Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Bean Burrito Principle

In debating with some of my favorite shallow reasoning conservative minded Internet acquaintances in recent weeks, I realized a common human trait that they held. It is a trait shared by some liberal friends too. Sometimes people arrive at the right conclusion with the wrong data. That isn’t what I noticed Most though. What I noticed most was that some people can’t connect events any further back then one move. No sense of consequences for their actions.

The Basic of the "Bean Burrito Principle":
I have dubbed this the "bean burrito principle". Consider that one night you eat a bean burrito. You know the kind. The frozen ones from the grocery store. On sale, you can get two for a dollar. You heat it up in the microwave in that cardboard cover. It gets so scalding hot on the outside, a solid ball of ice on the inside. So you nuke it for the rest of the 30 seconds of the "2 to 2 ½ minutes" recommended on the package. You grab your favorite frothy beverage and you eat the burrito. (Others just drunkenly swerve into "Mexican Ringer" after bar close and achieve the same nutritious satisfaction.) The digestive process begins in the mouth with the mixing of saliva as your teeth grind the molten hot cheese, stale two year old reject tortilla from toxic hell, and the really cheep beans (oh those dammed beans) into a paste. You esophagus presses that paste down into that chemical chamber called your stomach. It is here that the result of your decision not to eat something more substantive has reached the point of no return. It is here that chemical reactions release methane gas. That gas is mixed with the chemically changed (think rotting) food and pushed along the large intestine. At the end of the line, so to speak, gas is trapped in the in the system by the anal sphincter. Eventually the pressure is too great and the discomfort of the gas bubble convinces that sphincter to open up. Then, "REIIIP", is that familiar sound. That is followed by the odor that we have come to recognize by many a name passed by the pulling of the finger from father to son for over a hundred generations. The fart. Most people blame the smell on the fart. Some even go as deep as to blame it on the ass. None too many blame it on the sphincter. Very few of us know to blame it on our inability to pick something less volatile to eat the night before. And so when we wake up in the morning, head pounding from the nights previous activity, many of us can't understand why out room smells like the outside Porto potty on day 5 of Woodstock.

Applied Politics:
So what does this have to do with politics, let alone Islamic extremist attacks? So many people want to look no further then the fart to blame the smell. They simply want to spray the room with some rosey fragrance and call it a day. In the same respect, so many people want to look no further then the attackers and their organizations to find blame. The problem is that type of quick and shallow resolve doesn’t lend itself to identifying and solving the problem. If you don’t realize that it is the burrito causing the horrible odor, you can not truly stop it from occurring. Sure you can pack your pants with an air freshener, but eventually some of the smell will get through. It only takes one missed attack and the room is in tears. Spray it and in the end what you have is rose scented poo. So it is the case that if we don’t understand (and accept our role in the process) why the Islamic extremist attack western targets, we are doomed to suffer another attack.

Trying to understand:
If you really want to understand where the burrito meets the belly, then you have to understand the choices Western politics make when buying "burritos" from the Middle East. Of course the gas we produce from the Middle East comes not from burritos, but come from oil. Think of what you picture when you think of the Middle East. A guy ridding a camel, wearing some kind of towel over his head, right? Know what you don’t picture, a bustling city with lots of electricity, roads, and automobile burning up oil.
The lands that hold these vast oil resources are not settled lands that follow Western ideologies of equality and free thought. At least they weren't. Many are leaning that way now, and that is the problem. It would be nice if they were, but social evolution has not lead then to drink the cool clean waters of freedom as of yet. (boy could you imagine how much gas would cost if they did though?) They don’t recognize national unity and authority. They (meaning the majority of the ancestral inhabitants)also don’t care about crude oil. They are nomads, goat herders, and loyal to their tribes. Their religion is more influential to them then the attainment of wealth. Yet the oil burning junkies of the "civilized world" (that is us dear reader) want to get access to that oil. We can’t just take it. Not that we wouldn’t take it if we could. It is just that there are way too many of them and oil wells are sitting ducks in a barrel. We can’t blow the place up, it would ruin the oil fields for hundreds of years. So we use the most efficient weapon we have to cure our hunger. Greed and free enterprise. Much like the terrorist only need small numbers to attack soft targets, so it is that we only need a few greedy basturds to hold power over the rest of their community. Give them guns, money, food, and healthcare and they will hold their brother and sisters at bay.

You can always find hungry people at bar close:
There are a few facts in life that are useful. In a group of 1000 people, there are at least 10 who are hypocrites and would trade their tradition and spiritualism for wealth and power in a moments notice. Also, 10 well armed, trained, and resources people can control the will of the other 990. If 12000 miles away we display the 10 people celebrating with western technology and ideals on TV, the majority of the country will think they are all like that. Last, no matter how bad they taste and make you feel, you can always sell bean burritos at bar close because they are cheap and quick to make.
We need people in these lands to let us build oil wells, protect our assets, and "sell" us our burritos. So our governments find militia men willing to honor our trades. We prop them up as kings and rulers. We arm them and train them to the teeth. We make them wealthy. The people of the lands see these repressive militias holding Western weapons, support, and status. (This is not new. We did this with the native Americans. We found some one, anyone to sign a piece of paper and say the land is ours.) Their ancestral lands are occupied by oil wells. They see the cash and power granted to the people who hold them down and commit human rights violations against them. Many see the westernization of their lands and consider it a "sin" and an invasion of their culture. Most of us can't understand why they wouldn't want money and physical rewards. Those silly people want 70 virgins in the afterlife instead of temporary jolts of pleasure in this world.

From your stomachs perspective:
If we continue to the gaseous consequence as an attack on our nose, the nothing our nose can tell us will stop that from ever happening again. Our nose (the American people) only knows the place smells and we should spray the place with good smelling stuff. But our stomach, the more informed on the matter business end of the problem, knows that better consideration of the diet would stop this whole thing. Just as our politicians know that their greed and desires have changed a culture and caused this.
The Islamic extremists see the burrito as the cause. If they can stop us from propping up oppressive dictators to in order to get oil, then they can have their sacred lands back to themselves. Some of them want the power and status to spread their ideologies instead of the one we are currently backing. Saddam, the Taliban, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel are all products of our thirst for oil and power. Not one of us are innocent of this crime against their land. The Amish may be forgiven. But the rest of us, bloody our hands weekly at the pump. Our soldiers are not boots and uniforms, but cash and power.

Deserving results has nothing to do with expecting them.
No one deserves to wake up with a stinking room and poo in their pants. But considering our actions prior to bar close and the resulting consumption of bad food really only could have lead to one outcome.
We didn’t deserve the attacks of 9/11. Violence is never the answer. But it can be the expected result when measured against past history. We Americans are naive to the consequences of our actions. Our reasoning would be as followed. "Every time I eat one of those cheap burritos, my ass stinks so bad that it forces the paint to peel on my house. Must be cheap paint." Just as we think, "All these holes in the desert where we set up puppet governments and oil wells keep hating and attacking us. Must be the people in those areas are evil."

The difference between a "Bean Burrito" and a "Hummus Wrap".
They don’t understand the individualization of our culture anymore then we understand the unity of theirs. We live in single family housing where we often don't know the name of our neighbor. They live in a more tribal environment where everybody is concerned with everybody’s honor. But the reasons for their hatred of us is far more complex then they are Muslims, they hate freedom, and they think we all should die. Again, the answer to any problems is never violence. As an agnostic Christian I have many times over reasoned that violence in the system doesn't work. But we are currently in a the grips of a cultural catch 22. We now need their resource to support our way of life. However, they want us to stop so they can go back to their way of life. That is why "they hate us". Not our freedom, but the taking of their freedom from them. We can insist that they are free only if they practice it the way we say they should. When we prop up puppets to buy oil on their land, we have released the gas into the equation to the point of no return.
When picking a candidate, pick one that seems to understand the "bean burrito principle" the best. Nobody knows what trouble the future will bring. Having a leader that can understand the full impact and source of the problem is key. A little hint, if you think keeping military presence in their home land for a "hundred years" is even a mentionable option, then you don't understand the principle.


Anonymous said...

Hello, Dwight
I understand that you were going after a certain artistic merit with some of your generalisations with the aim of maintaining audience interest. Even so, I just wanted to point out a couple of things.

First, beans are not evil. Just give them three days, and the farting usually stops.

They are nomads, goat herders, and loyal to their tribes.

The tribal loyalty thing is an unfortunate fact of Arab life. It seems to be fading, though. When I ask about it, the person either doens't know which tribe he belongs to or is faking ignorance. That is here, however. Back in the Gulf and Iraq, tribal loyalty still seems to be the in thing.

Nomads and goat herders, though, are only one aspects of the wide millieu of Arab cultural life. Of course, the focus of this blog entry of yours was oil shuyukh (Arabic linguistic plural of shaykh). They are so not goat herders and not nomads. Urban life has been part of the history of Arabic peoples for centuries. Some were country dwellers and, therefore, depended on herds of animals and needed to guide them from watering place to watering place. Some were traders and, while they had one place to call home, would be off on the caravan routes to make his money. And then there were the rest of the city dwellers; and they would perform jobs related to the function of cities. Goat herding was only part of the picture. And I don't see oil shuyukh as former goat herders. They are too comfortable with their vast hoardes of wealth for me to picture them with a bunch of animals under the blazing sun in a previous lifetime.

Their religion is more influential to them then the attainment of wealth.

Not so. As with any people, wealth steals from religious ideals. Of the mosques that I have been to, I have met one singular family that was unimaginably rich and, at the same time, very pious. There has been another pious family that were well-off, but I didn't consider them insanely rich. The rest of the well-to-do were money-chasers to the bone.

Those silly people want 70 virgins in the afterlife instead of temporary jolts of pleasure in this world.

The travelling salesmen pitching the 70 virgins went out business ages ago. Whenever they came across anyone who had any concept of what Islam teaches, they got laughed at. The selling points for terrorists are hatred of the infidel Western occupier and colonialist. It is sold as a form of jihad using trumped up literalist interpretations of sacred Islamic texts to those unaware of the proper conditions of combative jihad and then advertised as the better jihad (Islam teaches that the greater jihad is a spiritual struggle, not a combative one).

In other respects, you were point on, I think. If we Americans can possibly learn that what is under someone else's terra is their stuff and not ours for speculative interest gains in the markets to be got through deals with propped up tyrannical puppets, then we will have come a long way towards being safe from terrorists. Killing them all only reinforces the distortions that they have made to a fine religion in order to sell a life of war to disadvantaged, under-educated desperates, whom they will surely find by the handfull as we kill off others.
-Shirley from the WHYS boards

p.s. Is there a way to send you info without the world seeing it? I see that you moderate all posts; if one were to request that you reject a post, would you?

Lord of Logic said...


Thanks for the Comment.

If you don’t think beans are evil you then haven’t experienced an 8 hour plane ride next to a guy who consumed them at a Mexican restaurant with a lot of cheep beer and tequila then night before. I was praying for the plane to be hijacked and crashed. And I am an atheist!

The people I have encountered that are poor, undereducated, and under privileged are as loyal to their tribal connections as we are to our patriotism in this country. We wear it in our selves and even deny it until we are attacked. Then we take up the banter like Catholics to mass on Easter. Mistaking a divergence from outward importance is different then fading. Similar to the difference between a healed wound and a scab.

The point of the post and the assertion was that the west, especially the US sough out people who would most easily accept their western ideals and chose to make them business partners. This is where the Bean Burrito Principle comes into effect. (This whole thing has been an exercise in generalization. I understand all cultures and communities are made up of many different occupants and occupations.) Of course the people most willing to conduct trade with the new western businessmen who want the oil will be the more progressive urban dwellers. However, that change in the economic structure have profound effects on all participants in the market. It also has a profound effect on the disparity in power in the community as a whole. A simple concept would be that the goat herder that finds an oil well on trails and lands previously used by his herds are no longer accessible. Cost for things in the city have inflated with the urban dwellers new found wealth. This tended to anger many of the simple country folks. Combine these people with better educated idealist (and there are some in every crowd) and you have yourself a little revolution in the making. One could spend a lifetime contemplating the causes that lead up to 9/11 from each individual perspective.

Religion is certainly more important then wealth to the end revolutionary. The guys who hijacked the planes. An ancient Islamic proverb goes something like this, “Dead men buy no camels.” Ok maybe it isn’t ancient or even Islamic. As a person who lost faith I kind of, I can’t think of a word that wouldn’t be too strong. But they so believe that after they die there is a better place waiting for them, that they are willing to give up their lives. I wish I could be half that convinced. Now it may be profit that is driving the people who are manipulating them, but attackers themselves believe they are doing the right thing. If we don’t understand that truly defeating “terrorism” will not become a reality.

But my main assertion and the point of the post is that our actions lead directly with hard lines of connection to the reaction. If we had never dealt with the Middle East to buy oil, there would have never been a 9/11 attack. Even if we had found another source of energy to fuel our own evolution to what we are now.

My current downfall is that I do not understand Arabic or Farsi. I have a friend that speaks the latter and we are going to work on easing my ignorance latter in the summer. Then hopefully I will be able to understand more from people who are not attached to the western culture via language.

P.S. you can always email me at

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dwight
Thank you. I totally understand you at But my main assertion and the point of the post is that our actions lead directly with hard lines of connection to the reaction. If we had never dealt with the Middle East to buy oil, there would have never been a 9/11 attack. Even if we had found another source of energy to fuel our own evolution to what we are now.

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