Monday, January 12, 2009


David Gelernter has a very good article that suggests "Facing Reality" might be a good path toward peace in Gaza. I especially liked this part:
Any competent psychologist will agree: When someone is mooning over a thing he can't have because it belongs to someone else, the responsible and humane course of treatment is not temporizing sweet-talk but a blunt lesson in the facts of life. "No, you cannot have my wife (girlfriend, husband, etc.), and we are not going to negotiate over it; let's talk about something else." (And it really doesn't matter that the two of you used to keep company; you never loved her.) "Know Thyself" was supposedly carved on the ancient Temple at Delphi; "Face Reality" should have been carved right next to it. There is no irreconcilable difference in the fight between Israel and the Palestinians, no bone-deep dispute that will haunt humanity forever. There is only greed and envy. They never disappear, but can easily move from one target to the next. The problem will be solved as soon as the world stops trying to solve it. When the international community moves on to fresh causes, so will the Palestinians.

"Know Thyself" and "Face Reality" are certainly timely slogans for today's world; and it's an excellent bet that you won't see Code Pink--or any of the other leftist lunatics who angrily and violently act out for "peace"--carrying placards with anything remotely approaching such sentiments.

The truth is that you cannot "know thyself" without "facing reality." And, amazingly enough, reality doesnt much care about maintaining your self-esteem or enabling your self delusions.

Insight is a wonderful thing. The power or act of seeing into a situation and apprehending the inner nature or motivation of one's self--especially the why--can be extremely liberating, even if it is painful. Only by being aware of these kind of hidden truths and inner motivations can a person gain control over them and correct the behavior that they generate.But insight can also sometimes be devastating and that is usually the reason so much psychic energy is expended to avoid it.

The evil within men's souls (and women's, of course) hides behind many different masks. We all want to see ourselves as exemplifying the things we consider good; and, of course, we want others to see us that way, too. But the uncomfortable reality is that our darker self is always right there lurking beside our idealized image of ourselves.

How you deal with that dark side and its manifestations in the real world is a task far more important and than all the good intentions in the universe. I suspect this is why the Greek philosopher and sage Thales first admonished his fellow humans to, "Know thyself"; and the call was picked up independently in both the East and West by such luminaries Lao Tzu, Socrates, Alexander Pope, and Sigmund Freud.

All things considered, is not an easy business to know yourself. In fact, it is often quite disconcerting and sometimes very painful to look in the mirror of insight; and to acknowledge the dark side that can casually slip in to contaminate--and ultimately sabotage-- all the excellent intentions of the good side.

The main problem that arises from not knowing one's self, and thus deploying any number of psychological mechanisms to hide behind, is that the dark side of the self is perfectly content to let the light side believe that goodness and compassion are running the show. The dark side is actually expert at finding creative ways to express its destructiveness.

The darkness often lies latent within the unconscious mind. It exists within all of us and that is why it so important to know thyself. The last thing that our dark self wants is for those unconscious processes to be made conscious --through the development of insight and self-awareness; because that is the only way to stop the destructiveness and dysfunction.

Sometimes people are able to convince themselves that because their behavior has some "good intention" or idealized fantasy behind it, that it represents 'hope' or 'change' or 'progress' or 'social justice'; it doesn't matter that, in the real world, the behavior's consequences are exactly the opposite of the expressed ideal.

That is how that dark side works--behind the mirror; hidden behind a lovely mask of goodness and love and compassion.

The political left has turned this psychological mechanism into a true art form. How else does any reasonable person explain fighting racisim by emphasizing race and making choices based on it. Eliminating gender bias, by being biased about gender. Tolerance expressed by self-righteous intolerance... and so on, ad infinitum.

This is the process by which intentions have become more important than outcome; and how--as long as you claim good intentions--you can pretty much get away with anything.

Another way of putting it is that it exemplifies how emotions and the need to feel good about one's self are more important to some people than reality.

This is the same psychological maneuver that allows people to claim they are champions of free speech, as they diligently work to silence anyone with views that differ from their own.

It permits some male religious fanatics to believe that by subjuging women and making them invisible, they are virtuously protecting society from the evils of women's sexuality; when what the society really suffers from is the evils of their own perverted sexuality. They delude themselves--and sometimes the women--into believing such nonsense so that they can maintain the illusion of being honorable men.

Sorry, guys. Know thyself. Your behavior shouts out to the world that you are frightened little boys; sexually inadequate and completely unable to control your own sexual impulses, and needing to blame your own animal behavior on the opposite sex. In other words, dears, you are nothing but petite savages, unable to live in a civilized, adult world.

Savages protect their fragile self by subjugating those who are perceived as weaker. They then rationalize that they are superior to those so subjugated. In fact, this is the only way he can maximize his "honor"--the name of the particular mask this type of savage hides behind.

In Arab/Islamic culture (and other shame cultures), women are one of the primary instruments of achieving "honor". Hence the bizarre and distorted attitude that the culture has toward women and the exaggerated means by which "honor" must be maintained. So strong is the cultural pressure, even women buy into the delusion.

In a culture where avoidance of shame is a primary function, it is much harder to know thyself. Everyone else's success can only excacerbate one's own failures and humiliations. In other types of cultures (e.g., a guilt culture),when one feels shame, huge efforts are made to correct and improve behavior. But in the Arab world, pride can be regained not by excelling or achieving;or by making amends; but only by destroying that which is more successful. Only then will the humiliation no longer exist.

The hatred of Israel and the Jews is a case in point. Mark Steyn writes in "The "Oldest Hatred":
Just last month terrorists attacked Bombay, seized hostages, tortured them, killed them, and mutilated their bodies. The police intercepts of the phone conversations between the terrorists and their controllers make for lively reading:
“Pakistan caller 1: ‘Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire.’
“Mumbai terrorist 2: ‘We have three foreigners, including women. From Singapore and China.’
“Pakistan caller 1: ‘Kill them.’
“(Voices of gunmen can be heard directing hostages to stand in a line, and telling two Muslims to stand aside. Sound of gunfire. Sound of cheering voices.)”

“Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims.” Tough for those Singaporean women. Yet no mosques in Singapore have been attacked. The large Hindu populations in London, Toronto, and Fort Lauderdale have not shouted “Muslims must die!” or firebombed Halal butchers or attacked hijab-clad schoolgirls. CAIR and other Muslim lobby groups’ eternal bleating about “Islamophobia” is in inverse proportion to any examples of it. Meanwhile, “moderate Muslims” in London warn the government: “I’m a peaceful fellow myself, but I can’t speak for my excitable friends. Nice little G7 advanced western democracy you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

In shame cultures, destruction is preferable to achievement; if by destruction you "preserve your honor"; and being perceived as honorable and virtuous is far more important than actually being honorable and virtuous.

Likewise, in today's leftist culture, being perceived as "good" is much more important than actually doing good; hence the emphasis on show and the endless rhetoric about hope and change. The endless marches and protests and such. Participating in these useless activities has little to do with bringing peace, brotherhood or social justice into the world. But, as I have noted before, it serves the primary purpose of making participants feel good and virtuous about themselves. And that is the only thing that matters to these uninsightful, pathetic do-gooders. The kind who are unable to find anything good to say about a country that gave them unlimited opportunity, and the freedom to pursue their dreams.

They are almost always completely unable to see how their behavior facilitates and encourages exactly the opposite of their stated intentions:

  • instead of achieving peace; they make it possible for the destoyers and murderers of the world ot operate freely and with complete impunity; permitting them to get away even with genocide without having to suffer any consequences; as they appease and rationalize murderous behavior.

  • instead of achieving brotherhood; they have gone over the top to emphasize the differences between people; and pit group against group with identity politics and multicultural dogma;

  • instead of generating tolerance and love, they facilitate a perverse intolerance and hatred; spewing it forth with unbelievable venom toward those who don't happen to agree with them;
  • instead of bringing about social justice; they end up actively supporting, justifying and protecting the most despicaable dictators and thugs the world has ever known.
  • instead of truly championing the oppressed--the poor, the discriminated against, the victimized-- they have become invested in making them their "pet victims "and nourishing and promoting their victimhood for all eternity. They don't care about developing or supporting programs that empower their pets, they are only concerned feeling good about themselves and promoting their agenda. Note how any who escape from their victimhood scam and actually begin to think for themselves are branded "traitors" to their eternally oppressed race or gender or whatever.

  • and, last but certainly not least:

  • Instead of creating an environment where 'hope' can thrive; or where 'diversity' really means celebrating differences, they will end up creating a dead-end world where opportunity and freedom slowly wither away and die as people are encouraged to be perpetual victims and express their eternal outrage that one group may ending up achieving more than another.

  • Know thyself. The left are completely unable to appreciate how much evil their behavior rationalizes, enables and encourages; nor do they have the slightest interest in how the consequences of their behavior turn out to be exactly the opposite of the very principles they claim to believe.

    "But, we meant well!" is the operating slogan of pretty much all these hapless do-gooders and utopian reformers as they hack out a path in the world that is littered with the miserable lives and bodies of those who are unfortunate enough to have them as champions.

    Just ask Hugo Chavez' people in a few more years when the president-for-life has brought Venezuela's standard of living even further into the toilet and caused their freedom to shrink beyond imagining. The only way a Chavez, or a Castro, or a Ahmadinejad; or groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda can maintain their control over others is if they succeed in externalizing the blame for all their own pathology; and then indoctrinating the next generation into the same psychological blindness and hate. that brought the country to their present dyfunctional state.

    Utopian dreams always morph with very little effort into totalitarian dreams. Without the courage to look in the mirror of insight, the idiots, as Vargas Llosa calls them will always return:
    Throughout the 20th century, Latin America’s populist leaders waved Marxist banners, railed against foreign imperialists, and promised to deliver their people from poverty. One after another, their ideologically driven policies proved to be sluggish and shortsighted. Their failures led to a temporary retreat of the strongman. But now, a new generation of self-styled revolutionaries is trying to revive the misguided methods of their predecessors.

    Ten years ago, Colombian writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Cuban writer Carlos Alberto Montaner, and I wrote Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, a book criticizing opinion and political leaders who clung to ill-conceived political myths despite evidence to the contrary. The “Idiot” species, we suggested, bore responsibility for Latin America’s underdevelopment. Its beliefs—revolution, economic nationalism, hatred of the United States, faith in the government as an agent of social justice, a passion for strongman rule over the rule of law—derived, in our opinion, from an inferiority complex....

    The Idiot’s worldview, in turn, finds an echo among distinguished intellectuals in Europe and the United States. These pontificators assuage their troubled consciences by espousing exotic causes in developing nations. Their opinions attract fans among First-World youngsters for whom globalization phobia provides the perfect opportunity to find spiritual satisfaction in the populist jeremiad of the Latin American Idiot against the wicked West.

    There’s nothing original about First-World intellectuals’ projecting their utopias onto Latin America. Christopher Columbus stumbled on the shores of the Americas at a time when Renaissance utopian ideas were in vogue; from the very beginning, conquistadors described the lands as nothing short of paradisiacal. The myth of the Good Savage—the idea that the natives of the New World embodied a pristine goodness untarnished by the evils of civilization—impregnated the European mind.

    Vargas Llosa refers to what brings out the "idiot" as an inferiority complex. But more than that, it is an inferiority complex that hides behind a mask of superiority and moral righteousness.

    Know thyself.

    When you think about it, the psyches of those who live in such cognitive dissonance have developed a most clever way to disguise the fundamental sense of inferiority; and to hide from the reality of their own racism or sexism. The mask hides all those inadequacies and keeps them from discovering--let alone learning how to control--their own dark side. This is the pathoogy that allows them to unconcernedly act out their darkest and most contemptible wishes and drives in reality, while patting themselves on the back for being so virtuous and good. Brilliant!

    Insight can often be a painful process. Unlike the use of the immature or primitive psychological defenses, which are all highly contagious socially--the development of psychological insight is necessarirly an individual journey that is at best uncomfortable and, at worse, painful or even devastating.

    If that is so, you might ask, why would anyone want to undertake the journey?

    The short answer is that optimum psychological and physical health, as well as one's ability to function effectively in the world, require a person to be in touch with reality. All sorts of temporary compromises can be made with reality, but in the end, the piper will have to be paid. And, in the long-term, the cost of ignoring or distorting reality could very well be prohibitive.

    While the use of immature or psychotic defenses (e.g., denial, projection, paranoia) or the neurotic psychological defenses (e.g. displacement) represent a somewhat creative attempt to compromise with an unpleasant or unpalatable reality, they are only able to grant a temporary reprieve from the consequences of reality. The use of these defenses almost never serve the individual's interests in the long run, as they can seriously disrupt interpersonal relationships and the ability to work productively. Since such immature psychological defenses are "contagious" (in the sense that they can be conveniently used by entire groups and societies to distort, manipulate, and avoid reality) , they can also wreak havoc on a grand scale.

    Under stress, and threatened with psychological trauma or the disruption of cherished beliefs, even basically healthy adults may retreat to dysfunctional and immature defenses to cope. For the most part, such a retreat is an automatic and unconscious process.

    As long as it remains unconscious, the individual is not able to get beyond it and effectively deal with the threatening reality. The defense stands between him and the real world, protecting the psyche from any awareness. While stress and crisis can induce regression to more primitive psychological functioning, it also may also provide a stimulus for intellectual and emotional growth, and offer a person the opportunity to make new connections, question old beliefs, or understand the the hidden motivations and dynamics within that explain why the individual cannot face the truth.

    To know thyself, unconscious processes must be made conscious by facing reality (i.e., the consequences of one's behavior) and developing some insight into one's hidden, darker motivations. When Gelernter urges the Palestinians to "face reality", he does not mention how hard a proposition that is when so many people (i.e., idiots)are involved in aiding and abetting the Palestinian delusion. Their "love" and "compassion" for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause have had the result over the last 60 years of keeping two generations of Palestinians in primitive camps, living in abject poverty and misery and subjugated--not by the Israelis--but by a succession of mindless thugs--first from the PLO and now from Hamas. Or, as Steyn notes, "For the past sixty years they have been entrusted to the care of the United Nations, the Arab League, the PLO, Hamas and the “global community” — and the results are pretty much what you’d expect."

    In fact, it is exactly what you would expect from people who do not know themselves; do not want to know themselves; and make a daily practice of denying and distorting reality. The Palestinians, it has been said, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity; and their 'election' of a terrorist group to lead them--not in building a nation, but in destroying the one next door--is indicative of a people that have deliberately, and consciously chosen cultural regression, destruction and death as a way of life in order to avoid coming to terms with their own societal inferiority. In this, they are, perhaps, a perfect preview--a sort of "canary in the coal mine" if you will-- of the direction that radical Islam is taking the entire Middle East; and that the political left is taking the western world.

    That Israel is a free and successful state, is cause for even more frenzy and ferocious hatred by those who are experiencing that unbearable inferiority, envy, and shame.

    Hate and violence; paranoia and projection; endless jihad and non-stop denial are the only strategies that are possible when self-knowledge is carefully avoided; and when reality is always in the rear view mirror.

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