Tuesday, July 25, 2006

He who cast the first stone probably didn't.

Arse Poetica posted an interesting article by Daniel Gilbert on how violence escalates. He says: What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves — but that the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.

Examples aren’t hard to come by. Shiites seek revenge on Sunnis for the revenge they sought on Shiites; Irish Catholics retaliate against the Protestants who retaliated against them; and since 1948, it’s hard to think of any partisan in the Middle East who has done anything but play defense. In each of these instances, people on one side claim that they are merely responding to provocation and dismiss the other side’s identical claim as disingenuous spin. But research suggests that these claims reflect genuinely different perceptions of the same bloody conversation.

But in the world of "fair fighting", the second punch must have the same level of force as the first punch - and the third punch must also be the same level. An eye for an eye is fair, but an eye for an eyelash is not. So when the European Union criticizes Israel for bombing Lebanon over the kidnapping of two soldiers, they are criticizing the excessive use of force; the EU didn't question Israel's right to respond - nor do I - but the amount of force is out of whack.

Gilbert says: Research shows that people have as much trouble applying the second principle as the first. In a study conducted by Sukhwinder Shergill and colleagues at University College London, pairs of volunteers were hooked up to a mechanical device that allowed each of them to exert pressure on the other volunteer’s fingers. They were supposed to put the same amount of pressure on each other's fingers. The measured results showed that each time, pressure increased by 40%, yet the volunteers were convinced they'd applied equal amounts of pressure. Our own pain is more real to us than the pain we inflict on others; and thus begins the mutual escalation of harm.

So, along with hatred, greed, lies, intolerance, we have to throw into this stew a strange neurological wrinkle in our brains that leads to self-justification. That, along with an increase of fundamentalist thinking which tells "believers" they are somehow superior to others who believe differently, and the path toward mass destruction becomes inevitable.

In the Middle East, cooler heads have often prevailed. Statesmen have stepped in to intervene, to settle things down. Our pack of administrative liars have no interest in statemanship. Driven by greed, driven by a desire to create a New American Century, they want the Middle East to blow itself up so they can step in and create a new Middle East. So it escalates.


sumo said...

As terrible as things get and are getting...the more they can pile up on themselves...the better to hang these things over their heads and ultimately they will be their own undoing. It just keeps adding up to more fodder to prosecute them with...is what I think I meant. Whew!

DivaJood said...

Sumo,Bush said "The violence in Iraq is still terrible, therefore more troops are needed."