Sunday, November 18, 2012

Self-esteem my ass. ... Or theirs.

I'm huge in Malaysia today. (Seems like they're a bit late in getting around to this topic, but nonetheless....) Malaysia, as you may know, employs caning and other forms of corporal punishment as part of its approach to keeping students on the straight and narrow. While I'm not a fan of training young'uns to stand in front of a mirror and chant, "I am now looking at the most special person in the whole world!", I'm not sure we should assault them, either.

Maybe a happier medium could be found in our endeavors to produce stable, self-possessed adults?

66 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

I can remember getting "swats" when I was in junior high and high school. Coaches & shop teachers would each have their favorite paddle, usually made from a piece of oak flooring, which they would use for punishment of even minor infractions. We boys looked upon getting swats as a badge of honor, despite having to fight to choke back any sign that they hurt.

I don't see that as having been a real problem, aside from the "minor" matter of one assistant principal who had been fired from his last school for hitting too high and breaking a boy's coccyx.

That said, I think that the atmosphere has changed to the point that corporal punishment no longer represents a viable corrective measure. Between parents who would sue if their little darling ever got spanked - especially if the punishment was meted out in front of classmates - and teachers whose patience is tested to the breaking point by disrespectful kids, the potential for abuse (and injury) is just too great.

I can count on one hand the number of times I actually spanked my own kids, but realize that my abhorrence of the practice was borne of my abusive father's actions. Bottom line is that I cannot summarily state that spankings are bad (or uncalled for) or good; it comes down to the individual parent and child, and how they relate to each other.

a/good/lysstener said...

Hitting a child is not the way to build a happy and well-adjusted adult. It's especially disgusting when it's done in school in front of other kids. Plus what kind of conditioned reflex is that likely to create in the child about school? It's like when you're driving with your dog and you get near the vet's office.

I had never heard of caning, btw, I think it's just an awful form of "correction."

RevRon's Rants said...

My own kids are pretty happy and well-adjusted, Alyssa. But then again, I never hit them. On a very few occasions, however, I did have to spank them to get their attention. There is a difference. Walk a mile...

Frankly, the swats I was given at school didn't have a significant emotional impact. As I noted, they were viewed more as rites of passage than anything else.

roger o'keefe said...

I certainly don't support child abuse but I do support the molding of well disciplined children who mind their Ps & Qs because that is how you also mold successful adults who understand the concept of following orders and not causing trouble in everything they do. Steve, as someone who in his book decries the breakdown in social structure over the past 30 years I'm surprised you wouldn't think there's a time and place for corporal punishment if it's needed to take the child's focus off self-serving behaviors, which you appropriately call narcissism.

I was spanked on rare occasion as a boy and I consider myself the better for it. With some kids there's no other way.

Anonymous said...

"I was spanked on rare occasion as a boy and I consider myself the better for it. With some kids there's no other way."

A lot of us got unremittingly battered as kids, Roger, and those who survived learnt that the whole 'following orders' crap is just brainwashing to ensure that the 'all knowing authority' is not too disturbed or troubled by dissenters or voices critical of that 'authority' and can just go seamlessly on with their brutal domination.

We don't all learn the same lessons from our formative experiences, but no-one ever forgets brutality visited on them, in whatever form.

roger o'keefe said...

Anon who I suspect is really Ron, no offense, I get so tired of the hypocrisy and the lack of vision. All of life is a struggle between conformity and independence and that struggle is always decided by violence of some sort, whether it's implied or actual. It's how it must be. You see it at every level from the playground on up. In kindergarten kids slap each other for taking their toys. When the player gives the football coach lip, the coach takes him by the shoulders or smacks him across the helmet. When the American way of life is threatened we go into another country and "spank" them. It's all the same thing and it's necessary to keep things running in an orderly format. Who's going to run things otherwise? A bunch of wigged-out pacifist hippies who can only think as far ahead as the next bong hit? A soft society sooner or later is a slave society.

Get with the program. It's real life.

Anonymous said...

Roger this is not the same anon but it's hard for me even to conceive the cynicism behind your answer to that other anon. We're all brutes and savages at heart then I guess, and we might as well just grow up and accept it, right?

RevRon's Rants said...

Sorry to disappoint, Roger, but it wasn't me, although I was subjected to more than my share of beatings at home growing up. I don't see the world through the same cynical lens as you and anon apparently do; I'll acknowledge that the struggle against authority - and ensuing smack-downs - that you each describe as being present exists in some areas of life, but I don't buy that it is nearly as as universal as you both seem to believe, and can't help but wonder how one could adapt such a cynical worldview in the first place.

I find that all those bong hits aside, my own life and the lives of most people I know proceed along quite productively, sans any threats hanging over our heads. We do what we like to do, and manage to contribute to society in our own ways, without the need to be hard-asses. Sure, if and when a threat presents itself (thankfully, very rarely), we're prepared to abandon our pacifist ways and take whatever action is necessary, but if life was the eternal conflict you both describe, it would be easy to get and stay very depressed.

I have to admit, I am heartened to hear that you're tired of the hypocrisy and lack of vision. Perhaps there's hope for you yet. :-)

Anonymous said...

The non-Ron,'cynical anon' here,
Roger. Do you think that those countries that the US has gone into and 'spanked' and indeed is still 'spanking' with the Prez's drone hit list of extra judicial killings of innocents, will ever forgive and forget such disgustingly hypoctical behaviour from a state that claims to bringing peace and democracy with the barrel of a gun, or a predator drone's payload?

I grew up in hippie times though never a pacifist or a bong lover. I was keen to understand how the world and its people worked--call that cynicism if you like--I call it the only intelligent response to the mad fools currently wielding power and chucking shedloads of ordinance at brown people who happen to live in countries with covetable mineral resources.

I have nothing against Americans but the sheer stupidity of their blinkered world view is gob-smacking. As a professed christian you must realise that you will reap the whirlwind of what you have sown, if not from those angry (and getting ever angrier) brown people then from Mother Nature who will shrug us all off like a bad case of fleas--to quote my preferred prophet George Carlin.

You are living in a bubble, Roger, and one day soon it will pop. That's reality.

Steve Salerno said...

Non-Ron Anon: I know it's irksome to post a comment such as yours and have someone (like, say, me) seize upon a relatively in-passing remark. But I've never quite understood all the fuss about drones. Is it somehow dishonorable to take out strategic targets without putting our own soldiers at risk? Isn't the first rule of war (or surely the second) to minimize your own casualties?

I'm reminded of Truman's decision to use the A-bomb against Japan. sure there are those who see that admittedly horrific action as an in-your-face reprisal for Pearl Habor. But the projections for the number of fatalities we would've incurred in a more traditional invasion of the Japanese homeland were disturbing in the extreme. Why were we supposed to sacrifice tens of thousands of fighting men in order to defeat a (barbaric) foe who had ignored warnings to "surrender or else"?

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I have STRONG objections to the drones as they are being used in the Middle East, simply because they are not even remotely limiting their casualties to "strategic targets," and are inflicting horrendous civilian casualties. We're presently working with a client who has worked in the clinics and hospitals in Pakistan for years, and his descriptions of the results of drone attacks varies dramatically from the public pronouncements we read on a daily basis.

Yes, the attacks are targeted at specific targets, but the truth is that anyone who is even marginally close - say, within half a block - is taken out at the same time. The common knowledge in the region is that nobody survives a drone attack.

While I can certainly understand and agree with the objective of keeping the casualty count as low as possible among our military personnel, if we are killing 100+ civilians in order to save one American life while taking out a single enemy target, something is badly amiss. IMO, we need to rethink our tactical decisions, and find a better means of eliminating actual enemies, without wiping out entire neighborhoods and thereby creating entire villages full of new enemies. Morality notwithstanding, that is a fool's method of combat, and effectively negates the possibility of "winning" unless we literally annihilate the entire population in the region. Even then, we would have placed ourselves among the worst of the world's current regimes, creating enemies among those whom we once counted as friends.

Again, IMO, we are sliding rapidly down a steep slope in our military adventures, and rapidly abandoning the very values that we profess to cherish.

nonRon anon said...

Now which war would you be referring to, Steve?
I don't recall the US declaring war on the Yemen, on Pakistan, on Somalia. There are rules of engagement for war--what do you call some guy sitting in a safe house half a world away ticking off names on a hit list in some other neutral country where war has not been declared? Names that someone has arbitrarily decided need taking out (along with the collateral damage of anyone else in the vicinity, women, children, bystanders--who are automatically declared enemy combatants after the fact just for being in the path of the missile) without recourse to any rule of law?

And just for Roger, in his bubble, that same Prez, who, though brown, is an empty vessel- all mouth and no trousers- sneaked in some legislation last December (NDAA)

http://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/ndaa

that allows the Prez to do exactly the same to his own people.

Thats what happens when the rule of law goes out the window--its not just out the window for the brown peoples, its gone for all of us.
The Egyptians, to their credit, have recognised that with Mursi and his power grab--and they've only had democracy for a matter of months.

This is peacetime folks, imagine what the Prez will dream up if you really get a credible war threat on the home turf.
(Romney, of course, would have been far worse choice. Phew, that one was a close call for the rest of the world)

Steve, I don't want to debate Hiroshima and Nagasaki except to say that then the US really had declared war against Japan and was facing a credible threat, not a rag tag collection of local tribesmen with no real leadership, hiding out in the hills with out-dated weapons.
(And how much of the national budget goes on prolonging this unwinnable farce?)

nonRon anon said...

The illegal drone controversy has even made it to the NYT today:

'Election spurred a move to codify drone policy'

Anonymous said...

I got the whack at school a few times, one teacher called his stick Fred and drew a face on it.

Did it help form my character?

Of course - I now regard many teachers as arseholes.

Ron's right, a lot of kids (often with good reason) are so at odds with a school that it becomes a badge of honour. Like with me.

You would think after the 20th caning (not me) the school would have got the idea that it doesn't work... but no....

Wow, Salerno really doesn't get that thing about drones. We're asking for blowback real bad.

And O'Keefe still sings the 'way of life under threat' song.

Bin Laden told us why he attacked, and the guy who used to hunt him (Michael Scheuer) agrees - because of perceived injustices and because Western troops are on Saudi soil, not because of our freedoms etc.
It's all on the web for anyone to read. Bin Laden referenced dead children a lot in his propaganda, drones bring more dead kids, and I don't think jihadis are going to ignore that.


Steve Salerno said...

Anon et al, I think what we face here inevitably/eventually is the question: How does one defend one's self against the singular threats of today's assymetric world? And do we place the value of America--and American lives--above the value of other nation-states/lives? I think about the Israeli pledge--"never again"--which basically means that they will blow everyone else to smithereens, if it comes to that, before they go humbly to oblivion.

So let's say that you, Anon, or whoever else, are/is the president, and you are faced with the above-all-else mandate of preserving our national security. How far do you take that? If you know that somewhere in Pakistan is a man, a single human being who, if left to his own devices, will demolish New York, do you take the King Herrod approach and destroy all of Pakistan in order to be sure that you got that one guy? And if you don't take that approach--and New York is indeed vaporized--have you failed in your responsibility to the American people? How much loss of life must we incur in order to "honorably" defend ourselves? How many people are we allowed to kill prophylactically, if you will? Those aren't rhetorical questions. I'm asking.

If you are holding, in Guantanimo, a man who can tell you how to thwart a plot in which operatives throughout the U.S. are poised to kidnap schoolkids and skin them alive, how far do you go in order to extract that information?

How far would YOU, as an individual, go to protect your own wife and/or kids, in analogous circumstances?

I'm just askin'.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I would go to ANY lengths to protect those I love. Does that mean I'll go out and cap anyone whom I think might pose a threat to them? Of course not. For one thing, that would reduce me to a level of inhumanity equivalent to that of the worst of my enemies. And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, it would not be effective, since everyone I managed to eliminate would have friends and family who would then be highly motivated to avenge their loved ones' deaths. It would essentially be attempting to slay the Hydra by cutting off some of its appendages, only to have two grow back in their place.

I think that a much better approach would be to put more money and effort into direct aid to the people of the countries, rather than to the governments. Our client - an American - travels freely in the Middle East, with significantly less threat of harm than our military encounters, simply because he DEMONSTRATES his desire to help, with no hidden agenda. Even the warlords and militants give him a pass. Were the US to support genuine relief efforts in the region, the power of those who would harm us would be greatly diminished, simply because they would not have the support of the populace. But as long as we wipe out whole neighborhoods in our attempts to kill specific targets (as is the case with the drone attacks), the people have no reason to trust us. I've always been convinced that we could have "won" the Vietnam war by dropping medical supplies and food instead of bombs, and the current situation only serves to reinforce that belief.

There will likely always be strife between the different factions in the Middle East. Our involvement - especially our support of one faction over another for reasons borne of our economic agenda - only serves to escalate and perpetuate the hostilities, much like a parent who overreacts while attempting to intervene in a playground dispute. If we are going to use our military, it should be solely to protect the members of the true relief efforts mentioned above.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you, as always, Ron, for that thoughtful, literate and well-modulated response to the dark/starkness of my questions. Whether or not I agree with you, everything you write is a good read. Ever think of doing this for a living?

Anonymous said...

Look mate, you're getting a bit predictable with your ticking bomb stuff - it just doesn't work any more.

Yawn.

What if one of the guys the bomber blew up was a mad scientist who was developing a virus that would wipe all humanity out?
You can't know that's not the case.
Wouldn't it be worth sacrificing NYC to save the world?
Course it would.
I think you should go nuke New York quickly just in case.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I don't think your reductio ad absurdum argument applies here (though it did make me smile). While there may be some nut-case in NYC trying to develop a slate-wiper bug, I think it far more likely that there ARE any number of such scientists--not mad, but on the gov't (or theocracy) payroll--at work on such projects in the likes of Iran, Afghanistan, possibly North Korea, etc. And we also know that Iran has a standing vow on the table to destroy Israel if it ever gets hold of a nuke. If you were Netanyahu, would you allow that to happen if you could prevent it?

I was just asking what I consider a reasonable question, or series of same: What level of opposition losses are acceptable to ensure a favorable outcome for the U.S? If you live elsewhere and you don't especially care about the U.S., or if you live here but are one of those one-world types who equate killing a Libyan terorist with killing one of your neighbors here at home...then that's your call...mate.

Anonymous said...

Look, I know an absurd distraction question when I see one.
Think you'll find the US has most bioweapons anyway. Or maybe Russia. Who knows. Haven't noticed waves of smallpox devastating the world lately so I guess it's quiet on the evil foreigner bioterrorist front.
I absolutely believe Afghanistan to be have one of the best funded bioweapons programs, didn't I read a leaked report that Karzai had some mouldy cheese in his fridge, the fiend. It's a dual use fridge, oh noes.

Killing a Libyan terrorist or killing one of my neighbours..... facepalm.

Anonymous said...

Plus, if the mad mullahs had a good bioweapon, and they were suicidally irrational, they could have pretty much devastated Israel by now already - no nukes needed.
Float that one to your buddies, I reckon you could get folk really freaked with that, an excellent new twist. Iranian ebola on the subway - silent death stalks our civilization....

Steve Salerno said...

I think you're missing my point, Anon, and I think you're missing it purposely.

Life is a series of "What if's." You can walk around expecting everything to be rosy (or at least tolerable), and most of the time you'll probably be right.

But there will always be crazies--bad seeds?--and we live in a world where a few bad seeds (or religious zealots) can wreak unspeakable havoc on the rest of us. (As outrageous as my examples may seem to you, it is often the outrageous examples that clarify the thinking.) Even on a smaller scale these pockets of poisonous thinking are worrisome. Look at the Islamists who run around issuing fatwas over the defaming of the prophet, or who kill their daughters to preserve the family honor. Or look at a dude like Charlie Manson (Jeff Dahmer/fill in your favorite psychopath). Are we all supposed to sit around singing Kumbaya while mad Charlie is slicing and dicing our neighbors...or are we better off preparing for a mad Charlie? Isn't that why we have police and alarm systems and security gates? We try to mitigate what we can. But sometimes mitigating isn't enough. Did you expect 9/11 before 9/11...or were you one of those who would just laugh it off as, "Ah, come on, something like that'll never happen..."

nonRon anon said...

Steve, you cannot prepare for a mad Charlie but we do have a legal system to take him out of circulation once he's active.

And there is no way to 'ensure a favourable outcome for the US'--you takes your chances like the rest of us.
Besides, the way the US is currently going is destroying itself far quicker than any amount of mad mullahs could manage in their wildest fantasies.

Its just unfortunate that the US self-destruction is going to impact so badly on the rest of us.

RevRon's Rants said...

Those who would do us harm already have the weapons they need. And they have the personnel in place to use those weapons. What we have to realize is that we cannot stop them militarily, and certainly not with military exercises in the Middle East. The best we can do is mount a three-pronged effort:
1) Maintain vigilance here at home, including the use of some intelligence tools that might seem offensive to Constitutional traditionalists. Not by indefinitely detaining and torturing suspected participants, but I would think that some compromises in our privacy guarantees are worthy of consideration, given the potential threat.
2) Improve our image in the Muslim population by reconfiguring our activities abroad to focus more directly upon aiding the portion of the Arab/Persian population that is in genuine need, as mentioned previously.
3) Recognize that we are NOT dependent upon the region's resources (we actually export more oil than we import), and cease all activities abroad that are engaged in for the purposes of acquiring those resources, while simultaneously reducing our oil exports.

While we cannot GUARANTEE a favorable outcome for the US, we can do what is necessary to ENSURE the most favorable outcome. There is a difference.

I fundamentally disagree with the notion that the US is inexorably doomed to self-destruction, even as I concede that our current foreign policies enhance the risk of that outcome. It is not too late to get smart and realize that our greatest strength is not in our military might, but in the promise of a system that, if implemented as originally designed, greatly precludes the need to exercise our military strength.

There will always be malcontents, in the form of domestic doom-sayers as well as ideological jihadists. Our best chance of minimizing the impact such individuals have on global events is to strive to be a model for the world, rather than merely an enforcer. And to do that, we have to demonstrate the willingness and resolve to abandon our own form of jihad.

nonRon anon said...

Here's a chap prepared for the mad Charlies he might encounter at the gas station--or is it an example of a pocket of poisonous thinking?

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/26/us/florida-music-shooting/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Relentless bigging-up of non-existent threats for propaganda purposes just drives ordinary dumb citizens into paranoia. That is the real purpose of terrorism, and hey, it seems to be working well there.

Steve Salerno said...

Good points, Ron and Non-...

I will be back later with another one of my absurd hypotheticals, just as a thought experiment. I would ask you to humor me and provide a direct answer. Thanks.

nonRon anon said...

Ron,
Another thing that could be done would be to recognise how much vested interest from armaments manufacturers, the military baggage train and sundry camp followers there is in keeping the US in a state of constant undeclared war around the globe.

1000+ US military bases are now being heavily supplied and funded while the folks at home are increasingly relying on charitable food banks. That's not about self-defence, that's about lobbying by war profiteers who know a good thing when they see it.

Steve Salerno said...

So here is the ridiculous hypothetical I'd like to ask; and regardless of just how ridiculous you think it is, I'd like a direct answer anyway. Which is to say, please don't nitpick the question or its motives. Just take it at face value and answer it. (Again, humor me.)

With your young daughter, your only child, by your side, you are standing in front of a crowd of 1000 people: men, women and children. You know that somewhere in that crowd is a person who has vowed to kill your daughter--and you have every confidence that the person intends to carry out the threat. (You know that the person has done it before to others, several times.) You also know that the people in the crowd have been known to strap weapons to kids in order to use them as human bombs.

Question: Assuming you have the mans, do you kill all the people in the crowd in order to protect your daughter? Or would you say, well, there's 1000 people in the crowd, including children, whereas my daughter is just one person, so therefore I'll take my chances and, if the worst happens, 999 people get to survive, as opposed to just one. And then I'll deal with the perpetrator(s), if I can catch him/her/them.

I'd like to hear your thought process on this.

RevRon's Rants said...

You're right, Steve - this IS a ridiculous hypothetical, right up there with "If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts." That said, I'll play along for now. I'd stay between the crowd and my daughter, and deal with anyone who came toward us. I would kill all 1,000 in the crowd, one by one, if they tried to do her harm, but I could NOT slay a thousand people because one among them posed a threat, even one as grave as you describe. Doing so would make me 999 times worse than the person who supposedly posed the threat.

I seem to remember reading about a man who ordered the execution of six million people, simply because they were part of a culture to which someone in his past had belonged, and who had - in his mind - done great harm to him and to society. To him, the threat was very real. That still doesn't justify his actions.

Steve Salerno said...

Good points with regard to your reasoning, I think; they echo my own feelings. I don't think the hypothetical posed is quite as absurd as the "frog" line, however.

nonRon anon said...

I refuse to answer such a ridiculous hypothetical, even to humour you, because you are clearly trying to draw a sneaky parallel between your hypothetical crowd of 1000 would-be suicide bombers and what propaganda may have led some in the US to believe about people in general who reject the US way of life and death by drone.

I make this point because of your earlier statement about not understanding the fuss about drones and because I believe thinking people can sometimes change their positions on receipt of better, more accurate information.

So maybe there's hope for you yet, (but IMO probably not for Roger-- who is way too fond of 'spanking' for my taste.)

Steve Salerno said...

Fair enuff, nonRon...I just don't see what's so wring about thinking at the outer limits. I find that it often helps me decipher how I truly feel about matters much closer to home (and sane reality), as it were.

a/good/lysstener said...

Steve, I love your blog and even credit it with keeping me afloat at a very rough time in life for me, but I wonder about you when you go off into these lunatic fringe areas.

What useful purpose is served by contemplating these extreme and, really, extremely horrific scenarios? It makes me think you may be a very dark person deep inside. Tell me that isn't true.

Steve Salerno said...

Alyssa, see previous answer (i.e. I find it clarifying). And why is it "dark" to contemplate difficult situations that you may have to face (in some pared-down form)? Until quite recently we had nuclear missiles pointed at various major cities worldwide; in all likelihood we still do. Is it "dark" to plan for an emergency/contingency that could almost literally wipe Mankind off the face of the earth? Is it dark to arm yourself against your enemies?

Maybe sometimes we are dutybound to think about the unthinkable.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, give us some useful anchoring context here! Seems like it's way past time... ;)

nonRon anon said...

I agree that we are duty bound to think about the unthinkable but if you are going to posit a hypothetical scenario I think it has to relate more closely to the known possibles of reality than the example you gave.

You might well one day face a hostile crowd of 1000, but I can guarantee that you will never face a crowd of 1000 potential suicide bombers--simply because (despite the propaganda)those are extraordinarily rare birds and a crowd is anyway made up of individuals with differing levels of commitment to any cause.

Where are you DimSkip?

nonRon anon said...

OK, in the interests of context and the absence of DimSkip, I'll hypothetically offend all true believers here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJUhlRoBL8M

and the best bit, just to extend the suicide theme, although this bit came first:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_12E1EN6fs&feature=related

nonRon anon said...

Here's some more offensive stuff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDkhzHQO7jY

Anonymous said...

"You can walk around expecting everything to be rosy"

No I expect everything to be periodically disastrous - it's the price of doing business.

"Did you expect 9/11 before 9/11."

Of course I did, no surprise at all, only an idiot or ideologue would think that constant interference, manipulation and exploitation would have no consequences.

Bigger puzzle is why more people aren't out for revenge, they must lack resources.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon (5:39): OK, if you expected 9/11, and if (let's assume) a few others did, too, why is it wrong for the U.S. to be proactive about defense? Especially if we also know there are people "out for revenge."

And if you think we're just supposed to sit back and take it--because it's the "just desserts" of our intererence, manipulation and exploitation," let me ask: Even if you'd manipulated and exploited, say, an ex-wife, wouldn't you pick up a gun if she came looking for you with one?

nonRon anon said...

Or they're biding their time, awaiting the right moment.

Alternatively, maybe they're just smarter than us and have learned, unlike the mob, that vengence endlessly inflicted on the sons and daughters of our enemies is a mugs game.

Didn't Jesus (who also came up with the odd bon mot) have something to say about that?

Steve Salerno said...

Let me make something clear that probably isn't: I would very much like to live in a warm, cozy world where we all get along and there are no histrionic threats (or thoughts) of the type I myself have raised here in this thread. I would be the first one to want to make a peaceful outreach (remembering, after all, that it was the cultural exchange of U.S./Soviet schoolkids that really marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, paving the way for Reagan's epochal "tear down that wall" speech a generation later).

We just have to ask ourselves a few related questions:
Is a latter-day pax Romana realistic given
(1)the many factions who carry with them ancient quasi-religious hatreds (like the Islamic vow to destroy Israel)?
(2) the likelihood that there will always be individual/private-label crazies and terrorits who will have increasing access to WMDs?
(3) the fact that so many people out there--as our own Anons have demonstrated--hold the U.S. responsible for so much of the unrest in today's world, and appear to believe that if we suffer a 9/11 or whatever, we're just "getting what's coming to us"?

At the end of the day, perhaps, we may simply have to make the practical calculation: Whom do we want to survive and emerge semi-victorious from all this havoc and potential mayhem? Us or "them"? If your family is under siege, you are going to fight to ensure the survival of you and your loved ones, and you won't care one iota that you might have set the whole calamity in motion through your offenses against those who now besiege you. In that moment, all that matters is survival.

If a dog that has been mistreated turns on you, you may feel terrible about that turn of events--and deeply regret your role in it--but you kill the dog before it kills you.

nonRon anon said...

It may all be moot anyway if the sons and daughters of Stuxnet get in the game:

http://www.metro.co.uk/news/newsfocus/919292-hasta-la-vista-humanity-will-robots-wipe-out-mankind-like-terminators

Steve Salerno said...

Good point, nRA.

nonRon anon said...

Here you go, the answer from an intelligent US military man--'hubris' (from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance):


http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175622/tomgram%3A_william_astore%2C_generals_behaving_badly/?utm_source=TomDispatch&utm_campaign=c6c175cc1d-TD_Astore11_29_2012&utm_medium=email#more

Steve Salerno said...

Regardless, I still get the sense that Petraeus is probably unimpressive at full flower.

Anonymous said...

"Whom do we want to survive and emerge semi-victorious from all this havoc and potential mayhem? Us or "them"?"

You mean you long for genocide.

" and appear to believe that if we suffer a 9/11 or whatever, we're just "getting what's coming to us"? "

Again, you can start with your own top Bin-Laden-hunting guy for that one - he seems to have his head screwed on right on this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxdb5nnRMrU

I was thinking of moving to London a few years ago, but one of the things that put me off was that it seemed almost certain that there would be revenge attacks on the Tube - it's the most obvious sitting target, very scary enclosed space.

Surprise surprise....

Anonymous said...

I'm sure my Grandfather, who spent 35 years in an Imperial army including occupying Pakistan and India, and my Father who was sent to a last gasp Imperial action in Aden (Yemen) in the 60's would recognise this sort of jingoistic stupidity.
In fact I know they would because my Father told me exactly what the British army thought of the natives, and to his credit it didn't impress him.

nonRon anon said...

'there would be revenge attacks on the Tube - it's the most obvious sitting target, very scary enclosed space'

Us Londoners have lived through previous bombing campaigns(IRA for many years)and still get on the tube. Its unpleasant but you can't live life scared of everything that might someday happen.

We should know better though, by now, about any residual jingoistic flag-waving. When Empires crumble they go down fast---as we well know.

Anonymous said...

So, Salerno, what where the Romans (ie. your mob) doing turning up on sacred Trinovante and Parisii soil, with their imperious arrogance, foreign gods, twisted tongue and their thieving grasp for tin and slaves ?

It makes me want to march on Rome and start burning and looting and have a nice game of behead the Roman, and if I ever got my hands on that pig Claudius...

.... I mean, when you put yourself in someone else's sandals..... nothing new under the sun..... etc

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, we are an angry sort of philosopher, are we not? You sound like a fun guy. (gal?)

The Romans are not my "mob," btw. I am a Stevist. I disavow any historical/ethnic heritage. But if you choose to lump me in with people against whom you have a lingering grudge, that's your problem. You're just proving my point.

Which is why people like yourself should not complain when you're the ones who ends up bereft of head.

Steve Salerno said...

end up.

Anonymous said...

Ha, see the mighty Roman tortoise crumble under our assault.
Let's push 'em back into the Channel boys!

Steve Salerno said...

Hey, Anon, they have meds for that, you know.

a/good/lysstener said...

This is what we women hate about you men is this macho pissing contest nonsense. Can't you just talk without posturing and beating your chests!?

Steve Salerno said...

People, can we eschew the graceless sexist comments about out fellow bloggers. Is that too much to ask?

Such banter is juvenile and does not further the discussion.

Thanks.

Dimension Skipper said...

I've avoided the commenting fray in this case because I really haven't had any, or much, context to contribute. And usually what contextual links and such I toss into your local SHAMosphere here is just stuff I happen to randomly come across at opportune times among my normal day-to-day browsing at "stuff that interests me."

Also, I find such moral quandaries such as the ones being posed here quickly morph into moral quagmires where everyone has their positions to defend, but there is very little ability to make progress toward any sort of suitably acceptable middle ground. In these cases, the devils are truly in the details...

HOW do you KNOW there's a person in the crowd who wants your daughter dead? There must be some history behind it, some context for the scenario, something to go on. Until I know the "before" circumstances I can't really be expected to reasonably comment on the "after" scenarios, can I?

The closest non-military analogous situation which popped to my mind was the D.C.-area sniper several years ago. People knew there was a nut-job shooter out there somewhere picking off the occasional random victim. It didn't stop people going about their days, though. I'm not sure how that contributes, or even if it does, but that's what I thought of.

Another thought that popped to my brain has to do with dogs, specifically... I walk a cousin's dog every day. I let him play with one neighbor's dog because they get along really well and are about the same age and size. But when the play time is over, I have to walk by another yard where two dogs are out in their invisible fence area. I know where the fence line is and I keep "my" dog (Jake) outside of it. One of the fenced dogs is friendly enough and would also like to play, but the other one is a little "Hitler" type of yapper, barks his head off at Jake every time and would obviously like to get at him.

Well, the other day as I was walking Jake on his leash along the fence line, with me between Jake and the fence containing the others, suddenly much to my surprise "Hitler" darted right on by and grabbed hold of Jake at the neck and would not let go. Jake, naturally, protected himself and bit back in similar fashion.

Quick decision/reaction time on my part... what to do? All I really could do, since the attacking dog was the smaller one, was reach down to grab "Hitler" and extricate him from Jake. So I spent the next 5 or 10 minutes with Jake on the leash trying to pull me this way and that while I'm latched onto a squirming, barking dog who STILL wanted to get down to attack Jake for whatever unfathomable reason. I was lucky that "Hitler" didn't turn is attention to eying my own now easily accessible throat.

Finally I got Jake put away temporarily and then took the calmed down "Hitler" back to his own home and locked him in the garage since the owner didn't seem to be right there at that moment. For the record "Hitler" got the worst of it with a neck scratch and some bleeding (though no serious harm), while Jake was not hurt.

That may seem off the wall and probably off topic, but I always knew the little bugger wanted to hurt Jake. However, him getting out of his invisible fence area was a complete surprise. Apparently the battery in his collar had gone dead. Once the attack had begun, what could I do? In hindsight I think I took the most reasonable action available (seeing as how I don't carry weapons on our walks).

Again, not really sure how or if it relates to current subject matter, but I guess my point is that it's a scenario I sort of was aware of, but never really expected to face and then suddenly there it was... Yet knowing the dog would attack if it ever got the chance and facing it were two entirely different things. I didn't have but a nanosecond to consider my options and choose what (thankfully) turned out to be the right one, apparently.

Dimension Skipper said...

As for some sort of linkable "context," this is probably the best I've come across...

Morality, the Next Frontier in Human-Computer Interaction

While some fear the rise of the machines as a possible (likely?) oppressor and means to the end of the human race, others envision tech as potential saviors which remove emotion and personality from the cold equations of morality to make quantifiable evidence-based decisions for us. Would such mechanistic "overlords" end wars or start them? Or provide a common enemy to unite against? Too soon to call it, I think.

I'm not sure the quandary posed in the article involving the school bus is a valid one because why wouldn't the school bus also be an automated AI-based transport, probably in communication with all the other AI-based vehicles around it? Perhaps they're thinking about a hybridized changeover period in which there would be a mix of AI- vs human-controlled vehicles.

Anyway, it seems to me that the advantage of letting machines autonomously decide such morality-based questions for us is that they are better at fast on-the-fly observations and also remove the emotional component (I presume). Of course, many would argue that the latter is really the biggest DISadvantage ot letting machines have such control/power.


And here's another morality-based conundrum I found interesting...

Alleged Teen Burglars Charged With Death of Accomplice Shot By Owner

I'm not sure what to make of it or where I stand on it. Just throwing it into the ring under the general "morality" heading.


I also sense/fear that the discussion (and my late-contributing part in it) may have gone completely astray from the original topic which is another reason I was hesitant to jump into things. But whatever... for better or worse, there's what I could scrounge up to say on such matters have been posed here.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, thanks as usual for those important contributions...and I apologize for coercing them from you. It's just, what can I say...you're valuable, dude.

Your dog story is more on-point to me than it might be to most, because for the past year I have been basically fostering my son's very nice, lovable pit bull (technically an AmStaff), Benny. He is a great little guy who thinks the world was put here to love him. Yes, he barks at other dogs, but--when he actually reaches them--wants only to nuzzle or play. Vicious he is not. Ever.

However, there are other dogs in the neighborhood--much smaller than Benny--who run up and, for whatever reason, nip at him. One of those dogs seems intent on actually biting Benny, given the chance. So far Benny has been a good sport about all this--even trying to lick dogs that are chomping on him--but I can imagine a day when he tires of the sniping from the little brats and uses one of 'em for a rag doll. (Perhaps you've seen videos of pits doing their things, which is to say, they seem to love nothing more than getting a furry toy in their powerful mouth and chewing the living daylights out of it while shaking it and growling furiously.) Were he to do that to one of his tiny attackers, I am sure the results would be fatal--and then we'd have to listen to yet another story about those "dangerous, evil pit bulls."

Somehow in a small dog we tolerate nastiness, even ferocity, and yet let a larger dog rise to the challenge and all hell breaks loose and suddenly the neighbors are up in arms.

Dimension Skipper said...

I fear you flatter me with undeserved praise and singling out, Steve, but Thanks! I still appreciate your posts and the lively ensuing commentary even if my contributions are relatively infrequent...

It's always the little dogs with the Napoleonic complexes! Jake is the same as yours... friendly as all get out if a little overenthusiastic at times and at a year and a half old and after 8 months or so of walking and simple behavior training, he's manageable by voice commands usually. Not perfect, mind you, and I don't expect he ever WILL be, but he's much, much better than when we first started our relationship. I've seen him not flinch at other dogs that run up, bark and growl and get close... but if they make contact, then watch out! Btw, Jake's a springer spaniel in the 65 pound range.
__________

Finally... while **I** know what you're talking about, some other folks may not have a clue... I'm not seeing my first comment in the stack above. I hope you just momentarily neglected to approve it—I'm assuming you meant to since you're commenting on it yourself here—and didn't accidentally delete it because there's no way I could possibly recreate it from memory.

Steve Salerno said...

DimSkip, I thought I approved it last night, obviously, but there it was, lying unloved and huddled against the morning chill, in the pending comments section when I got up today. Sorry for the oversight. Don't know how that happened.

nonRon anon said...

One of my comments failed to appear also--my cynical side wondered at possible censorship. Did the comment contradict Steve's fundamental agenda here? ( I have yet to fathom any consistent agenda)

Whatever, pertaining to AI, drones and the inevitable moral quagmire that results from their use, have a look at this utterly beautiful flying machine:

http://rt.com/usa/news/us-drone-launch-autonomous-986/

I have had many large, powerful, beautiful, well trained and much loved dogs in my lifetime--I never for one second forgot what utter destruction they could also wreak if their innate doggy nature should momentarily override their training.

nonRon anon said...

And for some more moral ambiguity, relating to the profitable new US energy glut:

'The relatively small number of animals reported sick or dead invites the question: If oil and gas operations are so risky, why aren’t there more cases?'

http://truth-out.org/news/item/13058-why-are-cows-tails-dropping-off

Steve Salerno said...

PROTOCOL REMINDER

I like to keep the blog as open as possible to conflicting philosophies, and toward that end I will allow a fair amount of leeway in terms of tone; certainly I allow a good deal of leeway in criticism of me and my so-called agendas.

However, I draw the line when it comes to personal snideness and/or sniping with no redeeming/overriding social value, as it were...especially when I deem those comments to be sexist and/or implicitly sexual or objectifying in nature. There is no call for that kind of sniping or belittlement here.

I reserve the right to take that approach in my own voice in my own posts, when dicussing public issues and public figures; it's my blog, after all. But I won't have contributors going after each other in that manner.

Steve Salerno said...

And btw, I want to offer my gratitude to all those who have participated in this thread. It's been a good discussion, I think. I have benefited from it and learned a lot along the way.

Jenny said...

I've been following the conversation and yet didn't really have a cohesive response until now. Even so, you be the judge about whether it's cohesive or not!

Your topics are often "big" ones, Steve, and thus a quick or glib response (and I'm notorious for those) seems inadequate.

A couple, actually several things come to mind. I could write a blog post in your comments section. :)

First, my nephew recently shared a couple of videos that really got me thinking about American "freedom" and what it means. You and some of your readers may have heard of "VICE" on YouTube. They post some really interesting and thought-provoking videos... wow, an Italian Gastropub? That's one I just noticed, but I digress. Here's the first one:

Shooting the Biggest Guns Money Can Buy | The Big Sandy Shoot

What got my attention in here is one of the guys making the claim that what they are doing is the ultimate freedom, in other words, the pinnacle of why we go to war. Some weird irony there, for sure, to fight like hell for the "privilege" of being able to go out in the desert and practice... fighting like hell. (?) Anyway, that's one thing.

The other one is more to the point of the turn this discussion took, I think.

The Business of War: SOFEX

It's worth watching, about a trade show for war, hosted by the Jordanian king.

About dogs, I have a lot to say about them but will stick with just this, for now. We have a Labrador retriever who was psychologically scarred by attacks on two different occasions by loose dogs in our neighborhood. She learned how to fear other dogs. Before the attacks, it never occurred to her to be afraid of anything or anyone. Afterward, however, we saw her aggression (in the form of growling and at times snapping at people and other dogs) in situations in which she felt threatened, even if no actual threat was present. Similarly, we have a chihuahua mixed with Italian greyhound, a sprightly little fellow who was rescued from an abusive home over five years ago. To this day, he still cowers sometimes in totally nonthreatening situations.