Friday, May 14, 2021

Ideals, partially-applied

Bella Hadid and Gal Gadot both made the calculated choice/error of commenting on the Israel-Gaza conflict this week. 

Both of course can be said to have some sort of actual personal stake in it, unlike the hordes of zealous, armchair Middle East comentaristas who immediately and all very predictably pounced. 

Yet both were in a sense asking to be trolled for the biases they betrayed in their language. (Hang on...I am not really uggesting anyone actually asks to be trolled!) 

Hadid characterised Israel as a non-country packed with colonial oppressors. That's a bit like me observing that the British Museum is an imperialist store-cupboard packed to the rafters with looted objects. Sure, some folk would probably jump to agree with me, but most reasonable people would undoubtedly appreciate how partial a description that is. 

Another way of looking at the British Museum — doors opened in 1759 — is as one of the blue ribbon achievements of the Enlightenment in Britain: a temple to the light that knowledge and investigation can shine in the darkness. 

These ideals could be said to weakly-felt at best throughout the Middle East today. Even the keenest detractors of Israel (an actual modern democracy), many of whom vocally support issues like Trans and LGBTQ+ rights, would have to admit that their own liberal worldview is generally not highly regarded in most parts of that neighbourhood. 

Though it has something of a toe-hold in one small part at least, with the effect that certain, once-marginalised lifestyles are at least possible there. 

However, the thinkers of the Enlightenment — whose ideals can be said to have led inexorably to the modern notion of tolerance, and then onto the celebration of human diversity— also stood against false ideas, the dominance of religion, oppression and cruelty. 

And, Israelis please note — and not just Israelis, clearly — they also stood for human sympathy...for justice, freedom and the possibility of personal fulfilment, in this life rather than the next. 

If the one place in that part of the world where reason is genuinely valued on some significant levels is being seen to behave un-reasonably, then it's a really bad look as far as our overall global discourse goes. 

Enlightened ideals are nevertheless a form of prejudice. They have the potential for fostering human wellbeing, yet from the start they also had in-built defects, and these can metastasize quickly. 

There has never been a moment in human history when so-called progress arrives on the scene shorn of any potential for deleterious side effects.

No comments: