Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Dark Side of Altruism

... Long time no blog.

Then again, there's isn't much to really report. Yes, we had elections, then a new governement under a very Sad Hariri, a newer government under Mi-Kati who's making a lot of noise, while his government is on its way to selling Lebanon's soul.

Yet, Fundamentally, nothing has changed

The one change is the Arab Spring... Finally. Yeehaa. Allah kbir, Allah akbar. Yes, the bad ones are on their way... Now Bachar, Bibi, Nasrallah, the Mullahs: Almost done...

Tunis Tunest, Iran Natunest... Yet.

Well, it's a long way from the dreams of March 14, 2005. Bachar's only "Medium Well", and he still have some "game" in him, and a increasingly sophisticated communications monitoring system. So is Bibi, in spite of his similar performance, with Obama playing his usual speechifying figuring role, on home turf. It was even better than Bachar's; he even got more applause. More than the Knesset would have ever granted him. Nasrallah's still a bit "rare", and the Iranian clerics are only now marinating. But the natural (r)evolution that is taking place is ineluctable.

But its not all for the good

In his latest stupid rant, Patriarch Rai put his finger on it... But the concern extends beyond a few turbans, and in choosing among evils, he is only choosing evil. One would have expected Rai not to fall for such skewed choices... I'd like to see how he will "joumblat away" from all this...

And one of the drivers is: Altruism..

Fundamentally, however, his concern illustrates the dark side of altruism. His intentions are good. At first. Then something happens; it is reality? Is it hubris? Things take a life of their own, and intentions lead them... Well, elsewhere...

Good intentions make excellent paving material. Like all things that are taken to excess, altruism develops into a pathology, and "society's most pernicious troubles arise under its guise". We should recognise the dangers of good intentions, lest they lead us to more of the same.. Robespierre came soon after Mirabeau, Hitler followed Bismarck, Stalin succeeded Marx... The Mutazailites are not too far away.

Let's not forget that all those now shooting at Gaddafi were once cheering for him. Most of those now shouting down Bachar were once looking the other way when his father as pounding us. And most of us now cheering [Name of your favourite Lebanese Here] are all too happy to look the other way when he was comitting atrocities.

Altruism is good. But it often exploited by unscrupulous leaders who make us commit atrocities.

How can we guard against the dark side of altruism? In any situation where we feel impelled to help others, it is crucial to step out of our comfort zone and examine the arguments from the other side. We must be willing to learn, in as open-minded a fashion as possible, from those with whom we disagree. In some sense, this means applying the scientific method to our lives. Like scientists, we need to play devil's advocate and actively seek ways of disproving a hypothesis, asking ourselves if an act that seems unquestionably altruistic can have broader negative consequences

Our better nature can, and will, lead us to do things that end up harming the very people we are trying to help. So let us get rid of those dinosaurs.

But let us keep a close eye on ourselves.

So, now that the Arab Spring is gearing up, yeehaa. Allah kbir, Allah akbar. If you're in Syria, more power to you... And to Thuraya. If you're in Palestine, God speed; you're caught up between your own flawed leaders and shrewd enemies. In Israel, wake up, dudes; Leiberman's not what you claim to be about...

But if you're in Lebanon, enjoy the sidelines (for now)...

So pass me the Arak, O wise one... Today we drink, for tomorrow's serious matters will come soon enough.

اليوم خمر وغداً أمر