dinsdag 28 oktober 2014

Acceptable cynicism

Rosanne Hertzberger exaggerated a bit when she recently stated: “It’s all opportunism. There is no justice”. This in response to the many violent troubles in the world, and the tendency of many people to deny or forget the implied brutality.

The distance to pure cynicism with such a categorical statement has become very small, and the answer to the question why you would even worry at all about something else than your own interest could only read: don’t do so, because just blind fate and the right of the jungle prevail.

This conclusion was probably not Hertzberger’s intention, because she finished with the observation that we actually dó care about what is near: the immediate environment, our own country, perhaps even Western Europe. And that would not be the case if not a basic form of trust and justice had been organized there. Thanks to functioning legal systems, democracy and a civil society.

So, in my interpretation Hertzberger’s cynicism begins with the krooked distribution of violence and prosperity at the global level. Things go wrong there, she says, and it is utopian idleness to think that you can do something about this injustice from the West.

That still sounds cynical enough, but I am inclined to agree with her on this point. Because  curbing our own chaos is hard enough already. That took us centuries of thought and effort, and we underestimate, from habituation to our order, how easily new chaos breaks into that.

For this reason I also agree with another sober voice, that of columnist Rob de Wijk. He wrote last week that “it is time for a fundamental discussion on how to deal with the chaos around, and now also in, Europe. ‘Containment’ and ‘red lines’ are the keywords. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that the West puts its own security and interests first and looks less through humanitarian glasses to these conflicts”. That will be difficult, says De Wijk, “because politicians and citizens are stuck in the old pattern of a pedantic and supreme West that is mainly concerned with humanity”.

So we must renounce many comprehensive ideals. But for what we want to sustain – an ordered society with attention to basic human values – a lot of idealism and commitment will be required.

Also see Reluctance against the West