YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 6, 2013

The “credibility” conundrum

credibilityWe are in the midst (or at the beginning of) the “Syria crisis”.  My observant Jewish friends and family are also engrossed in self-reflection, perhaps even atonement and reparations for those they have wronged over the past year. Not being an observant Jew myself, I am engrossed in how language is deployed during this massive attempt by a Democratic administration to achieve consensus over a policy that is controversial in both political parties.

The word of the day is “credibility”. Behold how it is used twice in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal , 9-6-13, p. A15, co-authored by Joseph Lieberman and Jon Kyl, and entitled “Inaction on Syria Threatens U.S. Security.” : …This is no longer just about the conflict in Syria or even the Middle East. It is about American credibility. Are we a country that our friends can trust and our enemies fear? Or are we perceived as a divided and dysfunctional superpower in retreat, whose words and warnings are no longer meaningful?…[We must put our country first]…That judgment should provide the foundation we need for a bipartisan strategy that protects America’s credibility and, in turn advances our security and prosperity.”  (my emph.)

I asked my Facebook friends to state what they thought “credibility” signified. One answered with the definition of the word that Lieberman and Kyl probably agree with: there must not be a conflict between rhetoric and action. I prefer to dig a little deeper and ask, is the word “credibility” not connected to the notion of “credit worthiness”? Max Weber, protesting the lack of spirituality in the iron cages of materialism constructed by the capitalist spirit, alleged that Protestantism had made creditworthiness the test of what we now call “credibility.” The poet William Blake (a great favorite in the New Left)  preceded him in denouncing  [the money changers in the temple] in favor of “community” uncontaminated by filthy lucre.

world-connect-people-community-international

How did we become a superpower to begin with? Was it by overwhelming moral superiority, as that proto-progressive John Winthrop urged in the seventeenth century? Or was it the collapse of our rivals in the twentieth century, owing to disastrous and expensive European wars? Did we emerge as the only “superpower” rather by default because of our capitalist work ethic combined with the existence of a continent with virgin soil, untapped mineral resources and plenty of eager immigrants and ex-slaves to do the heavy lifting? And are our “divisions” easily overcome through a manly effort at will power?

The notion, advanced by Lieberman and Kyl, that divisive, partisan nay-sayers are the obstacles to unity, prosperity and security leaves me, well, incredulous.  No dissenter I have read is hell bent on weakening America. They all have realistic reservations about such matters as an exploding debt and the unforeseeable consequences of this belated intervention in what seems to me to be the least predictable, and most volatile region on earth. The sudden focus on the Syrian crisis may well be a Democratic machine initiative to change the subject and ultimately to destroy the Republican Party that would curb the welfare state. Mass media will cooperate without reflection: their format alone will break our concentration. See http://clarespark.com/2013/05/10/losing-focus-and-mass-media/.

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