Because Psychoanalysts see people who tend to have dysfunctional ways of approaching the world around them, it is fairly common for us to notice on-coming train wrecks well before our patients are cognizant of the disasters they often unconsciously facilitate. Most young therapists will attempt to protect their patients by pointing out the impending danger and offering advice on how to best avoid the disaster. ("You might want to think twice about dating that man, since you have already told me he drinks a lot and you have a history of getting involved with alcoholic men.") Most young therapists quickly learn that such advice, even when sincerely desired by our patients, never works. ("You're right, but this man is different from all the others I've dated. He really loves me and he said he will cut down on his drinking if I want.") What our prototypical young therapist soon learns is that when patients fail to see the impending train wreck that is so obvious to us, it is because they have a need, usually unconscious, to not see what is in front of their eyes. To recognize the disaster means that they will have to start to think about their role in engineering the disasters (even if their role is a passive one), their tendency to make poor choices, the gratifications they get from disasters in their lives, and a whole host of other unhappy aspects of themselves that are uncomfortable and more easily left out of awareness. Beyond this, patients will perform all sorts of mental gymnastics (which we refer to as defenses) to keep uncomfortable awareness at bay. Of course, it is not only patients who use defenses; we all use defenses on a daily basis. The question of when defenses become problematic is a difficult one, but I suspect all would agree that when a defense places a person in danger, it is no longer serving a useful purpose and has, in fact, become dangerous.
Dr. Sanity examines the recent incident on a US Airways flight in which a number of Muslim Imams made a loud public show of praying on the plane and were subsequently removed by the authorities. Almost immediately, CAIR leaped into action with that quintessentially American attack, a law suit, accusing the Airlines of "succumb(ing) to fear and prejudice based on stereotyping of Muslims and Islam." Dr. Sanity helpfully points out the difference between appropriate and inappropriate fear:
These days, "fear" is often used as if it were a dirty word (much like the usage of terms like stereotyping or prejudice, actually), when in fact, fear is a perfectly normal emotion that we are (thankfully) hardwired to experience.
In other posts, I have explained how destructive it is to rely solely on one's emotions as a strategy for living one's life. But is equally irrational to completely ignore feelings and pretend that you don't feel what you do. In other words, fear may be an extremely rational response to a dangerous situation.
Emotion can be an important source of information about reality; or at least, an important source of information about one's internal reality --which sometimes has to be understood, challenged and compared with the external world to ascertain whether what is being felt is a valid guide for action.
Animals do not have an intervening rational process between emotion and action. When they feel fear, they react. Humans, when necessary--i.e., when in imminent danger--will react the same way as animals because we share a similar physiology. But humans are (hopefully) able to understand and appreciate fear in a way that other species cannot. We possess a rational faculty that when used correctly can expand and refine (or consider and discard when appropriate) the information emotions give us about potential threats. Thus, humans are able to deliberately plan and anticipate for future threats--a flexibility not available to most animal species, except where it is already programmed.
Right now, there are many of us who feel like modern day Cassandras. We see the danger of expansionary, Islamic fascism, and warn of the need to firmly stand against it. The primary motive force behind Islamic terror is the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian leadership daily make the most vicious and overt threats against the West. The Fifth Column of Islamists living within the West almost daily make the most vicious and overt threats against their hosts. Yet, all too many are all too willing to cling to any scrap of rationalization that allows them to continue in denial. If we don't see the train wreck, we can imagine we are safe and everything is just fine.
Unfortunately, rational argument is never enough to convince someone of danger when they have deeply felt needs to convince themselves they are safe. If anyone doubts that this is the case, consider how much energy is being spent trying to panic people about Global Warming. (For an elegant and brief description of the problems with the GW argumnets, consider Caerdroia's summary of the problem, in the first of his Questions.) Consider for a moment that the danger to humanity from GW, even in the worst case scenarios that are generated by the various computer models, amount to such disasters as increased flooding, more heat waves, perhaps expanded deserts (though probably off set by the northern migration of the bread basket) with the worst effects occurring some 75 years in the future. Al Gore hopes to become our next President if he can scare enough people about this. The House Democrats promise to make solving GW a centerpiece of their legislative agenda. Yet many of the same people minimize the danger from Islamic fascism.
Consider the much more immediate danger we face from Iran or al Qaeda obtaining Nuclear or Biological weapons. A nuclear explosion in a port almost anywhere in the world (the Rand corporation study considered a nuclear explosion in Long Beach, CA, but I suspect a nuke anywhere would have the same impact on global trade) would essentially stop global trade for weeks to months. We would have a world wide depression with millions dying of starvation throughout the third world. The effects would dwarf any possible GW scenarios on the world's poor.
Perhaps worse than a nuclear blast would be a Biological attack. Treatment resistant Smallpox or some other epidemic virus or bacteria would similarly shut down global commerce. It would also result in untold millions of deaths from the pathogen itself, amplified by the deaths from starvation and the subsequent outbreaks of small wars all over the globe that would almost certainly follow.
The point here is that if we consider the risks of GW versus the risks of Islamic terror, there is no contest. In both cases the risks are poorly quantified and poorly quantifiable.
[In fact, as I argued yesterday, if the Iranians obtain a nuke, they will of necessity use it one day. If anything, the risk may be increasing, especially if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, is elected to the Assembly of Experts on December 15. Keep your eyes on the Iranian election.]
If the GW alarmists are correct, we have 50-75 years to accommodate and adapt to the future climate conditions. Humans are nothing if not adaptable. We figured out how to survive an ice age in a pre-industrial age; we will be able to deal with even the worst case GW scenarios. On the other hand, an Islamist attack greater than 9/11 is likely to set back the efforts to enlarge the sphere of modernity (the Core) by decades, perhaps permanently for large parts of the world. Further, continued appeasement of Iran (and Syria) is going to lead quite directly to thousands of deaths in the near term, and millions down the road, and not too far down the road at that.
Prudence dictates that faced with these probabilities, the most rational response would be to minimize the risk of Islamic terror rather than focus on Global Warming. A rational world would deal with Iran in ways that would minimize the risk that Israel would be terrified into prematurely attacking or that Iran would overreach. Instead, by vilifying Israel and the Jews (who will not disappear quietly next time) at every opportunity, the World shows itself to be composed of irrational actors.
[As an aside, we will soon see if Syria's assassination of Pierre Gemayel in Lebanon was an overreach or an accurate and shrewd recognition that the West has already surrendered.]
As for our home grown radical Islamists and their CAIR enablers; beyond law suit shopping, I suspect they know exactly what they are doing. They want us to back down in fear. Just like the young thugs who challenge the weakling ("What are you lookin' at?") and can then strut around with their self-esteem enhanced, they expect us to continue appeasing them for fear we will be accused of Islamophobia and racism. Once we have learned to give way to their demands, they will then escalate. That is what bullies do.