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June 12, 2009

People: Are They Salvageable?

Sholmo Ben-Ami, Israel's Foreign Minister in the Ehud Barak government in 2000, is about as "liberal" as you can get in Israeli politics and still hold office. He acknowledges there were Palestinians living in present-day Israel who were kicked out. He has said he wouldn't have accepted the 2000 Camp David offer if he were Palestinian.

And yet he apparently cannot the hear the words coming out of his own mouth. This is from a 2001 interview with him:

Shlomo Ben-Ami: Never, in the negotiations between us and the Palestinians, was there a Palestinian counterproposal. There never was and there never will be. So the Israeli negotiator always finds himself in a dilemma: Either I get up and walk out because these guys aren't ready to put forward proposals of their own, or I make another concession.

[yammer yammer yammer]

Q: What was the new map you showed the Palestinians at Taba?

Ben-Ami: Here it is, you can see for yourself...

Q: Did the Palestinians accept this map?

Shlomo Ben-Ami: No. They presented a counter-map....A calculation we made showed that all they agreed to give us was 2.34 percent.

Now, on the one hand, this is funny:

Those Palestinian fuckers—they never have made and never will make a counterproposal! Now, I will precisely describe for you one of their counterproposals!

Also, when I say there is no cannibalism in the British Navy, I mean there is a certain amount.

But on the other hand, it's horrifying, because you can't indict Sholmo Ben-Ami here, unless being human is an indictment. This is just the way people are—or more exactly, this is just the way the most "liberal" members of powerful societies are, almost uniformly.

And that's the problem. Can this species be salvaged?

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 12, 2009 08:39 AM

From the Nature article I referenced in the prior thread:

"Psychopaths are not necessarily the sadistic killers of popular fiction. But they lack empathy, and are unable to experience guilt or remorse. They are assertive and egocentric, may be highly manipulative and are unconcerned by the negative consequences of their actions. When they kill, the crimes are usually well planned and committed for personal gain. But engage in conversation with a psychopath, and he or she might seem perfectly normal."

Describe anyone you know? (Dick Cheney obviously excluded, since he's the poster child for the Up With Psychopaths movement)

Posted by: Oarwell at June 12, 2009 09:47 AM

The species can possibly survive.

What is doomed is 'civilization.' There is NOTHING about contemporary human "civilization" which is even remotely conceivably sustainable. NOTHING. It will fall, eventually, and sooner than later.

If that is any consolation...

Posted by: Woody at June 12, 2009 10:01 AM

I would like for women to run the world for a couple thousand years. We might still mess everything up, in a continuation of the proud patriarchal tradition of the past 10,000 years or so, but at least we might screw up in less predictable ways. Initially.

Posted by: Mud at June 12, 2009 10:07 AM

Jon -- the salvage is in noting one's own hypocrisy, and this, sadly, is something that those of a self-described "liberal" and/or "progressive" political nature cannot do.

As a non-partisan person who has long rejected both the Donkeys and the Elephants, I have consistently noted a gulf between those two parties on one particular issue -- honesty about supporting self-destructive policies and perspectives.

The Elephants will tell you they are war-mongers, they will trumpet the joys of an oppressive police-state domestic policy, and they will happily insist that the USA must remain the dominant force on the planet.

The Donkeys seek the same exact things, but they pretend they are for none of them. They pitch themselves as humanists, as "big-tent" inclusionists, as fair-minded folks.

Shlomo Ben-Ami would be one hell of a Democrat in America. One might even argue that Barack Obama is our Shlomo Ben-Ami.

Posted by: Juan Seis-Olla at June 12, 2009 10:36 AM

Can I just say how much I appreciate the fact that this blog, over the past several days, has not had a single post about this guy, and how he is definitely not a member of our team, oh no, but is definitely a member of their team, oh yes.

Posted by: SteveB at June 12, 2009 10:45 AM

I agree with Jon's post from beginning to end, but thought it worth pointing out in Shlomo Ben Ami's defense that Finkelstein thinks he's a reasonable guy, someone the Palestinians could probably reach a deal with if he was in charge

Finkelstein and Ben Ami debate

Posted by: Donald Johnson at June 12, 2009 11:29 AM

"Can this species be salvaged?"

Concise answer: No.

Posted by: Phillip Allen at June 12, 2009 11:49 AM

someone the Palestinians could probably reach ...he's a reasonable guy, someone the Palestinians could probably reach a deal with

What is this "deal" they speak of all the time?

Aren't there a bunch of UN resolutions prescribing what exactly has to be done by each side?

If you're holding a knife to my throat I don't want to make deals with you, I want cops to cuff you and take you away.

Posted by: abb1 at June 12, 2009 12:06 PM

OT: JUST CALLED Pelosi AND they tell me that NOW Billo and Rushblow are advertising Pelosi's number 1-202-225-0100 and that they get as much as 5000 calls whenever Rush goes on the air. Right now they call over the unreleased photographs.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 12, 2009 12:09 PM

"Can this species be salvaged?"

Concise answer: No.

Without further data, I'm compelled to agree with my colleague.[/Spock]

Posted by: Cloud at June 12, 2009 01:09 PM

One of my 'dichos' goes like this

"Humanity is a cosmic experiment testing whether life can survive intelligence. The null hypothesis appears safe."

Posted by: Woody at June 12, 2009 03:25 PM

Jonathan, have you ever read Derrick Jensen?

Posted by: Don Fernando at June 12, 2009 03:43 PM

Jonathan, have you ever read Derrick Jensen?

No, I actually hadn't heard of him. Checking him out online he seems interesting, although perhaps veering into Unabomber territory at times.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at June 12, 2009 05:38 PM

I know what you mean. However, he's an incredible writer and, as a longtime reader of your blog, I'm almost certain you'd love his books (though I'm sure you'd disagree with much of what he has to say). I only mentioned him because you both seem to enjoy looking at the bigger picture and several of your posts made me think of him.

Posted by: Don Fernando at June 12, 2009 07:11 PM

If the establishment "governments" like the Paris Commune are any indication, "salvaging" humanity is more than possible.

Even exaltation of Sun Gods can bring peace. Here in the backwaters that make up most of New York no crimes were recorded over several years following the Second Great Awakening.

I think it's a matter of undoing the brainwashing that convinced the masses long ago to enjoy their slavery. We may at most influence, but its the best thing you can do with your effort.

"All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Secondly, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

-Arthur Schopenhauer

I agree, in a way, with Mike Gerber. Talk is cheap. Thats one of those universal truths. I think people need to stop thinking that complaining is going to do anything quick and start organizing. You never know what allies you'll meet. Money can't own everything.. or everyone.

Everything good and important is won through hard work and if Schopenhauer's quote has any truth, somebodys got their work cut out for them. Who's going to have the courage to step up?

Enough of that anyway, that's enough to chew as is.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at June 12, 2009 07:36 PM

I won't say that it's the way "liberal" members of powerful societies are, but rather the fact that the true "liberals" and non-careerists would have become disillusioned a long time ago and sought another option. Anyone heard of Uri Avnery?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at June 12, 2009 09:33 PM

I've heard of Uri Avnery!

Posted by: Derrick Jensen at June 12, 2009 10:36 PM

Get a talk radio show if U want to organize. THAT'S where the right is beating the left on convincing people to move.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 12, 2009 10:49 PM

"Can this species be salvaged?"

Scrap dealers will give you about $0.80 / pound. Why do you want to know?

Posted by: AlanSmithee at June 13, 2009 03:26 PM

"Can this species be salvaged?"

Can Neanthertals be salvaged? What would be the point?

A better question than the original: can our descendants survive and thrive?


But if that is the case, they will not live in a society anything like ours, and if that is the case, they will not have a psychology identical to ours, and if that is the case we could not call them human.

I think that an acceptable eventuality. YMMV.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at June 13, 2009 07:34 PM

Get a talk radio show if U want to organize. THAT'S where the right is beating the left on convincing people to move.
Posted by Mike Meyer at June 12, 2009 10:49 PM

Heh. Heh. Heh.

You know the Paleo-Conservative martyr William Cooper suggested simply setting up a local FM radio station to counter the Limbaughs of the nation. Not that he mentioned the FCC's fondness of that, but I like the idea. I really do.

Posted by: Nikolay Levin at June 13, 2009 09:58 PM

Nikolay Levin: "I think it's a matter of undoing the brainwashing that convinced the masses long ago to enjoy their slavery. We may at most influence, but its the best thing you can do with your effort."

Of course. The brainwashed masses, incapable of thinking for themselves, must be guided by those whose minds have not been washed, the wise and enlightened vanguard. Someday, perhaps, they may be able to rule themselves, but now, "we may at most influence" them, while retaining the reins of power in our humble but capable hands.

Posted by: Duncan at June 13, 2009 11:37 PM

No One of Consequence is back! I wondered what happened to you.

Posted by: even less exactly at June 14, 2009 11:32 AM

I would like to suggest that the peaceful idea you seek is simply the one I am in the process of trying to explain: if we use our creative imaginations well enough to imagine what is possible, then analyse each possibility thoroughly enough for its merits, & then try hard enough to see the right one through; there is always a mutually beneficial strategy, a Win/Win/Win for the human race; a way to ‘build Jerusalem in England’s green & pleasant land”; where the ‘meek shall inherit the Earth’; & “All God’s people will live in peace”.

The use of such well-worn phrases is merely to emphasise that the basic wisdom has been known for centuries. In my maths, I simply want to correct the abuse of Darwin (& Science & the Rational Mind in general) to corrupt ends, namely to justify psychopathic selfishness. That ruthless reductionism is not how the universe works, it is all team play.

In essence, my maths is just an extension of the work of John Nash, to make his findings generally valid, including in contexts such as Social Networks.

Of course, Social Networks help us beyond the basic wisdom; they give us enormous practical insight into the way forward. We can now see how & why cartels & protectionist elites form; why money, power & influence are not evils in their own right, but just symptoms of this over-centralised protectionism; the concentration of control in the hands of the few, at the expense of the many. We can see indeed that our legal, corporate & commercial worlds are as infected with elitist viruses as our political ones.

We can also perhaps see that our abdication to such alpha-male ‘leadership’ is because we are at the individual level still far too primitive, have too many ‘hard-wired’ or instinctual behaviour patterns; to rise above these basic tribal techniques of social control.

We can then hopefully realise that the natural antibodies to them are democracy, the stakeholder vote & the Wisdom of Crowds; together with the transparency, accountability & integrity that accompany these. Only through opening up the motives and purposes of groups that claim to serve can we tell if the contract is fair; and publicly decide whether it is service or exploitation they seek.

Simply put, all we need is the vote: to be able to elect all those who govern our lives, from bankers to healthcare executives; rather than have them thrust upon us by some central elite.

The fact it is such hard work explains why we keep failing: the human race is still too lazy to be any good.

Note the laziness is not a physical or emotional indolence: it is an intellectual lethargy, perhaps borne out of primeval fear, to ignite the real power of human choice; the miraculous skill of our species of combining both halves of our brain, the creative & the analytical intellect; so that we first imagine the Jerusalems we might build, then collectively decide which is the best one, the true Win/Win/Win.

Perhaps tomorrow the miracle will start?

All the best

PS. Could we Twitter & Txt the global economy to recovery? I have been looking at various spreadbetting sites and the ‘trading stops’ & other controls they are now obliged to place seem to make them reasonably safe for the private investor.

We could thus use them to launch a Widows’ Mite initiative, where, at a given signal everyone in a global social network was primed to start buying stock futures via spreadbet accounts.

That would enable us finally to strike at a moment when the predatory speculators were at their most vulnerable; and destroy the Dark Bear Cloud they have created; that hangs over the market SN like the reign of Mordor.

Posted by: Frank Dunn at June 15, 2009 09:31 AM