Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thinking from the Gut

In the plethora of responses, on-blog and off, concerning Israel and Gaza, I keep coming across instances of visceral, rather than cerebral, thinking. To some people, anything having to do with that troubled area of the world is so tied up with who they are that anything "their side" does must necessarily be defended and anything the "other side" does must be attacked.

Bystanders who are neither Arab nor Jewish are regarded as either neo-Nazis or neo-colonialists if they dare question the moral and political infallibility of either the government of Israel or the various movements and governments of the Arab world. Yet -- in actual fact -- the Israeli government, as well as Hamas and the many others on the other side, are both composed of quite fallible human beings.

As a Gentile in the West, I am most exposed to Jews who take personal offense at any criticism of Israel. (I am sure, and in different occasions I have experienced it, pro-Palestinian Arabs can be just as obdurate.)

Yet I am an American who criticizes the U.S. government often and hard, a former Catholic who has put the Catholic philosophical system through the shredder and excoriated the leadership of the Catholic Church, a Democrat who thinks Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are ineffectual wimps, a man who believes in the rights of women and the wrongs of many men, including myself, and so forth.

We will never make progress as human beings until we can all step back and look at our own pet ideas, nations, cultures or groups with detachment. At least when we engage in discourse.


Anne said...

I am more than willing to put all my wrong & (maybe) good ideas, assumptions, & helplessness into the hand of someone much more intelligent, wiser, and greatly better.

Which I have to do anyway.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see cool heads prevail; so much of it is in the process.

Geneviève said...

"visceral" vs "cerebral", sure. Bowels or brain speaking. But then can we be only a brain? There is also "le coeur a ses raisons etc" and the old distinction body/spirit/heart when actually one is made of cells.

The danger is fanatism, especially when it is religious fanatism. But where does fanatism come from?

Diane in DC said...

I agree with Genevieve. Also it is very hard to convey to another person what you are feeling, although what you are thinking is easier. As much as one person can try to sympothyze with another's groups feelings, that person if he/she has never been part of that group doesn't know what it is like. As much as I support rights for Black people and feel that they have been opressed by society, I still don't know what it like to be Black and not be able to get a cab, or be turned down for a job right away because of my race. The same goes for my understanding of what it is like to be Hispanice, etc.