Reason exits right
To try to comment on the Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli response is like asking a dying animal to assess the chances of its species surviving into the next century. The action demands are urgent; the underlying solution is distant, involving a generation – maybe two generations – of comprehension and patience. ‘We don’t have that time,” I am told by diplomats who know what is going on better than most. The pressures on Israel have changed. Israelis living in Israel have one view of their country; Jews living elsewhere have a developing view and one that is often wary of Israel, especially with its latest political iteration.
Tony Blair made a profound statement when he gave up the UK Premiership in 2007. He predicted that most future wars would be based on religious differences. War about unproven beliefs is always more ferocious than war about possessions. You can calculate the value of what you want to acquire. Paradise is less easy to evaluate but a priori has infinity somewhere in the calculation. That implies absolute victory as the only acceptable outcome. The irony is that we will fight for eternity but largely ignore the consequences for our great grandchildren of overheating in a few years time.
Sadly, reason, that fundamental tool of human civilization, is ‘exiting right’.
Such a possibility should have us discussing nothing else until it is resolved. If you think it is not as bad as that, you are unaware of the frightening fake facts flooding onto the social media, and even into the speech of the President of the United States. You are also unaware of the rapid processing of education from, largely, one form of system, exams, into another, automation. When education is all prescribed we are all automatons. If that happens we lose our feelings, our intuition, our continuous creativity and our personalities.
It is already happening at a pace we cannot grasp. Consider the unbridled cynicism with which Russia used the United Nations to claim it is promoting a ceasefire in Gaza. Such guile is true of much modern diplomacy. Any statement now made by any country about any subject is potentially fake news – not simply a matter of wrong facts but a disastrous processing of reason. It is about ‘misleading’ in all its forms. It is about international relations, the basis on which civilized people live on the same planet. The basis for mutual, not merely competitive, progress.
Has your life at any point been beautiful? Are there moments of it that you appreciate with a glow of satisfaction? Are there times when you allow yourself your own thoughts, and struggle to make sense of them in order to apply them to society? Can you love without lust? Long for, without demanding possession? Help, for the sake of help, not the reciprocal rewards that may follow? Enchant for the sake of the enchanted not the enchanter? If your answer to these and to questions like them is yes, gird yourself to defend personality. You are running along a road to automation.
Is there a way off the road? Can we pack our running shoes and go fishing for a while? Is reason gullible enough to heed our cry for help? Not ‘gullible’ exactly, but sympathetic enough, perhaps, to listen, if we speak softly. Because reason has a personality, too. It taps the brain gently, asks questions of a kindly nature, laughs at the absurd and smiles at a surd. Its style is generous, its humour, embracing.
How durable is it? What is its life expectancy? As durable as you and as long as yours, if you want. For, at the end, it is your personal possession.
Keep a seat for reason. Make it a comfortable one.
Is your reason still working full speed? If so, please share it with all of us as we try to share ours with you. You can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
17 October 2023