What you believe can make you do bad things. So it is important to see the world as it is, not just the way we would like it to be. And that can take work. In fact, it can take challenging a whole network of assumptions that we grew up with.
Consider religion. Religion is a set of beliefs that are taken on faith. We see in Iraq and Pakistan how adherents of two version of Islams, Shiites and Sunnis, are killing each other, simply because of doctrinal differences. Can both these groups be right? Or, are they both killing for a delusion? And just how could you persuade them that they are killing for a delusion?
I seem to remember a religious professor I had who said all religions are a path to God. But that raises a question – was the Aztec religion, which involved tearing the hearts out of virgins as a sacrifice, a path to God?
And back to Islam – it was founded by a man who said in the Koran that he wrote: “I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them… And slay them wherever ye catch them…”
He obviously didn’t believe all religions were paths to god.
And yet a billion people believe Mohammad was the holy prophet of God, and that what he says, goes.
The recent leader of Iran, Khomeini, said the following: “Every part of the body of a non-Moslem is impure, even the hair on his head.”
Again, this man is considered holy by millions.
To disbelieve Islam, it’s followers would have to change their views of their teachers, their parents and friends, their preachers, and their history. And they would have to believe that all these people are wrong.
OK, so you might think we just discard religion, and then we’ll see the world the way it is.
But it’s not so simple.
Long before Hugo Chavez took power in Venezuela, U.S. president Richard Nixon paid a visit to the country. He was spat on. The locals wanted to tear Richard Nixon apart and burn the pieces. They almost succeeded. Nixon was the symbol for America to the Venezuelans.
So think about this. The U.S. has interfered at various times in Central America – for instance helping Panama split off from Columbia so that the Panama Canal could be built. However, the U.S. has never attacked Venezuela in any way throughout its history. And yet, a substantial number of Venezuelans wanted to lynch Nixon. Why? Was this rational? Was it based on an accurate view of the world?
Or consider this: John Mann, a Labour parliamentarian and former trade-union official from Yorkshire invoked his experience as an MP in the Palace of Westminster and said “As a non-Jew I hear things that people would not say if they perceived I was Jewish. I have witnessed shocking disgraceful and outrageous anti-Semitism in Parliament… completely cross-party.”
According to Robert Wistrich’s book A Lethal Obsession – “The European obsession with the American Jewish lobby… has led to the U.S. and Israel–to quote the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk–becoming the world’s sole existing ‘rogue states'”.
And of course there is the immigration of millions of Moslems into Europe, many of whom being with them a strong anti-Jewish Islamic prejudice. Close to ten percent of Europeans (and a much higher percentage of Europeans under 25) are Moslems. No doubt this has an effect on European attitudes as well.
Try arguing with these European Moslems that they should not dislike Jews. Or try to argue with the believers in the power of the Jewish lobby that it does not control America. See how far you get. One third of those polled in Europe believe that Jews control the domestic and foreign agenda of the United States. And the same percentage in America believe it as well (see page 438 Wistrich)
Now I’m Jewish, and I control nothing at all. The Jews who I know personally include a professor of Geography, an owner of a travel agency, a history professor, a maker of industrial diamonds, a biology teacher, and so forth. Just how do these people control America?
There is AIPAC of course, and there are Zionist organizations that try to influence the government. But there is the Moslem organization of CAIR, and business lobbies, and all sorts of other organizations that try to influence government. There are foreign governments that try to influence the U.S. government (and public opinion) and that includes extremely wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia.
There are Jews in the financial sector, and Jews in government, but does that mean they control either of them? And control to what end? A California senator like Barbara Boxer’s agenda is liberalism, not Judaism or Zionism. Likewise, a left-wing wealthy Jewish financier like George Soros has a definite agenda – it’s a left-wing agenda though, and has nothing to do with Judaism as such.
Jewish talk show hosts like Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Steve Malzberg etc. have a conservative anti-statist agenda, (more or less). It’s not a Jewish agenda either, and in fact is the opposite of the George Soros agenda.
And yet, judging by polls, hundreds of millions of people believe the U.S. is controlled by Jews.
Another example: in Holland, no less than 74% of the population believe that “Israel is the number one danger to world peace.”
It is true that Israel is hated by hundreds of millions of Moslems, and that Israel might strike out at Iran etc – but still – the number one danger to world peace?
At least from my perspective, this little summary shows that a lot of the world believes nonsense.
And that includes the Western world – which has access to a free media.
So can we prevent all this by reading a respectable Newspaper like the New York Times? Or a mainstream broadcasting outlet like the BBC? Well, not really. The New York Times has had correspondents that totally misled the public – for instance Walter Duranty who deliberately hid from his readers the mass misery and death of Ukrainians during Stalin’s reign. And the Times of London actually censored anti-Hitler reporting in the pre-war period
This is just politics and religion – but people kill for religion, and can make decisions that lead to deaths based on politics.
We also need to understand human nature. Human beings vary tremendously. And, as William Shakespeare said “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”. In other words, when you look at the face of a psychopath who is about to steal all your possessions, you have no clue to his personality. You can look at a montage of faces – some of them of very evil people, some of them of very good people – and you will not be able to distinguish. (Though I’ve never heard of this experiment being tried). People probably vary in their ability to be rational as well. And people are motivated not just by money and power and group solidarity, but also by ideology and self-righteousness and sadism and vengefulness and humiliation and hypocrisy and deep hatreds and idealistic agendas that we do not understand. All these motivations can influence the ‘facts’ that you are exposed to.
Finally, be prepared to believe extreme and (rarely) paranoid sounding scenarios.
For a website that has several examples of extreme sounding scenarios in history that should have been believed,
see again: http://unheededwarnings.wordpress.com.
Of course there are plenty of paranoid sounding scenarios that are indeed paranoid. But not all are. And that has been one of the lessons of my life.