Big Rock Candy Mountain

The official voice of the Deseret Liberation Organization

Nationalism clouds judgment

Megan McCardle, with some help from Orwell, diagnoses the problem discussing Israel/Palestine:

To me, the impossibility of debating Israel/Palestine is that it the argument is dominated by nationalism on both sides.  There are probably more thoughtful critics of Israel than of the Palestinians, but almost no one seems to be able to hold in the middle for very long–in order to critique the one, he becomes blindly nationalistic about the other, making ludicrous excuses for their behavior that they would not tolerate for a moment were they advanced by the other side.  We haven’t even gotten around to having a decent debate on morality, or the sensible policy possibilities, because each side is far too busy developing their own set of facts from which it can only be proven that they are right, and blameless.

The reflexive tendency to believe in the goodness of whichever group you most identify with is probably evolutionarily necessary, and at any rate, it’s there, and I much doubt that we will abolish it any time soon.  But like other evolutionary heuristics, it can do us at least as much harm as good in many circumstances, and I think it needs to be acknowledged before we can even discuss right and wrong.

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