Monday, July 16, 2007

Who we are

All Iraqi men viewed as insurgents:
"We were told to crank up the violence level," said Lopezromo, testifying for the defense.

When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: "We beat people, sir." ...

[T]the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout...

"I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge. "I see it as killing the enemy."

He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.
This is who we are, who we've chosen to become.

9 comments:

  1. "This is who we are, who we've chosen to become."

    The first inclination is to be upset at being included in the "we." But further examination reveals that the word "we" is a meaningless construct that negates the individual. "We" is the foundational word of totalitarianism. It is no coincidence that it is the first word of the U.S. Constitution.

    Rather than the dangerously meaningless "we," I prefer "you and I." This concept recognizes the two distinct individuals involved, each with his own conscience and free will.

    So, the allegation is: "Who you and I are." Well, you may admit to being who you are -- I wouldn't dare try to stop you -- but I sure as hell am not pleading guilty to any such absurdity and I resent you deciding for me. Leave me the hell out of it.

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  2. The 'we' is a metaphor for a literary and admittedly imprecise notion of national character and identity.

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  3. I certainly don't mean to imply that anyone specifically endorses the actions described in the article: I certainly do not endorse them.

    The notion of a national identity is, like I said, literary and imprecise. Then again, the notion of person identity is also imprecise.

    However individually we view ourselves, we cannot absolutely divorce our individual selves from the actions of our military and our government, especially as we style ourselves a "democracy".

    If the referenced article is not how you personally want to be, I don't think it's sufficient to simply distance yourself emotionally from the actions described. As citizens of a democracy, we have to accept not necessarily fault, but definitely responsibility—in the literal sense as the duty to respond—and take active steps to change the problem.

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  4. I wholeheartedly endorse oppressing and beating brown people for the betterment of my investment portfolio.

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  5. Great response, bum. I do think that individual identity is far more precise than collective identity, but I agree that we are defined by our associations to a certain extent.

    "As citizens of a democracy, we have to accept not necessarily fault, but definitely responsibility—in the literal sense as the duty to respond—and take active steps to change the problem."

    I cannot agree more with your view of fault versus responsibility. The only constructive worldview is of responsibility -- everything else is just noise.

    However, in the rigged game that is government and politics, I see no possibility of change. I choose not to expend my precious time and energy on hopeless causes. I cannot accept responsibility for the actions of others, or even for my own perceived lack of action.

    I consider the imposition of responsibility on me to undertake an impossible task to be aggression of the highest order. I'll have none of it.

    That being said, if simply speaking my mind to any willing audience qualifies as fulfilling my responsibility, then thank you very much, I feel that I have discharged my obligation.

    And as a non-voter, I feel that my hands are cleaner than anyone who participates in "democracy," for if no one voted, then the true nature of government would be revealed and all would know power for absolute corruptor it is.

    Bum, are you an anarchist as well as an atheist?

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  6. James: I wholeheartedly endorse oppressing and beating brown people for the betterment of my investment portfolio.

    That's why you're on the masthead!

    Jimi: I consider the imposition of responsibility...

    I don't have the power to impose responsibility. I just howl with rage and shame at what my country has become.

    ... if simply speaking my mind to any willing audience qualifies as fulfilling my responsibility...

    Nothing but setting oneself on fire
    on the steps of the White House qualifies. You'll notice I myself have not done so.

    And yes, on some days (bad days? good days?) I'm an anarchist.

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  7. Bum, honestly, I don't think it ever was your country, or mine for that matter. You and I just live here.

    Self-immolation has its appeal, admittedly, yet I too have yet to experiment.

    Where I was going with the anarchist question is my wonder at how anyone who has arrived logically at atheism cannot draw the same conclusion about anarchism.

    You profess to be a part-time anarchist, and I'm OK with that -- I preach anarchism, but I don't live as an anarchist apart from not voting and bad-mouthing government and refusing jury service and all.

    It seems to me I know a lot of people who replace their lack of faith in "God" with an unfounded faith in government.

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  8. To a certain extent, and perhaps against my better judgment, I can't help but constructing my personal identity at least to some degree through my nation and culture, particularly the ideals of liberty and international virtue to which we at least give—or used to give—lip service.

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  9. We are not responsible individually for what is done by governments in our name, but we do bear a share of collective responsibility if we do not protest and campaign as vigorously as we are able to change the policies that we consider immoral.

    So, while I respect Jimi's stance, I don't think he is absolved from collective responsibility by declining to vote.

    I have voted in every [British] general election since I became eligible, and though my vote made little perceptible difference it at least swelled the aggregate total of the party I considered least objectionable.

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