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In the last few days, many of you might have heard or read about multiple controversies surrounding a movie called ‘American Sniper‘. Some have raised questions about its authenticity and accuracy, while other have criticized the simple-mindedness and USA-centric bias of the film. While I was tempted to dissect the movie for this post, doing so would have shifted attention to the far bigger issue raised by this film.
The big question that almost nobody seems, or dares to, ask is: How would you rationally classify the real-life and now deceased protagonist of this film?
Some of you might say that he was just some soldier doing his job- and that is technically correct. However that conventional and stock answer obscures a lot of things- such as why he was in Iraq in the first place. So let us start by answering that question first. Available literature suggests that Chris Kyle voluntarily joined the U.S. Navy in 1999 and served in a special warfare unit, mostly famously as a sniper, until he was honorably discharged in 2009. His tenure in the U.S armed forces coincided with the U.S.-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And this brings us to the reason behind his fame or infamy. Why are we talking about him, rather than some other guy who served parallel tenures in the U.S armed forces? We.. he is supposedly the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, accumulating 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. Now it is certainly not unusual for snipers to be presented as national heroes. Many of you have probably heard about the Russian sniper, Vasily Zaytsev, who killed over 400 germans , including many during the battle of Stalingrad, in WW2 and there were many others like him.
There is however a common thread that runs through the life stories of all highly regarded snipers. Pretty much every respected sniper in history was fighting in a war imposed upon his country by another nation. There is a reason why men like Simo Häyhä, Ivan Sidorenko, Mikhail Surkov, Vasily Zaytsev are seen as heroes while other high scoring snipers such as Matthäus Hetzenauer and Billy Sing are mere footnotes in history. A person fighting for his nation on its own soil against an external aggressor is always seen as fighting the good fight. In contrast to that, a person fighting for the aggressor nation in a war it started is technically a mercenary.
As we all know, U.S.A was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War which started in 2003. It is also common knowledge that the public rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 was largely based on made-up intelligence reports and wishful thinking. In any case, the Iraq war was merely the continuation of a post-WW2 trend under which waging war against small or poor nations has become a standard part of the foreign, domestic and industrial policy of U.S.A. The fact that such actions often leads to defeats for the U.S.A, such as those experienced in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, has not done much to dissuade it from entering new ones.
But back the main topic of this post- What was Chris Kyle doing in Iraq during the 2003-2009 time period? and why?
Well.. according to his own book he was busy killing Iraqi “insurgents”. But why? and how exactly do you define “insurgents” if you are on the side that invades a country. Was Iraq under Saddam ever a credible threat to the U.S.A? If it was not, as was plainly obvious both before and after the 2003 invasion- wasn’t the local population justified in resisting and killing the invaders? I mean, would you not do (or at least wish for) something similar in that situation? Then there is the question of whether you classify somebody as insurgent before they are killed or after they are killed. Given the easy availability of guns in post-2003 Iraq and the unstable domestic situation after the invasion, pretty much every guy who could get a gun had one (or more). This is not a trivial point, as sophistic arguments centered on possession (or use) of guns could be used to classify every Iraqi adult or child as an insurgent- especially if they were killed by american military personal.
So his claim of killing between 160-255 Iraqi “insurgents” is best seen as a claim of killing 160-255 Iraqis. I should add that none of those who he killed posed a threat to the U.S.A (as defined by the area contained in the official boundaries of the country, its overseas territories or other officially known territorial possessions). To put it another way, he killed 160-255 Iraqis because he was told to, wanted to or likely a combination of both. And this brings us to the question..
How exactly was Chris Kyle different from a Hitman for a large organized ‘crime’ syndicate?
If you think about rationally, what he did was identical to the job function of a Hitman for an organized ‘crime’ syndicate. Some of you might say “but.. but, the U.S.A is not an organized crime syndicate. To which I would say- actions, not words, tell you what people and organisations really are. In any case, isn’t size the only real difference between modern nation states and organized ‘crime’ syndicates?
What do you think? Comments?
My less-than-optimistic views about humans, as well as my thought experiments, are well-known to regular readers of this blog. So, in that vein, here is another post (or perhaps series). Important: The following is a thought experiment, hence the simplification of numbers and ratios.
Imagine that you live in a social system containing a million more people. The level of technology, institutions etc of this ‘million+1′ system are pretty much identical to those found in contemporary materially affluent and developed nation states. So far, so good..
Now, let me set up the question. Imagine that the entirety of your life experiences strongly suggest that you (the individual) are routinely and continually being abused, discriminated against, marginalized and relatively impoverished. After enduring this state of affairs for 2-3 decades, your range of options to responding to this generally hostile society suddenly change due to the accidental acquisition of a ‘deus ex machina’ device.
This alien device has a switch and a dial with the following settings:
(1) Cause death of the device user.
(2) Cause death of the most abusive, discriminating and powerful 10% of the population.
(3) Cause death of the another 80% of the population (the not-so abusive and discriminating).
(4) Cause death of 100% of the population (even the non-abusive, non-discriminating).
Here is my question- Which setting would you use, if you choose to use such a ‘deus ex machina’ device?
Though the first option might seem quaint, it is actually the only way to actually remove yourself from the outcome of choosing the other three options. A few may choose it, most wont. So let us talk about the second option. Causing the death of the worst 10% might seem like the most just option- at least by conventional ideas of morality. But is it a solution? What about the role of the 80% who just followed orders? Surely, people who follow orders without thinking through their implications or consequences are as responsible for a dystopia as those who lead and profit from it. Also, what is the guarantee that those not-so-bad 80% won’t find a new and equally bad group of leaders? So option 3 would actually a more just option than option 2.
But what about option 4? Superficially it looks like the most inhumane and unjust option. Many would question the ethics and morality of causing the death of the nicer 10% of that society. Surely, they are not part of the problem.. or are they? A complex system is best understood by how it behaves in real life, rather than how it is supposed to behave in theory. To put it another way- if the supposed kindness, good will and altruism of the 10% was real, you would never even consider using the device- let alone choose an option for the dial.
The very fact that you would are actively weighing the pros and cons of the ‘right’ setting for the device implies that the society in question has failed you. Furthermore, the fact that it has not actually gotten sufficiently better over 2-3 decades to make you hopeful about the future suggests that it will not become substantially better. The worse 10% mediocre 80% and outwardly kind 10% are just a continuum rather than distinct groups. Reducing the size of such a system to favor one part of the continuum will eventually replicate the previous dystopia. Basically, you have nothing to lose by choosing option 4 since it alone can solve the problem forever.
What do you think? Comments?
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Cuties on the Beach: Jan 18, 2015 – Nubile cuties on the beach.
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The last few days have seen almost continuous mass-media and internet coverage of a series of terrorist attacks in Paris which started with the Charlie Hebdo shooting and ended with the Porte de Vincennes hostage crisis. As many of you know, incidents of this type have become a somewhat regular feature of the global news cycle. While the locations, details, casualties and scale of such incidents vary – they all seem to share a common storyline.
They are perpetrated by devout muslim men within a specific age range and almost always living in a country where muslims are the minority. While the exact reason given by the perpetrators changes from incident to incident, it almost always involves some perceived insult or injustice to their professed religion.
So, what is going on? Why are such incidents almost always perpetrated by the followers of one particular religion? What makes them so sensitive to real or perceived slights to their invisible friend or his long dead supposed human mouthpiece? Why are they so interested in making others accommodate their religious belief system? Well.. I will save my answers to those questions for another post. Instead, I will focus on a most peculiar phenomena seen in western countries in response to such incidents.
One of the most consistent public ritual seen in western countries after such an incident are the almost unanimous statements by political leaders, public intellectuals and mass media personalities which loudly proclaim that the incident in question had nothing to do with religion (specifically Islam). They then go on to claim that Islam is a “religion of peace” and that the perpetrators were not “real” Muslims.
Many readers might have noticed that these public rituals and proclamations have become more predictable than the terrorist incidents that necessitate them. But why are the official governmental responses of western countries to Islam-inspired terrorism so oddly similar? Also, why don’t such incidents have any worthwhile effect on relevant governmental policies such as immigration or integration?
Now, there are some who believe that such a peculiar set of official responses and oversight are deliberate and part of a nefarious conspiracy to “islamize” western countries. Others see this state of affairs as a result of the “west” losing its way, will, vital force or mojo. Some think that the west has become too soft and decadent or is racked by post-imperialist guilt. I believe that the answer lies elsewhere and involves far less conspiracy, organization or even thinking. But before we go there, let us quickly examine a few popular theories on why westerns countries are being unusually accommodating to militant Islam. For sake of simplicity, I will divide existing popular theories on this subject into two camps.
The first camp consists of theories centered on the idea that the peculiar response of western governments to islam-inspired terrorism is part of some great conspiracy. These theories require us to believe that western politicians and public intellectuals are very smart, highly organised extremely greedy and working according to some master scheme to somehow gain more power or retain it in the future. While the mental image of very smart, organised, greedy politicians and public intellectuals scheming to create a world that would make them richer or stronger is appealing and would make a great book or movie- it is simply not true. The vast majority of political leaders and public intellectuals end up their positions because of some combination of luck, accident of birth and internal intrigue. To put it another way- they are not especially intelligent, competent or farsighted.
Theories from the second camp, in contrast to those from the first, are centered around a different myth. This particular myth is rooted in the idea that whites (especially those in western countries) are intrinsically superior to others in all respects- but especially in matters of public and private morality. Of course, this myth totally ignores actual historical facts such as genocides of indigenous people on multiple continents, slavery and its relationship with capitalism, multiple revolutions, myriad wars and both world wars. Anyway, proponents of theories in the second camp see the “west” as having become too soft, decadent, unwilling to effectively confront external enemies etc. But is that really the case? The USA had no problems going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan or conducting warfare and drone strikes in countries like Pakistan or Yemen. Furthermore countries like UK, Australia, France and Canada have joint participants in one or more of such military operations.
It is therefore clear that both camps of popular theories are inadequate to explain the most peculiar response of western political leaders and public intellectuals to islam-inspired terrorism. But what if there is another explanation for such behavior- one that does not require you to invoke complex machinations or unrealistic beliefs.
Over the last couple of months, I had written a few articles about SJWs- especially Why SJWs Want to Censor Games While Studiously Avoiding Rap Music and The Priorities of SJW Activism Expose their Real Motivations. In the later, I said the following:
Pseudo-activists or SJWs have no interest in solving problems other than increasing their public status, power and income. They are just parasites exploiting existing niches for their lifestyle created by pre-existing system dysfunction. Also, SJWs do not actually believe in the ideologies they profess at every public occasion. Their publicly stated beliefs and ideologies are simply covers for their real motivations, namely- becoming rich and famous by screwing over other people.
So what does this have to do with the way western political leaders and public intellectuals respond to islam-inspired terrorism. Well.. a lot! To understand what I am going to say next, you have first look at the social contract (or the lack thereof) in pre-WW2 western countries. As many of you know, the pre-WW2 west had tons of poverty, deprivation, coercion and lacked anything approaching a functional social safety net. This widespread misery in the midst of technological progress and selective prosperity resulted in many social pathologies such as extreme nationalism, both world wars, many right-wing and left-wing totalitarian governments etc. It also gave rise to the modern socialist liberal movement.
In the aftermath of WW2, many older ideologies and socio-economic compacts were discarded because they were either useless or dangerous. In the west, socialist liberalism was pretty much the only ideology left standing. Moreover, its implementation delivered a very rapid and widespread increase in the material living standards of countries that adopted it. Even today, all developed country (including the USA) are pretty close to the original socialist liberal path. And this brings us to another question.
Why has the general adoption of socialist liberal policies not eliminated poverty and unnecessary material deprivation in developed countries?
This is far from a trivial question. As many of you know, the ability and resources to ensure that everybody living in developed countries enjoys a stable middle-class lifestyle has existed for the last few decades- but somehow it has never translated into the elimination of obvious poverty or materiel deprivation. Sure.. most people in developed countries still enjoy a decent, if somewhat unstable, lifestyle. But why has the acquisition and maintenance of a decent and stable lifestyle become progressively harder in developed countries in the last two decades?
The short answer is that it comes down to human nature. People like to abuse, steal from, impoverish and kill other people- even if they have enough. Consequently, all stable hierarchical societies will end up progressively impoverishing the majority of people in that society. This occurs whether the society is a pre-industrial kingdom or a post-industrial liberal socialist society. Furthermore all human hierarchies promote and are ultimately lead by the most short-sighted, deceptive, greedy and cruel individuals in that society.
That is why mainstream political leaders, public intellectuals and mass-media talking heads throughout the “west” now seldom seriously contemplate, discuss or propose effective action against issues like endemic poverty, progressive impoverishment or economic inequality. However they are also unable to redefine themselves as anything other than socialist liberals. Infact, it is pretty much impossible to govern as anything other than a socialist liberal in this day and age.
Consequently, they overcompensate by promoting nebulous and hard-to-oppose ideas such as “diversity”, “multiculturalism”, “tolerance”, “increased immigration” etc.
The problem of islam-inspired terrorism is therefore just an “unexpected” side-effect of modern official socialistic liberal overcompensation. Of course, nobody in power (especially sociopathic courtiers) want to admit that they were wrong and therefore fallible and not totally in control. So they make excuses and try to divert attention away from them. In any case, the political leaders, public intellectuals and media people in most western countries do not see their fates as being tied to the countries they live in. Therefore they have little interest in the ultimate outcome of their policies and decisions.
What do you think? Comments?