Untimely Observations

How to Cure the Middle East

The US diplomatic corps is once again finding out that the Middle East is an excitable and dangerous place to be. Fundamentally, the present outburst of "Muslim Rage" has very little to do with religion, despite news reports that all the fuss was kicked off by the appearance on YouTube of an amateurish video defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

The Middle Easterners have always been an excitable bunch. In fact this may be one of the reasons these people had to become Muslims in the first place. Islam first and foremost is a way of curbing excitable behavior. That is why it translates as "Submission," mentions Hell a hell of a lot of times, and rigorously separates the sexes. Islam is about as close to a cold shower as the medieval Middle East could manage.

Before Islam really got going in the latter half of the 20th century (it had a quiet spell after 732), it was Arab nationalism, Nasser's twinkling eyes, or the price of figs that got the Middle Eastern mob running round, frothing at the mouth, with scimitars and hackles raised. Heck, once it was my own father and his shipmates who somehow or other provoked the angry knife-wielding mob, and were lucky to get back to their ship, or I wouldn't exist.

Some believe that all the trouble in the Middle East is caused by the existence of Israel and America's bumbling efforts to control the region. Take away these two irritants, the theory goes, and the Middle East would settle down into the tranquility of a field of well-fed Buddhist cows. Yeh, maybe for five minutes, but then they'd find something else – like the fact that the name Mohammed actually has the word "ham" in it – and they'd be off again.

The real problem with the Middle East is that there are simply too many people there, and most of them have nothing to do. This makes them even more susceptible to excitement than they already are. Take Egypt. According to Wikipedia it has an estimated population of 82 million. But how many are actually needed to fish junk out of the Suez Canal and show the tourists where the pyramids are? About 500, tops. The rest of the population is effectively unemployed or pretending to work.

The ancient pharaohs understood this. That is why they devised the cunning scheme of pyramid building, an ideal way to burn off the excess energy of an excess population.

Any comprehensive cure for the problem of the Middle East has two possible directions. Firstly, it could involve a rigorous birth control program designed to bring the population down to the actual number of people required to do the work. In the case of Egypt, you could even select the people most fitted for the available jobs – those good at pointing at Sphinxes or dealing with aquatic garbage – to have the children.

Alternatively, you could create a massive job creation scheme on a par with the pyramids that would engage the teeming millions. For aesthetic reasons and because 900-meter tall statues of Mohammed might make very inviting targets for Israeli missiles, this could be limited to the building of even more pyramids. The vast emptiness of the Sahara would provide a limitless site for this.

With the Middle Eastern masses actively engaged in such exhausting labour, there would be lot less seething turmoil and excitable ferment, while any pointlessly enraged mobs that did manage to arise would hardly have the energy to walk to the nearest infidel embassy or consulate, let alone storm it.