Two celebrated generals saw their wars differently. Napoleon once said: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Patton often said: “Americans love to fight; all real Americans love the sting of battle.” Bonaparte was a man of shadings; George was a man of blacks & whites.
Patton would have understood today’s world much better. Despite the nuanced maneuvering of our diplomats, our countries think mostly in blacks & whites. I’m right; you’re wrong. I’m peaceful; you’re dangerous. And who is there to deny how seductive and deeply satisfying it is to function in a world devoid of doubt and ambiguity.
Now with the world wide web, this seduction of absolutes has grown exponentially. Notice how easily and comfortably these epithets slide off the tongue: All Muslims are terrorists…all Catholics are Papists…all bankers are rapacious…all Jews are bankers…all Republicans are heartless…all Democrats are spenders…all poor people are shiftless…all old people are draining the economy…oh, and Barack Obama is a Marxist on a mission to destroy the US economy after which he will establish concentration camps for all Christians.
Too silly? Not so. Check it out in the Norwegian bomber’s 1,516 page manifesto, largely drawn from his world wide web research. Which, by the way, is available for your kids to read in their bedrooms tonight. Hey, but this is an age of free speech Wikileaki style. The best way to learn how to swim is, well, simply dive in.
Lifeguards….? Well, there are always the usual suspects: parents and teachers and clergy and cops. At one time they not only patrolled but controlled the beach of ideas. Today, not so much. Bigger beach, bigger ocean…! Which is why today’s governments — from West to East — quietly spend billions to monitor citizen communication and maintain covert operations to trace trouble wherever they detect it.
So while governments throughout the world are seen by their public behaviors [GNP, laws, taxes, debit fights], they each have countless private agendas. None that make many headlines, nor would any make many fans. These private agendas are something like the “unwritten code” by which every police force in the world operates. It is not spelled out as much as lived out. And here’s our dirty little secret. Virtually every citizen sanctions that code when in our hearts we whisper to our protectors: “Don’t tell me how you do it, just do it…!”
Now here’s the question: After we deplore our sheepishness, is that enough? Here’s a guess. Until the day the code applies to us, it probably will be…
Filed under: Uncategorized