Magical Thinking and Iran

One of the characteristics of the progressive or utopian mindset is its devotion to magical thinking. Progressives, particularly the "useful idiot" progressives, believe that by pronouncing certain incantations or magical words or by performing certain types of magical rituals, problems can be made to disappear. This immature way of dealing with the world has as its underlying dynamic a childlike reliance upon hope and wishful thinking and presupposes a world of circumscribed or repetitive uniformity which the progressive believes he can succeed in organizing and controlling via his expertise in "magic." More specifically, the progressive believes (or rather hopes) that the behavior of hostile or dangerous forces can be controlled or neutralized by the application of the appropriate magic.

Because magical thinking and behavior is ritualistic, it has a very limited capacity for adaptation to external circumstances, which is one of its most dangerous characteristics. The magical thinker is compelled by the fixed nature of his magic to act in a predetermined and stereotypical manner regardless of the nature of the acts of the agent whom the magical thinker is trying to control with his magic; his magic is purely reactive. For this reason, a successful result for the progressive invariably becomes totally dependent on his opponent's will and acts -- that is, the progressive magician casts his magical spells and then hopes that his opponent will respond appropriately -- rather than a successful outcome resulting from new, creative and effectively executed active ad hoc efforts to thwart the goals of his opponent. By vainly putting all his hopes into the workings of his limited armamentarium of magic, the magical thinker becomes not the master but the passive observer or even victim of the events he wishes to control because, once the progressive's magical rituals have been performed, everything then depends on the thoughts and actions of the person or agent over whom the magician has attempted to cast his spell.

Allowing external events to blindly dictate one's response to those events in a manner characterized by fixed or reflexive behaviors or expectations, rather than responding on one's own terms to external events by resourcefully and creatively dealing with each of those external events in an individual and unique way, represents a common pattern of daily behavior which results in much misfortune and heartache. For example, suppose that a person makes a negative or critical comment about you. If you respond immediately and automatically with anger and/or an intense desire for revenge, then you are responding in a purely fixed and reactive fashion on your opponent's terms (the external agent), a response which can only be injurious to you because emotions like anger and desire for revenge are always self-destructive and impede clear thinking. Indeed, by responding in such a way, you have allowed your opponent to take over and enslave your mind as surely as if he had succeeded in enslaving your body by putting you into fetters.

But if instead you take the time to respond on your own terms, first by putting away your anger or hurt feelings, second by examining the remark at your leisure, and finally deciding either to accept and learn from the comment if made accurately by a just man, or to ignore or discount the comment if made falsely by an unjust man, then you have not only spared yourself much self-destructive emotional anguish, but you permit yourself to actually benefit from the whole affair, or at least deal with the whole matter in a well-reasoned and positive fashion free from the unhelpful influence of hurt feelings.

Living in human society where each individual has exclusive control over his own actions means that each of us will regularly experience distressing or unwanted external events that impinge upon our lives in varying degrees. Try as we might to avoid or control such external events, complete avoidance is impossible because we cannot control the actions of others, no matter how much magic we use; one might as well try to nail down a board of wood to a stream. But we can control our reactions to the actions of others, which means that we need to cease relying on fruitless attempts to control others, magical or otherwise, and instead develop our own active and effective responses that will bring us to safety and repose. This applies just as much to relations among nations as it does to individuals.

Progressive magic will not control Iran, any more than it controlled Hitler at Munich or the Soviets during the Cold War. There will always be the fanatics and zealots like the Iranian mullahs, the Nazis, or the Stalins in this world. No self-deluding magic masquerading as appeasement on our part will eliminate them. All we can control is how we choose to deal with these fanatics once they appear -- and the quicker, the better.

That we have allowed things to go this far with Iran is quite unconscionable. I remember the progressives ceaselessly accusing Reagan of being a reckless cowboy or warmonger when he stationed nuclear missiles in Europe, and of risking dangerous nuclear proliferation that the progressives said would surely lead to the end of the world. Yet today these same progressives and their younger disciples see little if any problem with the dangers of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea. After all, these progressives think, the U.S. has nuclear weapons; it's only fair (that magical word!) that the Iranians and North Koreans should have them too. What's more, the Iranians really do not wish to harm us; they just want to defend themselves against possible American aggression. And besides, we have more important matters, like hope and change, to deal with at home.

Such are the perils of magical thinking. Meanwhile, Iran continues to build its atomic bomb unimpeded.

One of the characteristics of the progressive or utopian mindset is its devotion to magical thinking. Progressives, particularly the "useful idiot" progressives, believe that by pronouncing certain incantations or magical words or by performing certain types of magical rituals, problems can be made to disappear. This immature way of dealing with the world has as its underlying dynamic a childlike reliance upon hope and wishful thinking and presupposes a world of circumscribed or repetitive uniformity which the progressive believes he can succeed in organizing and controlling via his expertise in "magic." More specifically, the progressive believes (or rather hopes) that the behavior of hostile or dangerous forces can be controlled or neutralized by the application of the appropriate magic.

Because magical thinking and behavior is ritualistic, it has a very limited capacity for adaptation to external circumstances, which is one of its most dangerous characteristics. The magical thinker is compelled by the fixed nature of his magic to act in a predetermined and stereotypical manner regardless of the nature of the acts of the agent whom the magical thinker is trying to control with his magic; his magic is purely reactive. For this reason, a successful result for the progressive invariably becomes totally dependent on his opponent's will and acts -- that is, the progressive magician casts his magical spells and then hopes that his opponent will respond appropriately -- rather than a successful outcome resulting from new, creative and effectively executed active ad hoc efforts to thwart the goals of his opponent. By vainly putting all his hopes into the workings of his limited armamentarium of magic, the magical thinker becomes not the master but the passive observer or even victim of the events he wishes to control because, once the progressive's magical rituals have been performed, everything then depends on the thoughts and actions of the person or agent over whom the magician has attempted to cast his spell.

Allowing external events to blindly dictate one's response to those events in a manner characterized by fixed or reflexive behaviors or expectations, rather than responding on one's own terms to external events by resourcefully and creatively dealing with each of those external events in an individual and unique way, represents a common pattern of daily behavior which results in much misfortune and heartache. For example, suppose that a person makes a negative or critical comment about you. If you respond immediately and automatically with anger and/or an intense desire for revenge, then you are responding in a purely fixed and reactive fashion on your opponent's terms (the external agent), a response which can only be injurious to you because emotions like anger and desire for revenge are always self-destructive and impede clear thinking. Indeed, by responding in such a way, you have allowed your opponent to take over and enslave your mind as surely as if he had succeeded in enslaving your body by putting you into fetters.

But if instead you take the time to respond on your own terms, first by putting away your anger or hurt feelings, second by examining the remark at your leisure, and finally deciding either to accept and learn from the comment if made accurately by a just man, or to ignore or discount the comment if made falsely by an unjust man, then you have not only spared yourself much self-destructive emotional anguish, but you permit yourself to actually benefit from the whole affair, or at least deal with the whole matter in a well-reasoned and positive fashion free from the unhelpful influence of hurt feelings.

Living in human society where each individual has exclusive control over his own actions means that each of us will regularly experience distressing or unwanted external events that impinge upon our lives in varying degrees. Try as we might to avoid or control such external events, complete avoidance is impossible because we cannot control the actions of others, no matter how much magic we use; one might as well try to nail down a board of wood to a stream. But we can control our reactions to the actions of others, which means that we need to cease relying on fruitless attempts to control others, magical or otherwise, and instead develop our own active and effective responses that will bring us to safety and repose. This applies just as much to relations among nations as it does to individuals.

Progressive magic will not control Iran, any more than it controlled Hitler at Munich or the Soviets during the Cold War. There will always be the fanatics and zealots like the Iranian mullahs, the Nazis, or the Stalins in this world. No self-deluding magic masquerading as appeasement on our part will eliminate them. All we can control is how we choose to deal with these fanatics once they appear -- and the quicker, the better.

That we have allowed things to go this far with Iran is quite unconscionable. I remember the progressives ceaselessly accusing Reagan of being a reckless cowboy or warmonger when he stationed nuclear missiles in Europe, and of risking dangerous nuclear proliferation that the progressives said would surely lead to the end of the world. Yet today these same progressives and their younger disciples see little if any problem with the dangers of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea. After all, these progressives think, the U.S. has nuclear weapons; it's only fair (that magical word!) that the Iranians and North Koreans should have them too. What's more, the Iranians really do not wish to harm us; they just want to defend themselves against possible American aggression. And besides, we have more important matters, like hope and change, to deal with at home.

Such are the perils of magical thinking. Meanwhile, Iran continues to build its atomic bomb unimpeded.