Belief as an Attempt to Overcome Reality – When Facts Don’t Speak For Themselves

There is a barely bridgeable gap between our desires and objective facts. Our desires are too much ours, so close to our dreams, while the reality of the factual world is too much itself, too close to its own logic that is so far from our wishful thinking. “Being thrown into the world” with this pernicious bifurcation between our needs and the indifferent reality, we have to adapt tooth and nail and sweat and tears. But our human nature comes to our aid – we got the ability to “correct” reality through how we perceive it. In simple situations it is easy – we can be optimistic rather than pessimistic: concentrate on the silvery edge of the thundercloud, not on its heavy darkness. If our beloved dies of illness, we can love her even more and imagine her waiting for us in a better place.

In more complicated situations the differences in perception of the reality become the differences of “interpretation”: when we cannot agree even with what are the facts. Imagination complicates perception. Beliefs complicate imagination. Interpretations complicate beliefs. By our “interpretations” we can “shape” the reality in general and “change” concrete facts. It happens because when our emotions are involved facts stop to be a matter of registration by our organs of perception – the more our hopes, stress, pride, self-respect, fears and frustrations are fused with our perception the less achievable the ideal of noticing facts as an objective phenomena becomes and then it’s more likely that we will distort reality. Technical sciences face this problem to a much lesser degree – they are isolated from existential thinking by ignoring the question of the application of technical-scientific knowledge. The problem of systematic distortion of the reality culminates in the thinking of our politicians, political strategists, political propagandists, lawmakers/lawbreakers, and in reactions on their verbal and emotional effusions on the part of the humanistically (liberally) un- and under-educated masses.

Eight years of Bushmerican administration produced a record number of distortions in the perception of the reality by political and military leaders and a fanatic majority (both groups were mentally operating on the level of basic motivational archetypes polarized by good-evil, moral-immoral, right-wrong and we-them binary oppositions that are psychologically supported by unconditional beliefs and inflamed suspicions enhanced by megalomania connected with fear of otherness). We’ll borrow two examples of drastic distortions of the reality from Noam Chomsky’s recent texts and then we’ll try to understand what has made these distortions inevitable and so awkward.

The first is so called “The Iranian Military Threat”; the second is “The Iranian Support for Terrorism”.

“In the American foreign policy literature and general commentary what you commonly read is that the major policy problem for the U.S. has been and remains the threat of Iran. What exactly is the threat of Iran? An authoritative answer to that came out a couple of months ago in submission to Congress by the DOD and US intelligence. They report to Congress every year on the global security situation. The last reports, in April, of course, have a section on Iran – the major threat. It’s important reading. What they say is, whatever the Iranian threat is, it’s not a military threat. They say that Iranian military spending is quite low, even by regional standards, and as compared with the U.S. it’s invisible – probably, less than two percent of our military spending. Furthermore, they say that Iranian military doctrine is geared toward defense of the national territory, designed to slow down an invasion sufficiently so it will be possible for diplomacy to begin to operate. That’s their military doctrine. They say it’s possible that Iran is thinking about nuclear weapons, it would be as part of Iran’s deterrence strategy in an effort to prevent an attack, which is not a remote contingency. The most massive military power in history – namely us – is occupying two countries on their borders and is openly threatening them with attack, as is its Israeli client.” Noam Chomsky, “The Iranian Threat”, “From a Talk by Noam Chomsky”, June 2010.

In this piece Chomsky recognizes the high professionalism and objectivity of the thinking on the part of American intelligence specialists and those who package intelligence reports for the lawmakers and the public – their ability to discover and deliver the truth. The mind of specialist is like the mind of a technical scientist – their function is to discover facts and to understand their meaning. Chomsky writes about the drastic discrepancy between these facts and the notions of the American politicians, business leaders, conservative media pundits and “official” journalists. While according to intelligence reports the actual Iranian military threat doesn’t exist and if it might become real in the future it would be the result of American and Israel’s belligerent posture, yet according to our politicians, global entrepreneurs and licensed opinion-makers it‘s not only existing but also extremely dangerous. Why such an incompatibility? – Because subjective distortions of reality start when personal psychological complexes and obsessive interests interfere with the truth in accordance with people’s compulsive desires, irrational fears and feverish suspicions. How is it possible to come from “no threat” to “the existence of an extremely dangerous threat”?

Over-sensitivity as a result of fear is the part of the problem here. Most people walk along the street without the fear that a stone will fall from the roof of a building right on their head, or while making reasonable precautions while driving they are not afraid to be hit by other cars. But some are afraid so much that they have to invent another ways of getting around. The members of conservative government and the super-rich remind people of these two examples. They may not be afraid of the city or driving, but in the special areas of their interests and their mental and emotional concentration (when they are trying to enhance their power and assets) they are hyper-sensitive, extra-fearful and over-suspicious and, therefore, too irrational. If somebody will try to take twenty dollars from you, the degree of your indignation and defensive passion will be different than if you have to defend ten millions. If you got billions of dollars you can, indeed, consider using nuclear weapon against those who in reality or in your imagination want your billions.

We cannot underestimate the role of megalomaniacal (super-human) pride – the more money and social influence you have the more megalomania grows inside you. Also an important factor is the tendency to look at the world through the prism of competition, fight and winning/loosing, not in terms of collaboration, through the psychology of a warrior, not a thinker. Your very thinking then becomes a kind of armor and weapon.

Because of human unconscious passions – the lust of power and/or the lust of profit become much stronger than we are (they become our despots and tyrants; they start to dictate to us what we should do, what our interests and desires are and what the reality is. Then the whole world is transformed into the context for the advancement of my interests. Our lustful yearnings force us to perceive the world in a way which will be colored by our obsessions – we’ll feel that we need more power because if we don’t have it other people will rip us to small bits and pieces. So, you start to unconsciously lie to yourself and to everybody else about the facts of the world to ease and please your own predatory and despotic passions and fears. It is a very serious psychotic condition to lose contact with reality. This condition is as serious as it is widespread.

The very function of the transformation of factual truth into a passionate belief is to make us feel that we must triumph over the reality by knowing exactly what it is (for the sake of satisfying our irrational obsessions with power, money and glorious self-image). Belief is the attempt to overcome the reality to return to symbiosis between us and our narcissistic desires.

“The second threat of Iran is its support for terrorism. What is terrorism? Two examples of Iran’s support for terrorism are offered. One is its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the other its support for Hamas in Palestine… The ‘terrorism’ of Hezbollah is actually celebrated in Lebanon every year on May 25, Lebanon’s national holiday commemorating the expulsion of Israeli invaders from Lebanese territory in 2000. Hezbollah resistance and guerilla warfare finally forced Israel to withdraw from Southern Lebanon, which Israel has been occupying for 22 years in violation of Security Council orders, with plenty of terror and violence and torture. So Israel finally left and that’s Lebanese Liberation day. That’s what considered the main core of Hezbollah terrorism. It’s the way it’s described. Actually, in Israel it’s even described as aggression… What about Hamas? Hamas became a serious threat – a serious terrorist organization – in January 2006 when Palestinians committed a really serious crime. That was the date of the first free election in any country in the Arab world and the Palestinians voted the wrong way… The U.S. and Israel turned very publically towards punishing the Palestinians for that crime. You can read in the New York Times, in parallel columns, right afterwards – one of them talking about our love for democracy and so on and right alongside it, our plans to punish the Palestinians for the way they voted in the January election. No sense of conflict. There’d be plenty of punishment of the Palestinians before the election, but it escalated afterwards – Israel went so far as to cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip. By June, Israel had fired about 7,700 rockets at Gaza and all sorts of other things. All of that’s called defense against terrorism… There’s plenty criticism you can make of Hamas – the way they treat their own population, for example – but Hamas terrorism is a little hard to establish.“ (Noam Chomsky, ibid) In this piece of information Chomsky occupies the same position American intelligence analysts occupied in the first one – his dry enumeration not only of facts but the very logic of facts is in a screaming contrast with subjective and over-loaded with passions “interpretations” on part of US and Israel’s conservative political leaders. The impression is that neo-con politicians and their forming public opinion mouthpieces in both countries not just passionately and with a kind of joy distort the objective reality but that they feel that they have all the rights to do this, that their subjective reasons to ignore reality in preference of their complexes and calculated interests are justified by the fact that their feelings are more important than “any reality”.

The curious feature here is that for these people to dominate facts and the logic of facts is not different than to dominate reality! What are facts and truth for people who think that their interests and desires are more important than any reality? If a person thinks that to dominate the world is valid and a noble goal why to be stopped by facts and truth? Why not to dominate them too?

Megalomania relying on beliefs and fear as its advisors, the warrior’s posture, the fighter’s pride and the very archaic (conservative) feature of relying on intuitive guesses vs. reality are senile parents of a psychotic disregard for truth (rooted in drastic deficits in humanistic education) that is so dangerous for life in this world.