Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

bin Laden

So apparently Osama bin Laden has died, apparently violently. My reaction is to feel sad.

Sad, because I'm sure there's going to be a lot of triumphalism about this, a lot of "Isn't it about time." Because after 10 years we managed to kill a man who thought living in a cave was the best thing he could do.

But mostly sad because...Well, every time I thought about bin Laden (which has not been often, frankly), the connection I made was between bin Laden and Gandhi. Which I'm sure will make a lot of people wonder about me, but that's OK. The connection is that they both felt that they, and their countries, had to turn their backs on the modern world to avoid being corrupted. That they looked around themselves and saw, not progress and opportunity and a way out of poverty and oppression and desperation, but corrupting choices at every turn. And, ultimately, because they did not trust their own people to choose wisely.

Gandhi opposed the modern world peacefully, and bin Laden opposed it violently, but they both saw the only path to a better future in the past. And that, ultimately, is what makes me sad. Had their ideas won out, the world would have become a worse place to live, not because of the violence (in bin Laden's case), but because it would have been choosing poverty over progress, consigning millions, perhaps billions, of people to a worse life.


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