Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1188, (13 - 19 March 2014)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1188, (13 - 19 March 2014)

Ahram Weekly

‘It’s the thought that counts’

Remember “Cogito, ergo sum”…”I think, therefore I am”, the most famous maxim in the history of philosophy? Is Descartes’ claim still relevant?

If French philosopher Rene Descartes (1506-1650) were alive today would he have advanced the same thought, modified it or even reversed it?

Three centuries later another philosopher from across the channel, Britain’s Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) did just that. Shocked at how little thinking is practised during our modern times, Russell wrote: “Many people would sooner die than think. In fact they do”.

Thinking is man’s birthright; it is his reason for existence, his inherent virtue, but it is no reflex action or automatic function. “It is his basic moral choice” wrote Russian novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand: “He  is free to think, or evade the effort.”  

Non-thinkers abound and they pay the consequences of their action or inaction. Tragically, when non-thinkers lead nations, it is their societies that pay dearly for their mistakes. Leaders escape unscathed, uninvolved and unconcerned.  The catastrophic state of our world is a result of an ‘absence of thinking’ epidemic.

“It takes time and effort to excel” said Bertrand Russell to the New York Times: “Statesmen are far too busy giving speeches to think.” As a result of their flawed thinking, the Middle-East has been shattered. They shift blame, they point fingers, they mumble and stumble, then slip away to some balmy beach to rest from the exhaustive exertion of non-thinking.  That is exactly what the president of the USA did when he was first informed of the murder of his ambassador and three other American citizens in Benghazi. He sent his surrogates to spread some lies and immediately hopped on a plane heading for what is known as “Sin City”, the exciting, gay and glamourous, Las Vegas, for a fund-raiser hosted by Byoncee. No time to gather his staff, national councillors, vice president, secretary of state – oh no! That would have required thinking!

It is said that:”the brain has muscles for thinking, as the legs have muscles for walking.” We no longer have use for such muscles it seems. We have automobiles to do our walking, as for thinking—well—we have –er—other distractions!

Admittedly, thinking is not easy! The process of understanding, contemplating and deciding involves work, like exercising your mind, collecting data, reading information, exchanging ideas and finding solutions. Did any of this occur in the EU, UK, US, UN and other sophisticated, enlightened nations? Following our June 30, 2013 revolution they rushed to judgement and called it a military coup. During the Rabaa Square and Al-Nahda sit-ins, foul accusations were hurled at the people of Egypt by the afore-mentioned societies. Blind to reality, they preferred to support the criminals of the MB, who continued to raid and ravage, pillage and plunder, maim and murder the innocent, while the defenders of human rights felt no shame or guilt. 

An international biased media joined the witch-hunt, feeding their satellites with distorted facts and questionable half-truths. Months after our ordeal a feeble admission and re-adjustment of views is too little too late. When you fling enough dirt, inevitably some of it sticks.

The black ghost of ignorance still looms on the horizon of American foreign policy. We shudder to think of the absence of thought on the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan! How many lives lost, how many dollars spent, how many years wasted? Still, like Bush before him, not a shred of decent thought is given to Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sinai and now the new hurdle of the Ukraine. All that is to be expected is more mistakes, more rash acts of aggression, more uninformed judgements. Poor Mr O! He found himself behind the wheels of car but had never learned to drive. Only after time, effort and practice can you drive safely without endangering the fate of others. Even a simple juggler spends days practising his skill.

How much thought was given to withdrawing military aid for Egypt?  Consider the consequences! Did he think thoroughly before launching his disastrous Obamacare that has left millions of sick Americans without healthcare or affordable health insurance! So many mistakes, so many broken promises, so many empty words and threats, and still Mr Obama refuses to learn. Last week he earned the title of “The Biggest National Security Crisis”, by the Conservative Political Action Conference, (CPAC).  It may seem easy to flee the burdens of the thought process, but how easy is it to deny the virtue of your humanity, the gift of thought?

“Not to think is not to be” cried Jean Paul Sartre. Thought is a delicate and difficult process and must remain independent and pure with knowledge as its ultimate goal. It must bend to no other perception or comply with no other ideal but reality.

The refusal to know is different from ignorance. If to think is equated with existence, the majority of us do not exist. “To negate existence is an attempt to wipe out realty, but it is only you who is wiped out.”

Mr Putin, Mr Obama’s challenger on the world arena, is reclaiming Crimea. Mr O is relishing the tropical breezes of Key Largo, Florida for more fun in the sun!

Soon he is to encounter King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Will he at least remember his name, or will he be so overcome with fatigue from the absence of thought?


“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it”.

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

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