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March 9, 2015 11:24 am

The Grandeur of Western Illusions

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: www.sajed.ir via Wikimedia Commons.

This week, a photo of a dress went viral on the Internet, with people from all corners of the globe expressing an opinion about it. The article of clothing in question is nothing special, though its fame has made it a hot commodity on the market. No, what is causing this particular “fashion” sensation is the fact that the garment’s colors are a matter of controversy. Indeed, viewers of its picture are sharply divided between those who see stripes of gold lace on white fabric, and those who see them as black and blue. I am among the former.

As it happens, the actual dress, according to its designer and subsequent photos taken in a different light, prove the latter to be correct. But, even after knowing this, neither I nor others in the gold-and-white camp are capable of seeing the item’s true colors for what they are.

Explanations for this, too, have been circulating since the onset of the color war. The discrepancy apparently has to do with a trick the brain plays on the optic nerve of part of the population, under certain conditions — or something to that effect.

Confronted with such a phenomenon, one cannot help but be reminded of the saying: “Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?”

This slightly bastardized line from the Marx Brothers movie “Duck Soup” is an ironic way of saying that facts shouldn’t get in the way of what someone is told to believe, no matter how obviously false.

Where the colors of the dress are concerned, the situation is reversed: Our eyes really are deceiving us. And once it was demonstrated to me beyond a doubt that the colors are not as I had initially imagined, I immediately changed my position. Due to an optical illusion, I still may not be able see that the dress as blue and black, but I now know that it is. So I no longer believe my own eyes. Instead, I rely on the facts to set me straight. Like a pilot experiencing vertigo, I must put my faith in the accuracy of the instruments in the cockpit.

The same policy should be applied to historical and current events: One should trust what he sees, unless provided proof that what he thinks he is witnessing is an illusion. But, of course, this would force many individuals and groups to abandon either what they have been taught to think or what they have been viewing in the wrong light.

The issue of reality versus the perception of reality is one that has captivated philosophers, religious thinkers and mystics throughout the ages. More recently, however, it has come to be used as superficial rhetorical tool in political discourse and debate. The idea that there is no such thing as truth — that there are only subjective perspectives and narratives — has gained popularity and momentum, particularly among Western liberals. It is a comfortable concept for the Left to espouse, especially when engaged in defending otherwise indefensible behavior on easily refutable grounds.

The Nazis and the Soviets knew how to use this form of “useful idiocy” to their advantage. But their propaganda machines paled in comparison to that which the Islamists have at their disposal today.

Yes, the Web allows them endless access to hearts and minds, through virtually infinite eyes. It is thus that Islamic State’s Jihadi John can perform gruesome decapitations for all to behold, while simultaneously accusing the United States and Britain of brutality, and receive the benefit of the doubt about his motives from the White House. It is thus, too, that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can announce on YouTube and Twitter that Israel will be annihilated by his nuclear bombs, while his puppet Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Vienna assuring Secretary of State John Kerry that Iran’s nuclear program is “peaceful.”

It is understandable for people who enjoy freedom and democracy to have difficulty grasping that their condition is not to be taken for granted.

It might even make sense for such people to assume that anyone who deviates from this seemingly natural state of affairs must have been driven to dastardly deeds by those more fortunate than he. Too bad it’s not true, because if it were, all crime could be eradicated by social work, and military aggression, handled through diplomacy, would be a thing of the past by now, not the tsunami of the present and wave of the future.

Brain tricks that make black look like gold are entertaining. Those that have been leading the West to see light where there is darkness are putting us all in great peril.

Ruthie Blum is the editor of Voice of Israel radio (voiceofisrael.com). This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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