Sunday, September 24, 2006

Interesting Observations on Arab Cultural Differences

An American blogger has some posted some interesting observations based on his time living in Saudi Arabia...

From Observations on Arabs:

Since the beginning of the Iraq phase of this conflict of civilizations, I've experienced the teeth-grinding frustration of watching both pro- and anti- Iraq sides make the exact same mistake - that of supposing that these people are bascially Americans in funny costumes. In this respect, George Bush and Michael Moore are equally clueless, as was Jill Carroll apparently.


In the case of the Kingdom, I went there with a certain sympathy for Arab grievances, a belief that America had earned a lot of hostility from "blowback" from our ham-handed interventionist foreign policy and support for Israel etc.

I came back with the gloomy opinion that over the long run we are going to have to hammer these people hard to get them to quit messing with Western Civilization. And by the way, among "rational, fair-minded" non-interventionist libertarians, not a damn one of them has asked me, "What in your experience caused you to change your mind?" Instead what I get are gratuitous insults followed by insufferably condescending lectures about how wrong I am.

So, with the caveat that one of the first things I learned was that the term “Arab” covers a lot of territory, here are some observations and some tentative conclusions about Arabs, more specifically about Arabs from the oil states about why we have misunderstood each other to the point that we are fighting a war with some of them and are pissing off the rest of them.


Unknown said...

I went to school with a young man from SA, he liked telling me his father was into oil.

Truth is I got the impression that he found America amusing, but considered us to be barbarians.

chuck said...

I do think the idea of "truth" is cultural, and without that idea it is hard to do science and engineering. Another thing I have noticed is that in some cultures engineering is a theoretical science, not something that might include something as low down and dirty as, say, replacing the starter motor on ones car.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

I have no doubt that the Western notion of "truth" is a cultural construct which is necessary as a prerequisite for Science, and that it is a consequence of the monotheistic but humanistic religious underpinnings we have all been given.

Syl said...


Truth is I got the impression that he found America amusing, but considered us to be barbarians.

Okay, everybody slap me, but I find the Saudi's quite arrogant and condescending. More so than other Arabs.

And when we go farther east out of Arab territory but still under muslim influence, I love the Afghans who have a self-deprecating sense of humor and charm that is hard to resist.

And farther east still (a bit) I knew many people from Pakistan back in the '60's and '70's and enjoyed their company tremendously. Even dated a few. Though I would never have considered marrying one. I had enough problems later with a man I dearly loved who was Spanish (in the power game between male and female.) So there were cultural red flags in that area.

But the rise of Islamic extremism is very saddening to me (putting aside the danger to us) when I remember my friends back then and wonder if any of them or their friends and neighbors or children succumbed.

I'm not sure what I'm saying except that Islam has deep influence on any culture it touches, but that, still, different cultures absorb it differently. Though the differences may be subtle, Indonesians are still different from Arabs are different from Persians are different from the Pashtun or whatever.