Sunday, March 19, 2006

Politics, Bullies and Kurt Cobain

Astraea's Politics:
Bob King on Kurt Cobain and School Shootings:

"I remember grade school, at Central Elementary in Hoquiam. Vaguely - most of my memories from that time are hazy, there are few if any good ones, because there was a consistent, semi-official view that children should be allowed to torment kids who were 'different' to make them 'conform to social norms.' And back in the sixties, there were very few permissible variations of 'normal.'"

This is something I wrote some time ago and was reminded of by a note from Astraeas about updating the page it's linked from.

The issues raised in this article keep coming up, and not just in the context of school shootings - although there was one just the other day here in Nevada, and from the responses, few with any ability to do anything or those in a position to talk about the reality behind such events have learned a damn thing.

This abuse continued until my first week of Jr. High, when five stalwarts of the Normalcy Police (Upperclass bullies) backed me against a locker in front of the school office - which ought to tell you something - and told me they were going to beat the crap out of me after school. I'd never laid eyes on any of them, they didn't know me, but the grapevine had told them I was a priority target for their attention, I guess. Possibly they were told by a particular teacher or administrator to "get me squared away." I don't know, but I have dark suspicions.

I wrapped my fist around my brass padlock and informed them at the top of my lungs that it was happening right NOW, where people could see it, and goddamn it, they might hurt me, but one of them *****(long and elaborate string of curses I WISH I could remember)**** was gonna die right there. I was completely sincere.

Needless to say, I was expelled as a troublemaker. The assailants were not even suspended, as I recall, a fact that tends to confirm those dark suspicions.

Apparently I was supposed to let them beat me up and accept my place in the "social order." That was the distinct impression I got from the cold lecture I got from the administration, the people who should have intervened on my behalf and expelled the bullies; instead they had identified me as a potential problem and arranged things so that I could be legitimately expelled, rather than dealing with the issues/problems that I (obviously) had.

...

A violent reaction should NOT have been necessary. Ever. But since it was, I have no apologies. I spent seven years looking for better options, being given smug lectures on how there are better ways to get along. Being a good child, I tried every one... and all were useless, as they required the participation of other people in the social dance.

You see, you have to be allowed to "get along." It may seem obvious when stated, but all the advice I have ever been given on getting along presumes that if you suppress your reaction to provocation, the provocation will stop. In fact, I've never once seen that occur, in any context, anywhere. Nor is that true at all for socially-clued persons. The way provocation is met is with some form of (reasonable) boundary backed with a credible threat.


What does this have to do with politics and the price of gas?

There's an old saying from the Old West: "Sam Colt made all men equal."

Or in current terms, Kalashnikov.

You don't have to be seven feet tall and covered with hair to deal with Goliath - you just shoot him between the eyes while he's still posturing. This is one of many lessons the Bible teaches that are carefully left undiscussed.

Our approach toward Iraq, Iran - and frankly, every other nation in the world, including Canada, Mexico and even our bestest "friend" Israel boils down to us being willing to do untold violence to those weaker than us - right up to the point of effective resistance.

If we see a genuine threat to us ahead of time; a potential enemy with the power to genuinely hurt us badly, we are suddenly best buddies, or at least, conspicuously uninterested in doing anything about the problems they are creating. For example - North Korea. Goodness, take Israel. Yes, folks, it's casually obvious that if we messed with Israel - short of turning it into a glazed crater - we would pay a very great price.

Come to think of it, that probably would not suffice. When I think of what Israel could do to us, between actual offensive capability and it's covert agencies, I am genuinely terrified. It is not at all in our interests to squish Israel - not even were they just as deserving as, say, North Korea. As for why we do not squish them - consider the reasons above. They are identical.

This is also the reason why the United States has not annexed Canada, despite regular posturing and balloon trials. Canada is fully capable of making nuclear weapons. Indeed, I think the more probable phrase would be "fully capable of assembling them." They are also quite capable of executing precision surgical strikes anywhere in the continental US.

You might also consider one interesting fact - Canada is a participant in Echelon and has full access to at least a portion of the data stream. I do not believe there's a single law preventing Canada from eavesdropping on matters concerning their own national security - and that is primarily the United States, what it has done, what it may do, and what, if anything will Canada have to do about it.

But aside from that, they have constantly updated battle plans that do not involve winning. They involve creating a situation in which the United States loses. There are regular war games as well and Canada has a disturbing tendency to do far better at them than "Blue Team" would prefer.

That is because Canada - and the average Canadian - understands America far better than the average American does and have communicated that understanding - in a discreet, polite, indirect Canadian way.

Consider our reactions to China, to North Korea; to Saudi Arabia - with all the oil in the world - and Pakistan, who with Saudi Arabia is more directly a terrorist threat with it's Madrasses and it's bombs than any five Iraqs.

The sum total of US foreign policy for at least as long as I can remember has been to pick on those we can abuse without much consequence in order to "send a message" to those we are actually concerned could hurt us if we pulled that sort of thing on them.

This sort of calculation has not always worked out well for us, Karma aside.

Indeed, I'm trying to think of an instance where it genuinely worked out well. All I can think of are occasions where it was less bad than others.

However, it is not the people who reason the same way they did in High School, who's entire social paradigm was formed by their football coach, and who take that into politics who suffer the backlash.

It's our soldiers - many of whom never made it all the way through high school. Oh, many of them are doing the same in smaller ways - the training includes that very paradigm, it's assumptions are included in approaches to both combat and civilian affairs. Abu Ghrab proves that enough buy into it to be a severe problem for the balance of our forces.

However, this is not "blame the solder" time. It's not even "Blame the Pentagon" time. The Pentagon did not make the decision to go into Iraq. George Bush signed those papers. The CINC is supposed to understand these things, to know when force will achieve desirable results and when it will not, and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our forces well enough to know the tipping point.

But our Commander in Chief is a bully himself. Bullies are not deep thinkers. There are a lot of self-justifying mantras and an incredible load of double and triple-think that gets in the way of rational decision-making. In the case of choosing to go to war, that includes understanding your enemy well enough to defeat them.

Have you read, or at least skimmed the reasons why Osama Bin Ladin "declared war" on the United States?

I have. I have found that there are some issues on which he is absolutely, inarguably correct. There are other areas in which it's clear he's been winding his turban too tightly and these areas are pretty much the same things that Pat Roberson and his ilk wax apoplectic about.

Now, you might wonder why it's important to know what nutballs like Robertson or Bin-Laden (clearly the more rational of the two) think.

Well, first, one needs to deterimine whether they will permit you to tolerate their existence. Tolerance without any expectation of being tolerated is suicidal.

Bullies will not allow you to tolerate them. They provoke, until you conform, comply or resort to violence - a response that allows them to justify doing precisely what they intended to do all along ; beat you up until you have satisfied their need to feel dominant. Given the opportunity, a bully WILL beat you until you submit until they are forced to submit or retreat or until one or both of you is dead. Knowing this makes it fairly easy to come up with an effective resistance.

For details, consult your newsfeeds.

But our leaders and the leaders Islamic versions of funnymentalism are no different. They genuinely feel that "toleration" is a vile word, that the world must be forced to comply with their will, which they see flowing from the Koran or the Old Testament - assuming that their reasoning is even that sophisticated.

The interesting thing here is that every single general - hell, every single well-informed soldier, every warrior in the field on BOTH sides has read Sun Tsu's "Art of War." Given that, and given the clear motivations and mindsets of both sides - victory should have been in someone's grasp within months - assuming it actually came to military action in the first place.

Sun Tsu advised that "Superior Mastery at Warfare involves victory without battle." Getting to kill people is not the point, nor does a large pile of skulls indicate victory. Were that true, the Khmer Rouge would own all of Southeast Asia by now.

But this is not war; it is not a War on Terror, nor is it a Jehad against Godless Western Imperialism. It's not about freedom, nor justice, or even religious principles. It is purely and simply a war OF terror - or if you prefer, two tribes of chimpanzees baring their fangs, beating their chests and urinating on each other.

True Muslims, Christians and Jews, liberal, conservative, orthodox and otherwise are completely unconfused on this point, unimpressed by public displays of piety that conceal "a ravening beast within." They are, of course, outnumbered by those who see religion as the opiate of the masses and a path to power over others.

Indeed, a great deal of their effort goes into controlling and profiting from competing opiates, like heroin and Scientology. Civilized people need to realize that a perpetual state of warfare is to the advantage of those who's motives are fundamentally UNcivilized, who dislike the give and take of Mars Hill, the reasoned debates in the Senate of Republican Rome - and for more telling examples - Question Period in the Canadian and British Parlements.

I snicker just thinking of what rude usage George Bush would be put to in either place.

But I'm not outraged that our nation is a bully. This is an accident of history and geography, and there few nations and few civilizations that have much moral high ground on the matter. We are just the latest example, following England, Spain, the Dutch , the French, the Chinese, the Japanese; ... pretty much anyone in the UN representing more than two villages and a mud-puddle. Sometimes that's why that's all they have left to represent.

There is no percentage in being outraged at human beings behaving in ways that are entirely human. But such deplorable expressions of "humanity" can be easily defeated by those who first understand their own motives, and then are willing to see the humanity in the other side; to forgive, to understand, to tolerate if possible or to eradicate them from the gene pool if not.

The difficulty arises when both sides are equally blinded by identical, largely unadmitted and unconscious motivations to dominate others. The best case outcome is that both sides do enough damage to each other to render themselves mutually impotent.

Please note the outpouring of support for the United States, the loyal allies rushing to aid us in what we so fondly call a "War on Terror."

But if you think WE are screwed - do you see any significant support for radical islamic funnymentalism?

Hell, our rhetoric is about the only thing propping them up at this point. If people in their regions were not already aware of their nature, their actions have brought it home. These people are mad, bad and dangerous to know - and not just because they are targets for bombings and missilings - because they will cheerfully slit your throat for insufficient piety.

People may yet have to appease them - but they are appeased by being given the opportunity to oppose an equally troubling threat. That would be us.

The opinion of the world is "a pox upon both houses." To the extent that radical clerics and fighters are getting aid from various nations, it serves primarily to enable the hotheads to go elsewhere and experience the martyrdom they so richly deserve. Consider how much more they could be doing, how very easy it would be to turn this situation into outright regional, if not global warfare. Instead, both "sides" are being encouraged to exhaust their resources and treasure until they are no longer a threat to anyone.

It's a policy I find entirely agreeable and civilized - save for one, small, trivial matter. I get to share the consequences of my government's stupidity.

However, in my small way, I will enjoy being able to say "I told you so, and so did Jesus, Mohammed and Sun Tsu."

By the way, I fully expect some asshat to ask me how I would "win the war on terror."

I'd tell them right now, but this is already overlong, and one must encourage dialogue.

First, because it's the first choice for everyone who is serious about resolving conflict and solving the actual problems conflicts arise from. And second - it's one of the most reliable ways of identifying those who are unwilling or unable to tolerate the stated needs, limits and boundaries of others.

In the second point, you will find the essence of my solution.

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