02 June 2010

The illusion of control

Therapist Mary Grunte has said, "The illusion of control is the carrot from hell." As I try to understand what just happened on the coast of Gaza, I keep thinking about how hard it is for us humans to give up the need to CONTROL at all costs.

On the individual level, we want certainty, some of us more than others. (There's a clear path to perfectionism and overwork.) Controlling personalities can slide across the line and become abusers.

When we enter the seductive realm of politics, history is full of examples of the link between control and abuse. I was reminded over and over of that sad reality as I read commentaries about the blockade of Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla. It's not just that the Israeli government asserts the right to control weapons entering a region from which missiles and raids have been launched against them. But Gaza (and to almost the same extent) the West Bank have become a Special Zone in which:
  • international law, specifically laws governing occupation, do not apply
  • bureaucrats determine what the population does and doesn't need
  • due process doesn't exist
  • rulings of international bodies and of Israeli courts are not sought or not obeyed
  • desperate medical emergencies don't faze the gatekeepers
Israel takes full advantage of the ambiguities of this vague Special Zone. The local government is hostile? Fine, let them handle local government tasks, we don't want to do that--if we took over and annexed the territory, or ran an honest occupation pending final peace arrangements, we would be responsible for the human rights and welfare of a million and a half innocent people, as well as the kind of competent police functions that might end rocket attacks. Instead, we'll CONTROL from outside, and hope that Hamas's hateful policies will provide sufficient ammunition to use on our critics. We'll CONTROL the borders, CONTROL foreign aid, CONTROL commerce and economic development. And our most articulate spokespeople will tell the world how humane we are, how much we care about the people's needs, while the truth is that we serve a coalition government that includes parties and individuals who don't conceal their disrespect for Palestinian rights.

Into this moral vacuum sailed a little flotilla of people determined to expose the illegality and outrageousness of this Special Zone. Having known lots of activists, I'll bet this group had a normal range of temperaments, from dreamy/mystical to angry/fed up; surely some were already pretty touchy before the first commando hit the first deck Monday morning in international waters. There's no need to romanticize every single person on those Freedom Flotilla boats and ships. But their months of preparations, including the stress on nonviolence and the nature of their cargo, have been carried out openly. Once again, Israel went for the carrot from hell, demonstrating that their leaders' Job One is CONTROL.

Life is complicated; there's a lot of territory between control and chaos, and perhaps the highest priority of adulthood is finding a tolerable balance point. Full control is impossible in the long run; you can't patch every crack, but you can certainly use up all your resources and legitimacy trying. (See: Afghanistan.) Right now, I'm not sure that the word "adult" truly fits those making decisions in and for the Middle East. But while we're waiting for those adults to appear, a lot of people are suffering. And nine people have died in a risky, imperfect attempt to relieve that suffering. To those who don't like what they attempted--what can you suggest? Trusting those leaders who can't see beyond the need to control?

Helena Cobban addresses something that has nagged at me--in the midst of all the recriminations, who died in the attack on the flotilla? Surely by now we'd have some names?? She pass on a few:
İbrahim Bilgen,
Ali Haydar Bengi,
Ali Ekber Yaratılmış and
Muharrem Koçak.

RIP, friends Bilgen, Bengi, Yaratılmış, and Koçak, and my heartfelt condolences to your families.

You're probably already drowning in Freedom Flotilla-related links, so I'll just post a few of the articles I found most interesting: Gideon Levy. David Grossman. Litzhak Yaor. Yossi Sarid. M.J. Rosenberg. Peter Beinart. Issandr El Amrani. Joe Volk. Amos Oz.

Margaret Atwood on Israel's "shadow."

Other links from the past week:

"The Most Charity-Conscious Cities in America."

More on control: "The censor and the censored."

What do scientists really think about religion? (Thanks to slashdot.)

24/7 Prayer International: "Caravans and Cathedrals."

Internetmonk on mission, lilies, and sitting with the bad people:
The church is called to live out its life in Christ in two contexts in this world—as the church gathered and as the church scattered. Unfortunately, we seem mostly to have retreated into fortresses of our own making, satisfied that we are fulfilling the Great Commission by lobbing gospel tracts and culture war diatribes over the walls, and occasionally inviting someone on the outside to come in and take a tour of the castle.
Olga Sviblova, Russia's "Photo Impresario." I quoted her back in this post.

Moscow Times: Andrei Voznesensky dies at age 77.

You have to walk that lonesome valley. Mississippi John Hurt.

Mississippi John Hurt - You got to walk that lonesome valley
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