Special Guest Post: Mark Pellegrino Sounds Off On The Arab-Israeli Conflict
Mark Pellegrino is an American actor of film and television, best known for his work as Lucifer in Supernatural, Paul Bennett in Dexter, and Jacob in Lost. He is co-founder of The American Capitalist Party.
The summer of 2014 changed my relationship to social media forever. That was the summer that agents of Hamas kidnapped three Israeli youths and brutally murdered them. What followed was an Israeli incursion into Gaza which resulted in approx. 2,220 dead Palestinians and 72 dead Israelis.
To me, the issue seemed clear: Innocent civilians of a pluralistic society were murdered by agents of an authoritarian government. A government that deprives its own people for political and material gain, and murders political dissidents regularly. When the incursion uncovered a massive network of ‘terror tunnels’ (used in innumerable crimes against the civilian and military populations of Israel) it seemed like the icing had been spread on the proverbial moral cake. We were witnessing a no-brainer in the realm of moral culpability here….or so I thought.
It turns out, what seems obvious isn’t so much these days. First, Hollywood circulated a petition condemning Israel. Then college students protested Israeli war tactics, and the news piled on, reporting casualties (mostly Palestinian) on a daily basis.
Before long, maps began to accompany narratives on social media which accused the Jewish state of a concerted genocide against the Palestinian people. Watching this insanity unravel from the sidelines became an impossibility, so I finally waded into the fray.
For the entire summer I debated with anyone who had the audacity to post the moral inversion of Palestinian victimhood at the hands of Israel. And after two months of refuting their claims and exposing their lies (often getting my tweets published on large media sites), I convinced no one. How could that be, I thought. Facts are stubborn things, and they were on my side, yet people agitating for the Palestinian ’cause’ seemed uniquely resistant to them. At first, I thought the answer lay in our ubiquitous addiction to a particular narrative of good and evil. That narrative is mainly this: If you are rich you are corrupt, and you probably got there by stepping over and/or on somebody else. If you are poor, you are poor because someone else deprived you of the means of lifting yourself out of poverty. The person who deprived you was likely…you guessed it.. rich. This kind of social determinism has been the thematic spine of story telling for centuries (starting when social determinism actually WAS a factor in the mobility of the individual), and it has stuck with us to the present day. That fact, that Israel was presumptively bad because she was rich and the Palestinians presumptively good (or oppressed) because they were poor, could be a stubborn prejudice to overcome, but not impossible. It had to be something else.
It wasn’t until almost two years later while watching a reality show with my wife (don’t judge me) that the answer occurred to me. We were watching a show called “Are You The One”. In the show, twenty young adults, who have failed miserably at relationships, are tasked to find their ‘true love match’. Now the match – according to computerized testing, interviews with loved ones and other semi-objective criteria – is actually there with them. They just have to find him or her. If all twenty find their match, they win a million bucks. If they don’t well, they don’t. When I thought about it, the game (and that’s what it amounts to) requires a rational mind to play. You have to learn information, integrate those facts into conclusions and act on those conclusions. Yet reason and facts were NOT the standards of ANY of the kids playing. What was? Feelings, instinct, chemical connection. Facts, thought, and that crazy little thing called discernment nowhere figured into their evaluations of the other people. And this despite failure after failure after failure of their tried and not so true method of ‘feelings as tools of cognition’.
That’s when it hit me. These kids CAN’T think. Now, I don’t mean by that that their brain synapses were somehow incapable of making the physical connections, I mean the tools for using the brain, particularly in this area, were ABSENT. Why? Because they’d been taught from K to 12 and up (if they went to college), that reason was not a trustworthy faculty. These kids had fully ingested the maxim of almost every philosopher and intellectual (echoed, in turn by authors and artists everywhere) that the heart is superior to the head; especially when it comes to evaluating the big issues like who you’ll marry; what job to take; whom to vote for major office; and which side to support in a battle to the death. We have had decades for the feeling culture to trickle its poison down from the vaunted halls of academia into the empty skulls of the world’s youth, and I was witnessing the hapless and helpless results of it on a relatively harmless, and slightly amusing, TV show. But when that kind of orientation finds its way into the REAL world, what results isn’t the low brow comedy of reality TV, it is the high tragedy of moral inversion.
When one is governed by the heart, material evidence only serves in as much as it confirms the feelings emanating from the heart. If it conflicts with them, the evidence is to be discarded outright. God forbid the conflict be resolved by a process of THOUGHT. The standard of good, therefore, is not reality or OBJECTIVE good, but one’s own semi-conscious evaluations be they right (accurate reflections of reality) or wrong (delusional). What matters is the feeling. Hamas understands this to a tee. And though they might not be able to trace the rise of emotionalism and the fall of reason through the pantheon of academia and literature, they can certainly feel, and take advantage of the trend. What did that mean for me and my internet wars? It meant that pictures sufficed for an argument, and that attempts to explain the moral difference between initiated force and retaliatory force fell on deaf ears. It meant that numbers of dead and wounded were conflated with moral and immoral, even though those numbers did not show who the aggressor or who the defender was, only who was more effective at killing. The numbers also did not show population densities that make collateral damage a certainty or the ruthless policies of the enemy who used martyrs to further their PR campaign. It meant that arguments re the legitimacy of Israel boiled down to mere indigenousness or nativism as THE standard of legitimacy PERIOD, because what makes a country ACTUALLY legitimate – it’s attempts to create a government that respects the rights of its citizens – is far too abstract a subject for the cultists of feeling to follow.
How frightening a prospect to have the world become a mob because it is incapable of thinking beyond spoon fed narratives and prejudices. Mobs are known primarily for their emotionalism, and secondarily for the ease with which their emotions are manipulated towards unjust ends. Atrocities are usually perpetrated at the business end of a lie that supports an irrational conclusion. The institutionalized murders at the hands of anti capitalist dictators, and the slaughters of whole races of people who were thought to be intrinsically evil are testaments to this fact. The same type of slaughter is taking place now, but it is the reputation of a country that is being slaughtered by those who cannot think more deeply than an image or a concrete set of stats.
It seems to me that human beings achieve victory over nature through the uncompromising use of reason. But they also achieve something else by the use of the mind that is just as important; namely JUSTICE. Abandon the mind and the concept of justice is left to be defined by any thug who has a camera, a story and a myth of good and evil to play off.