What Does "Complicated" Mean?

Monday, June 16, 2008

I recently heard an interesting description of the burdensome and complicated security arrangements Israel has in place to keep aspiring murder-suicide bombers from crossing into Israel from the barbaric lands that surround it.

These arrangements -- not to mention the whole situation in Palestine, the geographic area that contains Israel and some of these barbaric areas -- were described again and again as "complicated".

This is not the first time I have heard either described with this word nor will it be the last, for the word is a reflection of the state of our culture in the West. In our current culture, the differences between wealthy, civilized Israel, and the poverty-stricken barbaric areas that border it are attributed to anything but the moral differences between the people who live in each area.

I would submit that the place this crucial difference is missed or evaded the most is within Israel itself, for the description of "complicated" came from someone who had just been there and who had learned much about the facts on the ground. My distinct impression is that the Israelis used this term themselves.

But facts on the ground cannot be meaningfully interpreted without proper principles. For example, Israel is much greener and has many more trees than the surrounding areas, even though all have the same climate and similar soils. This is directly because during the decades Israeli settlers spent irrigating the land, farming it, and planting trees, the Arabs did not.

Even now, the hostile Arabs in Gaza -- existing by the grace of Israeli moral paralysis and massive welfare payments from the West -- are building bombs to attack Israel rather than following its example and improving their own lot through hard work and long-range planning. Or supporting their terrorist leaders. Or tolerating those who do. Or not doing what they can to resist or leave forever.

Everyone knows these things, but since morality is so commonly thought not to apply to the matter of furthering human life, no moral import is granted to these questions. Instead, the "plight" of the "Palestinians" immediately nullifies all other considerations. They are in need -- never mind that it is largely their own fault -- and thus, Israel (and the West) must continue feeding this pack of wolves leering at them from such a short distance.

In one sense, this is a very simple situation. Israel should cut off all access from the "Palestinian" areas and the West should stop all aid. Access to the West or trade should be banned until the inhabitants renounce all hostilities towards Israel and agree to be militarily occupied until they propose a form of government that will not threaten Israel.

What "complicates" this situation are the dominant philosophies in the West. Pragmatists (and those influenced by Pragmatism) disavow any need for abstract principles to guide man's actions at all and, as such, make it impossible for many people to evaluate information available to all and draw proper conclusions. And altruism, the dominant morality, motivates the continued feeding of the wolves even in the face of their implacable hostility and the mortal threat they pose to Israel.

So despite many indications that there are clear moral differences overall between the people of Israel and those who plot and scheme against them from next door, these are swept aside, making many people unable to see for very long after the latest bombing that a state of war exists between Israel and "Palestine".

The combatants, their sympathizers, and those who might work against them if they saw clearly that it would be in their interest do do so -- all of these are allowed to live as if the actions of "Palestine" are a normal part of daily life. In the meantime, Israel has to adopt elaborate and intrusive security measures so its citizens can remain alive even as they maintain the fiction that "Palestine" deserves statehood rather than the choice of supervised reform or annihilation.

In the sense that, say, check-in procedures at the Israeli border or the political arrangements within Palestine involve many details, they really are complicated. But in a moral sense -- in the sense that there is a clear, if very unpleasant course of action for Israel and the West to take, the only complications arise from an inability or refusal to recognize that course of action brought on by Pragmatism and altruism.

-- CAV

This post was composed in advance and scheduled for publication at 8:00 A.M. on June 16, 2008.


C. August said...

Exactly! The situation is only complicated because their thinking is confused. As you said, they have accepted moral premises that make it impossible to identify a clear path. I see pragmatism as more of a short term issue, and a reaction to the obvious impossibilities created by the core of altruism.

If they follow altruism all the way, they seek their own oblivion. People who value their lives even a bit and who glimpsed that path would react, and the prevailing wisdom is to "do something, anything, else that works." Pragmatism.

The core problem is altruism. If the Israelis (or the Americans) have determined that anyone's needs are to be satisfied before our interests are preserved, then the situation is necessarily 'complicated'. When you are focused on the problems of others, if you are to be consistent, you must focus on ALL others. Focus on the Palestinians, or smaller factions within that population, or the other Arabs in the region who might be upset, etc. etc. etc. If you're trying to balance the needs of hundreds of groups and millions of people, while not recognizing the primacy of rational self-interest, of course things will seem complicated.

And as you said, with the philosophy of not needing philosophy (Pragmatism) to guide their actions, they have nowhere to turn to sort through the chaos. It's a million little unconnected problems to be solved. How? Somehow. "You'll find an answer, Mr. Rearden!"

Thanks for this insight, Gus. I'll be on the lookout for this altruist/pragmatist catchphrase. If I see someone use the word "complicated" in popular political discourse, it will just make me dig deeper. And probably get angrier. Just what I need... another example of popular idiocy to get me fired up. When my wife asks me to stop ranting about this in the coming months, I'll tell her it's your fault!

Gus Van Horn said...

"When my wife asks me to stop ranting about this in the coming months, I'll tell her it's your fault!"

Oh, boy!

At least she can't make m sleep on the couch!