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Global Madness in The Zeitgeist Zone
As war looms ever closer, we watch our nightly TV news reports with either a sense of righteous uncertainty or simple gut-twisting fear as we wonder, "has the world gone truly mad?" The reason we wonder is the absence of absolute truth from those who support as well as those who oppose the upcoming conflict in Iraq. Consequently, the only thing of which we can be certain of — is fear itself.
Perhaps if Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone television program were alive today he would say, "Imagine, if you will, an advanced species bent on self-destruction and knowingly ignoring the subliminal signs ahead, chooses to cross a fateful threshold into the maddening dimension of The Zeitgeist Zone."
Therefore, perhaps the real answers to our haunting questions will not come from rational arguments, but rather, from our Zeitgeist, if you will — our own spirit of the age.
The term, "Zeitgeist," which translates from German into "spirit of the age" was coined by the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). This controversial philosopher whose work has become popular again in last few decades makes us look at different cultures in terms of their "spirits," in the sense of a cultural self-conscious.
In Western culture, the term "Zeitgeist" has largely been popular with modern-day academics and marketing gurus. In a manner of speaking, it is that gauzy and intangible yet, ever-present sense of what is happening to our culture at large. Hence, hackneyed phrases like "well, everyone knows…" — but then, what does "everyone" really know?
Prior to 9-11, the Zeitgeist of Western culture was clearly of a materialistic design. "I'll make a killing in the market, at some other fool's expense." Following 9-11, the reality of merciless terror struck our hearts as the sands eroded our past gains along with our once optimistic sense of the future. Hence, the spirit of our age here in America is now largely equivocal and unfocused.
However, while the Zeitgeist of Western culture is clearly in a state of disquieting change, the cultural Zeitgeist of radical Islamists who seek our complete demise is unequivocal and focused. Their Zeitgeist is simple, death to those who are not like us; or in other words, conversion at the tip of a sword.
Has America ever had an unequivocal and focused Zeitgeist? Over a hundred years ago it did. It was called "Manifest Destiny," a doctrine used to justify the national spirit of a fledgling nation eager to conquer the lands of ancient indigenous races, by taking what it wanted, to do with as it willed . For Europe, it was many dark centuries of brutal, bloody and inhuman feudalism and colonialism.
Consequently, for those of us in the West, the Islamist Zeitgeist is obvious to our five senses; yet, our own haunting memories make it difficult for us to internalize the present day threat in an unequivocal manner. Why is this? Simple; we have a nagging shortage of absolute truth.
The Absence of Absolute Truth
Western civilization is odd in that on one hand, the vast majority believes in a God they cannot taste, touch, smell, hear or see. Yet, this same majority believes that rational minds must only entertain that which can be tasted, touched, smelled, heard or seen. (We call it proof.) A consequence of this dichotomy is that no matter how much we discuss, debate and wrangle over our looming predicament, we cannot find a rational explanation that satisfies one and all. In fact, the opposite is true, as polarized hawks and doves back away into their respective corners.
When Secretary of State Colin Powell made his presentation to the United Nations Security Council last week, the hope of the nation was that our leadership would show us tangible proof. Not so that we could decide the nature of the Islamist Zeitgeist, but rather, to hopefully reconcile our own equivocations so as to answer the colloquial question of our time, "where's the beef?" I.e., proof!
What Powell gave us were more specifics, without his actually having to reveal the unstated "beef" of the matter. Consequently, our Zeitgeist continues to tell us that those promoting the coming war against Iraq are only telling us the truths needed to gain our support, as opposed to the truth of their long term aims. In essence, we're still being spoon fed on a need-to-motivate basis as we send our sons and daughters into harm's way. Some of us can live with this, others cannot.
Nonetheless, the threat of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is a certain truth, but solely as a means to an end; does it justify a war with Iraq? Yes — in part.
The "Truth" of the Hawks
Disarming Iraq now is important — if we wish to control the proliferation of WMD amongst our avowed enemies. However, if Iraq were South Yemen would we go the trouble of staging over 160,000 combatants to invade to invade the country?
However, if one looks at a map of Iraq and its geographical relation to Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, a strategic conclusion is obvious (especially if you're an Islamist). By invading Iraq, America will be strategically poised to attack Islamist terror states throughout the region at will.
When Iraq is viewed as a strategic beachhead, it does provide an invaluable staging point from which America can doggedly pursue the eventual defeat of those who revealed their commitment to destroying us on 9-11. In this regard, the taking of Iraq is a vital prerequisite to our long term strategic war goals and there is nothing dishonest or unethical about this. Yet, the obvious remains unstated.
So why doesn't the White House just come out and tell us that we need to invade Iraq because it is a threat in terms of WMD and that we need a staging area from which to prosecute the war? They don't do this because they would lose popular support for an invasion of Iraq, even though the American Zeitgeist clearly senses this aim. An example of this kind of need-to-motivate honesty dates back to Nazi atrocities during WWII.
Beginning 1933 and all throughout WWII, American newspapers reported on Nazi war crimes against Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, political dissenters and other targeted groups. At the behest of then President Roosevelt, American publishers intentionally buried these stories by printing them with innocuous headlines in the back pages of their publications. Why? Because President Roosevelt feared that if the war effort became about saving the Jews, that he would lose the popular support of the American nation for the war effort.
The bottom line is that hawks cannot afford to be absolutely truthful. Ergo, they can only give the public those truths which are palatable and motivational.
Given that we've being given honest facts by the White House on a need-to-motivate basis, can we really call this honesty? If we could, in all sincerity, the doves would not be able to bend our ears with their own lack of truthfulness.
The "Truth" of the Doves
There was a time when being a liberal meant that you were opposed to tyrants. Sadly, those days have passed as today's liberals don the morays of pre-WWII isolationists, who were largely uninterested in the accountability of leaders. Rather, they were opposed to war for any reason, and they were vocal in their time. While their intentions were peaceful, nothing they did or said prevented Japan from attacking America on December 7, 1941. Simply put, denial does not stop wars. It did not then, and it will not now. Yet, it persists.
Worse yet, there is a very real dishonesty amongst modern age doves with regards to their carrot and stick approach to leadership access.
Leaders who are morally and politically accountable in some fashion and who challenge dovish values are publicly brutalized. By beating them with a media stick, doves seek to change their behavior through a simple pain-or-reward approach. Disagree with us and we'll give you the pain of our attention. Agree with us and we'll give you the reward of our absence.
On the other hand, leaders who are morally and politically oblivious are appeased. The result is that accountable leaders are brutalized with biased and thorny media sticks while unaccountable leaders are fed a steady diet of sweet appeasement carrots.
Granted, the doves dole out their appeasement carrots with ample side helpings of gratuitous expressions of dismay, but the fact remains, those in the mainstream only see the carrots. For this reason, this new-age media carrot-and-stick approach to world peace is losing ground in the mainstream because it demonstrates a singular, blindsided view of the world because it lacks a level playing field. Therefore, the dove message at a tactical level is that if they can change a leader's minds, they'll do so by pulverizing him for the sake of sound-bite expediency as they seek access to tyrants through effusive appeasement.
This is why it is only necessary for the hawks to feed the mainstream a modicum of facts in order to eviscerate dovish influence in the public debate.
On the other hand, if present day doves would only resume their former practice of awarding carrots and sticks in a clearly moral and even-handed manner, they would at the very least, force the hawks to be much more forthcoming about their aims.
As for the "dovish" efforts of France, Germany, Russia and China, let's withhold judgment until the day when we can audit their shipping invoices to Iraq's military machine.
Consequences for the American Zeitgeist
For Americans in the mainstream, the pull from the hawks and doves at both ends of the political spectrum is a reflection of the current equivocal status of America's own Zeitgeist which is still in the midst of a post 9-11 transition.
In the absence of an unequivocal awareness of our own vulnerabilities, the missing truths of the hawks and the uneven carrot-and-stick antics of the doves are prolonging the effort to achieve an American Zeitgeist that is solid and unequivocal. Or at least one that is just as unequivocal as the Islamist Zeitgeist. In the meantime, and in the midst of our own unflagging uncertainty, there is great opportunity for those who are certain.
Will America ever resolve the present uncertainty of its own Zeitgeist? Yes, and this eventuality is unavoidable. How will we recognize the imminent precursor of this event? One of two things will happen:
— or —
As America stands perched upon the fateful threshold of The Zeitgeist Zone, which eventuality do you feel will be more likely? Or more to the point, which one will cost America less in the long run, in terms of both blood and treasure?