Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Are We Always So Surprised?

Amid all the silly tittering about a certain New York Congressman's twittering, the interesting question isn't even why so many powerful men's sense of entitlement frees them to engage in such silly and risky behavior - but even more to the point why does such behavior seem continually to take us by surprise? That men may be inordinately preoccupied with sex is hardly news. Likewise the fact that socially, economically, or politically powerful men may be particularly attractive to women shoudl coem as no surprise. Indeed it is a phenomenon easily explained by evolution. The same might be said for male risk-taking, which (when successful) is likely to be admired and rewarded in our society and many other societies. Likewise, with the sense of entitlement that tends to go with power and prominence and extends to many areas of life. So, apart from the particulars of the technology employed, which is still somewhat new, what is the novelty here that so surprises us?

Could it be that, in a culture increasingly committed to an amoral acceptance of almost everything people do, surprise is a somewhat socially acceptable way of expressng a moral judgment?


On the other hand, we keep letting ourselves get surprised by so many things in so many areas of our public life, even when we certainly ought to know better by now.

Consider the hoopla this past spring about the "revolution" in Egypt. In our rush to get "on the right side of history" (hardly the most edifying of motivations under any circumstances) certain reasonable inferences precisely from history were obiously being ignored. Based on historical experience, which tell us that revolutions have a tendency (with occasional exceptions) to produce worse rather than better situations, one could have reasonably warned that:

(1) Overthrowing the relatively secular Egyptian regime would empower Islamists to the detriment of Egyptian Christians;

(2) Overthrowing a regime which has been a cornerstone of the present peaceful co-existence between Israel and two neighboring Arab states might undermine that status quo and certainly increase Israel's insecurity; and

(3) The combination of 1 & 2 above and the general uncertainty and instability accompanying them would likely adversely affect Western tourism to Egypt and so further destabilize an already problematic domestic Egyptian economy, with in turn further destabilizing effects on the society and possibly the region.

Why are we always so surprised?

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