Living in a World of Make-believe

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu10/8/17
When the First Gulf War erupted, I felt the urge to try and understand Arab culture and history so I bought a number of books to help me in this pursuit.  One of those books was The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai.

I found the book to be extremely interesting and informative.  One lesson, in particular, has stayed with me since reading this book over twenty-five years ago. That is the tendency of Arabs to mistake words for action.  A few quotes from the book will serve to give the reader a good feeling for what this means.

The satisfaction which follows is counterproductive inasmuch as it tends to militate against actually following up the oral declaration by the action described. Once the intention of doing something is verbalized, this verbal formulation itself leaves in the mind of the speaker the impression that he has done something about the issue on hand, which in turn psychologically reduces the importance of following it up by actually translating the stated intention into action.  It is in this sense that in the Arab mentality words often can and do serve as substitutes for acts. 

“displacement of the perceptual images by the linguistic one, which for all practical purposes are treated as if they were the real thing and not just a linguistic representation of it.” 

“they confuse the word, the symbol, with the reality that once lay behind it.”

The intention of doing something, or the plan of doing something, or the initiation of the first step toward doing something-any one of these can serve as a substitute for achievement and accomplishment. 

Being familiar with these observations helped me understand the seemingly insane and wildly unrealistic proclamations made by Saddam Hussein and his henchmen during both Gulf Wars. I can still hear Baghdad Bob claiming Iraqi forces were defeating American forces outside of Baghdad, while one could hear gunfire in the background.

The ability to live outside of or create one’s own reality did not bother me too much as long as it was practiced by an American foe. But it bothers me greatly that this trait seems to have infected a good portion of Americans.  To be specific, I am concerned that a very large percentage of those who consider themselves conservatives have turned into Baghdad Bob clones, who think that by simply saying or writing something they are actually doing something in the cause of conservatism.

“Actions speak louder than words” is a truism which every child in America once understood. These days, I wonder if it is still the case.

Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely and lived outside the United States. He paints his reality in indelible ink on a high-quality Realville canvas. • (495 views)

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30 Responses to Living in a World of Make-believe

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is what we call a “foundational article.” I do believe the phenomenon has taken hold of large segments of the American population.

    Not only does this have people thinking that gender is as fluid as whatever you believe it is, it has a whole lot of supposed conservatives squinting and seeing a Constitutional conservative in a failed casino and strip-club operator who made his money by simply branding his name on things…another form of superficial pretend.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Yes, we could identify this as one of the many affinities between leftism and Islam/Arabs. They have a similarly poor grasp of reality and of the relative mertis of actions and words.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One could write a treatise on this. I think it’s important for people to have a somewhat positive attitude. This is as opposed to thinking you can’t do something so therefore you won’t even try. A little optimism is absolutely necessary in life.

    But “a little optimism” is not quite the same thing as what they are pushing these days as “self esteem.” “Self esteem,” in practice, is simply a feelings-based idea with no correspondence to reality. Feeling good is the end goal and, of course, so is avoiding any feeling of being offended or of being in error. Thus only uncaring villains bring upon these feelings and true pedagogy is smothered in the cradle of emotional kumbaya.

    Optimism, on the other hand, is a tool in regards to making things happen, of actually producing something. Our optimism at times may be in short supply or in such abundant supply as to be called hubris, but we need it and it is useful.

    “Self esteem,” on the other hand, is firmly embedded in the world of make-believe. “Self esteem” is something like a delicate ice sculpture that must be kept from all heat and all buffeting. When we make of ourselves and our children “self esteem” junkies, we create snowflakes because the point is feeling good quite apart from whether we have done anything to feel good about.

    And to actually learn something, it is inherent that our ignorance be exposed and replaced with knowledge. We can try to make this a less bitter pill to swallow with teaching techniques that encourage. But failure is a vital and inevitable part of learning and if maintaining “self esteem” is the be-all, end-all of one’s psychic needs, we short-circuit the learning process and instead create delicate snowflakes lost in their own positive image of make believe.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That’s a very good point about the weakness of modern self-esteem pedagogy. Justified self-confidence is one thing; my senior English teacher described Beowulf that way — he knew how good he was. No self-modesty, but no vain braggadocio either. He really was that good, and knew it from his personal experience. I had that sort of confidence as a child (more than I should have, but at least I had a basis for it), and to a more limited extent as an adult. But I was always ready to learn more.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mercy, humility, and an appreciation for the talents of others, without jealousy, are divine qualities. There are some amazingly talented people out there. And a vast number of people have special talents that are not as showy as, say, a great painter, but are talents all the same. It may be the talent to raise a good child, to work steadily and provide a good income for one’s family, or just to stay sober and out of trouble with the law.

        God created a world where error is punished and pain is unavoidable. It’s right to try to minimize the pain and to make sure that punishments are not excessive. But man, driven by the desire to avoid all pain and mental stress, turns himself into a bowlful of vulgarian Jell-o (lime, with shredded carrots…maybe even with crunchy cat niblets as with the National Lampoon Christmas movie).

        It has become too much of a task to ask of people to hold to good and high standards. The mob, which wears the idea of “democracy” like a old pair of jeans three weeks in need of washing, wishes to be glorified and anointed in its vulgarisms.

        Bless and venerate those who have great talents and use them productively. Some people have a combination of talent and confidence that towers above us mere mortals. It used to be that good Christians and conservatives would not be jealous, would not countenance the institutionalizing of coveting. But that’s what all this socialistic “everyone gets a gold star” is all about. We must make sure that no one stands out too much lest someone feel bad.

        Well, freedom means feeling bad sometimes, often deservedly so and often through little or no fault of our own. That’s life. And it is life. We can easily forget about that. When we try to change the ground rules so that people are not challenged, are not corrected, and pay no price for error (and may be, in fact, rewarded for error as we see with the NFL vulgarians), we turn against our humanity. We can say “We’re all special,” and that is so. But those are empty words unless people are free to rise above the safe, plain-vanilla wrapping of the plastic bubble of “caring” that is making mean snowflakes of so many.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Doyle, in his Watson persona, observed in The Valley of Fear that mediocrity recognizes nothing better than its own mediocrity, whereas brilliance recognizes superior genius. (Since Watson certainly recognized Holmes’s brilliance, he was complimenting himself as well., though he was talking about a brilliant Scotland Yarder.) This is very similar to one of the points you’re making here.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Well, I don’t consider myself brilliant because I recognize the brilliance of Richard Feynman. I think we’re dealing more with an emotional issue. I recognize my intellectual betters when I meet them. I can barely balance my checkbook, so to speak. No way I can even begin to comprehend advanced mathematics and physics. But I can still appreciate and acknowledge those who can.

            Perhaps the central aspect of what Mr. Kung is talking about is just simple conceits. We humans have a plethora of them. I doubt we could get through even an hour without committing one.

            Whose got the balls to sit on the thrown of England and suppose you are anointed by God? Not me. But great leaders seem to share a kind of psychopathy regarding themselves. Many great leaders have had a quite high inflated sense of destiny and self-worth. After all, how could you condemn men to death for trifles if you didn’t think you were actually better?

            With the Left we see this psychopathy whether talking Jimmy Kimmel or Nancy Sinatra, although Kimmel is perhaps a better example of a plain demagogue playing to crowd for approval. They are obsessed with thinking themselves as our betters. Anyone who didn’t see that psychopathy in Obama wasn’t looking. Take a look at almost any still of that guy’s face and he had megalomanic written all over it.

            So does Trump to a large extent, but ostensibly in a better cause. We mere mortals are no longer content to acknowledge our true betters (in talent, deeds, or whatever) with the one exception of what is commonly considered the greatest accomplishment of all: fame. And if you wonder why some YouTuber lets his girlfriend shoot a gun at him with only a book for protection (he died) in order to raise his hit count, you understand this quest for cheap and immediate fame.

            Such cheap and immediate fame (or infamy) need not be based on reality. It’s often based on posturing (aka: make believe). That’s what these NFL clowns are doing. Here’s a good article by Daniel Soblieski that intersects this make-believe world: In Chicago, a Las Vegas Every Month.

            Do I sometimes sweat that this site is so relatively small and takes in little money to support it? Yes. But then who said Realville was a megalopolis? It’s more like a small village somewhere.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              An interesting take on the nature of dictators can be seen in one of August Derleth’s Solar Pons stories (perhaps the best pastiches of Sherlock Holmes), in this case co-written by Mack Reynolds, “The Adventure of the Ball of Nostradamus”. It concerns a seer who sees the names of future dictators, and decides to prevent them from taking power by very direct means.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Hmmm. I had not heard of August Derleth or his Pons stories. Might have to check that out. Gutenberg offers a couple. Do you know if either of these are amongst the Pons stories?

              • Timothy Lane says:

                They don’t sound familiar. Derleth wrote a large number of stories in many genres and series (including at least 2 mystery series, Judge Peck and Solar Pons). Many are quite good, such as “The Lonesome Place” (which I once photocopied).

  3. Steve Lancaster says:

    The whole world has become a running Monte Python skit.

    Its not a hedge its a shrubbery.

  4. pst4usa says:

    While I can find nothing to argue about in this post, it is not new. Mankind has been deceiving itself for several thousand years. As long as we continue to make truth relative and remove any foundation for that truth, then the one with the best words wins. I have told Brad for a long time, we conservatives suck at marketing our ideas and until things become painful enough for people to see the truth again, we will continue to suffer fools.
    I will admit to cycles of despair, anger and frustrations, but they are fleeting and I will keep fighting, albeit with a reduced written rhetorical quiver to most of the writers here at Stubborn Things.
    We are no longer the knights that say Ni!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      then the one with the best words wins

      Truer words were never spoken.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


      I couldn’t agree with you more. Given the fact that mankind has been around for a very long time, I am of the belief that it is unlikely that any of us have new ideas.

      I think one of my jobs is to seek out nuggets of wisdom in the vast mine of knowledge and make them easily available to anyone who might have interest.

      It is also my opinion that these nuggets need to be brought out and put on display every so often as we humans are a forgetful and somewhat dim bunch.

      Churchill’s remark about humanity’s inability to learn from history is just one of many observations regarding this curse.

      • pst4usa says:

        Amen to that Mr. Zu. i think I heard this from Brad and I do not remember who he quoted, (maybe Mr. Adams), Have the courage to see things as they are, not as you want them to be. (paraphrased) You, Churchill, and others, are right, on that point for sure.

  5. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    While the book is fiction, another good read on the Arab mind is “The Haj” by Leon Uris. I recommend it if you have the time to read it.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have been cleaning out my file cabinets and came across the below article by John Derbyshire. Once again, I was reminded how lousy NRO has become, especially since they ran off Derbyshire.

    Few people will call a spade a spade. We need to be reminded of reality every now and again.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Your file cabinet had a 15-year-old article? I presumably read it myself, and I doubt my house has a copy (which would be inaccessible to me anyway now). But it’s interesting. My solution would be a land swap, giving Israel most of the West Bank in return for enough of the Negev to provide Lebensraum for the Palestinians who had lived there, and rule of the Palestinians by Egypt and Jordan. Or we could take revenge on the Arabs for all their terrorist atrocities, and exterminate them.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I have files going back 40 years. For a number of reasons, I have decided to go through the reams of paper I have and get rid of material which is not important.

        I have a similar problem with books. Even though I have disposed of a large number of books over the years, I still must have a couple of thousand. I am thinking of going through my library and culling it.

        This is one of the nice things about Kindle. I have over 350 books on it, and they don’t take up any shelf-space.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I have many thousands of books, particularly when you add in Elizabeth’s. (When we combined our libraries, we found a lot of duplicates.) Some have been sold off over the years, but not enough given that we had to leave most of them behind — our hotel room doesn’t have that much storage space.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I have one bookshelf full of books, but they’re mostly cast-offs or came as batches from a garage sale. I just like having a shelf of books to look at.

          But I don’t read paper books anymore. I’m strictly into electronic ones. Convenient and space-saving, yes, but having them in digital format gives you so many more options.

          Good luck with your continued spring cleaning, Mr. Kung.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Compassion fatigue. I love that expression. I think he’s WAY beyond The Daily Drama when he writes:

      What on earth can anyone hope to do about all this? All the simple explanations for the horrors that stain a large part of our planet have been used up. We now know that it’s not the fault of colonialism, or neo-colonialism, or capitalism, or socialism. It’s just the way these places are. They can’t handle modernity, for some cultural reason we don’t understand and can’t do anything about . . .

      All of this applies to the Palestinians. I spent some of my formative years in Hong Kong, a barren piece of rock with zero natural resources, under foreign occupation, chock-full of refugees from the Mao tyranny. The people there weren’t lounging in UNRWA camps or making suicide runs at the governor’s mansion. They were trading, building, speculating, manufacturing, working — with the result that Hong Kong is now a glittering modern city filled with well-dressed, well-educated, well-fed people, proud of what they have accomplished together, and with a higher standard of living than Britain herself. If, following the Oslo accords — or for that matter, in the 20 years of Jordanian occupation — the Palestinians had taken that route, had set aside their fantasies of revenge and massacre, and concentrated on building up something worth having, I might have respect for them. As it is, I don’t.


      The best they have been able to manage, politically speaking, has been the Latin-American style one-party kleptocracies of Egypt and Jordan. Those are the peaks of Arab political achievement under independence, under government by their own people.

      The only thing (and it’s no small thing) I disagree with is when he writes:

      It doesn’t seem to be anything to do with religion: the secular states (Iraq, Syria) are just as horrible as the religious ones like Saudi Arabia.

      That’s like saying, “The fact that they’re all elephants can’t have anything to do with the fact that they can’t climb trees.” Islam is a sickness.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The only thing (and it’s no small thing) I disagree with is when he writes:

        It doesn’t seem to be anything to do with religion: the secular states (Iraq, Syria) are just as horrible as the religious ones like Saudi Arabia.

        That’s like saying, “The fact that they’re all elephants can’t have anything to do with the fact that they can’t climb trees.” Islam is a sickness.

        I thought you would pick that up. I don’t know how he can say such a thing. Religion is a major constituent of culture and he has just damned the Arab culture in a very convincing way.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The problem of Arab culture today seems to be a combination of Islam and Arab nationalism. But Islam has also had over a millennium to devastate Arab culture before today.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            The good and bad aspects of any culture are the results of many different circumstances, but some things are more influential than others. I would guess that Islam is the single most influential determinate of Arab culture; just as Christianity and the Greeco-Roman heritage are the basis for Western culture.

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