Skip to comments.Thomas Sowell: "Us" or "Them"
Posted on 10/25/2005 2:24:39 AM PDT by RWR8189
A reader recently sent me an e-mail about a woman he had met and fallen for. Apparently the attraction was mutual -- until one fateful day the subject of the environment came up.
She was absolutely opposed to any drilling for oil in Alaska, on grounds of what harm she said it would do to the environment.
He argued that, since oil was going to be drilled for somewhere in the world anyway, was it not better to drill where there were environmental laws to provide at least some kinds of safeguards, rather than in countries where there were none?
That was the end of a beautiful relationship.
Environmentalist true believers don't think in terms of trade-offs and cost-benefit analysis. There are things that are sacred to them. Trying to get them to compromise on those things would be like trying to convince a Moslem to eat pork, if it was only twice a week.
Compromise and tolerance are not the hallmarks of true believers. What they believe in goes to the heart of what they are. As far as true believers are concerned, you are either one of Us or one of Them.
The man apparently thought that it was just a question of which policy would produce which results. But many issues that look on the surface like they are just about which alternative would best serve the general public are really about being one of Us or one of Them -- and this woman was not about to become one of Them.
Many crusades of the political left have been misunderstood by people who do not understand that these crusades are about establishing the identity and the superiority of the crusaders.
T.S. Eliot understood this more than half a century ago when he wrote: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
In this case, the man thought he was asking the woman to accept a certain policy as the lesser of two evils, when in fact he was asking her to give up her sense of being one of the morally anointed.
This is not unique to our times or to environmentalists. Back during the 1930s, in the years leading up to World War II, one of the fashionable self-indulgences of the left in Britain was to argue that the British should disarm "as an example to others" in order to serve the interests of peace.
When economist Roy Harrod asked one of his friends whether she thought that disarming Britain would cause Hitler to disarm, her reply was: "Oh, Roy, have you lost all your idealism?"
In other words, it was not really about which policy would produce what results. It was about personal identification with lofty goals and kindred souls.
The ostensible goal of peace was window-dressing. Ultimately it was not a question whether arming or disarming Britain was more likely to deter Hitler. It was a question of which policy would best establish the moral superiority of the anointed and solidify their identification with one another.
"Peace" movements are not judged by the empirical test of how often they actually produce peace or how often their disarmament tempts an aggressor into war. It is not an empirical question. It is an article of faith and a badge of identity.
Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace -- not for actually producing peace but for being part of what was called "the peace process," based on fashionable notions that were common bonds among members of what are called "peace movements."
Meanwhile, nobody suggested awarding a Nobel Prize for peace to Ronald Reagan, just because he brought the nuclear dangers of a decades-long cold war to an end. He did it the opposite way from how members of "peace movements" thought it should be done.
Reagan beefed up the military and entered into an "arms race" that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union if they didn't back off, even though arms races are anathema to members of "peace movements." The fact that events proved him right was no excuse as far as members of "peace movements" were concerned. As far as they were concerned, he was not one of Us. He was one of Them.
Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate
Funny. For years, I was somewhat mystified over the actions and behavior of the left. I thought to myself, even a child can see this specific course of action is wrong. I came to realize they care nothing for the country - past, present, or future. It is just about them!
Yes, he's that good.
I became acquainted with Steyn way back when he was the movie reviewer and media critic for the old American Spectator, but he really shot up in my esteem around 1997 or '98, with an article in the WSJ titled "In defense of Tabloid Sleaze."
Naturally, it was about Little Big Fraud and his "can't keep it in his pants" scandals of the time.
He makes you think.
I also like Dr. Walter Williams, who makes a point of trying to educate his audience.
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
Sowell even quotes people better than anyone else.
You might have something there. Maybe that's why today's pacifists are so violent -- verbally, physically, and in attitude.
They don't go bonkers b/c we are for (fill in the blank), but b/c they perceive our opposition to (fill in the blank) as an attack, first and foremost, against them. And that, in turn, spurs a kind of aristrocrtatic/"the anointed" outrage calvery-to-infantry sort of thing. And also, maybe, just maybe, in their heart of hearts, opposition may stir the fitfully slumbering genie of doubt.
He writes with the precision of a scalpel. Sometimes though I see or feel the impact of a more powerful tools or implements. Sowell is indeed a weapon of mass instruction.
I agree. "Why didn't I think of that?" is a common reaction to his writings.
What he has described is a cult "belief" system (on the left) currently hiding under a political identity.
Recurrent over past 10 years? Whether or not churches should have their tax exempt status removed. Other argument: Whether religions CAN or CAN NOT speak politics.
What if a political identity group forms under such a "religious" filing? (and they have, and currently continue to do so.)
I know he sees where all this is heading. IMHO, of course.
One of the definitions I heard of "genius" many years ago was "the art of taking something hard or complex, and making it look easy." He does that, and does it very well.
It is almost a form of religious fanaticism with the left. (Some fanatics blow themselves up on buses others martyr themselves by voting for Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy.)
I had never thought of the aspect of self elevation, however. It makes sense, though, if you think about it.
In their view: If the government represents the people and you are the people and the government becomes more powerful, then you have become more powerful even though you have relinquished your individuality to the government.
Thanks- I'll use that link.
Only Jesus christ will bring peace, and it will necessarily be preceeded by the destruction predicted in Revelation.
We are in for a very rough ride.
Be prepared: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16
"...they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
....By dint of having first placed THEMSELVES at the center of the universe
You WILL serve Heaven or Hell, but you WILL NOT sit it out.
:-) He is a favorite. Would that he had been in charge of the Fed for the past 18 or so years instead of Alan Greenspan.
Alan Greenspan, who hiked up interest rates three hundred basis points in 2000. Yeah, that's brilliant.
Then after 9/11, he realized that he had to start lowering interest rates to get the economy going. And he raised it by how much? You guessed it. Three hundred basis points.
And who would throw things at the television set if anyone dared to say anything about the Fed that he didn't like.
Sort of off topic, but I saw Andrea Mitchell yesterday, and then later saw Greenspan when the Bernanke appointment was announced and I realized the truth again of how some couples come to resemble each other. I wonder how Andrea feels about that?
LOL! You are right! They do resemble each other!
Do you remember the fit that Mrs. Greenspan had when she was given a hard time in the Middle East (following Condi Rice)? But instead of giving the new Secretary of State her due for standing up for Mrs. Greenspan, we heard editorial commentary in news that it wasn't enough.
So the Greenspans are well suited, as both do not work well with others.