In a recent blog, the first of my ongoing ‘Karma/Dogma series, I wrote
Our worst thinking uses our intelligence 1) to grasp a for-sure truth and 2) then closes our minds around it as we would a fist around an axe-handle. Our best thinking flows from meeting the karma of a situation with our mind, ears, and heart as open as we can. Then we can respond to what is rather that to what we presume should be.
Here’s a quote from John Kennedy during his presidency and its context that plays the same theme:
Fifty years ago, during the Cuban missile crisis, the United States faced what is frequently described as the defining challenge of the Cold War. Today, some argue that America is facing a similarly defining challenge from Iran’s nuclear activities. In this context, it is striking to recall President John Kennedy’s warning, proffered just months before the missile crisis, that “the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” Half a century later, Kennedy’s warning applies all too well to America’s discussion—it hardly qualifies as a real debate—about how best to deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. (emphasis added)
(This comes from an article in the current Nation Issue by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, “Time to Face the Truth About Iran.”)
My interest here is not about how Americans think about Iran. We in the various change movements have our myths and dogmas, and they screw up how we approach our work and our longings for a different kind of world. There many things outside of our movements that obstruct us, but we do a lot also. There is an immense value in knowing them and doing deep re-thinking. However, when one of us raises serious questions about our thinking regarding the nature of “hierarchy,” “justice,” how to collaborate effectively, etc., these questions are often dismissed out of hand or trigger very negative reactions.
We do this at our peril, just as the Leverett’s point out how American myths (Dogma) about Iran persistently defy reality (Karma):
For more than thirty years, American analysts and policy-makers have put forward a series of myths about the Islamic Republic: that it is irrational, illegitimate and vulnerable. In doing so, pundits and politicians have consistently misled the American public and America’s allies about what policies will actually work to advance US interests in the Middle East.
The most persistent—and dangerous—of these myths is that the Islamic Republic is so despised by its own people that it is in imminent danger of overthrow. From the start, Americans treated the Iranian Revolution of 1978–79 as a major surprise. But the only reason it was a surprise was that official Washington refused to see the growing demand by the Iranian people for an indigenously generated political order free from US domination. And ever since then, the Islamic Republic has defied endless predictions of its collapse or defeat.