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Resisting An Underlying Moral Vacuum

By       Message Emily Spence     Permalink
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There are moment in life when one, seriously,wonders whether our species,overall,ismentally illin some underlying ways. Then again,any definitivedeterminationis likely relativisticsince itlargely depends on thestandards that a given society and culture use to define mentalillness, it would seem.
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In any case, there, certainly, seems to exist some sort of majorintrinsic flaws thathumans harbor in general. How could there not be when we, continually, have, along with many constructive ones,the same sorts of ugly dysfunctional behaviors happening again and again through the centuries?
In an offhand way,this being the casereminds me ofa particularshark species thatrenders live birthsbefore whichthe biggestbabies developed teeth andate their smaller siblings while in the womb. Imagine!(One can craft all sorts of analogies off of this pattern.)
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Yet,this animal typehas enduredfor an incredibly long period of timesince the action in no way wipes out the sharks in entirety. Indeed, thislittle quirk, actually, seems to ensure that the ones that do manage to survive to be born are stronger, biggerand more capable after birth than they would have been had they not consumed their kin.
So, any human sense of moralcorrectness is, appropriately, swept aside in terms of the actual results as nature, itself, is amoral, and it is anthropocentric and Disneylandish to consider otherwise. (Alternately put, such actionsas the sharks' seem favored from an evolutionary standpoint or else they would not exist or would have no effect whatsoever -- just like theHapsburg earlobe or any other number of neutral conditions.)
Soregardless thatsome activitymight beconsidered distasteful or shockingly unconscionable,itismerely functionally viable in the larger schemewhen it aids furtherance of life. As such, the most adept victors in life's struggles to move forward, whether brutal or not, wind up having a better chance at surviving and living to breeding agetosometimes passforward the very traits,whether deemed repulsiveor not,that gave them the advantage in the first place.
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How tragic, though, this actuality is when the unwary victimsaren't the smaller unborn sharks but are people who face ethical turpitude.How especially this is so when involvingnoncombatant civilians, as well asother life formslargely viewed as beingbenign. As such, one wonders aboutthe perverse, although possibly functionally beneficial, foundations that impel acts of violence for the sheer pleasure of itor the twisted thrill that could arise fromhaving domination over life and death of others. (Do members of any other species besides ours kill for thepure joy of it?)
Further, the same sort of warped thinking that could applyto the act of bombingcities from jets in the clouds or seedingfarm fieldsand waterways with mines, while there is awareness about whom will be impacted in the process, assuredlycouldapply in some manner to certain climate change victims. In other words, they are all simply seen as collateral damage and are of little consideration, if any whatsoever at all, by many of the worst offenders.
So despite being outrageous, Barack Obama'scontinual refusalto sign the international cluster bomb treaty is understandable evenas the U.S. military has astockpile of nearly one billion cluster bomblets that kill and maim citizens of other countries. Concurrently,the U.S. stockpiles 10.4 million antipersonnel mines and 7.5 million anti-vehicle mines whilehe, likewise,snubs ratifying the anti-landmine treaty.
In addition, the Pentagon has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to complete research and development on ever new, morelethal designs for mines, which sets an alarmingprecedencetolegitimizeglobal resumptionof landmine proliferation. After all, who knows when they might come in handy during a preemptive invasion.
Atthe same time, it is tragic that theUnited Nation'sworldwide anti-mine programs face a budget shortfall of $565m in 2010.As such,there is little hopeof clearing away the estimated 119 million to 20 million mines buriedacross the world or providing atimely education about them to populations at risk to be slaughtered or mangled on their account.
So, even as the "United Nations and Afghan officials have launched an awareness campaign that plans to educate over six million children about the dangers of landmines, which kill and injure over 60 people (more than half being children) in[Afghanistan] alone each month", there is little hope that such programs can be asconstructive as originally planned. Simultaneously, "Afghanistan has one of the highest landmine-casualty figures in the world, and most of these mines were actually placed in the country by the United States military." [1]
"These eventually explosive weapons were designed to not detonate upon ground impact, and can lie undetected for years. Landmines are a particularly dangerous and indiscriminate weapon, as any person (in most cases, a civilian) is liable step on one, even if peace has since been declared in the region." Therefore, we can anticipate that the current rate ofdamage and death will continue despite that "... over 70,000 Afghans have been killed by landmines in the past two decades, and now mine-clearing agencies say that children and returning refugees are particularly vulnerable to the threat." [2]
At the same time that various countries are adding to theirdestructivearsenals of weaponry in anticipation of future wars, their industrial institutions continue to make plans for further profits in additional waysthat will, doubtlessly,cause other types of devastation, for exampleby raising the global carbon load. Assuredly, the actionssharedby US car-maker General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC), its Chinese partner, to manufacture 225,000 vehicles a yearfor India's growing market will do so. Indeed, this venture is already planned in spite of the fact thatportions of that country will be hardest hit by climate change effects during this century, which willbringdreadful consequences for a largepercentage of the Indian population.
Furthermore, the second largest source of greenhouse gases isthought to betransportation. For that reason alone,the creation of markets for cheap carsbecomes a major issue relative to ecological concerns aside from the fact thatanysizeableincrease in personal vehicles on the road will cause post-peak oil to arrive all the more quickly if it hasn't already.
Yet,thesegrave mattersare, obviously,not factored into considerations since profits, whether by the military-industrial establishment or other conglomerates, trump all other sorts.Similarly notassessed inthe overall picture isthe fact that"Quakes, volcanic eruptions, giant landslides and tsunamis may become more frequent as global warming changes the earth's crust." [3]At the same time,climate change effects willdefinitelycausea rise in ocean levels so as to submergemany low lying coastal regions and islands across the world where millions of people currentlyreside andeke out a living.
However,the public cannot expect government leaders ortheir corporate counterparts to factor inhuman or ecological welfarewhen they make plans to produce and sell further armamentsorvehicles in addition to undertaking other disastrous plans. After all, it would mean their giving up immediateearnings for long term benefits and thatoutcomeseems just too hard to accept.
So instead, we are all simply to beindividual cogs in a gianteconomic wheel mindlessly turning around as part ofa money-spinningmachine that is heading us all towards our combined doom. Are we, after all is said and done, nothing more than the image that Mordechai Vanunufashions in "I Am Your Spy"?
"I Am Your Spy

"I am the clerk, the technician, the mechanic, the driver.
They said, Do this, do that, don't look left or right,
don't read the text. Don't look at the whole machine. You
are only responsible for this one bolt. For this one rubber-stamp.
This is your only concern. Don't bother with what is above you.
Don't try to think for us. Go on, drive. Keep going. On, on.

"So they thought, the big ones, the smart ones, the futurologists.
There is nothing to fear. Not to worry.
Everything's ticking just fine.
Our little clerk is a diligent worker. He's a simple mechanic.
He's a little man.
Little men's ears don't hear, their eyes don't see.
We have heads, they don't.

"Answer them, said he to himself, said the little man,
the man with a head of his own. Who is in charge? Who knows
where this train is going?
Where is their head? I too have a head.
Why do I see the whole engine,
Why do I see the precipice--
is there a driver on this train?

"The clerk driver technician mechanic looked up.
He stepped back and saw -- what a monster.
Can't believe it. Rubbed his eyes and -- yes,
it's there all right. I'm all right. I do see
the monster. I'm part of the system.
I signed this form. Only now I am reading the rest of it.

"This bolt is part of a bomb. This bolt is me. How
did I fail to see, and how do the others go on
fitting bolts. Who else knows?
Who has seen? Who has heard? -- The emperor really is naked.
I see him. Why me? It's not for me. It's too big.

"Rise and cry out. Rise and tell the people. You can.
I, the bolt, the technician, mechanic? -- Yes, you.
You are the secret agent of the people. You are the eyes of the nation.
Agent-spy, tell us what you've seen. Tell us what the insiders, the clever ones, have hidden from us.
Without you, there is only the precipice. Only catastrophe.

"I have no choice. I'm a little man, a citizen, one of the people,
but I'll do what I have to. I've heard the voice of my conscience
and there's nowhere to hide.
The world is small, small for Big Brother.
I'm on your mission. I'm doing my duty. Take it from me.

"Come and see for yourselves. Lighten my burden. Stop the train.
Get off the train. The next stop -- nuclear disaster. The next book,
the next machine. No. There is no such thing.

"-1987, Ashkelon Prison" [4]

Perhaps we, overall,are nothing more than Vanunu's bolts since, despite the soundness ofhis plea,many peoplemechanicallyconform to whatever policies confront them. Theyautomaticallyand passivelygo along withthe programs thatarecustomarily in placeeven when it isobviously harmful to do so.
As such, there seems a sort of disconnection thatthey represent -- akind of dialectical dualism or cognitivedissociation wherein they can sometimes perform small acts of daily kindness, but can't quite tie their broader actions to their bigger effects. How could this not be the case?
In relation, one might wonderabout howanyone in his right mindcoulddesign, manufactureor dispense bombs, nuclear or not,andmines that couldwreck havoc uponothers -- perhapschildren running across a field or farmers sowing seeds in it. Is he so disconnected from the meanings of his actions that they are immaterial? Does he simply notcare aboutforeign children or farmers when they are strangers in far away lands? What kind of madness, actually,is at heart of such anunprincipled act?
So even if the populations thatfaceweapons of mass destructionare innocent or many of the climate change victimshave very small carbon footprints,it makes no difference to thebiggest, most aggressive manufacturers andpolluters. They simply go about their daily affairs unaware or largelydismissive of the ruinous havoc that they render in their wakes. Thus,we collectively lunge headlongtoward our globally sharedplights.
More to the point, what does it take to develop, on a large scale,the sort of firm resistanceto the status quo that Mordechai Vanunu describes? It clearly has to be created as too much isin peril across the world for it not to beeffected even if positive outcomes are highly unlikely.
Besides, why not tryin spite ofthe risk for failure?Afterall, the only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it - to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it. -I . F. Stone
[1] Reisendame, "There is no peace when you could be sleeping next to alandmine" at
[2] Reisendame, "There is no peace when you could be sleeping next to alandmine" at
[3] Richard Meares, Global warming may bring tsunami and quakes: scientists | Reuters (
[4]Mordechai Vanunu,VANUNU MORDECHAI J.C. - I AM YOUR SPY (


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Emily Spence is a progressive living in MA. She has spent many years involved with assorted types of human rights, environmental and social service efforts.

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