About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/12

I tend to be weary of public commemorations like the one that has been paraded in front of most of the world yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Before I proceed any further, let me state clearly (as if there were any need for it), that I think it was a horrible tragedy perpetrated by insane people blindly following a religious authority rooted in hatred. Humanity should be ashamed of any such acts, no matter who committed them and why.

That said, here are three reasons to be weary of public commemorations, including but not limited to yesterday's. First, they easily turn into tools for shameless politicians to further twist the public's perception of reality to their advantage. Witness what Bushy boy said yesterday, still defending his insane attack on Iraq, connecting it to the war on terror, and expressly stating that this is going to be a long-lasting clash of civilizations – just what the fear mongering Republicans need to stay in office for another century or so.

Second, commemorations of tragedies are much more appropriate as private events, for the families and friends of those who perished. I really don't see how making a worldwide spectacle of someone's grief on CNN (or, worse, Fox) helps anybody, or in fact can be construed as a sign of respect for the victims and their beloved ones.

Third, and perhaps more importantly, the chief reason to have public commemorations of such events, it seems to me, ought to be so that we as a society can learn from what happened and change our views and behaviors accordingly. This, unfortunately, rarely happens, and it is certainly not the case for the 9/11 attacks. Still too many people in this country see the “post-9/11” world in black and white, us-vs-them Bushian terms. Too many among us still don't understand the long, complex, and tortuous history of international relations (and exploitation) that led from the fall of the Ottoman empire through British colonialism to American imperialism, and finally to the attacks on the twin towers. Too many people in this country still see 9/11 as a rallying cry for more “patriotic” nonsense and religious bigotry, which of course will simply perpetuate the cycle of violence and cultural division that has brought us to this point to begin with.

The American philosopher George Santayana famously said that “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Less famous, but equally true, is the observation by another philosopher, the German Friedrich Hegel, who said that “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” It's not that history is a bad teacher, it's that we are awful students.

41 comments:

  1. On your second point about privitizing the commemorations, I think your dead wrong. the family and freinds do not wish it private they want the whole world to know what happened to them. A private commemoration would be no better than a private incident in the first place (hide what happened forom everyone). Same as when someone dies the more people that show up to the funeral the better the family feels (most of the time).
    When it comes to acting on situations, history is important, but watering situations down by worrying about how the fall of the Ottoman Empire effected 9/11 attacts will get you no where and only prevent any linear path to resolving the issue.
    Too many people in this country still see 9/11 as a rallying cry for more “patriotic” nonsense
    I am not sure why that is a bad thing. The left in this country is so unpatriotic, it was nice when we were all on the same page until the left suddenly decided that terrorism was no longer an issue anymore and it was time to go back to America hating and blaming us for 9/11

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  2. Jim,

    "The left in this country is so unpatriotic"

    That's such a load of of dingo kidneys. To be patriotic doesn't mean to swallow whatever a quasi-fascist administration tells you to swallow. A patriot is someone who is willing to question his government when it errs, like in this case. I'll put my (adopted) patriotism far above that of Bush himself, thank you very much.

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  3. Massimo,
    I would like to thank you for acknowledging something that is political taboo.

    "......to American imperialism, and finally to the attacks on the twin towers."

    That is the fact of American imperialism, that is demonstrated by a long history of military interventions, support for foreign client states, along with a host of economic processes.

    Jim said:
    "....and it was time to go back to America hating and blaming us for 9/11"

    Jim falls into the trap of poisoning the well by thinking that if you look for causes to historical events like 9-11, find that part of the cause is related to American foriegn policies that is perpetrated by political elites; then that is the same as "blaming America".

    Of course, the vast majority of the American people can't be blamed for these policies because they didn't put them in place and were hardly aware of them.

    And it shouldn't need to be stated either that this does not absolve the terrorists of their moral responsibilities to the 9-11 atrocity.

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  4. Actually, it's because we love America that we hate what's happening here.

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  5. Well said, Massimo.
    Well said, Sheldon.
    Well said, Ridger.

    Jim, as a US Army veteran, I certainly don't hate America - I love my country dearly. As an American, I certainly don't blame "us" for 9/11 - I blame the perpetrators of those terrible deeds.

    I do, however, blame the current and previous administrations for foreign policies that to some degree fostered the hatred, anger, and despair that would cause someone to commit such acts. And I definitely blame the current administration for their actions SINCE 9/11.

    I only blame "us" for not rising up and throwing the rascals out of office at the earliest possible chance.

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  6. Ok, allow me to step back and ask, is being a patriot even a good thing? I certainly don't think so, I think it is a primitive feeling which fosters terrible consequences. We shouldn't feel more strongly about helping Americans than helping Sudanese or Cambodians. People are worth the same, that's what Christianity teaches us, a pity how religious this country supposedly is and still wants to pick and choose what to follow in the bible based on the advice of fucking idiots.

    "How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of goodwill! In such a place even I would be an ardent patriot."

    -Flemming

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  7. Massimo,
    No, I don't believe you have to get behind Bush to be a patriot. What I find unpatriotic (and idiotic) is liberals looking to our previous foriegn policies for the cause to 9/11. Its like a big bully named Frank punches your son in the face and you say "well son, remember when you gave Sam some candy but didn't give any to Frank? Its your own fault you got punched".
    Thats exactly what the terrorist want. Us to think is was our own behavior that brought this on ourselves. Thats what liberal thinking is, never mind the obvious, lets go get all intellectual and find out how we are really responsible for the terrorist. If we didn't act like this, they wouldn't have to kill us.It can't be as simple as its just their Jihad and other cultural issues, It must be more complex than that, we must have made them like that through Republican foriegn policy.

    Flemming,
    Here we go again with how the right wingers are all hipocrates because they believe in patriotism. Its not about religion, one dollar spent here is the same as 10 spent somewhere else on the amount of help its worth. That does not mean we shouldn't help other countries. It does mean that we should make sure our own is taken care of prior to other countries.
    Your island is nothing but hippy trippy hoo ha. Reality of personal nature, makes us govern in a realistic manner.

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  8. "Load of dingo kidneys", I like that, hope you don't mind if I steal that one in the future

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  9. Jim,

    I think you are a little off the mark on this one.

    Searching and trying to understand the full cause of a problem is the best way to determine what is the best path to solving the problem.

    Massimo (as he stated) is not overlooking the cultural problems of the Jihadists. To the contrary, as you are fully aware, those "issues" are always critically attacked here.

    Furthermore understanding the past to finding the "lesson learned" in what the U.S. did wrong over the past 50 years is not "blaming" America.

    It is analogous to getting your car stolen because you left the keys on the hood.

    Of course, the thief is culpable and needs to be punished. But at the same time if you don't correct your actions and again leave your keys on the hood, you are only asking for more trouble. Its the same idea as "Personal Responsibility" - a conservative catch word, but applied to the Nation.

    Is it wrong to try to defeat terrorism partly by disarming the very motivations by which people become terrorists? I say any strategy that defeats terrorism must be pursued.

    No liberal I know has forgotten about the terrorists. Defeating terrorism, however, requires doing the things that bring an end to terrorism.

    It does no good to talk a tough game and proceed to put in place simplistic ideas that actually make terrorism worse?

    According to a Marine Colonel, the Abner province of Iraq is now an Al Qaeda stronghold. According to British Conservative leader David Cameron "across the globe, terrorists are being recruited in increasing numbers and are active in many more areas than before September 11."

    How is this winning?

    Maybe if citizens and experts had been allowed to criticize the government (the very foundation of the American idea) which they believed were making mistakes without being branded "unpatriotic", we would now be winning the war on Terrorism instead.

    You never know. I claim no answers.

    Lastly, I urge you to read this impressive speech by Conservative Party leader Daveid Cameron (if you are in a hurry skip down to The next steps.

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  10. Jim,

    Some more follow up:

    It must be more complex than that...

    It is more complex than that and that is a fact that cannot be ignored without consequences.

    I also believe you are holding a double standard here.

    What if Osama bin Laden had thought about what the Middle East had done wrong to incur so much U.S. intervention. Maybe if he did, he would not have formed Al Qaeda. But according to your philosophy, that would be "idiotic", so hence he acts blindly and commits to terrorism.

    Do you think a Palestinian should think about what their people have done wrong to incur the wrath of Israeli occupation before strapping on the suicide bombs? Following your line of reasoning that would be "idiotic", so on with the bombs.

    What about people in relationships? Should they think about what they did wrong to incur anger from a spouse/relation. Or just respond with escalated anger as if there were no root cause at all. How well does that work?

    Should the Germans have considered what they did wrong to incur such a harsh Treaty of Versailles before lashing out against the world. I think you would have wanted someone to encourage Hitler to some historical analysis even if the Rush Limbaugh of his day would have thought it "idiotic" and unpatriotic.

    Hatfield and the McCoy's?
    The Bloods and the Cripps?
    Ten thousand years of constant human warfare?

    (Note: I am not drawing a historical equivalency between U.S. actions and any of the above -- merely pointing out that sober reflection of past mistakes would be a good thing in general for humanity. The U.S. in no way "deserved" 9/11 -- the terrorists are murderous criminals following a blind idealogy -- but lets try to not leave the keys on the hood of the car if we can help it.)

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  11. Jim,

    I detected a flaw in my "leave the cars on the hood" analogy. That action does not provoke, it merely invites.

    A better analogy would be driving your fancy car into a depressed neighborhood - getting on to the top of your hood with a bullhorn and shouting out insults as to how everyone in said neighborhood was a loser and poor and their cars were pieces of sh!t. Then doing this night after night.

    Again, the thiefs are still criminals and need to be punished.

    But next time you might not want to pull out the bullhorn.

    Ok - it's a little weak, but I think you get my point (maybe not agree, but get).

    Alan

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  12. Alan,
    I do not agree that it is a double standard, in that, I dont believe it was our actions that brought on 9/11. The double standard you say exsist because I expect the terrorist to look at what they did to bring on U.S. intervention, yet I dont think the U.S. should look at what we did to bring on 9/11. To me the differences are obvious. Middle Easterners have hated U.S. for many many years. Listen to a middle Easterner talk about hating Americans because we live in Excess. Should we lower our standard of living to prevent terrorism? Our standard of living is one of many causes that triggers Middle Eastern hatred, that doesn't mean it is logical to change it. Our religious beliefs is one of many root causes of middle eastern hatred. Perhaps I should believe in the Koran to keep them happy. No, I am sorry we don't have to change behavior that was not deserving of what it got.
    I do agree with your Car example. We did leave the keys on the hood, and we will again (we already are). I don't agree our foreign policy is the root cause for 9/11. Osama can say 9/11 is the root cause for American presence in Iraq and Afganistan.

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  13. Well said, Flemming. Patriotism, and countries, I'd say, are for monkeys.

    I have a better idea: let's "commemorate" the 30,000 people who starve to death everyday -- even Septembers, even elevens. I'm not sure they are worth as much as 3,000 people in America, but what the hell...

    Jim, by the way you write you seem to think you are superior. Sorry, but you're not. Americans are not superior to anybody either, get over it. You are the bad guys too. Everybody is the "bad guys", everybody is the same piece of crap. Wake up.

    The neo-con's favorite event in recent history is 9/11 -- it gives them the perfect excuse to exercise their love of war and controling people's lives and big government spending (in wars, of course, not in building schools or hospitals throughout the world), etc.. They wanted to invade Iraq since the mid-late 90's, I've heard. Only an idiot still believes the war in Iraq has anything to do with fighting terrorists. Oh, well, at least it didn't at the time of the invasion...

    Iraq, now a terrorist haven in a religiously motivated civill war, is MUCH worse than under Saddam, bad as he was. Afghanistan's opium production soars, great follow up on the puppets put in power there in some "election". Mission accomplished indeed, idiots.

    Now, there are few things more stupid than a "War on Terror"(TM). A typical product of the trigger-happy American mentality -- there's a problem, shoot. Violence will not solve the terror problem, notwithstanding what the simple-minded (specially, but not exclusively) average Republican voters think. Of course the perpetrators of terrorist attacks have to be punished - like bank robbers or murderers do. But so far terror has come from socio-economical problems, and only socio-economic developments can put an end to it. It's a long and painful process, as I believe people in Great Britain and Spain can tell you.

    Now, let's wait to see how much trouble the stupid Pope will unleash with his idiotic speech (seems like he has the same advisor for foreign policy and diplomacy as Bush). The previous Pope at least was smarter.

    J

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  14. Jim,

    By the things you listed, I agree that we didn't do anything to provoke 9/11.

    But I think the history is more complex than that. Perhaps because of the complexity, I will grant your point somewhat (that 9/11 was inevitable).

    However, my argument is that it is still instructive to acknowledge and study the history to try to find out, if nothing else, how best to proceed.

    I maintain that armed with such knowledge, we might have been wiser to adopt a different strategy with regards to Iraq.

    As for the past -- Our biggest mistake was supporting dictatorship and corrupt governments in an attempt to ensure that Middle Eastern states did not align with Soviet Russia. In doing so we squashed the rise of Arab Nationalism (which tended to be secular, but also infused with Communist ideology).

    Hindsight is always easier, of course. Maybe that was the right thing at the time, but I'm sure the descions were made favoring short term goals.

    The most instructive example of this was our support of the coup that put the Shah of Iran into power. His rule fueled the growth of Islamic Fundamentalism which filled the vacuum created by absence of Arab Nationalism.

    Then there was our building up of Sadam Hussein and our support fighting the (almost a proxy) war against Iran.

    Throw in abandonment of the Mushadeen in Afghanistan who we trained, our support for the Saudi Royal family and most of all our continued (perceived) one-sided support of Israel.

    I'm not sure what we could have done differently, but knowing all that and how it has given rise to anti-American radical fundamentalism we might be able to make smarter decisions going forward.

    As quoted from the speech I referenced a few comments ago:

    Part of the problem we have encountered these past five years is that the struggle has been perceived - as the terrorists want it to be perceived - as a single struggle between single protagonists.

    The danger is that by positing a single source of terrorism - a global jihad - and opposing it with a single global response - American-backed force - we will simply fulfill our own prophecy.

    We are not engaged in a clash of civilizations, and suggestions that we are can too easily have the opposite effect to the one intended: making the extremists more attractive to the uncommitted


    Our aim should be to dismantle the threat, separating its component parts, rather than amalgamating them into a single global jihad that simply becomes a call to arms.

    ...the deformed vision of Islam which inspires some of [the terrorists] is part of a wider picture that includes the perception by many Muslims that Islam is under attack, the suppression of political freedom and economic opportunity by ruthless dictatorships, the relative lack of progress in some Muslim societies, and the belief that the west deliberately fails to resolve issues of crucial concern to Muslims, like Palestine.


    In doing so, we deprived

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  15. I really enjoy reading your blog, and agreeng with most of it, however i couldn't keep myself from commenting on this one.

    You lack the profound understanding of how the averge muslim/arab thinks and behaves.
    One has to know one's enemy inorder to tackle it best. Unfortuanetely this is a reaccuring pattern all throughout the tollerant western world.
    I'm not denying historical facts, neither am I ignoring the US role in it, be that for better or worse. Truth be said, most of you have failed to grasp that these people have a totally different psyche and ideology.Instead of meticulously searching for own shortcomings, you need to acknowledge the fact that these people's reason is different from ours, and we ought to wake up and take preamptive measures before it's too late.
    In these people's culture compassion is considered weakness and thus is bound to be exploited. They bluntly abuse our values of tolerance, pacifism, humanism and others to promote their radical middleage agendas.
    Please, wake up before it's too late.

    Some thoughprovoking material:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcq9dIg_UYs
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/
    http://www.memritv.org/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaUftcRJ5wo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_kyNIevsIs
    http://www.middle-east-info.org/gateway.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_B1H-1opys
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bs909HtOwQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byQD8VPhvdM

    and there is much more where it came from...
    Stop the Naiveness!!!

    Peace
    Sergei

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  16. Jim Fisher: All people everywhere ARE our people. Feeling closer kinship to people who happen to be born next door rather than a world away is the worst kind of snobbery. "The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion"--Thomas Paine.
    Besides, if you really think that Americans all Americans ("your own") are intrinsically worth more than non-Americans and thus worthy of queue-jumping when it comes to support, you are sayign that John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy are more worthy of your support than Mohammed el-Baradei, Amyarta Sen, or Ben Okri. Surely you don't really believe this?

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  17. Jim,

    1) I write nothing about right wingers. You are seeing ghosts my friend, read the posts.

    2) What the hell is this money business about? PPP? It is irrelevant.

    3) The quote was from Albert Einstein. A pretty smart guy.

    4)"It does mean that we should make sure our own is taken care of prior to other countries" Why? That is the question I posed to you, and you have yet to answer. Why should we help some people before others.

    Sergei,

    "In these people's culture compassion is considered weakness and thus is bound to be exploited"

    No. That is wrong. It's just plain wrong. Like, incorrect. Factually incorrect. Allah is known as Allah the merciful. It is considered divine. Get your shit together.

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  18. Patriotism, and countries, I'd say, are for monkeys.

    Problem is J, we are monkeys or to be more precise apes. We have been programmed by evolution to feel kinship to those near to us and to be weary of outsiders. As the identification horizon expands outward, we necessarily feel less connected. That is not to say that we shouldn't try to mitigate this fact using rational thought. Ending jingoism is a worthy goal, but it is not necessarily wrong to work to serve your local community first.

    Feeling closer kinship to people who happen to be born next door rather than a world away is the worst kind of snobbery.

    Again this is a noble sentiment, but with practical limitations. Can honestly you say that don't feel closer kinship to your friends and neighbors than a stranger half way around the globe? This is not to say that you feel your friends are "more worthy". Of course each human has equal worth and Jim never said they didn't. When the tsunami wiped over 200,000 people off the face of the earth, did you feel more pain, anguish and grief than if your friend and neighbor died? As much as we all felt grief and shock, it would have been humanly impossible to feel 200,000x more grief than if a friend died. It may be a curse on our species, but we would go insane otherwise.

    Why should we help some people before others.

    For a good answer to this question, reference Massimos prior post on The Problem of Altruism">. I could turn the question around and ask why help others before some people? What to do we base the criteria on? But there are practical reasons we seek to help those locally before those afar. The first is that we tend to care about ourselves and our families and helping others nearer to us has a more direct effect on that. Secondly, its easier. I'm sure you have stopped to help someone with a flat tire in your community. Have you ever driven 5 hours specifically to help a complete stranger with a flat tire? Someone in China? One of Jim's points was that it is more efficient to help those here than those far away.

    Imagine if the founding fathers had spent their energy trying to help situations out around the globe instead of worrying about themselves and their families. Firstly, they probably would have failed to accomplish anything meaninful abroad and secondly, there would never have been a United States, which means democracy as we know it may never have spread back to Europe.

    Again, that is not to say that those nearer are more deserving of help or morally superior. It merely comes down to efficiency and self-interest. As Massimo himself said in the post referenced: "So, it seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who claim that true altruism is morally superior to the kin and reciprocal varieties. These people seem to think in terms of group advantage (it's for the good of society), but they fail to recognize that they need to make a case for why the group is more important than the individual – from the individual's perspective"


    Instead of meticulously searching for own shortcomings...

    Sergei, I am not arguing for searching for "shortcomings" as in blame or fault. However, if you are dealing with a crazed rabid animal (per your description) then its wise to know what behaviors are more or less likely to provoke it and which work to de-claw it. It obviously is not so easy as exterminating it altogether -- so a valid component of an anti-terror strategy is to not do things that create more terrorists.

    acknowledge the fact that these people's reason is different from ours,

    Here I assume you mean the terrorists and not all 1 billion Muslims. So yes, preemptively take out the terrorists, but at the same time learn what history can teach us regarding not making new terrorists. For instance, experts believe there are now more terrorists or people willing to join Al Qaeda than before. Iraq is becoming an Al Qaeda stronghold where there were none before -- see the news about the Abnar province. This is not helping the cause.

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  19. F: Ok, allow me to step back and ask, is being a patriot even a good thing? I certainly don't think so, I think it is a primitive feeling which fosters terrible consequences. We shouldn't feel more strongly about helping Americans than helping Sudanese or Cambodians. People are worth the same, that's what Christianity teaches us, a pity how religious this country supposedly is and still wants to pick and choose what to follow in the bible based on the advice of fucking idiots."

    Flemming-

    Universalism has no place for God in its worldview, and as such loyalty to anything God-centered will seem senseless to the universalist.

    Is it that the people of other countries and cultures actually have 'less worth' than those from cultures that at least lean to the J C ethic? Not in the least. To the Creator each is equal to the other. (all souls are timeless, ageless, btw) Ideas, however, have do have consequences. Your comment here seems to both confirm and then negate that idea all at the same time. And so, if one person happens to believe that is worthwhile to be loyal to a system that promotes democracy and freedom to different classes of people and the other does not, why is it becoming the epitomine of some kind of "unethical behavior" to draw a distinction between the two ideas, i.e. beliefs?

    Are you confused?

    cal

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  20. Alan,
    I was going to write something similar to what you did, but seriously doubt I would have worded it as well. I think people assume that because I am conservative that I automatically think Americans are better than everyone. Thats not true. To your point with the founding fathers, we can really only govern Americans and as I said earlier, 1 dollar spend here is 10 times less effective somewhere else. So how can Americans do the most with their resources, by trying to increase the standard of living of middle easterners to prevent terrorism. Thats just absurd and impossible. Perhaps noble, but impossible.
    Alan I think you understand my point that there is no way we can look back in time and say if we did not do this or that, then 9/11 would have never happened. Especially since most foreign policies back during the cold war that effected the middle east were decided with Russia in mind. Most of these policies were supported by Dems and Reps.
    For everyone that says we need to help the rest of the world the same as ourselves, put your money where your mouth is. For every dollar you spend on your children, spend the same on some Sudanese children. Although I think Alan made it clear enough why it is impractical

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  21. Cal,

    >> Universalism has no place for God in its worldview, and as such loyalty to anything God-centered will seem senseless to the universalist. <<

    Yeah, god is obviously a narrow-minded fanatic who enjoys a nice bloodbath every now and then. Nice, real nice.

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  22. Alan, we can overcome our programming. We thwart Darwinian intent everytime we refrain from short-term gain by stealing our neighbour's food supply, raping his woman, or killing him to take everything he has. Expand your mind. Expand your compassion. Leave nation- states to the monkeys.

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  23. In the movie Cabaret, there is a scene where a group of young men are singing a song "Tomorrow belongs to me." I saw the movie many years ago, but I very clearly remember that scene. The song was very stirring, saynig that they had been opressed, but that they were rising above that and the future was going to be theirs.

    I clearly remember how I felt listening to that song, as I had been unpopular myself, and felt that I deserved better treatment than I felt I had gotten.

    Then I remembered that it was Hitler Youth singing the song. I have never trusted those feeling since.

    Patriotism is good, but nationalism is always evil as far as I am concerned.

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  24. MP: Yeah, god is obviously a narrow..."

    Yes, "narrow" is right.

    but there would be no point for me to explain away or apologize for the way you happen to see and interpret other events.

    http://www.crossroad.to/charts/two-paths.htm

    best to you,
    cal

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  25. 1pJim Fisher said,
    "It must be more complex than that, we must have made them like that through Republican foriegn policy."

    Jim,
    Notice I did not say "Republican foreign policies", in my response to you, nor do I believe anybody did except in reference to post 9-11 events.
    The fact is, both Democrat and Republican administrations have been party to this. Although I suppose this latest administration may be worse than others.

    Thanks, for Flemming's questioning the assumption that patriotism is always neccessarily a good thing. We should hope that humans can work towards a more universal, beyond national, view of who is kin and neighbor. It might be neccessary for our collective long term survival. In addition to a positive Christian value as Flemming claims, it is also a Humanist value.

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  26. Cal:

    "Universalism has no place for God in its worldview, and as such loyalty to anything God-centered will seem senseless to the universalist."

    That does not mean Christianity does not contain strong elements of universality - everybody being worth the same. It does.

    "Is it that the people of other countries and cultures actually have 'less worth' than those from cultures that at least lean to the J C ethic? Not in the least. To the Creator each is equal to the other. (all souls are timeless, ageless, btw)".

    Good. Then we agree. Patriotism is specifically priotizing some people over others based on the geographic location they were born. Such a prioritization is profoundly and deeply anti Christian as well as just fucked up on any ethical or moral basis.

    "And so, if one person happens to believe that is worthwhile to be loyal to a system that promotes democracy and freedom to different classes of people and the other does not, why is it becoming the epitomine of some kind of "unethical behavior" to draw a distinction between the two ideas, i.e. beliefs?"

    Your assuming supporting other countries means not supporting freedom and democracy. I'm stupefied. You can remain loyal to freedom and democracy without thinking "my country right or wrong", in fact you can only do it that way.

    - Flemming

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  27. For those of you who say being a patriot is wrong and that it somehow means you don't care about the rest of the world, here is the actual definition

    Patriot

    1. a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
    2. a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, esp. of individual rights, against presumed interference by the federal government.

    American Patriotism does not mean you think American people are worth more than other countries citizens. No country in the world gives more of its money to other countries citizens.
    Through these post I keep hearing that we should not be patriots and instead think globally. Although a nobal thought, I can't argue with the principle. I can easily argue with the reality of effectivness of thinking that way. As if somehow that beuitiful thought process will remove the Jihad from terrorist and just make everything all hunky dorry. The reason I am a American patriot is because I believe in our Democracy, freedom and way of life. I don't want to compromise with other countries governments and ways of life, I believe we got it right (or our founding fathers did anyway).
    Flemming said
    Your assuming supporting other countries means not supporting freedom and democracy. I'm stupefied. You can remain loyal to freedom and democracy without thinking "my country right or wrong", in fact you can only do it that way.
    That is not true. You cannot remain loyal to Democracy and freedom without thinking "my country is right". We practice democracy and freedom, so your statement contradicts itself. If you believe in your countries way of life, then being a patriot is ok. saying its not Ok is like saying African Americans should not be proud of their heritage. If an African American is proud of the way his ancestors lived before the white man came and tore them from their homes in their native land, that is being patriotic. They can even be Patriots to two different countries if they have a love and devotion to both and are willing to protect the intrests of both in some way. Even if its just verbally. Without patriotism, America would have been dead a long time ago, and we wouldn't even be on the internet because Al Gore would never invented it.

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  28. Jim, defending or loving a narrow strip of land filled with murderers and bigots is not in and of itself a worthy aim. And defending an ideal is not patriotism; it is idealism. So your definitions are incorrect. (Although if you got them from a dictionary, they're not definitions, they're usage.)
    ---
    What is the greatest number of replies to one of Massimo's posts to date? Are we going for the record?

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  29. c ".. To the Creator each is equal to the other. (all souls are timeless, ageless, btw)".

    F: "Good. Then we agree. Patriotism is specifically priotizing some people over others based on the geographic location they were born."

    No. The ideas we pursue are more important than whatever people groups may live "where" - apparently, that's why all kinds of people still want to move to the US.

    The US is made up of a huge array of people groups and cultures. In the state I live in, am real close to being a minority and I'm white. But that is okay with me. I'm perfectly content living alongside what are normally considered Indian and Hispanic people. They, however, probably just consider themselves "Americans" like I do.

    Am I going to make nice with all the beliefs of the native American and Hispanic superstitious stuff - no. And why should "universalism" give a nod to such sorts of superstition, anyway?

    That's the essential problem with being "all-inclusive", you see.


    F: "Such a prioritization is profoundly and deeply anti Christian"

    Ah, well, as I Christian, I think it is more than acceptable to interact and live along-side varied cultures. I have no idea where you get the idea that it is MORE Christian of a person to become absorbed in the beliefs of every person around you. IF you find that sometimes it is hard to be sure that someone is a Christian, that is not what I would consider a GOOD thing.

    "as well as just fucked up on any ethical or moral basis."

    How do you know WHY you know what is ethical and moral?

    The Bible says that "God's law"
    is written on the heart of every human being. I believe it because I meet people often who are keenly
    aware of morality (or the lack of it in others) but don't specific interest in it for themselves personally. And that’s a rather odd way to approach something that one considers a serious matter, in my mind.

    cal

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  30. "What is the greatest number of replies to one of Massimo's posts to date? Are we going for the record?"

    See May 23, 2006: On The Pseudo-profundity of Some eastern Philsophy.

    There was also one on evolution that was pretty long.

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  31. Kimpatsu,
    Patriotism is defending a country because of an Ideal that it practices. So no, I am not wrong. Yes the definition is from a dictionary, which makes it an actual definition not usage. The fact that I used the definition, is usage. I am not even sure why your going there, and I am not sure why your going to such legnth to prove what I am saying is not patriotism. Perhaps because it makes sense.
    As far as America just being a narrow strip of land filled with murderers and bigots. I am not even sure where to begin with such an ignorant statement. Of course you would never say that about a middle eastern country. Its just us Americans that go around bombing big buildings full of people. We're all just a bunch of murderers and bigots. Seeing as almost everyone posting here lives in America, that means Kimpatsu says we are all a buch of murderers and bigots. American ideals are not even worth patriotism?
    Oh when you say murderers, you must be refering to the war in Iraq. Then I guess we are all a bunch of murderers, since 95% of the country wanted to go into Iraq in the first place (not including myself). Oh yeah that was just because old George tricked everyone.

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  32. Jim,

    I would like you to reconcile these two quotes of yours:

    "It does mean that we should make sure our own is taken care of prior to other countries"

    "American Patriotism does not mean you think American people are worth more than other countries citizens"

    If being patriotic does not mean we should prioritize our own people over others - which you claimed at first - then what is the point? Why should we "take care of our own" and prioritize - and thus value - American lives over others if it is not because we value them more?

    "You cannot remain loyal to Democracy and freedom without thinking "my country is right". We practice democracy and freedom, so your statement contradicts itself."

    No it does not. Far fromm it. Democracy and freedom are universal values, not trademarked American. Is it supporting freedom and democracy to support the installation of Pinochet as dictator as it was the American foreign policy in 1973? Is it supporting freedom and democracy to support Saddam in 1987?

    Your parallel to African American heritage is a cheap rhetorical nonsensical shot at non patriots and not in line with your own definition.

    "They can even be Patriots to two different countries if they have a love and devotion to both and are willing to protect the intrests of both in some way."

    Even if the two nations are in a conflict or in war? That would not require the person to choose? It most certainly would according to your "we have to take care of our own first" statement. Could exile Iraqis be patriotic and support Saddam and Bush at the same time in 2003?

    Cal,

    Ok, so patriotism is specifically prioritizing some people based on where they now have legal citizenship then? Otherwise the "we have to take care of our own first" principle has no meaning.

    For the record, I don't give credit to any superstition or religion. I don't know whether you would characterize me as a universalist or not, I believe we shouldn't prioritize people's lives based upon their geographic legal residence which is exactly what Jim is proposing we do (and he is far from alone). Such ideas are not only fucked up on any moral and ethical ground, they are deeply anti Christian. But someone forgot to tell Pat Robertson and Falwell.

    "I have no idea where you get the idea that it is MORE Christian of a person to become absorbed in the beliefs of every person around you"

    I'm not talking about "being absorbed by culture", but prioritizing people's lives based on their current geographic location and legal citizenship which is what was proposed in this debate.

    "How do you know WHY you know what is ethical and moral?"

    I don't, if you want to go Nietzchean genealogical on me fair enough, however that would not exactly strengthen your case of Christian morals. What I said was not that my morals were right, but that I could not think of a major set of ethics or morals where "taking care of your own over others" is considered legitimate except perhaps the ancient Romans.

    - Flemming

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  33. Jim, if patriotism is defending a country because of the ideals that it practicesa, then there is no such thing as patriotism because no country practices ideals. All countries are about defending their own self-interests. Don't be hoodwinked by the high-handed moral garbage those countries' politica elites spew, look instead at what they actually DO. And, as can be seen, there is nothing moral or ideal about what America does. So, by your own argument, you are not a patriot. Thankfully.

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  34. When patriotism is like peer-review

    (for flemming)
    When a particular set of people, who have somewhat common interests, get together and decide what is acceptable and what is good for their established ideas and goals, what is it exactly that might make it immoral or unjust to keep some ideas OUT and allow some ideas IN?

    Off to church.
    Have a good one. ;)

    cal

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  35. Cal,

    Well, nothing is wrong with that. But then again, that is not at all what is discussed in this topic.

    Save yourself the time in Church, buy End of Faith, or alternatively the time tested classic Genealogy of Morals.

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  36. "The ideas we pursue are more important than whatever people groups may live "where" - apparently, that's why all kinds of people still want to move to the US."

    No, Cal. All kinds of people want to come to the US because here is where the money is, they would stay where they were born. Ok, there will always be a few rare exceptions, of course, but that's it.

    And keep in mind that the "native Americans and Hispanics" will also not feel compeled to "make nice with all the beliefs" of YOUR "superstitious stuff".

    J

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  37. Weird sentence, forgot to finish: "they would stay where they were born" ...if they had appropriate living conditions, jobs, etc.

    J

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  38. "The ideas we pursue are more important than whatever people groups may live "where" - apparently, that's why all kinds of people still want to move to the US."

    J: No, Cal. All kinds of people want to come to the US because here is where the money is, they would stay where they were born. Ok, there will always be a few rare exceptions, of course, but that's it."

    I get the feeling that somehow you are saying that it is not their fault that they want to come here. Plainly speaking, consumerism does affect all kinds of people. Judging Americans more harshly because we have a free society is not the right way to go about helping other cultures and societies improve theirs.

    "And keep in mind that the "native Americans and Hispanics" will also not feel compelled to "make nice with all the beliefs" of YOUR "superstitious stuff"."

    And for example? What does superstition mean to you?

    Last week I had to do some business with guy who just happened to be an Arab and a Muslim. He asked me, I lost track of how many times, what my astrological sign is. (or my birth date) Things is, I don't EVEN know what my astrological sign is. Now, if I had a superstitious bone in my body, J, don't you think I would have helped him out?

    I 'are' not superstitious. :)

    Well, I did actually help him a little bit. I brought him some statistical studies and conclusions against all the astrological stuff later on. Also, this guy was telling me how extremely moral Muslim families and lifestyles are. All the while practicing astrology and trying to find out if he can be compatible with some person he knows is married?

    something isn't adding up here.
    cal

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  39. I get the feeling that somehow you are saying that it is not their fault that they want to come here.

    Well, partially. It's not a question of "fault", but of choice. If they had good conditions in their (our, actually) countries, most of them would not want to leave.

    Judging Americans more harshly because we have a free society is not the right way to go about helping other cultures and societies improve theirs.

    NO, I'm not doing that at all! I just said that these swarms of immigrants are here not because of any "free society", but because they want better living conditions. That's why so many turks in Germany (10% of the population, I think?). That's why so many Northern Africans in France (15%?). Albanians in Italy (was that it?). And many other examples of poor people trying to get to richer countries.

    It is just as it has always been -- can you imagine, there was even a time when loads of Italian and Japanese (among others) went to Brazil to escape the misery and famine of their country... Now many descendents of those try to go back to the ancestral lands.

    And for example? What does superstition mean to you?

    And that was EXACTLY my point! YOU call their beliefs "superstitious stuff", based on YOUR idea of superstition. Can't you see that most of humanity might also consider YOUR beliefs "superstitious stuff"? (last time I've seen the stats, Christians were a minority in the world)

    J

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  40. . Still too many people in this country see the “post-invasion of Poland” world in black and white, us-vs-them Churchillian terms. Too many among us still don't understand the long, complex, and tortuous history of international relations (and exploitation) that led from the fall of Imperial Germany through Allied imposition of a victor's peace at Versailles to American imperialist loans, and finally to the attempt by Germany to rectify its borders. And too many people in this country still see Pearl Harbor as a rallying cry for more “patriotic” nonsense and political "anti-fascist" bigotry, which of course will simply perpetuate the cycle of violence and cultural division that has brought us to this point to begin with.

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  41. Very good Article, and I agree with many of the points, although what concerns me most about 9/11 is that it seems to have been dramatised to such a point that the real issues surrounding the state of the US have pushed aside, including New Orleans, the Economy and it's poverty and crime.

    Regards Simon DumvilleYourBroadcaster

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