The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Solipsist's Soliloquy

Tom Friedman, in a New York Times editorial, shows exactly why he doesn't think the U.N. corruption is a problem:
There is no secret about the U.N. - at its worst it is a talking shop, where a lot of people don't speak English and where they occasionally do ridiculous things, like appoint Libya to oversee human rights, and even mendacious things, like declaring Zionism to be racism.
Emphasis mine.

This is what Roger L. Simon has dubbed "reification". I think he is misusing the term. Reification means to treat abstracts as real objects. Mr. Friedman is doing the opposite: he is treating real actions and real people -- those raped by U.N. "peacekeepers", those denied a hearing because the "Human Rights Commission" has been subverted to worse than uselessness -- as abstracts. This confusion does have a name, which is solipsism.

So, Mr. Friedman: is the delivery of food to governments which will use it as a political weapon mendacious (gasp!), or merely ridiculous? What about providing an projection of the dysfunctional fantasies of the Arab world, propagating and supporting tyrannical brutality? What about buying sex from starving children with food?

Ridiculous, I guess he'd say.

[Hat tip: Real Clear Politics. Adding to Beltway Traffic Jam.]

[Update 4 May 2005: Norm Geras has a substantial article in Dissent, which addresses very similar points in much greater depth. He sums up:
The Taliban in Afghanistan; Saddam's Iraq; the reduction of a human being by torture; the use of terror randomly to kill innocents and to smite all those by whom they are cherished; mass murder; ethnic cleansing; all the manifold practices of human evil -- to look upon these and at once see "capitalism," "imperialism," "America," is not only to show a poverty of moral imagination, it is to reveal a diminished understanding of the human world.
His whole article is well considered and strongly argued. If you've read this far, you should read it. Hat tip: Donald Sensing.]