Friday, February 05, 2010

Further Ruminations On Responsibility

Right wingers have made the arguments to me, that because they didn't depose Saddam, Iraq children deserve to have their limbs blown off by cluster bombs or to be burned to death by phosgene.

On now liberals on Automatic Earth are making the same arguments about how we are all war criminals, because our leaders are. And so it follows, that our children deserve to be slaughtered and burned alive.

Sorry, no matter how you couch it or how many double standards you believe in, I don't buy it. I do not believe that this is a moral or ethical way to view ourselves or others.


At 8:58 AM, Blogger Ric said...

Hey Weaseldog,
Always enjoy your posts, but I don't see the logic in your statement:

And so it follows, that our children deserve to be slaughtered and burned alive.

Ilargi's argument, so it seems to me, is "Ich hab es nicht gewußt" defense got thrown out at Nürnberg.

Yours is: you and I are not personally responsible for the choices made Dick Cheney or John Wayne Gacy.

The question is, how pervasive is guilt and what is to be done about it? Seeing the species as a whole as flawed (guilty), does not necessarily mean you burn all it's children. There are other ways of seeing the species as inherently flawed, but redeemable, transformable, or at least tolerable, if not beautiful.

Taoists say it's possible to make a choice to begin following the Tao, Hindus choose to start a yoga for realizing Atman is Paramatman, Buddhists say it's possible to choose to follow the eightfold path to awaken our Buddha Nature, monotheists say it's possible to morally and ethically submit to an ontological reality transcendently separate from ourselves. Christians say it's possible to find a union between two ontologies and call it Christ. I've no idea how Ilargi deals with what appears to see as the pervasive guilt of the species--I'm just saying there are nother ways to answer guilt with a response other than burning children. Gotta run....

At 9:18 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Thanks Ric for your reply.

For the sake of drama and illustration, I have taken this example to the extreme. Nut it is the extreme I hear from right wingers.

And it is Ilargi's argument that is used to justify our wars, but those that love wars.

But remember, in Nuremburg, the men put on trial, were men who made the decision to do evil deeds, and worked hard to accomplish them. Their wives and children weren't tried, convicted and hanged for simply being related to them.

Ilargi did argue that if I'm related to someone who commits a crime, then I am guilty too.

With the philosophies you mentioned, there is a core belief that were are responsible for our own path in life, and what becomes of us, is up to us. I would not be judged or my karma sullied by the path that an unknown stranger takes.

Ilargi says that I will be judged for the sins of those I oppose. Because I share the sins of humanity. I believe I will be judged according to the choices I make and the things I do.

Ilargi's view appears to offer no hope of redemption or of bettering oneself, as no matter what we do in life, our actions are rendered null, by the sins of others. That seems to me, to be the path of despair.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With those types of comments, it's no wonder Nicole & Bas use pseudonyms @ TAE.

Foss at least works on gov't funded projects. Van Berkel has private (US!) money that might not appreciate his indictments.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

To be clear, Ilargi never said our children should be slaughtered. That just seems to be the logical extension of his argument, if you view it the way the neocons do.

He calls me judgmental for believing that people should be tried for crimes that they commit, out in the open in plain sight. He feels that because we are all guilty, and thus should not call for their arrest.

Perhaps his view comes from Matthew 7:3, "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Or Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

I see these as general warnings against hypocrisy. Not a reason to allow crimes to continue without resistance, for fear that we might be judged to share in those crimes.

If our leaders were arrested, tried and convicted when they commit crimes in plain view, they'd quickly shape up, or hide the crimes better. We would not have the shared guilt problem. It's our refusal to enforce our laws, that make us guilty.

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Ric said...

You're making assumptions about people and existence that can't be generalized the way you do when you say that in the world's spiritual traditions there is a core belief that were are responsible for our own path in life, and what becomes of us, is up to us.

This varies by the tradition and where one is on the path of that tradition. Take just the first half: there is a core belief that [we] are responsible for our own path in life. Cultures around the world vary a great deal on what is meant by "I." Those of us with western education refer to ourselves with an egoic sense of personhood having an ontological reality. This is not a universal reference, though. To take just one example, there isn't a word in Hindi for the western psychological term "ego." In Hindi, a commensurate term for the first person singular is Mai, which people use to refer to themselves—and in Sanskrit, the term for their will with which they make decisions is Ahankara, which refers to egoism, one of the four elements of the mind. The practicing Hindu is continually suffering the karmic consequences of his actions that shape his past, present and future, but this doesn't mean there is a core, ontological "I" making decisions. The only way to become free of karmic consequences is Moksha, the freedom of the realization that Atman is Paramatman through one of the four main yogic paths: bhakti, karma, jnana, or raja where you reach the end goal realizing tat tvam asi, “You are that.” In other words, a practicing Hindu wouldn't say, he is responsible for his own path in life because in the end he sees the "I" making these choices wasn't real to begin with. All this is a generality, of course, as there are many Hindu schools with different emphases, but I believe the majority would agree that the end-goal is realizing tat tvam asi. Similar analysis about the illusion of "I" can be made with the various Taoist and Buddhist schools.

It's not until you come to the monotheist traditions such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity that "I" starts to have an ontological reality--where it's valid to say that "we" are a true reality. Even then, though, various monotheistic traditions differ on the second part of your sentence: what becomes of us, is up to us Generally, the "I's" role is closer to "participation" in deification, divinization, or transformation--the "I" doesn't make the final determination of the final state, it participates.

All world traditions have a sense of an inherent flaw in humanity--but you'll also find in most of the various schools of Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity discussions of grace--unearned transformation or redemption. It's probably valid to say that people from many of these traditions' schools would agree that the final end-goal is not the sole doing, or responsibility, of the "I"--whether an ontological reality or not.

So the nut seems to be your sentence:

I believe I will be judged according to the choices I make and the things I do.

This is your path--how you see things, which is fine. This is good to know. There's no way to know, but I'd guess it might even be similar in many ways to how Ilargi sees things--that his only integrity lies in his choices. I'd just be cautious saying that how you view things is the core belief of the great world traditions or how they deal with the flaws and limits of the species.

I don't know what keeps Ilargi from despair. His sense of the reality of ethics is so finely tuned I admire his earnestness tremendously. Life's hard anyway you cut it.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Ric said...

Hi Weaseldog,
I hope you don't mind my going on about the discussion between you and Ilargi. I just got back from exercising and one more thing occurred to me. I think it's wrong for me to equate "guilt" with "flaw." Ilargi leans heavily on guilt, which is your objection. While world spiritual traditions see some kind of flaw in humanity, they vary widely on what it is and what to do about it. For those in a monotheist tradition like Christianity or Judaism, there is a choice about how to approach, or participate, with the divine. One can do so through guilt and horror about creation or one can do so out of love for the divine. Ilargi's clearly a guilt and horror kind of guy--we're all responsible for what Cheney does. I don't know you at all, but from what you say it sounds like you approach life not through guilt, but love of life. I've no idea if that's right, but I thought I'd mention it. For myself, I'm both--I'm thoroughly repelled by human nature and totally enthralled by it's union with the divine. Thanks for the invite!

At 7:19 PM, Blogger edgar said...

Moonbats and wingnuts are both equally worthless. They debate shit in a fantasy world. There is no liberal party, and no conservative party, only the fascist party. Why debate shit that has no basis in reality? Does anyone you know admit to being a member of the fascist neo-lib/neo-con party? Of course not. What you are really arguing is that those assholes must be stopped, and because we don't try to stop them through violent means makes us culpable. I refute this argument.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger edgar said...

I suppose we should feel bad about WW3 when it happens too, right?


At 7:59 PM, Blogger WgS said...

I guess I look at it in these terms, "I am that too." Then, I ask myself what qualities do I want to nurture and promote.

Of course, I lose every argument I ever get into. However, when someone is sick, injured or dying... I am there.

I am getting tired of these discussions though because I think that people mostly only care about making their point more than they do learning from each other and sharing points of view.

Best wishes to you and all of TAE. I hope that you prosper in your endeavors.


At 10:29 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Thank you folks for your wonderful responses.

Ric I can't say that I understand at the moment exactly what you're saying. Some of the words you have used, I don't know the definitions for. I will be looking them up later today.

I see nuances in the arguments on guilt and responsibility.

In my way of thinking, guilt is a form of self judgment and punishment. A person may wallow in guilt for purely self serving ends. Guilt requires no logic or reason. A person can feel guilty for an event without cause. Or for events that have never happened and may never happen.

Responsibility though, can be rationally analyzed. A clear chain of events and evidence can determine degrees of responsibility. If I'm out in my car and I run over a dog that has darted out into the road. I hold some small portion of responsibility for being involved in the act. In my view, I do not deserve guilt, nor should I be punished for this accident.

Now if I had plenty of time to avoid hitting the dog, and chose to strike the dog, I bear a full portion of responsibility. Further, I should feel guilt.

If I see someone else run over a dog from afar. I am not responsible for this act.

Wgs, I don't see a way for anyone to be 'right' in such a discussion. But I find it abhorrent, when I come across someone writing that we shouldn't be judging mass murderers for their crimes, because we are all guilty. After the discussion on guilt was begun, Ilargi posted an article about how the bankers are blameless in our current financial mess, because they only wrote and submitted the bills, then bribed the lawmakers to pass them. The lawmakers are guilty because they voted for the laws. The citizens are guilty because they voted for the lawmakers. So don't blame the bankers.

Ilargi refused to explain why he felt this way. We're left to guess how he comes to such conclusions. We don't know why he believes that this is your fault, and my fault, but not the fault of the actors that intentionally worked to create this crisis.

His view makes no sense to me. I wonder if I should question his motivations?

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

This view that we should blame each other, and not the actors that engineered and created these crisis and crimes, is a dangerous way to see the world. And this view can lead to a society that can do terrible things. The Dark Wraith suggests that the generations that came after the boomers were trained in our public schools to think in such ambivalent terms about right and wrong. That this is where the view that a person's feeling and self esteem are more important than a person's actions.

When DW wrote that, I couldn't help but wonder if he on to something there. This leads to scary thoughts...

Now perhaps Ilargi actually believes that through voting, we can actually choose to promote rational and ethic candidates? In such a view, it would be easier even for me to ascribe more responsibility to the voting public. But I don't see how this changes the guilt of the players committing crimes.

If Ilargi believes this, then this could be the point of our disagreement. In the primaries, people appointed according to political and corporate contacts, pick and choose the candidates that represent them best. In the last democratic primary, Obama was this person. During his years as Senator he had a pretty solid track record of supporting everything that Bush wanted. So when the election came around, the people had a choice between two nearly identical corporate slaves. Yes there were other candidates, but the media had done a good job of making them invisible to the public.

In this view, I feel like a bystander watching another 9/11 unfold on television. The crime is in our faces, but the actors are faraway and mostly anonymous. I never had any direct involvement either way. People that worked to make it happen, made their decisions without my input.

In this view, voting between the corporate clones, don't ascribe additional guilt either way.

What I am worrying over is whether participating in the vote, is more or less evil than sitting it out. Isn't the participation, a form of support for the sham?

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Edgar, every word I hear from Leiberman, makes me want to puke.

Speaking of evil sociopaths, I wonder what little Billy Kristol is up to?

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Ric said...

Hi Weaseldog,
I like how your mind works. As I see it, Ilargi's from Holland, which suffered under the Germans. His family and friends may have suffered more than we know. The German citizen's argument that they didn't know doesn't cut it because out of the land arose an embodiment of evil that can't be pushed under the rug. I was born in Gemany and moved to the States as a young child--instinctively, I have great love for Germany and respect for the ethical and moral problems Germans face and how they spent the post-war period grappling intimately with the problem of evil. What should the German citizen have done? How is it different from what US citizens should do today? We are not bystanders, we live in a country where we are citizens. How responsible are we for what our country does? I don't see Ilargi saying we're guilty because we don't vote, or vote a particular way--but that we aren't as a nation so outraged that we're not setting ourselves on fire in the streets, eliminating power structures, tearing down the financial system, overwhelming education systems, and so on. Again, I don't know what he's thinking, but this is the impression I get. Germans and Americans aren't alone, of course--it's a human problem, human nature.

While it's possible to wallow absurdly in guilt, awareness of the depths of our human nature can also focus the mind in ways few things can. Solzhenitsyn wrote:

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.

Guilt arises from conscience. Dark Wraith's comment that today a person's self esteem and feelings trump actions is excellent. Conscience doesn't develop in isolation--it needs to compare the actions of others and ourselves against an inner sense of rightness. Conscience grows as we become forced to choose between an unknown rightness and our sensory satisfaction. Dark Wraith's and Ilargi are pointing out that we are now living in a land without conscience, which means we have forfeited the potential dignity, beauty, and freedom of being human.

You ask a terrific question:

What I am worrying over is whether participating in the vote, is more or less evil than sitting it out. Isn't the participation, a form of support for the sham?

At 12:24 PM, Blogger Ric said...

(cont.) You're asking what good Germans may have been asking themselves in 1930. My own take on this is simple, but hard to express because words and our culture are so inadequate at expressing the essence of things. I strongly feel that as a species we are all responsible for the evil created by the species--(if everyone took responsibility for their own evil, there'd be no evil, right? Evil seems to arise when people worry about OTHER people's evil, rather than their own)--but the solution(s) to the flaws in human nature are almost impossible to express well. It requires digging deep into conscience--deeper than 99% of people go. I also know that one only sees what one is. A thoroughly good person sees no evil at all. This is true. Explaining, or describing what a thoroughly good person is like, how their minds work, how they see what we glibly call reality and the world, how they relate to the social world around them are all issues extremely difficult to express in casual converation like this. But it is also simple: faith, which is impossible to talk about and in the relative world not simple at all, but the most difficult. Faith in what? How does one live such faith? And most importantly, how is it that the most evil people of all love to use that terrible word?

Sometimes I talk with my wife about the impulse to set myself on fire in protest. I let her talk me out of it. This said, it's also probable that in the inevitable decline of industrial civilization I will either die of starvation, violence, or determined social action. I can only help the death will be useful. Is it possible for human nature to fundamentally change? Most believe no--there's almost zero substantive description or knowledge about it, hardly even a language remotely comprehended. But it's out there, for those who choose to look. That's what all the verbaige in the earlier posts were about--good people throughout human history have found remarkable solutions. But similar to how a good relationship with our spouse requires full-bodied devotional commitment, so do such solutions.

I like how your mind works, your humor and attitude, Weaseldog, which is why I go on this way, and consider you a friend. Keep up the work.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger edgar said...

People like Lieberman make all the decisions wease. I won't blame the people of Iran if Ahmadinejad nukes Israel. Clearly they are not to blame. Too bad the maggots don't just kill eack other instead of the people.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys crack me up. You still haven't clued into the fact that Nicole & Bas set up TAE as a guerrilla marketing exercise.

It is nothing more than a clever attempt aimed towards influencing perceptions & popular opinion in order to engage actual public spending commitments.

Bas has plenty of back-end financing, but he first needs specific projects to be approved before is outfit can even begin the bidding process.

Same too with Nicole. She is completely dependent on the largess of the existing Canadian fossil fuels complex.

While they have no problem throwing a few crumbs her way to burnish their green credentials, the engineering consulting firm she runs with her husband first needs actual projects to be formalized.

That you and others project & ascribe some sort of noble, selfless motivations on these two is an excellent example of why many progressives are referred to as "useless idiots".

I'm pretty sure the two of them are a little bit embarrassed about the cult of personality that has been erected by their faithful followers.

Especially Bas; this guy is a financial engineer to the highest degree. Pathetic, wishful, slobbering adherents are probably the last thing he had in mind when he & Nicole first dreamed up their stealth marketing campaign at TOD.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Anonymous, I'm not sure you're really paying attention.

This isn't about some sort of adoration of Ilargi Or Stoneleigh. We're just discussing the merits or demerits of what they have to say.

I disagree with Ilargi on more points than this. Ilargi tells us that he thinks there's going to be another era of conventional oil production growth, and a new peak for instance. I don't think there is any reason to believe that will happen. Folks that do believe in this, will have completely different views on how future events will unfold, than what I ascribe to.

Stoneleigh doesn't share much in the way of opinion, so it's hard to get a bearing on what she beleives.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll try one more time: you are carrying on a debate with a cypher.

The personas with which they have both cloaked themselves were donned for a very specific purpose: to achieve their business objectives.

Who cares what they have to say. TAE does not exist to discuss the great issues of the day absent the primary agenda of creating more business for themselves.

Btw, the addresses I posted are widely available from their own published contact information pages for each of their respective organizations.

If you think you're protecting them, you're even more misguided than it appears. If you don't get it, I really can't help you any further.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger edgar said...

I don't get it, and I don't think you've helped me at all. :P

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

No, it's more about protecting myself.

That's why I deleted the contact information you posted here.

you may have noticed that Ilargi hardly debated this at all.

Further Ilargi isn't the first person I've heard to make these arguments.

And don't worry, I can read the bias in what he writes.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Ric said...

I&S are personal friends of a friend of mine--some of the data Edgar posts is accurate, some is taken out of context, and some is inaccurate.

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

So why should you give a rat's about what Ilargi thinks? I find his take on economic events interesting, and I like how he gathers articles from all over, saving me the trouble of digging them up myself (which I would never do, because I have a life to live.) So he and Stoneleigh lift my level of knowledge. But as far as their views on morality having any effect on how I regard my own morality, meh. Let 'em sit in judgment. I care not the least. Really, Weas, you're a smart guy -- you shouldn't let it perturb you.

And as far as know-it-all anonymous posters, I give them no credibility, despite whatever personal addresses and crap they can type onto a screen.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Bukko, I'm not too worried about Ilargi's views, beyond trying to understand them.

Yesterday he wrote, "Of the two, the predators were certainly in a better position to assess the situation and must be regarded as the more culpable party, but without the greed of the prey, the exploitation would not have been possible."

This flip flopping / Reversals, tells me that either he doesn't understand what he believes in, or Anonymous is write and he's shaping the message. Since others gave him some friction, he may be tailoring what he writes, to the mood of the readers.

At the moment, I think Ilargi is young, has a bit of an inflated ego do to his blogging success, and is still very much an emotional thinker.

Let's hope he's not a young KD in the making. At least he didn't send me angry nasty emails. That's a plus.

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Bukko_in_Australia said...

Fair enough, Weas. I've never had much interest in the metaphysical search for meaning, the things like you and Ric got into on this thread. I'm too rooted in the physical world, especially in this medical career I have now. What's someone's blood level of potassium, do I need to get a medicine to them by a certain time, are hey covered in shit?... That sorta thing. My mind is on the concrete, not the higher level. It's like listening to someone talk about religion -- too unreal for me, and my eyes start glazing over.

Not that there's anything wrong with the Deeper Meaning introspection. Just not my scene. Glad to know Ilargi hasn't rattled you; just made you curious.

I'm more curious about your conspiracy-minded anonymous commenter. I'm pretty damn paranoid myself, so I think I have a good "paranoia-dar" sense. Methinks the guy (it's always a guy who comes on like that) has some vendetta-bone to pick with I&S for a personal ulterior motive.

What's I&S's marketing scam or whatever, anonymous? I sat around a table with Stoneleigh and a few other TAE readers for several hours and I didn't get any push for anything marketable. Not even a pitch for donations. And Stoneleigh didn't try to dominate the discussion. It was kinda like an intellectual salon at a brewpub. I don't see any sort of angle they're playing.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger fallout11 said...

Anonymous is sadly right, TAE is a classic honeypot operation in a sense, in that it exists to promote predetermined viewpoints and influence perceptions and popular opinion in order to engage in stealth marketing and personal enrichment. Astroturfing coupled with promoting cults of personality. The signs all were clearly evident at TOD long before I departed there, one reason why I never bothered with TAE besides attempting to refute some obviously false economic positions put forth by Illargi long ago. You do not waste time and energy debating with con men/women.


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