06 May 2016

How we got here, vol. 1

This could be how it happened. This is my understanding of how it happened:

Once upon a time, there was a small-time mayor named Muhammad ibn Saud.

Muhammad ibn Saud.

Now, for all my non-Middle Eastern readers, do not let the exotic name intimidate you. No. In fact, let’s just call him “Steve.”

Steve wasn’t really much of a leader. He didn’t have much power, but he wanted it. He sat around like small-timers do and schemed of ways to get more power. Much more.

Then one day, another small-timer – a preacher named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab – arrived in town. Don’t let the exotic name intimidate you, either. In fact, since we already set the precedent, what the hell? Let’s just call him Bill.

Bill preached a very simple, very watered-down version of his faith.

He took out all the brains.

He took out all the poetry.

He took out all the heart and then declared himself as pure. He went around mucking up religious tombs and killing people who practiced the faith a different way.

Obviously, Bill was an asshole. Most everybody hated him. But Steve liked him.

Steve said, “Bill, I have an idea.”

He said, “Let’s rule this whole wide peninsula together, you and me. I’ll take the politics. You take the faith.”

Bill agreed. Together, the two friends set out to burn books and to sack treasuries and to kill men who would not grow their beards.

And for a while, things went swimmingly.

Then some fellows from the Ottoman Empire in the north caught wind of things, came down and chased Steve and Bill back into their original small-time town. Steve and Bill died as failures, still staring out at the desert, scheming.

-So this is a sad story, is it?

I agree it might be seen as a little sad. Readers don’t like to read about failure, as a rule. But don’t you cry for Steve and Bill just yet.

Alright, let’s take a break here. I’ve had quite enough of this for now and I imagine you have, too. We’ll pick up on it a bit later.

Take a break.

I think you’re going to be surprised.

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