Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Why is it not OK to kill people in the name of a religion, but it is OK to kill people in the name of a nation?" (Ian Welsh)


Showtime's Homeland has been one of the few mainstream media places where consideration has been allowed for the implications of murder by drone -- or even that there are implications.

by Ken

I should have had occasion before now to direct attention to a string of posts Ian Welsh has written in the wake of the events in Paris, because Ian has been insisting on questions that hardly anybody else has even been hinting at, namely the wild disproportion between the furor over those events and regularly occurring series of events in various parts of the world that have been taking lives in quantities many orders of magnitude greater, and not as plots by bands of terrorists but as the official policy of eminently "respectable" and "legitimate" agencies like, you know, governments -- including guess-which.

So I would encourage you to take a look at "In light of Charlie Hebdo, are some lives worth more than others?" (Jan. 8), "Charlie Hebdo and the Moral Moment" (Jan. 9), and the quickie "The Effect of the Charlie Hebdo Attacks Will Be Less Freedom" (Jan. 11).

I think many of us have the gut reaction that we're comparing apples and oranges here, that the Charlie Hebdo massacre is somehow different. But I know I sure can't explain in any remotely satisfactory way how or why they're different from government actions that knowingly, intentionally result in masses of deaths of people just as innocent as the Paris victims.

Now Ian has backed the discussion up and framed an even more basic question, "a simple question for those who read this" -- one that's even harder to answer satisfactorily. He asks us to "spend some time thinking about it," and I think this is an excellent idea.

For this purpose I'd prefer to have Ian frame the question his own way.
People are very strange: murder edition

2015 JANUARY 20

by Ian Welsh

I have a simple question for those who read this:
Why is it not OK to kill people in the name of a religion, but it is OK to kill people in the name of a nation?
I’ve always had a great deal of trouble with the way most people run their morality and ethics. Objectively, the Iraqi blockade of the 90s killed vastly more people than 9/11. I once got to see an Iraki pediatrician writing in real time about all the children who died in the 90s, whom she could have saved, if she had had the medicine the West was denying Iraq.

The Vietnam war killed more people. The Chechen war killed more people. The (insert war here) killed more people.

I can run through the intellectual arguments, but on a fundamental level I don’t understand: why is it ok for nations to kill on a mass scale but no one else can? (Well, except some corporations. See Bhopal, India and Union Carbide.)

The true decline of religion in the West is, in fact, indicated exactly by the fact that many people think it isn’t OK to kill in the name of your religion. The Crusades, and the religious wars of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation would like to chat with you about that.

For that matter, austerity has certainly killed more people in the West than religious-based terrorism has. Heck, practically everything that does kill people, kills more.

Humans are just very odd. Very, fundamentally, stupid and foolish. Barely conscious.

Spend some time thinking about this. Because it’s a question that is more important than it seems (and it should seem important enough as is.)
Note that what Ian is asking for is thinking about it, not knee-jerk mouthing off. They're not the same thing.

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At 10:37 AM, Anonymous mediabob said...

Ken, in your opinion, and as an aid to thinking about Ian's question, is he saying the two sides are mutually exclusive? Having previously read some of Ian's thoughts on trouble between Ireland and England, I concluded he felt there was little difference.


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