What are we thinking with?

Denis Pombriant
3 min readNov 30, 2023

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is horrible and it may be exposing more of our personalities, both personal and national, that we might like.

Gaza homes, TV station building bombed by Israel | Conflict | Al Jazeera

I am not writing to pick sides, just the opposite. In fact, I see picking sides as part of the problem. We’ve been conditioned to pick sides by our won politics but we’ve lost the understanding of how to debate, and rather than reaching consensus, we just become more unhinged. We all so quickly line up red or blue, liberal or conservative, black or white, chocolate or vanilla, on or off, that the idea of a third possibility just evaporates before we even begin.

But there are third ways and in fact, in tense discussions, smart negotiators often seek a third option if for no other reason than to establish a starting point on middle ground.

So, here’s something to try. Killing is bad. Killing combatants in war is bad enough but we at least have some ground rules. The rules might not always be observed but that’s a different problem.

But killing non-combatants is unacceptable whether the victims are the very young, the old, women, children, elders, it doesn’t matter. Uncontrolled orgiastic killing is the worst and cannot be accepted under any circumstances. That’s it, full stop.

It is a mark of civilization after all, that violence is a last resort, and that peace is the foremost good.

When I look at the Middle East, I don’t see two sides contesting an issue. Instead, I see the irony that the cradle of civilization has become a place where civilization has de camped.

More than this, when I look at our civil discourse and the polarization on our campuses, I ask what are these people learning or what did they learn growing up? Pick a side? Demonize the opposition? Abandon your higher brain functions to the passion of the moment?

What about striving for peace? Throughout my life there has never been a time when you could say with any certainty that the Middle East was safe, that it was on a path to betterment, that things could get better. In all that time, all the sides were seeking advantage instead of peace and now they have neither.

Instead, we have a reversion to an ancient code of conduct, an eye for an eye, that extracts and…

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Denis Pombriant

Researcher, author of multiple books including “The Age of Sustainability” about solutions for climate change. Technology, business, economics.