Naivete or Ignorance?

In the Wall Street Journal, Naivete Invites Aggression, Mr. Schaaefer opens his piece with a statement that is inflamatory and unsupported, claiming that President Obama’s call for arms control is a response to North Korea. In my memory, there were calls for arms control before there was a North Korea. This is a typical bait and switch statement. The two problems need not have anything to do with each other. First, everyone knows we have more than enough arms to destroy the world. That raises two questions: Why do we need more than it takes to destroy the world? and Do we really want to destroy the world? Evidently Mr. Obama does not.

However, besides the word games of politicians, there is another fallacy here that I think runs far deeper in our culture, and that is the idea that every problem has two and only two alternative solutions. Specifically with regard to aggression, I have personal experience with the fact that alternatives abound that aggressors can’t even imagine, which is why the aggressive posture usually fails to result in a desirable solution, and we have plenty of recent evidence of that reality.

It is a great weakness of American culture that we can only see two sides of anything. Win-lose, good-bad, black-white. I believe this weakness will probably lead to our downfall. Unless of course we begin to think about what we are saying and doing. Because we have no power of choice over options we don’t even consider, and there are many other people out there who can imagine a plethora of options that we don’t even bother to consider. Whenever they think of an option that we did not think of — we have given away our power. People who can only see two possibilities in every situation are incredibly easy to take advantage of — even powerful, abusive people.

Every time we fail to stop and consider all of our many options, before we choose which one is best, we potentially hand over the reins to someone who can think more logically or is more devious than we are.

Toxic Cultural Choices

The problem is that we live in a culture where winning is more important than life itself. There are probably a lot more people who don’t care that much about winning than those who do, but they don’t have a chance to participate in a good game. When they try, they are labelled losers. Shark bait. It’s better to just back off and let the sharks chew on each other, responding to make-believe crises they can pretend to resolve and ignoring the real ones that are actually impossible to deal with in a win-lose cultural setting.

A wisdom culture would find a way for people to work together in behalf of reality solutions.

We have only negative options. We can jump in and swim with the sharks. That means basically that we must spend our time fighting against fighting. Against (or for) war, rape, special interests taking over the school system. Whatever, it’s all a dominance game in which everyone is fighting for or against something, pretending somehow they will save us all from fighting if they fight hard enough.

Or not. In which case the outcome might be worse.

We don’t have the option to jump in and build a wisdom culture where people actually talk among themselves. And listen. sf020916bs

And you know what really gets me about this? There are actually people who wonder why our children so often function by bullying each other.

Power to do What?

The Saturday (02/07) New York Times, in an article entitled Environmental Views, Past and Present,

compared the actions of Pres. Bush and Pres. Obama:

“Through most of his presidency, Mr. Bush largely framed his approach to global warming around two talking points: the uncertainties in forecasts of a dangerously human-heated world and the certainty that economic harm would come from mandatory cuts in emissions of heat-trapping gases.”


How often we have heard the argument that we aren’t certain about the future, therefore we should do nothing. The do-nothing approach certainly enhanced Pres. Bush’s short-term political power as a representative both of big business and of the people, in the immediate effort to fend off the reckoning. But if we want preserve our long-term options (that is our power to respond, whatever the future may bring) then we must begin now and seriously to modify our impact upon the ecosystem. Our dedication to the problem can not do any long-term harm if the scientists are wrong about global warming; it will definitely improve the lives of our grandchildren if the scientists are right.

As is often the case, we are caught between the short term power individually or collectively to line our own pockets and the long-term power to provide for our young. Most often, we can’t have it both ways.   Our power to influence the outcome of such a situation lies in our ability to evaluate and balance the long and short term benefits of the available options.