From Christianity’s founding and for the next three centuries it was indeed the religion of the underdog; not only were Christians persecuted and oppressed, but their very oppression was seen by early Christians as evidence of their moral rectitude. Suffering was a way of cleansing the soul; the worse off your station in life was, the closer you were to God. Early Christianity was a religion of the lower classes, not of the elite or aristocracy, and as such was almost a form of spiritual proto-Marxism. The worse off you were in social terms, the better off on the spiritual plane. By losing in this this life, you win in the next.
(Of course, all of that changed starting in the 4th century with Constantine, the Council of Nicea and Theodosius, when Christianity transformed into a state-sponsored religion and a powerful political force — but that’s for a different essay.)
1500 years later, Karl Marx came along and invented an anti-religion which nonetheless derived from the same principle: that poor people were the actual possessors of power. The difference between Marxism and Christianity is that under Jesus’ teachings the underdogs’ reward was in the afterlife, whereas Marx envisioned a here-and-now revolution for the oppressed to seize power and become the winners on Earth.
Both Christianity and Marxism appeal to people’s sense of empathy and compassion, something which had been somewhat lacking in other religions and economic systems. But history has shown us that once the oppressed become winners and take power — whether it be the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages or the Russian serfs after the 1917 Revolution — they in turn inevitably become the oppressors themselves. From this we can derive a new axiom: The new boss is always the same as the old boss.
(Of course, I fully realize that Christians will be just as horrified to have their faith compared to Marxism as Marxists will be horrified to have their ideology compared to Christianity, but the key point of similarity, at least to me, is undeniable. Of course there are innumerable differences as well, and both philosophies have changed over the centuries, yet still at their origins they both claimed to champion the underdog.)
Using our empathy as a tool against us
To this day, both Christianity and Marxism are hugely influential worldviews, and aside from those people who overtly identify with one camp or the other, most everyone else ascribes to some kind of political ideology which is at a minimum informed by either Christianity or Marxism. That is to say, Christian values suffuse conservatism, and Marxist values suffuse liberalism — even if you yourself don’t think of yourself as a Christian or a Marxist. Yet since both ideologies share one common feature — sympathy for the underdog — and since most people fall somewhere in the conservative/liberal dichotomy, then everyone in the Western world, regardless of what side you might be on, harbors some secret sympathy for the oppressed and disdain for the victorious.
It is this salient fact that the propaganda maestros of the Gaza Flotilla are banking on. The whole goal of sailing ships toward Gaza is not to “break the blockade,” but rather to seek out and initiate a conflict with the Israeli military. And here’s the key: not merely to enter into a conflict with the Israelis, but specifically to lose a conflict with the Israelis. Because only by losing can the activists and militants claim the victimhood mantle and declare a moral victory. So, just as in a Canadian soccer game, by losing they win.
Arab Culture and the Strong Horse
The West’s affection for the underdog is now widespread throughout the world — except in the Middle East, where Arab culture still reveres the powerful and the victorious. In 2001, Osama bin Laden famously remarked, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” This seemingly innocuous homily summarizes the difference between traditional Arab values and Western values: Not only do bin Laden and his ilk revere the dominant party in any relationship, he assumes that everyone else does likewise. It is for this specific reason that Al Qaeda (and Al Qaeda’s millions of admirers) thought that the 9/11 attacks were a good idea: If we can inflict a defeat on the enemy, Al Qaeda reasoned, then we will gain the world’s sympathy, because we we will have taken the role of the Strong Horse.
Needless to say, bin Laden got it completely reversed: Every time terrorists strike, their cause loses credibility in the West’s eyes, because by killing innocents they have become the aggressor and the oppressor. Most terror groups and Islamic extremist groups still operate under bin Laden’s “Strong Horse” misapprehension.
Luckily for the Islamic extremists, some Western leftists more clever than they have stepped in to rescue the otherwise-discredited Islamist cause. Far-left groups like the Free Palestine Movement and the International Solidarity Movement, along with their innumerable media enablers and Marxist Euro diplomats, have patiently explained to the Islamists that scoring violent victories is counterproductive; the real way to achieve political success in the Western world is to be the victim of a violent defeat. That way, you earn the world’s sympathy, and the powers-that-be give you what you want. It worked for Gandhi in India; it worked for the 1950s Civil Rights movement in the US; it can work for you. Lose your way to victory. Problem is, every power in the Western world already knows this, and they thereby resist appearing as bullies — so the only way to become a victim is to goad your unwilling opponent into defeating you. If you can sufficiently hide the goading from public view, then the response will seem like an aggression, and you win if you lose.
I imagine it must have taken quite a bit of philosophical reconfiguring for the extremists to grasp this ridiculous and counter-intuitive Western way of thinking, but they decided to give it a try. Lo and behold — it worked! At least it worked if you are an MSM collaborator in the ruse. In reality, most of the Islamists still don’t quite grasp the whole concept, so (for example) one can still see the militants on the Gaza flotilla chanting slogans about killing Jews and hoping for success or martyrdom. Uh, fellas, we’re supposed to be posing as the victims here — cool it, will ya?