Monday, February 25, 2013

The cruel man troubles his own flesh

I was reminded of this proverb in the past few days by several related news items:

- Petroleum prices are on their way back up, including gasoline, and it's not even March.
- US-led economic warfare against Iran has been hurting the civilian population, as designed, including depriving people of needed medicine.
- The regime is being strengthened, since the pressure is uniting the people in defense of their independence.
- The government, and businesses working with the government, are suffering the least, and the economy is becoming increasingly resistant.
- Sa'udi Arabia is pumping as fast as it can, while Iran is being forced to keep its petroleum in the ground, which is good for Iran in future and promises to eventually weaken and destabilize the Sa'udi regime.
- High petroleum prices are putting serious pressure on the American and European economies, and the economic war against Iran is one of the main reasons.

Now when you put all that together, is this is bright strategy?  I don't think anybody that understands the situation - and American policymakers do - can imagine that this will end well for the US.  When people are being really stupid, it pays to wonder why.

The main problem is bloodguilt.  The Bible teaches that innocent blood makes drunk those that shed it, and this happens in various ways.

First, finding people easy to kill unavoidably intoxicates people with the feeling of power.  Inhibitions fall away.

Second, when you are guilty of shedding innocent blood, the most ridiculous rationalizations and euphemisms fill people's heads so that they can't think straight.  To opponents of abortion, this is obvious in its proponents, whose obfuscations equal those of Pentagon spokesmen talking about collateral damage - which those same abortion opponents commonly like just fine coming from the Pentagon or their bloody-minded preachers.

Third, once you do wrong to people, you have to hate them in order to paralyze conscience.  The hatred of Muslims in the US has increased as years have passed in which the only terrorism being committed is that of American invaders and bombers against innocent people.  This doesn't lead to straight thinking.  It's the way the Nazi hatred of Jews and lying accusations against them increased the more the Nazis did them wrong.

A related problem is that in order to pursue all this evil, the imperial rulers and their flunkies in the press have had to lie a lot to the American people, who have largely succumbed to the nonsense about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons and equally non-existent threats against Israel.  So backing off is now more difficult, since to do so they would have to frankly confess that they've been lying up to now.

It's easy to see that if our imperial rulers were not cruel people, they would care more about the welfare of their own people, as well as being a lot less interested in devising ways to inflict misery on others.  And in that case, as in Vietnam 50 years ago, they would avoid plenty of trouble.

"What does the Lord require of you, O man, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"  It's foolishness to the men of this world to imagine that these three will unfailingly guide us safely through every danger.  But can you think of any jams you have gotten into in life that you wouldn't have done better with by just sticking to these three precepts?  Wouldn't they have kept our favorite empire out of Vietnam, without hurting us a bit?

A little iPhone mash-up by Mehr Heyd, from his recent trip to Iran


Anonymous Curt Kastens said...

It is often claimed that the harsh terms on Germany after the first world war was the cause of the second world war. I have to wonder if that is the correct way to see this history. Could it be that the real cause of the second world war was that an Army came home from the front that thought that it was not even close to defeat. Of course those high up in the German command structure had access to much more information. They could see that with the entry of the US in to the war the complete defeat of Germany was only a matter of time. If they knew how the negotiations after the armistice would go they might have not come to the negotiating table.
Even though their defeat was inevitable an alternative strategy might have been to extract such a high price by continued warfare that they get better treaty terms.
So with millions of young men coming back quite angry that they had sacrificed for a losing cause
and coming to the conclusion that
Germany was stabbed in the back, a conclusion which would seem to be completely ludicrous conclusion if you start really to get in to the details of how such a thing could have plausibly happened, it seems to me that the second war was inevitable no matter how nice or cruel the allies would have been to Germany after that war.
This leads me to ask myself, what are the benefits of mercy for those that are left alive after a conflict is over? What is mercy after all? Does it mean that you forgive someone and let them go on with their life as if nothing at all has happened? Does it mean that you sentence someone to 20 years in prison and then let them out in 5 years because you are merciful? Does it mean that you stop someone from stealing but you let them keep everything that they stole until they were stopped? Are mercy and justice always compatible?

2/27/2013 7:04 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

The young men of the armed forces were fed up with the war, as is clear from the seizure of Kiel November 4, 1918 by the sailors, soldiers and workers. This proceeded from the officers trying to take the fleet out to fight with the British navy. The Soldiers Councils spread all over Germany in less than a week, and the Kaiser had to leave town.

I think it's a lot like Vietnam, in which the US had to give up mostly because the soldiers themselves were done. They were regularly refusing to go out on patrol and fragging their officers. Strong antiwar movements had developed even on navy ships.

But this history has been rewritten by the same kinds of Americans as the Germans who rewrote the history of World War 1. And it's rather clearly leading us the same way.

Not only mercy and justice compatible, it's impossible to separate them. The unmerciful have to be denying that they themselves need mercy, and such lying can never be just.

Maercy isn't letting people always get away with what they've done, but it means not using needless roughness or prescribing for others what you don't want for yourself. God's actual conduct in the Hbrew scriptures shows how this works. He was always throwing people back, if he could reasonably do so. Sometimes taht's not possible. In particular, as it is written, to him that shows no mercy, judgment is without mercy.

2/27/2013 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Curt said...

That is interesting. I had read before about the naval mutiny but I had forgotten about that.
So certainly at least some of those in the military were fed up with the war. But that there were many that wanted to continue to fight one seems to me to be supported by the fact tha so many joined ultra right wing organizations such as the Frei Corp. as well.
In any case as long as mercy is not letting people get away with what they have done I can agree that mercy and justice are compatible. Do you remember the movie Dogwood.
The first time I saw the movie I turned it off in the middle because I did not think that it was going anywhere. Then I saw a little more of the movie one time by accident which convinced me that I should watch the movie the whole way through because the movie was getting interesting by then. The ending of that movie was really a piece of inspired art.
The daughter of the gangster said, I KNOW that I never have, and will never, behave in the manner that these townspeople behaved. Maybe her comment was inspired by Satan himself. God teaches us to reform those that do bad things. I think the message of Satan is that sometimes we have better things to do with our time because some people have proven by their behavior that they are, at least in this life, not capable of reform and spending the resources on reforming them will take resources away from reforming those who are much more capable of it.
Of course the resources that God has at his disposal are unlimited.
Also the knowledge that God has is unlimited. Also these questions of mercy only arise a the result of a conflict that has arisen between people. There are many types of conflicts. There are conflicts between pro choice and pro life factions there are conflicts between the socialist and the libertarian and there are more personal conflicts like between the rapist and the woman his is going to force himself upon, and there is the conflicts between the leaders who want to do what is best for their people and the leaders of other countries who want them to betray their people for the benefit
of others far away. I think how one has been effected by these conflicts would influence a persons view of the punishment that was dished out to those that were punished.
For me I guess it boils down to let the punishment fit the crime. For me the punishment fits the crime when the people being punished get a taste of their own medicine.
Yet even that does not capture the complexity of the subject because in a case like the civil war in Syria or Vietnam when it seems that one side is fighting for socialism and the other side for capitalism or Islam
should the losers face any punishment at all? It is not likely that the losers will ever repent for fighting for what they believed in. Some at the top might be guilty of deliberately misguiding those under them but it might not be easy to separate the true believer from the war profiteer or those just trying to stay in power for powers sake. Furthermore, to add some baking powder to the mix, it seems to me,
because the Confederates were unrepentant and allowed to roam free after our civil war they have continued to cause problems for the USA to this very day. So although the Confederates of the world may see it as punishment it seems to me that they must at least be quarantined from the general population for the protection of the children in the general population.
These questions of mercy and justice seem to have never ending twists and turns. I guess that I would not make a very good Christian because I am inspired by non biblical sources in re guard to questions of justice.

2/28/2013 2:02 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

CHristians, too, must consider the views of non-Christians concerning justice, because as Paul stated it, our gospel must commend itself to the conscience of every person - which of course will be influenced by non-Christian views of the matter. Doesn't mean those views are correct in each instance, but we need to be able to respond in terms that any person must recognize as valid.

For instance, imperial notions of justice commonly have one rule for the uber-menschen and another for the unter-menschen. I don't agree with those, but I have to challenge them in terms their adherents can't refute.

3/04/2013 6:40 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"Third, once you do wrong to people, you have to hate them in order to paralyze conscience".

That simply isn't so, in many people. Some people are quite capable of doing that in a very detached way, and don't need to go through those psychological mechanisms. In particular, "It's the way the Nazi hatred of Jews and lying accusations against them increased the more the Nazis did them wrong" is incorrect; that only operated among the wider German public, and not very much among the direct perpetrators who tended to treat it as an unpleasant but necessary task.

I see you reference Irish issues elsewhere; there are ample cases to be found in that history, e.g. the late Earl of Arran's story of the young lady who was told by gunmen in the troubles - with great good humour, not any hatred at all - that it was her turn to drive, dragging her companion who had been driving back to the house party where they had been staying with his face destroyed. And there are other tales that illustrate the principle that I could tell but will not, which I have received through oral tradition.

"... the nonsense about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons ...".

I have actually looked into the technical feasibility, and have come to the informed conclusion that while they probably do not have any active work going on along those lines, almost any country could get there within about two years from a standing start - which means that the question is not nonsense but one suitable for regular review. (No, I will not outline feasible approaches, save to point out how quickly Canada got working CANDU reactors despite the U.S.A. withholding the results of shared wartime R & D.)

8/13/2013 2:19 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

P.M. Lawrence brings up useful stuff to think about.

It is certainly true that many people can do wrong without hating the victims, just deferring to authority as Stanley Milgram showed in his experiment at Yale in 1961. But doing that wrong compels some kind of rationalization in those with a functioning conscience, and hating the victims in various ways is common. Of course such hatred doesn't have to be Julius Streicher's rage. Coldly deciding that inconvenient human beings are an infestation of cockroaches is certainly a form of hatred.

I also object to your assumption that the "great good humour" described in these gunmen telling the girl it's her turn to drive after destroying her companion's face is not a manifestation of hatred. As described, such taunting certainly is.

Any country might be able to get to a nuclear bomb in two years from a standing start, but not when they're being closely watched.

It's not nonsense that Iran could do it in that time, if not stopped, but it is nonsense to claim that they are or that nuclear weapons capability is imminent, given what their enemies know about it. Even if Iran got a nuclear bomb, it would become a less appealing target, but no more likely than North Korea to use it if not attacked.

8/13/2013 3:26 PM  

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