The Middle East Policy between Shakespeare and Hemingway

Shakespeare wrote about human motivation, every play he wrote dealt with one motivation deeply, in detail and from different angles. Some say this is what makes his literature so great. Shakespeare emphasized the qualitative differences between motivations; each play identifies a motivation with different qualities almost incomparable with the others. His plays, and the motivations he identified, multiplied until he died. Perhaps if he had lived longer then he would have identified many more. Shakespeare’s model of personality was simple: opposites are clear, cowardice or fear is the opposite of courage or aggression. You could say his model is made of unlimited and increasing dimensions with no clear structure or relationships between them.

Hemingway came much later and he saw some structure in personality. To him, cowardice and courage are two sides of the same coin; some of his novels show how a normal personality flips quickly between states of extreme fear and aggression. Hemingway and many others nowadays might say that the real opposite of fear is not aggression but a disappearance of fear. Here I would suggest that the cognitive opposite of fear is aggression and the motivational opposite is a state of no fear, or jubilation for its disappearance. Hemingway does not appear to rationalize or condone cowardice or aggression, rather he seems to understand that aggression is justified only if it leads to a disappearance of fear. Shakespeare decidedly seems old fashioned when compared with Hemingway.

As a parallel, the U.S. Middle East policy seems to reacts quickly to threats by counter threats, sometimes with little discrimination between friend and foe. Those who oppose or criticize run the risk of being seen as cowards or indecisive or worse. The motivation behind the politics seems simple and Shakespearean in the sense that fear seems to justifies aggression, which, like in a Shakespearean play, leads to extremism and polarization of the roles. The moderates are squeezed out of the drama or rendered ineffective. What the world needs now is more Hemingways in higher places..

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