...As we shall see, the peoples of northern Europe contributed nothing of fundamental importance to Eurasian civilization until the last thousand years; they simply had the good luck to live at a geographic location where they were likely to receive advances (such as agriculture, wheels, writing, and metallurgy) developed in warmer parts of Eurasia. In the New World the cold regions at high latitude were even more of a human backwater. The sole Native American societies to develop writing arose in Mexico south of the Tropic of Cancer; the oldest New World pottery comes from near the equator in tropical South America; and the New World society generally considered the most advanced in art, astronomy, and other respects was the Classic Maya society of the tropical Yucatan and Guatemala in the first millennium A.D.
...Yet another type of explanation lists the immediate factors that enabled Europeans to kill or conquer other peoples-especially European guns, infectious diseases, steel tools, and manufactured products. Such an explanation is on the right track, as those factors demonstrably were directly responsible for European conquests. However, this hypothesis is incomplete, because it still offers only a proximate (first stage) explanation identifying immediate causes. It invites a search for ultimate causes: why were Europeans, rather than Africans or Native Americans, the ones to end up with guns, the nastiest germs, and steel?
I’ve noticed that little of the news reporting in America about Faisal Shahzad, the would be Times Square bomber, has compared his intended act to that of suicide pilot Joseph Stack, the fellow who flew a plane into the IRS building. Starck was at his wit’s end and saw suicide—and taking down as many people with him as possible—as his only way out. He’d lost everything and needed someone or some entity to blame for his broken life to make sense to him. Clearly he was a confused and overwhelmed man.
And this is the angle to the Shahzad story that’s getting short shrift here, as if the media is afraid to touch it: The death of Shahzad’s American dream. The media is selling this as another nutty Islamist who “hates our way of life” but that’s not all he is and it’s a very one-dimensional view of what motivated him. He’s also a guy—like Stack—who saw himself screwed over by the system. If he was going to go down, he would go down spectacularly, becoming in some quarters, a hero. A self-perceived loser reborn as an Islamist icon in an instant.
Three British reporters went digging a bit deeper in the pages of the Telegraph:
For answers to the mystery of what drove Faisal Shahzad to try to turn downtown New York into a fireball, a poke among the rubbish in the backgarden of his former home in Connecticut offers some torn and crumpled clues.
Blowing around last week on the overgrown lawn was a discarded cache of personal mail, dumped there during a clearout when he abruptly vacated the house last year.
The tale they tell, though, is not of contacts with shadowy terrorist groups or plots against the West, but a narrative that millions of ordinary Americans can identify with since the financial meltdown of 2008.
One is a letter from the Connecticut Superior Court, demanding he attend a repossession hearing on his home; another is from a debt collection agency, saying he owed them more than $15,000. A third message is friendlier in tone, but reveals just why his financial woes might have worried him so much - it is a pink greetings card addressed to him and his wife, Huma, which reads “Congratulations on your new little girl!”
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