Thursday, December 22, 2011

Realism and Humility

Humility is not some sort of pretended self-belittling, not some kind of show to demonstrate piety. It is the consequence of observation. It arises from hard realism. A brief Sufi account about a sage illustrates this. I read it in one of Idries Shah’s book. A group of would-be Dervishes surrounded a sage to tell him how much they admired his humility. The sage dismissed them gruffly. He said: “My humility isn’t there to make impressions. It serves another purpose.”

I am thinking of Iraq. I am thinking of our unrealistic expectations that, magically, democracy will break into blossoms in that country now that we’ve removed the Overwhelm. Realism would have counseled quite another slant on things. That region, to be peaceful, has always demanded an overbearing force.

1508-1533
Safavid Dynasty of Iran ruled there
1533-1918
Ottoman  
1917-1920
British occupation
1921-1958    
Kingdom
   1939-1945
World War II and British re-occupation
1958-1963
Republic
1963-2003
Baathist era. Saddam Hussein takes power in 1979
2003-2011
US occupation
2012-
We shall see

Mind you, this tabulation is too neat. There were regime changes during the Ottoman era as different elements of the Ottoman empire held power there. Civil and tribal wars as it were spiced up that period as well, and in the 1622-1638 period the Safavids held power again. There were coups, rebellions, and other messy situation throughout the Baathist era too. And the U.S. occupation was marked by almost constant combat.

Today my paper says that Al Maliki is embarrassing President Obama because the precious power-sharing arrangements that we forced into place there are breaking down at once. Pride—national, party, personal—prevents us from being realistic in public. Part of that is the phony pretense that our holy collective can never do wrong. Realists therefore are punished or marginalized and politicians make a huge pretense. Iraq was an unjust war, itself caused by pride. Obama did not approve of it, but now he too is dyed in the color of the same lie. It is for reasons such as the above that I assert that collectives are by definition inferior to individual humans; therefore the religion of nationalism is a kind of animal worship.

While on the subject. Iraq, the name of this place, harks back to the ancient city of Uruk once located in Sumer, the predecessor of the Akkadian, later the Babylonian empires. The Hebrew was Erech, the Latin Orchoi. It was located in the south-eastern part of today’s Iraq (link).

1 comment:

  1. I saw an interesting article yesterday saying that the Iraq War was one of the greatest Christian disasters in history because all of the instability and sectarian violence that followed the invasion caused a great diaspora among Iraq's ~600,000 Christians. It's an interesting thought about unintended consequences given all the rhetoric about conducting a war on Islam that accompanied the start of that war.

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