Thanks for emailing the New York speech by Geert Wilders. My first reaction was simply to delete for the same reason others were clicking forward. But the email helped me understand something I've been working on about the difference between knowing, learning and the replication of information.
My ancestors in Europe (and America) were themselves ostracized, restricted, blamed, persecuted and evicted because of their middle-eastern origins, adherence to timeless religious and cultural beliefs and dietary preferences. So my instinct was to dismiss Wilders as a demagogue. His rhetoric has been used before, almost word for word, to stir fear about Chinese, Catholics, Jews or other groups.
Judging by the American panic his speech has created, Europeans are somewhat more inoculated to it, having been infected before. Are the Dutch any more inconvenienced by Halal than they are by Kosher consumers? Are France's mega-mosques any more threatening to secular society than California's mega-churches? Are there really more hate crimes committed by extremist Muslims in Europe as there are attacks on minorities by radical skinheads? Is a woman's decision to wear a hijab somehow more offensive than a man covering his head with a yarmulke? Should we be any more concerned that Pew found half of French Muslims may put faith before patriotism than that Pew found 40% of Americans see a conflict between religious teachings and modern society (although US Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus each only surveyed at about 30%)? And are demands for Islamic holidays more ominous than similar demands to take off on Columbus Day, St. Patrick's Day or Yom Kippur?
In my work and travels, I've met many Muslims: a Thai Muslim serving as foreign minister in a non-Muslim country, a Bangladeshi Muslim banker who received the Nobel peace prize for alleviating poverty, a Pakistani Muslim brigadier general keeping peace in the Congo, etc. None of them every threatened me. On the other hand, in Westwood Village in 1979 during the Iran hostage crisis, a pickup truck full of white Americans charged me with baseball bats because they thought I was a Muslim.
The speech Wilders made in NY was tame compared to what he says at home. He argues there's "no such thing as moderate Islam." He has proposed banning the Koran as a fascist book (although he defends his own statements on the grounds of free speech). He says Muslim immigrants to the Netherlands should be paid to leave.
I'm not saying that violent Islamic extremism isn't a huge threat. But the threat is violent extremism of any kind, and white or Christian extremists aren't doing me any favors when they try to work me up over Islam as a whole. Eye-for-eye extremism as a response doesn't combat anything other than moderation, leaving billions blinded in the process. Or worse.
So what does this have to do with knowledge management?
Evolutionary biology teaches us that sensing our environment is information. Reacting to our environment is learning. Repeating the same reaction is knowledge. Knowledge is more efficient than learning. However, adapting to changes in the environment requires learning. Because life requires so much time and effort, even the simplest organisms have very little left over for processing new information (learning) in any new way. Whenever they can get away with it, it will always be easier to repeat existing information without processing it.
I think you can see a very similar dynamic in today's human struggle to survive and thrive—in a way that explains why society is becoming so polarized. In the rush of mass media and personal communication, we balance our craving for information that improves our circumstances on one hand, with the assault of information overload on the other. It's easier to accept and repeat what Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck tells us to think than to form our own, customized point of view. It's easier to click delete or forward than to dig deeper into what kind of freedom Geert Wilders is really advocating for… and then maybe hit reply.