Two articles separated by the Atlantic Ocean deal with the subject of the previous post. That dealt with the question of whether one point of view was constantly trying to dominate the other by manipulating perception. Now Dorothy Rabinowitz at the WSJ in her editorial “The Alien in the White House” notices that the incumbent seems to represent a wholly different nation from the one that is ‘out there’. It’s like there’s another species in the Oval Office. She’s finds him speaking speaking a strange language and worshiping strange idols she never thought would never be on the public mainstream altar. Rabinowitz writes: “A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs.” Like Cortez upon a peak in Darien, she can’t quite believe what she sees. Rabinowitz describes her feeling of alienation:
He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe. …
Far greater strangeness has since flowed steadily from Washington. The president’s appointees, transmitters of policy, go forth with singular passion week after week, delivering the latest inversion of reality. … They are attitudes to be found everywhere, but never before in a president of the United States. Mr. Obama may not hold all, or the more extreme, of these views. But there can be no doubt by now of the influences that have shaped him. …
The truth about that distance is now sinking in, which is all to the good.
But Rabinowitz is only half correct about the alien part. President Obama comes from a mighty nation. From the viewpoint of that people, it is Rabinowitz who is alien. She is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. If she tried seeing herself through their eyes she would see herself as the problem. There is a country in which people like Helen Thomas happily thrive and it is widespread, influential, powerful. It may outnumber or eventually come to outnumber the nation which Dorothy Rabinowitz thinks is ‘out there’.
And it lives in the most exalted places. For example, across the Atlantic, Prince Charles exhorted his listeners to follow the precepts of two great religions: Islam and Environmentalism. His Royal Highness “urged the world to follow Islamic ‘spiritual principles’ in order to save the environment”.
Charles, who is a practising Christian, spoke in depth about his own study of the Qu’ran which, he said, tells its followers that there is ‘no separation between Man and Nature’ and says we must always live within Nature’s mean and limits
‘From what I know of the Qu’ran, again and again it describes the natural world as the handiwork of a unitary benevolent power,’ he said.
‘It very explicitly describes Nature as possessing an “intelligibility” and that there is no separation between Man and Nature, precisely because there is no separation between the natural world and God.
‘It offers a completely integrated view of the Universe where religion and science, mind and matter are all part of one living, conscious whole.
‘This suggests to me that Nature is a knowing partner, never a mindless slave to humanity, and we are Her tenants; God’s guests for all too short a time.’
The prince was speaking to an audience of scholars at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, which attempts to encourage a better understanding of the culture and civilisation of the religion, of which he is patron.
If you want to be admitted into the inner sanctum of the cultural elite, if you wish to be considered ‘cool’; if you aspire to be like a very powerful segment of the movers and shakers, then you had better stop clinging to your Bibles and guns and get with the program. Far from being “alien”, President actually represents a point of view shared by many millions of Western Europeans and Americans. He is not the cause, but rather the effect of the existence of that nation: if he were not President, that nation would endeavor to elect someone else just like him to the Presidency. But the two nations are not mirror images of each other. One is self-aware and the other minds its business thinking that everyone else does. They are asymmetrical with respect to their desire for power. And because of this the President’s nation can see the other clearly every day of the week, as a traveler sees an obstacle before it, while people like Rabinowitz never think of themselves as the obsctacle. That’s the problem. As the fight scene from “They Live” shows, the real challenge is to get both sides to perceive each other symmetrically. They Live. You know the lines:
Fat Guy: What’s wrong with having it good for a change? Now they’re gonna let us have it good if we just help ’em. They’re gonna leave us alone, let us make some money. You can have a little taste of that good life too. Now, I know you want it. Hell, everybody does.
Frank: You’d do it to your own kind.
Fat Guy: What’s the threat? We all sell out every day, might as well be on the winning team.
Being on the winning team is the definition of cool.