Caravaggio only did 3 portraits that we know of(one of Fillide Melandroni was destroyed in Berlin during WW 2).This one was done on the island of Malta,home of the Knights of St. John,of which Martelli was one of the most distinguished members.Martelli was a veteran of the great Siege of Malta in 1565,where the Knights beat back Suleiman the Magnificent’s Turks amidst incredible carnage.The portrait was painted around 1607.
“I was eating breakfast with my 10 year old Granddaughter, and I asked her, “What day is tomorrow?” She said, “It’s President’s Day.”
She’s a smart kid, so I asked her, “What does President’s Day mean?” I was waiting for something about Washington or Lincoln…etc.
She replied, “President’s Day is when President Obama steps out of the White House and if he sees his shadow, we have four more years of bullsh*t!”
It makes sense regarding national affairs, but, as the author points out, it’s also good advice no matter what the relationship. I have found that when I have been very confused by someone’s reaction to something it’s almost always because I’ve fallen guilty of this sort of projection. With age I have learned to pay better attention to other folks, and understand that they work within a paradigm and are likely to continue to stay within their paradigm. This leads to a lot less disappointment on my part.
Here are some excerpts:
Kristof assumes the Chinese government is at least marginally interested in opening and reforming Pyongyang because he, like plenty of Americans—myself included—wish to see reform in non-democratic countries aligned with the United States. He’s projecting our own psychology onto Beijing.
This is what Professor Richard Landes calls cognitive egocentrism. “The act of empathy,” Landes explains, “can often become an act of projecting onto another ‘what I would feel if I were in their shoes,’ rather than an attempt to understand how the person with whom one is empathizing has reacted to their situation, how they read and interpret events.”
People do this sort of thing all the time. We do it to our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. It’s hard not to. We also do it to foreign people, and they do it to us…
…Middle Easterners do the same thing to us. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve heard the American government described in hysterically phantasmagoric terms that would make even Noam Chomsky blush. A Syrian friend of mine in the United States used to describe the British and American governments as snakes (his word), not because he’s inherently anti-American but because he was raised on propaganda by the house of Assad and because for the first thirty years of his life he suffered under a regime that really was like a snake. For him, suffering under a predatory snake-like government was a perfectly normal state of affairs…
…Plenty of the Middle East’s ridiculous anti-American conspiracy theories are produced by this sort of thinking. The Middle East is a place where real conspiracies actually happen. Military coups, palace coups, secret police, assassinations by unknown shadowy figures, election fraud, and massive official disinformation are part of the everyday scenery. Because these things are tragically normal over there, people feel helpless and paranoid. They also assume these things are normal for everyone else…
…Russians have done it to us, too. That’s why they were so afraid of NATO expansion. Russia is a huge country with historically dangerous neighbors that could and did invade from just about every direction without any natural land barriers to stop them. That’s one of the reasons they became expansionist, why George F. Kennon, America’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, said, “Russia can have at its borders only enemies or vassals.” Russia was especially expansionist during the Soviet period. It sponsored insurgencies even in Africa.
So when the Warsaw Pact collapsed in Eastern Europe and one former Soviet vassal after another joined NATO, plenty of Russians assumed it meant exactly the same thing it would mean if former NATO members were absorbed into the Warsaw Pact. They thought the United States was coming for them. They felt the way Americans would feel if first West Germany, then France, and then Britain became Soviet vassals. It didn’t even occur to some Russians that Americans had no interest whatsoever in conquering Moscow. During the Soviet days, communist imperialists really did want to take over the world. Many assumed we did, as well. Cognitive egocentrism.
This is what Kristof is doing when he says China is engaging North Korea in order to encourage opening and reform. But that’s not what’s happening. That’s what America would do if we engaged North Korea, but Beijing isn’t Washington.
There’s not much we can do to prevent foreign people from projecting their psychology onto us, but we should at least resist doing to the same thing to them.
Yes, Rufus. And what to make of this:
“Let the Jews, who claim to be the chosen race, prove their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position on earth.”
–Mahatma Gandhi, Nov. 26, 1938
Rufus… I think that is spot on. I teach International Law in a National Securities Studies program here (a few of whom go work for the CIA and in other foreign service) and I’ll open up a discussion on secularism and religion and how many in our government are so secularized that they don’t even have a basic understanding of how religious folks look at the world — not to mention the religious folks who want to blow us up.
One reason we get the folderol that Christian fundamentalists aren’t much different from Islamic fundamentalists is due to this fundamental ignorance not just of the religions in question, but of religious people in general. People who have no religious inclinations often project their own responses to those folks. WHY would an educated Egyptian blow himself up? He must be crazy!!
I’ve seen this mentality in a lot of liberals I know- they tend to project their utopian fantasies about how America should be onto foreign countries.
Example: I have an ultra-liberal friend who’s been living in Australia for the past 10 years or so. I talked to her on the phone shortly after that country joined our coalition to invade Iraq, and she started complaining that John Major was forcing the country into the war, and that Australians were peace-loving people who would never want to be part of a war. I had to patiently explain to her that Australia fought in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam alongside the U.S., and it absolutely boggled her mind. She hadn’t bothered to learn anything about the history of the country she was living in; she simply grafted her own anti-war feelings onto Australia.
She never saw “Gallipoli”?
Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. “Is Twilight the Worst Thing Ever?”