Duly Noted: Prejudices Wrapped in Culture


George Handlery about the week that was. Could Near Eastern peace be as alien culturally as was Bush’ democracy project in Iraq? Who can mediate a Palestinian-Israeli settlement? The pursuit of happiness and its hindrances. Morales: bad economic theory and dictatorial practice.
1. Obama’s presidency brings new policies. These justify, even demand, that the observer engage in fundamental thinking about power, government, individual rights and responsibilities as well as economic policy.
2. The Bush-crew was accused of imposing a culturally derived American assumption upon Iraq. The error had to do with the natives’ perspectives and aspirations concerning their future. The concept being too American, the plan did not work. Not comprehending it, Iraqi society did not want the American Dream and expected from freedom something no modern order can offer. Now to Obama. To forge peace, he will try to bring together the Palestinians and the Israeli. Here, too, a “prejudice” wrapped in culture emerges. It is that the desire of peace is an aspiration of the locals. As indicated, an Anglo-Saxon prejudice, rooted in experience and recommended by its success regarding compromises, is guiding efforts. This concept might prove to be as alien and incomprehensible locally as was Bush’ democracy building in Iraq. Meanwhile, we see that even among themselves, the Palestinians cannot hammer out their internal compromise. The struggle between Palestinian factions has consequences. The parties will have to be cagey regarding the acceptance of a compromise, that is, a give-and-take arrangement. The more so since in this case, any viable settlement will be “south” of earlier radical demands. Going for the “makeable” exposes, in the ongoing power struggle, the party that converts first to realism to the charge of “collusion” with the Zionists. (Israel’s marginally influential zealots will bemoan the “selling out to the Arabs”.) Regardless of the merits of what might be achieved, the fraction appearing to “sell-out”, risks defeat in a coming civil war.
3. There are organized forces that do not shoot so as to get a chance to negotiate thereafter. They shoot so as not to have to negotiate because they are aware that their goals are not negotiable.
4. Insight. In his classic In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government, Charles Murray takes the reader through a “thought experiment” involving life in poverty. He uses his intimate acquaintance with Thai villages to play through the scenario of having to live local style among the indigenous “poor”. This minor aside of Muray’s made this writer remember, and then to apply, his actual experience with living in poverty elsewhere but under comparable terms. The conclusion is as shocking as it is enlightening regarding barriers that can work against material improvements. Murray was inclined to assume that, if made equal in poverty, he could escape it in time. His calculations are not important here and only one factor not considered by him stands out. By inference Murray seems to have reckoned that his efforts would meet with the tacit support of his new peers. Alas, in Eastern Europe, I would have to assume my fellows would do as much as they can to prevent me from escaping poverty. This realization triggered the re-call of the concluding lines of the genial Andrei Amalrik’s “Will the Soviet Union Survive Beyond 1984”. Amalrik doubted it – and missed only by five years. He thought, however, in one respect the Communist legacy’s challenge will continue to play a significant role. It will be in the form of a sentiment that another man’s gain must be someone’s loss. That envy presented in some ideological wrapper, he thought, will retard the recovery.
5. As an outstanding statement defining human rights, the American Declaration of Independence mentions the “pursuit of happiness”. Nowadays it is necessary to note that that the Declaration does not talk of “enjoying” happiness or just of the right to be “happy”. All that is claimed is that there must be a right to pursue happiness. This means that man has a right to create his own happiness the way he defines the term. With that goal set, we are free to strive toward this condition within the limits set by our personal limitations. In this good government can help us by facilitating the legal pursuit of happiness. This implies that government is not to define what is desirable as a personal goal and that, it is not to impose constrains which hinder this pursuit as long as it unfolds according to socially sanctioned laws.
6. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s elected redeemer is in the process of implementing a supposedly local version of Socialism. (The “local” content is always emphasized to shield from criticism. Necessarily, the critique of collectivism refers to experiences made elsewhere. The defenders of such ventures then retort that the record does not apply to their case.) Responding to his manipulation of prizes, the supply of goods is becoming scarce. The benefactor who made staples cheap -and takes credit for that- is also the cause of their disappearance. A condition which, when generally noticed, is ascribed to the subversion of the “enemy”. Soon not only goods but also the entrepreneurial types become scarce. Vilifying the able and then hindering him in his activities, will have the same effect as does the “directed” prize of goods. Under misguided but dictatorial state management undersupplying will appear. Typically, the ideologically limited, but dictatorially enabled, system cannot reform itself without abolishing itself. (The critique of the ideology which makes the Party “always right” would demolish the legitimacy of the rulers. Without infallibility there can be no system.) Therefore, someone is needed to blame rather than the flawless theory or those who rule in his name. Nowadays, by acclamation, the “Empire” and its local “lackeys” will be held responsible. As a result, there will be persecution and expropriation. With that the Socialism of the Andes mountains will deteriorate into the same swamp as the one that once covered the plains of Eurasia.
7. Near Eastern mediation’s past and future record bears the signs of the weakness of the mediators pandering it. America is already committed and she is on the retreat from her assertive policies. Even exchanging one Bush for a score of Obama’s will hardly suffice to change the consequences. The rest, such as the French and the Germans, have too little to offer besides suggesting deals. The problem with all such deals is that the agreement has to be credibly guaranteed. The word “credibly” is to be emphasized. The pact involves the existence of national communities. This makes trust crucial. If the arrangement is not iron clad, the potential consequence -most certainly in Israel’s case- is the physical liquidation of a cheated population. Therefore, the agreement brokered must be totally deserving reliance. To achieve this trait the mediators, who sponsored the talks and the contract, are implicitly obligated to guarantee the treaty. To do that they must be prepared to turn, with all their physical means against the party that violates the pact. This implies that the sponsor is also a guarantor. To play that role he must dispose over crushing and projectable instruments and the demonstrated will, to uphold the agreement they had brokered should a violation occur.
8. Some like to discover in a strong America a scaring Golem. Let us assume that, as a concession to folks that complained about “unilateralism” and “empire”, as well as “domination”, the US’ means, as well as the policies regarding their application, are curtailed. Will the result be radiating peace and a march of hand-holding brothers to eternal friendship? No. As the alternative of the current propagandistic image created by her enemies, America the bully will be replaced with America the contemptible fat weakling. Some might think that, regardless of the implied slight, lives will be saved. Wrong. Many lives will be lost.
9. One more thing. The World Economic Forum produces news that might be as significant as what is reported internationally. Take this item. On the main street of Davos, there is a bookstore with much material on Tibet. (Many Tibetans settled in Switzerland – it is the mountains, you know.) Accordingly, the lady running the store had books about Tibet in the shop window. She also displayed a Tibetan flag. The local police forced her to remove the flag and the books. Upon protest, Mrs. Merz, the owner, was allowed to put at least the books back. One hopes that the limo of Mr. Wen passes the place fast enough so as not to be offended by the offensive prayer books. Oh, yes! There is no legal basis for the police’ preventive kowtow before a tyranny that is assumed to be thin skinned. The flag removal expressed the fear of Peking and happened because, then and there, the police had more muscle than Mrs. Merz. We are left with another nice example of how constitutional rights are violated in order to please a dictatorship.

Palestinian State

The more I think about the world's obsession with clearly impossible Palestinian state (after Hebrew "Plishtim" which means strangers), the more I come to conclusion, that the real desire behind that is to expel Jews from Israel, substitute them. I mean, not only Arabs, I mean all other creators of this state. EU clearly feels itself as the successor of Rome. Just as Rome expelled Jews, same way modern Romans feel the need to do away with a dangerous and inobedient nation. That is also the reason for Mediterranean Union - restore the full power of Rome and collect its lands. Hope, this time they fail.