Parable of the apple and the hand grenade

Andrew L. Urban

It came to pass one day, an apple and a hand grenade came face to face.
– I am an apple, round and safe to eat. You can hold me in one hand.

– I am a hand grenade, round, inedible and dangerous to handle. You can hold me in one hand.
– My tree grows from seeds of love and forgiveness.
– My maker fills me with explosive fervour and hate towards apples.

When Bill Clinton famously echoed political strategist James Carville during the 1992 US presidential election with the quip, “it’s the economy, stupid…” he identified the economy as the key issue – the overriding issue at stake.

The quip has had a long and lively life since, because, like clichés, it is essentially true. And that observation can be made about many other aspects of politics; in the current global turmoil over the Israel war against Hamas, it is particularly apt. In the past few days, both the Biden and Albanese administrations responded to media questions about the rise of antisemitism by pivoting to condemn Islamophobia.

Apples and hand grenades are both round and can be held in one hand. But there is no comparison between the forgiving apple of Judeo-Christian culture and the hand grenade of unforgiving Islamic antagonism demanding submission to Islam.

To reframe the Clinton quote about the issue at stake in today’s idiom: it’s the hand grenade, stupid.

Thousands of university students and faculty members around the west have been demonstrating against Islamophobia and against Israel. As I write these words, I hear news about a letter from Harvard students condemning Islamophobia and blaming Israel for the Hamas attacks. In the immortal words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”

They are not demanding that Hamas keep Gazans safe. On the contrary. Hamas terrorises Gazans as much as they terrorise infidels in the West. Nor do their leaders much care for the wellbeing of the ordinary Gazans as they care for their own. Senior Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh each have estimated net worth in the range of two to four billion US dollars. That is the pattern established by dictators and the old Communist parties, where leaders siphon off the riches while locking the population into poverty.

Islamophobia is not an irrational fear (phobia), but a well grounded, rational fear of Islamic extremism expressed through terrorism. Antisemitism is not a consequence of non-existent Jewish terrorism; indeed, it is antisemitism that has all the characteristics of a phobia. An old, deeply rooted phobia …

Hence the screeching calls for what they call a cease fire. In effect, surrender by Israel. Yet, “rather than supporting Hamas, the vast majority of Gazans have been frustrated with the armed group’s ineffective governance as they endure extreme economic hardship. Most Gazans do not align themselves with Hamas’s ideology, either,” according to Arab Barometer, a research network which conducted a survey in Gaza and the West Bank days before the Israel-Hamas war broke out.

Cynical politicians who seek to curry favour with Muslim constituencies aside, those who fail to differentiate between Islamophobia and antisemitism must be deemed either ignorant (misguided), malicious or stupid.

If stupid, we’re in trouble as much as if it’s cynical or malicious. “Against stupidity we are defenceless,” to quote from a letter written in prison by anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoffer.* “Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

His warning was echoed some years later by Italian economic historian and member of both the American Academy of Arts & Sciences as well as the American Philosophical Society, Carlo Cipolla. In 1976 he published his Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. There are five. The fifth is the most relevant for my purposes here: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person. The corollary of the Law is that a stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit. Intelligent people, no matter how hostile they may be, are predictable. In contrast, stupid people are not. This difference makes stupid people more fearsome than intelligent people.

Perhaps a more apt reframing of that Clinton quote would be “It’s the stupidity, stupid.”

* Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian – not only an anti-Nazi dissident; his 1937 book The Cost of Discipleship is described as a modern classic.







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2 Responses to Parable of the apple and the hand grenade

  1. Garry Stannus says:

    Yes, I think that it’s correct to refer to Islam as requiring ‘submission’. That’s the difficulty that I have with that religion. To me, there is no (personal) God, while there may be a ‘first cause’… c.f. ‘It’s the Universe, stupid!’ (but what preceded the ‘Big Bang’?)

    Religions, in my view, are human constructs … human explanations for the aspects of their existence. And I agree with Marx referring to religion as ‘the opium of the people’. (in that expression, I think he was not claiming that religion was a cynical foisting of a set of beliefs onto human societies in order to control them, but rather, the understandable desire of societies themselves to find some solace, some relief from the pain and troubles of existence.)

    [I’m not ‘a Marxist’ as such, though I accept much of his analysis of Capitalism and his identification of class struggle as an historical agent in world history … Das Kapital. Yet … Marxist-Leninist thought is ‘anathema’ to me.]

    Again, for me it’s about ‘submission’ and my desire to be free. This is why I ‘Pursue Democracy’ … ironically, however, democracy, as mostly practised in nations around the world, is similar to Marx’s ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’: the majority impose their will on the minority.

    Is there not some way by which we as societies can reach consensus decisions about how we live and so forth?

    [in writing this, I am aware of the editor’s day-later post: ‘Consensus – a virus deadly to science’ … though in this comment of mine I’m writing of consensus as a social/interpersonal goal … not there to assert a scientific truth by an informal (c.f. consensus) vote, but rather to arrive at agreements by which conflicted parties can find a joint path. Our stilted legal system (the Appeal Courts and the HCA exemplifies the problematic nature of ‘majority verdicts’. Susan Neill-Fraser’s 2nd appeal was decided 2-1 against. The single judge, Estcourt J., argued well, in finding valid-to-me reasons for a retrial. In my view, Wood C.J. and Pearce J. did not present compelling reasons for dismissing Neill-Fraser’s appeal. In my imaginary ‘Consensus Court’, Estcourt, Pearce and Wood should have sat down together and argued/discussed it out. My perhaps incorrect understanding is that such courts of judges write their own decisions without discussion with the other judges. Perhaps they would benefit from hearing from their fellows while forming their own judgements? ]

  2. Pv says:

    I saw a video with a Muslim woman arguing that 97% of Muslims are not radicalized . It’s like selling milk which is claimed to be 97% fat free. Another way to say that is “ this milk has 3% fat”. Do the maths , 97% non radical , means 3% radical . World Muslim population is 1.5 billion . 3 % of 1.5 billion is 45 million . 45 million potential terrorists is
    A very big number ! Scary isn’t it. ? Particularly as the remaining 1,455,000 ,000 don’t want to condemn the 45 million . The above is a frightening scenario , isn’t it. ? How many of those 45 million have crossed the US southern border and become the ultimate sleeper cell. We will only know when some act upon their beliefs and kill a whole bunch of innocents . The current US administration will have to answer to the families of future victims . They can make their country safer. Secure your borders for any successful attack will embolden others. No excuses !!!! Although Bill Clinton had a good attempt at explaining how the Monica Lewinsky affair was not his fault. He said to Hillary”it’s all Monica’s fault , Hillary. I had a bad day , the White House chef had ruined my lunch and I wanted to get rid of him and be left alone for the rest of the day , so I said to Monica “ Please sack my cook , and hold my calls …. She must have misheard me ! It’s all her fault. “ Cheers Pv

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