March 14, 2012

Schizophrenic morality part 2

Once again an awful piece of news about the war in Afghanistan has been all over the news: an American soldier went out of his military base into a village and killed 16 innocent civilians.

An outrageous act most certainly, but once again I need to ask: what do you expect when the government of the soldier is itself killing an enormous amount of people. It often does so indirectly through the calamities, poverty and hunger that is a consequence of long lasting war but it most certainly also does so in a very direct way for example by the use of drones (Pakistani authorities released statistics earlier this year indicating that between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009, U.S. Predator and Reaper drone strikes have killed over 700 innocent civilians.*)

So the soldier will be tried - and justly so - but who will put his government in court?

And while I'm at it, might I perhaps propose a comparison? If it is constantly implied that the injustices of the Afghan society (like the suppression of women and violent terrorism) are supposedly direct effects of their Islamic believes, could these killings of innocent people perhaps be a direct effect of Christian capitalism?

Does this sound ridiculous to some? The latter certainly isn't more absurd than the former. So let's perhaps leave every absurd and simplistic analysis behind. Of course it isn't ideology or religion itself that brings people to killing innocent people. It isn't Islam as such that makes people become terrorists, neither is it capitalism as such that makes people violent - but both can lead to atrocities when there is some gain - be it power or money - in it for enough people.

It is time therefore, that we recognize the real culprit in Afghanistan: the economics of war - the profit gained from sustaining violence is the true underlying 'cause. I'm not just saying 'oil' or 'gaspipes' or 'contracts', etc. but I'm pointing at the very fabric of the economics of war: a series of interconnected financial profits that stem from continued violence and war. Those profits, be it from weapons, resources, politics, or any other element, are beneficial to a few, but ruin the lives of many. Yet as long as we continue such economics, we will have incidents in which innocent people are killed. Simply because that is of no concern to the eventual economic profit or loss.

So to justify the economics of war while at the same time asking soldiers not to use violence is asking for moral schizophrenia. And as such, our own society needs as much treatment as those soldiers.


  1. Interesting thoughts, but what would you suggest as a 'society treatment'? Assuming there would be money for it -and assuming this would even need money-, what should it be spent on?

    Reading your article a strange thought visited me: weren't many of the advancement of humankind driven by warfare logic (commercial planes, nuclear knowledge -whether you're pro or con nuclear energy, you should agree that the knowledge of it is improving human kind-, and even the GPS system, which I know you're a fan of, has its origins in war logic).

    'Economics of war' -oh how I hate this conclusion!- is perhaps bringing some good to humanity? Of course, it depends on what use you make of it... If it is to drive soldiers into insanity and kill innocent people, nothing can justify it...

    There is a despicable 'economy of war', for sure, but the 'logic of war' can (CAN!) lead to human improvement? I'd hope -and actually see- other logics are taking over this 'task'... slowly but surely

  2. I indeed didn't specify what I would or could mean with 'society treatment'. It was also meant somewhat as a figure of speech. Nonetheless, we don't need to look too far for such options of treatment. The most obvious ones already go a long way: more investment in education, more investment in social support for those in need and more investment in cultural and artistic expression - all of these in opposition to investing in acts of destruction like war.

    But I could go one step further and also plead for treatment through 'spiritual change'. By this I do not mean that we all should become staunch religious fanatics. But I mean that the above obvious investments should be made with a somewhat spiritual paradigm-change in mind: in education manual labor should be revalued and the search for harmony - with self, society and nature - should be a central aspiration, in social support (be it in our own countries or others through development work) self-sufficiency should become the true norm so that all people might regain their inherent self-worth, and in arts and culture we should learn to love the traditions of the past while at the same time embracing the diversity of the future and thus stop thinking in terms of a clash of cultures. Every policy build on the latter will only serve the economy of war.

    Obviously all of this might be helped a whole lot by strong insistence on using new and alternative economic indicators - which is something you also do some research about. But I will write about that in later posts. Suffice it to say that a big social treatment will exist in truly measuring society on other factors than GDP and economic growth alone.

    About your second point: the answer is simply yes. Yes, war has been a huge drive behind an enormous amount of new technology (the internet being the best example of course). But that's about all we can say, for the technologies themselves are in no way the things that lead to human improvement. 'The way in which they're applied' is what leads to human improvement.

    That being so, whatever the technological advancements might have been, in the end, they are also never 'necessary'. We really don't 'need' the internet to be more human and we really don't 'need' a GPS to find our way in life. Technology might make lives easier but it does not make people better. People are good because of who they are and what they do, not because of their gadgets. Being good and living a soulful life was just as possible in the middle-ages as it is now.

    So yes technology might now allow us to bring a whole lot of the world's poorest in contact with levels of society they normally wouldn't be able to reach, but our technology also has the capability of killing thousands of people in one second. Just like it has always been then, today as well, human improvement is not dependent on technology, war or money but starts with a simple choice of human hearts: what will we do with our money and to what ends will we create new technology? War or peace?