women wear them are largely of the same ilk, either because they seriously believe it's the way to live or because they recognize that's the way NOT to draw attention and possibly be killed for it.

Boil it down, the world does NOT respect individualism enough to permit it, even when it does no harm. Major paradigms prefer conformity in the small things to help insure conformity with the larger issues, and those who actively wander off the beaten path are considered suspect. My sense has been for a while that this is a reflection of a failure to be at home with oneself, independent of exterior paradigms, whether religious, political, social or whatever. A person at home with him/herself is unthreatened by difference, so long as the difference is not invasive or threatening by its very nature.

So long as it is dangerous to walk to the beat of a different drummer, any such problem of this nature will continue to obtain.
Muslims in fundamentalist theocracies and/or terrorist Islamic nations at least have the excuse of fear. The lives of themselves and their families are in mortal danger for even speaking out against those groups or gov'ts.

What excuse do we have as Americans for not spending every available resource stopping the wars of aggreession and empire we, as willing fools of our ruling elite, are currently engaged in? We turn a blind eye as our international policy is run by the industrial military complex as they use WMDs to commit murder on a massive scale and use assasignation and CIA dirty tricks to attempt to overthrow democratically elected gov'ts such as Venzuela and Guatemala because they are creating working socialist societies.

Are we not responsible as a people for our support of the terrorist State of Israel whose policies of exile and confiscation of property have left millions living in abject poverty without resources to improve their lot? We have even given up our own freedoms in the name of "safety" and watched our media outlets become a bigger propaganda machine than Hitler could have imagined.




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