This week has flown by, which is good because I still don’t feel properly recovered from last week.
On Tuesday I took the motorcycle down to Orion’s and asked them to replace the tyre. They upgraded me to the Pirelli (no extra charge). The mechanic (John, I believe?) who changed the tyre can back from the test drive and said, “I noticed your speedometer wasn’t reading. It looks like the cable has fallen out.” I told him I had parts on order to fix it (a half–truth), and thanked him for noticing and for fixing the tyre.
In the following days I proceeded to spend the rest of what little money was left in my checking account.
I made some progress on a personal project I’ve been working on, something which will be placed here for everyone’s reading [dis]pleasures, but will not be done for a month or two.
I’m also working on a significant blog post but haven’t felt too inspired about it this week, so it’s sort of idling.
On the 11th I listened to President Obama’s speech on ISIL and the United State’s response to them. A lot of what I feel about this has been more eloquently expressed by Paul Thomas in this article on The Becoming Radical.
There are two aspects of this situation which really cause me to hang my head.
The first is Congress’ apparent unwillingness to debate and vote on this. Personally, I believe they should vote against it, but, for or against only becomes an issue once a congressional debate has begun.
The second aspect is the rapidity with which the majority of the American public has become favorable to military operations in the Middle East expanding. An MSNBC poll shows something in the neighborhood of 60% of Americans in favor of military action. Really?
[I say expanding because we’re already undertaking military operations in the region.]
Do we have absolutely no hindsight? Can we not look back on even the past 15 years and say, wait a minute, this hasn’t been entirely successful the last couple times we tried this? There’s a plethora of writing available on the futility of waging a war against those who “hate us”, but this futility isn’t really an effective counter argument against the campaign against terrorists anymore. Obama said it himself:
We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.
Firstly, it’s problematic from an egalitarian perspective to refer to anyone or any belief as simply evil. It removes the reasoning, the logical, sequential, sometimes hard to follow lines of reactions that lead to people’s beliefs. An honest evaluation of what people see as threats, problems and important can, often, lead us to a more significant summation of their beliefs than evil. Maybe even we can come to a conclusion that treats those who threaten us as human beings. Maybe that’s being avoided on purpose.
Secondly, the President is acknowledging that we will never win. We will never kill ’em all; never live in a world free from external threats. What this means is that making the argument of a never–ending war is rendered ineffective.
What does that mean? That anyone in favor of taking military action against a terrorist group is therefore in favor of perpetual warfare? And what happens when our airstrikes, our strong language about us being good and them being evil, our inability to treat people with accents, beards and ancient languages as equals creates a never–ending cycle of anti–American terrorist factions? Do we accept that war against oft–unknown enemies will be persistent, indeed, constant, for the remainder of our future? Do we become the heavy–handed police of the developing world for the sake of our own fantasy of safety? And, in doing so, do we create more enemies than we would otherwise?
I don’t have answers to all these questions. I don’t know who does, but I do think they’re questions worth asking.
Proudhon says, in What is Property, that we all get as much as we give in terms of our rights as members of society (what are often called natural rights).
[…]security is an absolute right, because in the eyes of every [person their] own liberty and life are as precious as another’s. […]in society each associate receives as much as he gives,—liberty for liberty, equality for equality, security for security, body for body, soul for soul, in life and in death.
Perhaps an alternative is to look at the ways in which we expect to be treated by other peoples of the world which we do not extend to them. We expect to be able to defend our interests [read: business interests] in various parts of the world, many of which are harmful to local citizens in a variety of ways, yet the anger, pain and suffering felt by local populations should never affect us here at home. We expect to be able to spread our versions of republicanism, liberty and morality across the world [nation building?], yet never be the target of the ethnocentrism of others.
We stand as highly critical of the human damages caused by radical Islamic groups [as we, and everyone, should be] without ever truly reconciling with the human damages we’ve caused in Vietnam, in the Middle East or even at home through policies of discrimination and enslavement. It doesn’t lessen the atrocities committed by any radically violent group anywhere, but we must also turn the lens onto ourselves.
Until we can consider all people, everywhere, with equal dignity and respect our only option will be violent oppression of dissident groups, in which case the best reaction for dissident groups will be violence.