May 08, 2009

Run for The Hills from Altruism

I just came across an entry at Ilana Mercer's blog. So Israelis will sue the NATO for the 1999 air strikes on Serbia. From the quoted BBC-report:
Almagor Director Meir Indor told the media in Israel that the lawsuit would be completed shortly.

He confirmed that the Serbian case might open a Pandora's Box, which could make certain individuals think twice before deciding to accept any lawsuits that the Palestinians filed against Israel.

“We see this as a case highlighting the double standards of Europeans who are accusing Israel of war crimes, while at the same time, those very same countries, as part of NATO, committed crimes that were a lot worse,“ Indor said.

He stressed that every European NATO member-state would be mentioned and that the suit would be filed in every country that decided to file similar actions against Israel for war crimes recently committed either in the aforesaid case, or, more recently, during the Israeli offensive in Gaza at the turn of the year.

“Even now Israeli Army generals cannot travel to the UK for fear of being arrested the moment they set foot in the airport,“ said the Almagor president.
That this was soon called in the comment section "a self-serving act by Israel" was not all that amazing. As well as anything, from battle to village skirmish, is called a "massacre" if Jews have won it, any action that might be actually beneficial to Israel is called "self-serving", carrying a heavily negative overtone. Mercer replies:
Sure, this is a self-serving action on the part of the Israelis. Altruism is overrated–and, at times, wrong-headed. You serve others best by serving yourself first and foremost. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand and all that stuff.
True, but I don't think that one even needs to pull out Adam Smith. It has always concerned me that self-interest carries such a negative implication, so let me digress from this specific case. I am German and was brought up in the, thoroughly German, spirit, that one has to do everything only out of the most noble of reasons. Specifically financial gain is heavily pooh-poohed (and as heavily begrudged) here and we are probably the only breed on earth who are taking the assessment: "He is a (good) businessman" as a negative one. Words like "Innigkeit" or "schwärmerisch" are, typically, untranslatable (the standard, and most non-apropos, translations would be "heartiness" and "enthusiastic") because they are weighed down with a wealth of late 18th and 19th Century German literature and culture, incomprehensible to anybody who hasn't gone through the agonising experience of a German higher education. Germans take everything seriously and to the bitter end. English Romanticism culminated in Beatrix Potter, German Romanticism in the death camps. So I came to the conclusion long ago that the altruists, the idealists, the romantics and Romanticists are those to avoid by a wide margin. If somebody says he's doing something "for a cause", I run for the hills.

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