Cultural memory and imagination

The current crisis brewing in the Middle East between Iran and Israel is difficult for the general population in the rest of the world to understand because they are not driven by the same memories and imaginations that drive the populations of these two countries.

In Iran, the duplicity, exploitation and map making of the West coupled to dreams of a resurgent Persian Empire, if not in practice, at least in self-reflection (mirror, mirror on the wall) provides the motivation for nuclear weaponry. Why should Israel be the only player in that league with weapons that can eliminate entire populations?

In Israel the memory of the West’s failure to intervene to prevent the Holocaust makes it impossible for them to trust any other country to come to their defense in time. That reality coupled to Iran’s insistence on eliminating Israel makes it essential in the thinking of Israel that they must do whatever they think they need to do to protect themselves. After all, wasn’t one of the rationale’s for creating the “Jewish State” to make it possible for the Jewish People to protect themselves without having to depend upon the political good will of anyone else?

And then we come to “the anyone else”, the rest of the world, who without those particular scars in those specific places cannot imagine that Iran would, without specific provocation, launch nuclear weapons against Israel. That is why the the rest of the world cautions against a preventive strike by Israel; trust the sanctions; give them time.

What we in the West and the rest of the world cannot fathom,  cannot imagine, and cannot understand, is that  for many people in the Middle East, Israel itself is the provocation that by its very existence requires “retaliation”. For them, it is a Western creation intended only to implement the West’s desire for domination.

Thus, like any well written Tragedy the leading characters move towards their destiny, towards the “end” foreshadowed in the early scenes. And while it’s not difficult to understand why the rest of the world’s populations do not understand, it is difficult to believe that the leaders of the world’s governments do not understand.

It is also difficult for all of us, leaders and peoples led alike, to come to grips with the reality that understanding does not necessarily lead to effective action. Like good audiences we scream our silent warnings; but the characters in the drama insist on keeping to the script.

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One comment

  1. Excellent blogpost.

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