Caught Between The Moon And Ego

August 21, 2006

Remember the movie ‘Arthur,’ starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli?

In the role of the title character, Moore plays a childish, self centered and self absorbed millionaire lush, He is quite out of touch with reality and he has no idea how to relate to anyone living in the real world. He seeks advice and comfort from his valet, Hobson, played by the brilliant Sir John Gielgud. In the course of dispensing advice, Hobson misses no opportunity to berate, insult and beat up on Arthur. A lifetime of Hobson’s tutelage should have equipped Arthur with all the skills he needed to succeed in life. Instead, Arthur rejects reality and pursues nothing more than self indulgence. He blocks out reality, so that he can live his life in irrelevance, believing that his money can buy him credibility.

Of course, Hobson is a metaphor for Arthur’s own conscience. None of the advice Hobson imparts to Arthur is particularly insightful or brilliant. Instead, Hobson verbalized what Arthur already knows- that life has no meaning unless that life makes a difference for the better. His money can only buy him attention, not relevance. We have noted that

What that means is that the individual only becomes relevant when the individual sublimates his instinctive narcissism (see Dr Sanity and Shrinkwrapped) and comes the realization that his or her worth can only be measured in relationship to others.

…When we live in a world where only our own thoughts, ideas and needs count, we live in a prison. Our greatest joys and achievements have come as the result of sharing and in the union with others. This truth applies in every human endeavor, from love to business.

In our world, environment helps to shape values. The values found in free societies are very different than the values taught in dysfunctional, oppressive and repressive regimes.

The values of free societies are passed on to free citizens. We engage in free dissent, debate, argue and we are free to challenge each other, our government and especially, ourselves. We are free to formulate our own opinions and if we wish, we are free to change those opinions.

The values of repressive and dysfuctional societies become the values of citizens living in those societies. Subjugation, repression and hate are a part of everyday life in those societies.
When we compare the values of the western free societies with the dysfunctional and oppressive values that are force fed in the Arab world, we have to ask ourselves a question.

Are those values lacking, or are they absent from the Arab societies of today? There is a big difference between lacking values and the absence of values. If the values are simply lacking, they can be replaced fairly easily. If those values are absent, well, that is a whole other thing.

For example, if you grow up a cannibal, chances are that if and when you move to a non cannibalistic environment, your taste for human flesh will not disappear. The notion that cannibalism is not a part of your new environment value system will be puzzling to you, in more ways than one. The values a of non cannibal society will be a foreign concept.

In the same way, Arabs societies are at a loss as to why we are not ‘just like them’ as they would like us to believe. They cannot understand why we reject many of their values and bigotry. They cannot understand the magnificence of a pluralistic society. They seek a class based society where Islam dominates- forcefully, if necessary- and Arab influences are at the top of the that heap. With western rejection of those values comes frustration, and with that frustration, violence often follows. They see the rejection of their values as a rejection of themselves- they do not see or understand that by rejecting the ugly values they have had forced upon them, they can only elevate themselves.

We have noted many times that ‘When nations that are that are led by or are under the influence of tyrants or dictators, attempt to justify those actions, we can rightly assume that justification is false. Tyrants and dictators do not make moral choices, because moral choices can only lead to the demise of the tyranny.

Anyone that comes to the defense of tyrannical regimes and their leaders, have themselves made a conscious choice to defend and stand by what is immoral. They themselves consciously adopt an immoral posture.’

Adopting a particular moral posture does not happen in a vacuum, without cost or influence.

The United States has 2,400 four year institutions of higher learning. There are over 1,000 community colleges, offering even more educational options.

By the year 2020, the projected Arab population will reach 400 million. Currently, there are less than 100 universities in the Arab world. Of that number, at least 10 are ‘Islamic’ universities that do not teach anything other than theology. Notwithstanding the obscene wealth generated by these oil rich nations, there is not a single Arab institution of consequence. There is no major research and no important scholarship that originates in the Arab world. In fact, the greatest scholarship concerning the Arab world and Middle East, originates outside the region, in America or Europe.

This is but one example of the consequences of the cost of dysfunction and repression.

Even if things were to change overnight, the fruits would not be born for years. As Rima Khalaf noted,

Indeed, the total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun [a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars—WPR] to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year.

Changes will not occur overnight. The damage done by decades of the Arab leaders’ abuse of their citizenry, will not simply disappear. There will be scars and the transition will not be easy.

Dr Leslie Farber notes that wanting and even ‘willing’ change isn’t the ‘miracle cure’. There are objects and their are goals. Objects are easily defined and finite. They can be ‘willed’- that is, we can choose to directly influence our reality. Goals, on the other hand, are far more ethereal because goals cannot be selected at will- they are in fact, a reward bestowed in their own time, if ever, with no particular set of parameters. We can achieve all our goals, some of our goals or none of our goals, despite all our best efforts.

For example, we can ‘will’ knowledge by a commitment to study- but we cannot ‘will’ wisdom.

We can ‘will’ pleasure, but we cannot ‘will happiness.’

We can ‘will’ going to bed, but we cannot ‘will’ falling asleep.

We can ‘will’ meekness, but we cannot ‘will’ humility.

We can ‘will’ abstention from alcohol but we cannot ‘will’ sobriety.

We can ‘will’ improving athletic prowess, but we cannot ‘will’ winning the game.

Believing that one can ‘will’ what is ‘unwillable’ is unrealistic and immature. We cannot expect that all our goals will be achieved immediately. Some goals are a lifetime in coming- and even then, there is no guarantee those goals will ever be achieved. Whether or not a goal is achieved is not relevant to the morality of the effort. There are drug researchers that will never cure any disease, yet they have contributed mightily to the efforts in improving the life of others. There are architects and engineers that dream of becoming the next I.M. Pei and designing the next architectural or engineering monument of our time, but in the end, will never do more than design houses and buildings that people live and work in, raising families and in working in a comfortable environment.

Whether or not this administration’s goals in the Middle East will bear fruit is unknown. In the way that the fruits of liberating Arabs from the repressive and dysfuntional regimes that enslave them will take decades to realize, how this administration’s policies will unfold has yet to be written.

What is clear is that the goal behind those policies are the values that all free people cherish. Those goals are clear. Whether or not this particular effort takes root is less important than the effort. Sooner or later, freedom and democracy will prevail, because that is the way of progress. Humankind moves ever forward, not backward- even in the Arab world.

At some point, in our lives, we pray, we will see and hear the ‘Eureka!’ from the scientists that will find the cure for cancer. Be assured that ‘Eureka!’ will only come about because of the researchers that failed in their own attempts at finding the cure, but instead, contributed a little bit more, each day, to that effort.

That the Arab world now resents Mr Bush and America and impedes our efforts, is irrelevant. At this time, they reflect no more than the values of those dysfunctional and oppressive regimes that have been imposed upon them. As we noted, that will change, slowly. Progress is measured in forward movement.

If we wanted oil, we would install another Arab despot. Our goals for the Arab Middle East are of far greater value than fossil fuel.

George W Bush will not be the president that will welcome the Arab world into the company of free and civilized nations. Whenever that happens- even decades from now, he will be heralded as the American president that played in integral role in the process. That cannot be taken away from him. In the same way that Ronald Reagan is celebrated in the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe (much to the dismay of the Left), Mr Bush will be held in high regard by the Arabs that will shed the shackles of their oppressors- and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. Rather than be on the right side of history, the detractors of this administration will be forgotten, barely footnotes of irrelevance.

In consciously choosing to defend and identify with tyrannical regimes and the dysfunctional values of those regimes, the left will not be able to escape the immoral posture they deliberately chose for themselves. They have become Arthurs, self centered and petulant children, caught between the moon and their egos- with no caring Hobson or conscience to rescue them.

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4 Responses to “Caught Between The Moon And Ego”

  1. Caught Between The Moon And Ego

    “In the same way that Ronald Reagan is celebrated in the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe (much to the dismay of the Left), Mr Bush will be held in high regard by the Arabs that will shed the shackles of their oppressors- and there is nothin…

  2. Fausta Says:

    I share your optimism for the long term.

    In the short term, however, the assininity of stuff like this exhibition of “1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World”, extended to Sept. 3, not only misleads the gullible and ignorant, but also promotes the illusion of achievement in a world lacking the most basic learning institutions.

    BTW, in the state of NJ alone there are more than twice the number of universities in the Arab world; a few NJ universities are world-class research institutions.

  3. Dr. Sanity Says:

    A really excellent discussion! Values are a product of one’s ethics, and without ethics, there is no way to work toward a goal because there would be no way to choose between an infinite number of goals. As you note, even when a rational ethical standard drives the development of goals, there is no guarantee of successfully accomplishing one’s goals. Defining the goal based on a rational, ethical and moral value system is a worthy endeavor in and of itself; but achieving those goals is a separate process, one that takes thought, planning, and perservering through adversity. There may be many reasons why a person or a country finds itself unable to pursue or immediately accomplish even its most worthwhile goals. As Michael Barone notes today here it is not always just a factor of the overt enemies we fight. Sometimes we have to fight the covert enemies among us, who have chosen to undermine our values for their own short-term political gain.

    ut in the end, we must remember that an idea is a powerful force and when it is as lovely and elegant an idea as individual liberty, planting the seed–even in the most desolate and unwelcoming soil–may well bear fruit eventually. The narcissist who demands perfection and demands it instantly is too self-absorbed to appreciate that. History will not remember either the tyrants or their enablers and apologists in any positive way because both stand in the way of human progress.

  4. On our enemies, foreign and domestic

    Two must-read articles today to which I cannot possibly add a single thing:

    Caught Between The Moon And Ego

    Arab societies are at a loss as to why we are not ‘just like them’ as they would like us to believe. They cannot understand why we reject …

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