Talking Cures

Dr. Sanity talks about the irrational confidence that talking can cure all our troubles. Christians attempt to conduct interfaith dialogues with Muslims, convinced that if only we could all understand each other, we’d be at peace. President Obama plans to talk to Hamas, Iran, and any other global tyrant, convinced that if only they could see that we mean them no harm, they’d put down their weapons and live with us in harmony. But there are many occasions when talking doesn’t work.

In fact, one of the first thing my psychoanalytic supervisor told me when I was learning psychiatry was, “You can take a real schmuck and have him undergo psychoanalysis; but when you finish all you will have is a well-analyzed schmuck.”

Obama’s outreach to Iran, which was immediately rejected as insufficient, seems to exemplify the point. Hugh Fitzgerald, however, thinks it may not be the craven attempt at appeasement I took it to be:

There was a subtle subtext in this message, the one that is not at all favorable to the Islamic Republic of Iran, but rather attempts to camouflage a message to “the Iranian people” (i.e., those who are capable of thought in Iran). This message takes the occasion of a non-Islamic holiday, one deplored by Islamic clerics, to also show an awareness of and to lavish praise upon features of Iranian history that are not at all necessarily tied to Islam and, in many cases are pre-Islamic, or non-Islamic, or openly hostile to the “invaders” — the Arabs — who brought the “gift” of Islam to Iran.

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