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Some simple thoughts on war, violence, desperate people and Bush - Alex Belits
Some simple thoughts on war, violence, desperate people and Bush
I think, with all that talk about fighting terrorists, religious fundamentalists, uncivilized people and "bad guys" in general, people completely forgot, or maybe, never really learned one important thing:

Violence is a tool for the desperate.

One may be rational or not, calm or have a short temper, one's goal may be noble or sinister, and one may be right or wrong in his beliefs and reasoning, however most of people (and that includes people who believe in various bizarre omnipotent beings, and people who think that they know the only possible way how to build a society) are not eager to waste their and others' lives if they can see another way to achieve the goals that they see as important.

People in societies as ideologically homogeneous as US may think that everyone "naturally" has the same goals as them, and whoever has even slightest deviation from this, is some kind of raving lunatic, that is capable of "hating them for their freedom", can roam through the desert on a camel, shooting at everything that moves and doesn't wear exactly the same kind of turban as him, or builds countless nukes in some giant underground factory, to enslave the rest of the world, put everyone into labor camps, call that "communism" and cackle maniacally for eternity. The truth is, raving lunatics are pretty rare, they don't gather together, leave alone organize themselves to achieve a single consistent set of goals. Even famous political dictators of the past always risen to power while being supported by large numbers of people -- and it's hard to argue that only mentally deficient people supported them. When we see a large number of people hell-bent on shooting and blowing up another group of people, it's easy to say "idiots" or "savages", and it's quite possible that those people are ignorant, deluded and uncivilized. But just as well they may be educated, rational and sophisticated, and would end up doing the same thing if placed into the same desperate situation.

If someone has a goal that he considers important, he, unless he is extremely lazy, will try to achieve it by all means that reasonably can be used, and "reasonable" would likely be close to "socially acceptable" if the goal can be achieve by those means -- no one really wants to endanger his and others' health and lives, make himself look like a fool, or even do something against his conscience. The problem is, not all goals are achievable by those means. If the goal is not important, here things end. A person who wants to become a billionaire but knows that this is not possible by means at his disposal, would not likely to become a robber -- even if he is very greedy, he is not desperate to get a billion at the extent that he is going to risk everything merely for trying to achieve that goal, and likely still fail. But this happy scenario doesn't work when people are desperate.

Again, I have no idea how to explain this to people who don't have any important goals that are outside of their reach by any reasonable/acceptable/nonviolent means, I can give examples, but it's not likely that they will be understood. Say, someone's country was invaded, and not only his neighbors and relatives are killed, but everything is being done to eliminate the culture that the person grew with, at the extent that this person would not be able to apply anything from his experience, or achieve anything that made sense for him. In someone else's opinion he may be completely wrong, the invasion could be justified by some objectively justified goal, the culture can be developed from scratch and foreign pieces, goals of this person could look pointless and bizarre -- or maybe not, it all depends on what exactly happened. But this situation certainly would qualify as desperate either way, and being left with alternatives of having his life destroyed and robbed of all meaning, and fighting the invader with violence, he can choose violence, and there is nothing inherently irrational or uncivilized about this choice. This is an extreme example, but I certainly can understand how someone can be desperate in achieving them. Say, I am certain that people who want to ban abortions, are stupid, deluded, ignorant, a real embarrassment for human race, and I admit that hate them. So are other religious fundamentalists, racists, etc. But if they defend their beliefs using violence, they do act out of desperation, because other means can not achieve their goals. And that is exactly the same reason as why "good guys" use violence, and all kinds and forms of it, there is no fundamental difference.

I am not asking for "tolerance" -- I don't want to "tolerate" a lot of things and people, and don't expect others to do that. But all those screams "OMG, they are TERRORISTS!!!", "Oh, that's WMD!!!", "They have attacked OUR PEOPLE!!!" are getting on my nerves -- especially when directed against people that I don't like, either. There are more than enough reasons why some groups of people are wrong. Nationalism, racism, religious hatred, laziness, greed, disregard for others, parasitic economic models fueled wars and violence for millennia, and those things are nothing but disgusting, even if violence produced by them was strictly within whatever one defines as "civilized". Declaring "war on terrorism" is just as good as declaring "war on stabbing", "war on drowning", or "war on shooting a machine gun in a general direction of bald people". If someone doesn't want to deal with violent desperate people, one has to either kill all of them (what is usually impractical), or make them non-desperate, by whatever means that can achieve this goal.

One can say, defeating an army shifts the priorities of the remaining people into something more peaceful, however last time when it worked well was WWII -- since then no major military force was defeated at this extent, and all that is being accomplished is fueling various long-running conflicts, be it Israeli-Palestinian one, or between a bunch of local gangs in some US city. What brings another idea, that may look very pessimistic -- if the cause of conflict is not possible to eliminate, people will remain being desperate, and the conflict will continue, no matter what, until the time when either one side remains alive, or something will change, and make the things not matter enough to be desperate over them. Hint for the Americans that are trying to deal with problems abroad: no, throwing money, bad food and cheap consumer goods at people rarely accomplishes this goal.

And, once I have started dissing US foreign policy, one of the most disgusting things that I have seen or heard about, is the use of violence by people that are NOT desperate, to achieve low-priority goals. Like, say, the whole post-WWII history of self-proclaimed "superpowers" (mostly US) attacking various easy targets abroad, to advance ridiculously low-priority goals of supporting their own economy, or establishing puppets in the regions far away from their borders. Though I am still not sure if I can add recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars to this list -- Bush looked pretty desperate to me. Desperate for what, I will "leave as an exercise to the reader", because I really don't know -- I don't know if he is more a Christian fundamentalist, or he truly believes that his destiny is to establish total US domination over the rest of the world, or if he is more of a corporate puppet, who will rather kill some people than do anything to turn US economy into something healthier, that can help most of the people but hurt his masters.
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From: jigenm4c Date: May 27th, 2004 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)

But what about this?


Why should it just be limited to the idea that people may be desperate? Sure, if something so bad happened to someone that ruined their entire life, took everything away from them that they held dear, and important - what would they do? As you say, it is not irrational or uncivilized to fight back with desperation.

However, what about this scenario. Say someone did something to you. Something bad enough that it made a dent in either your career or life, or even both. Would revenge be a rational or civilized approach? It doesn't mean resorting to violence - although it can. Does it make one bitter to get back at someone for something they did to you? Does it make it right?

One would say "no" to that answer. However, put yourself in that person's shoes. What if something happened to you that was so horiffic or so devastating that the only way one could feel "closure" is to result with revenge? Would this make things right? Would it really give you "closure"? Would you become hypocritical because you are doing back what happened to you?

And would it make you feel better?
abelits From: abelits Date: May 27th, 2004 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: But what about this?

Revenge is something different -- in itself it's irrational, it appeared before people got any idea of justice, and the whole reason why it developed at all is that it kept people from harming others. Even very early, primitive people were more sophisticated than animals, so just the possibility that someone will immediately fight back may not be sufficient to deter someone else from doing something harmful, however people were not sophisticated enough to develop the ideas of conscience, justice, etc., so one can say that a desire for revenge appeared at the level of instinct.

People in any modern, civilized society keep some most destructive instincts under control, and it usually isn't even difficult. In the case of revenge, usually there are more rational things that people can turn their effort to -- such as achieving justice, repairing the damage caused, keeping others from doing anything similar, etc. The result may be similar to one of trying to get revenge, but much more constructive, at least in the long run. What revenge achieves unconsciously, more civilized things achieve better.

As an extreme example, one can see how people look at the political assassinations. When a horribly unpopular politician is in power, and there is no good way to get rid of him, he may gather enough enemies to get killed, and people who were harmed by him may see it as a just, or at least positive thing, even though "murder is bad". However the political life of a person often can be short, and when a politician permanently loses his power and influence, usually no one cares to do any harm to him, no matter how bad he was -- people understand that power that is lost, can not be regained, so not only no one tries to kill former horrible leaders, few people even care about justice toward them, because usually it achieves nothing except being a tool in the hands of his new replacements.

This means, revenge is not really a motivation in those situations, like it would be if people really chased former world-class assholes, that became easy targets after their reign of whatever was over.

As for the idea of "closure", I don't think, it's anything other than a futile attempt to create a fake "resolution" to unresolvable, and a "fix" to unfixable, a kind of intellectual wimpiness in face of dealing with something irreversible. It's not in the instincts (too complex) and not in any rational behavior (achieves nothing).
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