PEOPLE BEHAVING BADLY

John Kerry, who was recently appointed Secretary of State by President Obama, has taken on the herculean task of trying to arrange a peace treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians. Kerry, as you may recall, lost a narrow election for president in 2004, when Ohio tipped into George Bush”s column. The loss was primarily attributed to a successful smear campaign undertaken by a right-wing fringe group, of Kerry’s record while serving in Viet-Nam during during the 1970s. Even though Kerry had earned 2 purple hearts and other medals for valor. But that would be the the topic for another blog.

In an event, as I’ve said, Kerry is trying mightily to arrange a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian state, even though the odds of success are unimaginable. For over 65 years ( since creation of the state of Israel) the 2 sides have been locked in a state of deadly combat, if not outright war. The Palestinians have refused to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and its right to exist. They have undertaken decades long terrorist acts against Israel that have cost thousands of lives. In retaliation, Israel has imposed the harshest of restrictions against the Palestinians that have made simple everyday tasks become the severest of burdens. It’s a never ending cycle of death, destruction and misery. Furthermore, since the U.S. is Israel’s primary, and indeed, only benefactor, Palestinians also vent their hatred toward this country. For example, when 9/11 occurred, Israel lowered all its flags to half-mast, in sympathy with the tragedy we experienced. On the other hand, the Palestinians were literally dancing in the streets.

Thus, Kerry’s chances of achieving peace between the 2 sides face longer odds than winning Powerball. Nevertheless, he’s gotten both sides to agree to sit down at a negotiating table in Washington, which can be considered a minor miracle in itself.  But it raises the question of how many decades, how many generations, how many centuries does it take before it dawns on people that the dysfunctional cycle of vengeance, retaliation, and revenge simply doesn’t work. That maybe, instead, as they used to say in the 1970s, they should give peace a chance. Couldn’t hurt.

Another example of people behaving badly was an article in today’s Wall Street Journal.  As we all know, we have been fighting in Afghanistan for well over 10 years. The U.S. has lost thousands of lives in that venture, to say nothing of the thousands more whose lives are effectively over due to severe war injuries such as brain damage, loss of limbs, blindness, etc. To say nothing of the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve poured down that sink hole. Some of those billions have been spent on educational facilities, especially for women. Until U.S. entry, women in Afghanistan had no right to an education; indeed they generally had no rights at all. They could be murdered by men who then faced no punishment by claiming  that the woman had somehow dishonored the family name. In any event, U.S. largesse has resulted in our taxpayers picking up the tab for erecting brand new universities and other educational facilities in Afghanistan. The problem is, that large numbers of students in these universities have now turned to radical Islam, which in olden days used to be called outright fascism. They form huge rallies to protest the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and advocate for the return of the Taliban, which is merely the Afghan version of Al-Quida. So much for all the good our sacrifice of blood and treasure has done. If we pull out in 2014, as President Obama has promised, it’s likely that Afghan society will again be a place where women have no rights and radical-Islam rules the land.

So it begs the question of why people, in general, indulge in such dysfunctional behavioral patterns. When it’s often so clearly against their best interests. Not only can’t nations live in peace, but this is often true for individual families. Why do parents, at times, become estranged from their children, or vice versa. Or siblings become estranged from each other. Their own flesh and blood. If families can’t live together in peace, what hope is there for nations doing the same.

Why do people act destructively when it comes to their own health and well-being. Why do they do drugs, or drink excessively when it’s obvious that such habits will eventually kill them. Why do people still smoke, when decades of studies and information prove how destructive that is. In the U.S., the latest tally shows that nearly 45 million people, or almost 20% of the adult population, still can’t kick the habit. Even with all the horror stories of what smoking does to the human body. And all these 45 million people seem to migrate to Las Vegas casinos at one time or another. You seem them puffing away as they keep pouring money into the slots. Casinos are the one place left in our society where smokers can puff away to their heart’s content without being stigmatized. Casino owners are more than happy to accommodate smokers, who will usually behave just as compulsively about gambling as they do about smoking.

I guess it’s just ingrained in the human condition that large numbers of people will behave dysfunctionally. Indulging in personal behavior that will either physically or mentally destroy their lives. Indulging in endless cycles of vengeance, destruction and death, when dealing with perceived enemies. Voting in governments that will establish ruinous dictatorships as they recently did in Egypt. Or going no further than voting in a U.S. Congress that now has an 8% approval rating from the very people that put them there in the first place. People behaving badly. Dysfunction advancing forward. Perhaps the best advice is just to sit back and watch the parade as it goes marching along.

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