Suppose you are a teacher, and you break up a fight in your schoolyard. Both boys claim the other started it. You don’t know who is right, so you suspend both of them. But the person who started it should not be treated the same as the person who defended himself. The problem with much of the world is that their total ‘story’ of whatever conflict they are in is wrong.
This could be because of their government. Cathy Buckle is a white woman in the country of Zimbabwe, which was ruled by Englishmen for a short time. Then power was handed over to a radical, Robert Mugabe, a member of the majority Shona tribe who initially said all sorts of reassuring things. However, words are not deeds. His first order of business was to turn a North Korean-trained part of his new army loose on the Ndebele tribe, the Shonas’ main rival. Slaughter ensued. Gradually he also wrecked the economy. Cathy recently listened to Mugabe address parliament and tells us what she thought:
Perhaps Mr Mugabe was going to talk about the collapsed economy, the chronic shortage of US dollars in the country and the recent introduction of Bond notes, a surrogate currency forced upon us by Presidential decree. Perhaps he would say something about a year filled with demonstrations and protests which were squashed by horrific police beatings, the images captured on mobile phones for the world to see. Perhaps he’d say something about 90% unemployment or continued company closures, about 80 % of our food still being imported 16 years after farm takeovers, or about our crippled health care system or rampant corruption in government departments. So much to talk about; this was surely going to be a very long speech.
As President Mugabe made his way slowly through his speech you couldn’t help but wonder if we live in the same country. Apparently, everything’s fine in Zimbabwe at the end of 2016.
Of course the reader could say – what do we really expect from an ideologue like Mugabe – an admission of failure?
But even in democracies, there are completely different histories believed by people who can be very similar in other respects. For instance, I have talked with people who believed our most recent housing collapse, with the large attendant damage to the economy, was due to greedy bankers, or the removal of regulations. On the other side of the political spectrum, the belief is that the government created the situation by mandating loans to poor people and bad credit risks, and indirectly suggesting that the feds would underwrite those risks.
So the villains are completely different, and the conclusions are completely different.
Likewise, I’ve been told I’m a “bloody fool” for saying the economy under President Obama has been poor, and the person who called me this then provided me with an article full of charts that indeed seems to prove I am a fool. However, I repaired the damage to my ego by reading the following.by Seth Lipsky in the New York Post:
After eight years of blaming America’s problems on George W. Bush, the press that got the election wrong is rolling out a new line — that President Obama is handing President-elect Donald Trump a booming economy.
That takes some brass…. The truth is that the Obama years have been among America’s worst for the economy. His eight years will go down in history as the Great Recession, even though for much, even most, of the span, we weren’t technically in a recession.
It just felt that way. And no wonder. Obama’s is the only modern presidency that failed to show a single year of growth above 3 percent, a point Trump stressed during the campaign (and that was conceded even by the website Politifact).
Plus, the Obama economy failed to prosper even though the Federal Reserve had its pedal to the metal. Its quantitative easing, $2 trillion balance-sheet expansion and zero-interest-rate policy all produced zilch.
My point here is not who is correct and who isn’t. The point is that at many junctures in recent history, we see the history differently, and that affects our future behavior.
Prager University is a YouTube channel that has a video by a Muslim Englishman who tells us that he believed that the Jews were aliens, living in stolen Muslim land. The Jews were occupiers who were engaged in genocide against the Palestinian people. This belief, he said made him and his friends vulnerable to the arguments of Muslim extremists. He almost went to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, but fate intervened. In a bookstore he saw a book titled “The Case for Israel”. The title made him furious. He picked it up, and read a very different version of history than he had previously believed. Eventually he decided to go to Israel and see what was going on first hand. That trip changed him – from a potential terrorist to a friend of the West.
So what you believe really matters. He obviously is a decent person – you can see the video – but beliefs could have made him a killer.
So how do these totally different narratives arise? Is it due to lies? Misunderstandings? Paranoia? Ideology?
I don’t really know, but certainly deliberate untruths play a part, as shown by this final story:
According to the New York Times, in 1980 Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had a Lebanese imam (a holy man roughly equivalent to a pastor) shot in the head for refusing to preach the propaganda of the PLO. Then Arafat visited the imam’s Lebanese home, took his ten-year-old son aside, explained to the little boy that his father had been murdered by the Israelis, handed the lad a gun, and said, “When you grow up, use this to take revenge.”
Isn’t that incredible!
Anyway, from my own experience, people are intellectually lazy about subjects which they may have very strong opinions about. The idea of individual initiative to find the truth (which much to his credit, the British Muslim in the video had), is rare. Personally, I have .been the subject of wildly varying opinions, most of them quite wrong. I have been thought insane (see prior post), I have been told I was a sex maniac, that I’m gay, that I’m nasty, that I’m very nice, that I’m a pig, that I impress women etc. The truthful narrative is that I’m someone who likes such evil occupations as going on bike trips or hikes in scenic spots, am not more insane than – lets say – Donald Trump or Barack Obama – not any more a sex maniac than Mother Teresa (at this point), have a very slow brain – too slow and too empty to have a good conversation with – and I hope that I am well intentioned. I would be more than happy to be ignored and mildly despised.
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” as William Shakespeare has written.
In my case, there is an incentive by angry criminals to make me look as crazy as possible – and the criminal world, as I have concluded, is quite irrational is some respects, but very rational in the method and low level goals. They may yet write the history. Or change it. I never know if I will wake tomorrow the same person as who went to bed the previous night – not physically, not mentally.