Friday, April 20, 2007

Finally, a tussle!

[For those who don't know, my writing here is being double-posted over at Liberal Media Elite. This post is a direct response to one located here.]

I hope nobody minds if I respond with another post — I have a few too many thoughts to justify a comment.

First of all, an apology. My last post was intended to be an examination of my own thoughts and impulses — not anybody else’s. I in no way meant to imply that there was anything wrong with your emotional response to tragedy — merely that I suspected that there was something wrong with mine. I don’t know you, and I have no desire to pass judgment on anything going on on the inside of your skull.

That said, I’m prepared to defend my, er, cheap ideological point — which is that, yes! Compassion and empathy are noble human impulses! And that, unchecked by other noble human impulses, such as prudence and careful self-examination, they can lead us to unintentionally harm others. Does that really qualify as defamation?

If I’m not belaboring the argument, I’d like to specifically respond to your point about Iraq. Whatever the motives of the people at the top, in a democracy, international crimes have to sold to the people. (Well, at least in theory.) Nobody (outside of weapons manufacturers) is pro-war. Everybody knows that war is an evil. The only way to sell it to a population is convince them that it’s *necessary*.

Points that were used to sell it to us:

1) Liberating the Iraqi people. Empathy. (Bullshit, of course — our own government’s done plenty to create or support oppressive governments when it suited their purposes.)

2) Strategic movement in the larger war on terror. Empathy — nobody wants to see anyone else die in terrorist attacks. (Bullshit — there are plenty of other nations that form a more credible threat.)

3) The development of WMD’s. Empathy — nobody wants to see *those* unleashed on the planet again. (Bullshit — see last point. And, y’know, there were none.)

4) Control of and access to oil. Okay, not really empathy — but nobody used that as an argument to *sell* the war to anyone.

The only way anyone could be convinced to sign up for this was through the *manipulation* of that noble impulse. The impulse isn’t evil. Sometimes the application of it is.

One more point — not only in response to your post, but something I’ve been meaning to say for a while and this seemed to an appropriate place to do so — I’ve been hearing a lot of people complaining about the apathy of the American public when it comes to Iraq. I don’t think that’s true. I think that people are every bit as angry and disgusted with the situation as they ever have been. The reason we’re not hearing about it anymore isn’t because we don’t care, it’s because we’ve been worn out — we’ve been shouting and complaining and arguing for going on four years now, and all we’ve really gained is the knowledge that we *don’t* have any real influence on the situation.

It’s like when someone close to you dies — eventually, you pick up and find a way to move on. This is like someone close to us has died, every day, for four years. We’ve never been able to heal our wounds and move on from it, so eventually I think we’ve just started shutting down.

I’m not condoning it. I’m not condemning it. I’m just saying that I think the response has been mischaracterized. It’s not apathy. It’s exhaustion.

And, y’know — I can justifiably be accused of being a lot of unpleasant things, but apathetic is hardly one of them. A big part of the reason I’m a Libertarian is because I genuinely believe that a free-market economy works best for people on every rung of the economic ladder, including the bottom. Outrageous nonsense? Perhaps. But sincere outrageous nonsense.

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