rshowalter - 07:17pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#358 of 367)  | 

For us to lessen inhumanity in the future - - we have to deal with things that have happened - within the limitations that we can actually make work - as things are.

I believe these postings from February 27th, 2001 - a few days before almarst was invited on the board - are worth posting again. I appreciate the chance to do so.

rshowalter - 07:19pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#359 of 367)  | 

We can improve on the mess we're in. Radically. Safely. Gracefully. Practically.

With resources we have available.

In a way that makes almost everyone involved feel much better.

. . ..

Looking at the situation, I find myself in a cheerful mood.

With ugliness and conflict so intense, new beauty may not be far away.

rshowalter - 09:11am Feb 27, 2001 EST (#791

Sometimes the issues involved with the accomodation of significant fact are bracing, and morally important. . . The core problems with ending the nuclear terror, now, are of just this kind.

The technical problems are relatively easy. The psychological and moral problems are hard.

But doable.

rshowalter - 06:03pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#792

Tina Rosenberg represents one of the most admirable flowerings of a tradition, admirable in many ways, that , taken no further than she takes it, makes an effective nuclear disarmament impossible.

Rosenberg believes passionately, eloquently, that a central problems of transition from old regimes to new ones is truth about what actually happened. People need to know what was actually done.

That's surely right.

But what was to be done with the facts? What can be done that is satisfactory in the complex contexts where people live their lives? A major concern is "what is justice" and especially what is justice, considering everything, under complex and conflicted circumstances. The answer isn't easy, and answers that appear evident don't work well in practice.

Yesterday Rosenberg wrote on the editorial page of the NYT: She starts:

"When a nation goes through a transition from war or dictatorship to democracy, the standard practice is to hold elections, free political prisoners and, nowadays, convene a truth commission. . . . . .Truth commissions can aid nations in understanding and remaking a damaged political culture. They can help victims to heal, create a consensus for democratic reforms and uncover evidence that can be used to prosecute the guilty.

She ends:

"Understanding the past is crucial for a distressed nation, but such comprehension is useful only if it leads to change.

People are conflicted and uneasy about Rosenberg's position, which is a very widespread position.

An illustration of how problematic this position can be is provided by Tina Rosenberg's celebrated book THE HAUNTED LAND: Facing Europe's Ghosts after Communism

This book won the National Book Award, and a Pulitzer Prize. Reviews could scarcely have been better.

By some high standards, it is a work of stunning and outstanding beauty.

However, the book sold very poorly, something of the order of 45,000 copies in hardback. For many, it was an unrelievedly ugly piece, describing an unrelievedly ugly situation. I felt, when I read it (and I found the book a painful, depressing, if gripping chore to read) that it described a situation of unrelieved ugliness. There were precious few examples of emotionally or aesthetically satisfying justice in the whole book. Results of hard quests for justice all seemed to consist of ill-fitting, mutually conflicting results, ill fit to each other, and forming a misshapen whole.

rshowalter - 06:06pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#793

Something was missing from the book, and the situations it described.

In the complex, conflicted situations described, beautiful justice is impossible. There are multiple contexts, each inescapable and in a fundamental sense valid.

An aesthetically satisfying justice can be defined for each and every set of assumptions and perspectives that can be defined. (four postings from rshowalter Mon 05/02/2001 20:16 )

But there are too many sets of assumptions and perspectives that cannot be escaped in the complex circumstances that are actually there.

Beautiful justice judged in one context is ill formed or ugly in most or all the other contexts.

Even a passably satisfactory "net justice" is often classified out of existence by the complexities and conflicts built into the human realities.

BadNewsWade - 07:30pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#360 of 367)

havent read the above posts as there are too many of them and they are too long.

It is certainly an enticing theory. I don't think it should be used to justify a repressive state, as Hobbes does (Leviathan). Rather, people who are framing constitutions and political theory should remember that sadism is a natural part of human nature, along with a lot of other things, and that any constitution, manifesto, etc, that doesnt take this into account is doomed to faliure.

rshowalter - 07:32pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#361 of 367)  | 

rshowalter - 06:15pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#794

The situations Rosenberg describes, where she hungers for justice, do not admit of satisfactory justice. They are too complicated. There is too much ugliness. What is needed, for logical reasons that are fundamentally secular rather than religious, is redemption.

The phrase beyond redemption is sometimes used, but I havent heard much discussion of the idea that a situation is beyond justice. But situations that are beyond justice occur, and our nuclear circumstances are full of such situations, and paralyzing conflicts produced by them.

These situations cannot be resolved in a way that specifically balances all rights and all wrongs. They are too conflicted and too complicated. These situations need to be redeemed, and they can be.

The situation needs secular redemption. rshowalter "There's Always Poetry" Fri 08/12/2000 20:08

The redemptive solution can't be an abstraction, or a fizzle - it has to be able to propagate - to get past chain breakers rshowalter "There's Always Poetry" Fri 08/12/2000 20:05 , as only a redemptive solution can.

A central problem is to deal with - or put pressure on, people who deny very obvious, provable, morally compelling facts, because the cost is somehow, too great Learning to Stand rshowalter "There's Always Poetry" Wed 14/11/2001 23:43

A central requirement of this is to find ways to lower the price of truth, the price of right answers.

The cost of lies is prohibitive here. The bottle scene from Casablanca offers an example of this.

Punishment should be avoided, whenever it is at all possible. It produces chain breakers to solutions that need to go through.

Redemption should be the goal instead. Because nothing else can possibly be beautiful, and safe, in these circumstances.

rshowalter - 06:18pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#795

Here, for technical reasons, the risks are very great - great enough so that right answers need to be gotten, so that the world can go on.

My own view, for technical reasons that I've asked repeatedly to have checked, is that the world is LIKELY to end unless current nuclear weapons systems are much better controlled. That the system is much less well engineered and much less well defended than it looks. In fact degenerate.

The answer to the following question, I believe, would clarify the risks for nontechnical people familiar with human organizations, and how they can go wrong.

I think the answer is "not since the Eisenhower administration."

I have reason to believe that some of the most basic controls have not been changed since the early Kennedy administration, and that some of these controls involve risks that were terrifying then, and that are far more terrifying now.

Note: (I also think that there's been progress since Feb 27, 2001.)

rshowalter - 07:33pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#362 of 367)  | 

rshowalter - 06:21pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#796

A narrow wish for "justice" rules resolution and right answers out, where a search for secular redemption permits resolution.


I'm dreaming of redemption,

not denial, not agony,
not lies told or
amorphous deceptions
amorphously defended,
but redemption.

Redemption for all concerned,

with a decent concern for all,
with feelings felt and not denied,
weights weighed, and not forgotten,
needs of flesh, nerves, guts and mind
all remembered, and workably in place
with neither lies nor torture.

I'm dreaming of redemption,

where all concerned
can know the same stories,
and live with that,
and look back and go on comfortably,
not unreasonably proud,
or unreasonably ashamed,
in ways that work
in private and in public.

I'm dreaming of redemption,

for myself, for the evil I've done,
and the good I've tried to do and failed,
and the limits and narrownesses that are
unchangeably a part of me.

And I'm dreaming of redemption for others,

in similar ways, without pretense,
with real, vital, feeling futures
not closed off.

There is too much good here,

too much reaching for the good,
too much hard, disciplined work
in the face of pain and fear,
too much to hope for.

Too much to hope for the world, too,

too much hope for primal needs of peace,
too much of interest,
too much condensed and seeming right,
too much, from too many, that seems good,
and moves me and others.

No checkmate.

No closing off of hope,
no wallowing in agonies that might be,
with more wisdom, and clean negotiation,
assuaged and replaced
by honest joy and comfort.

No checkmate.

I'm dreaming of redemption,
and a world that goes on, safer and richer,
and knowing more about redemption,
because we've struggled.

rshowalter - 07:34pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#363 of 367)  | 

rshowalter - 06:27pm Feb 27, 2001 EST (#797

In dealing with nuclear weapons, the questions who is guilty? and what to do about it? can dominate thought and action in ugly, counterproductive, and fundamentally unjust ways.

The beauty of justice, from one perspective, is utter injustice, and ugliness, from others.

Our nuclear postures, and the history of how these happened, are so conflicted, and subject to so many different, yet existentially valid points of view, that a justice with proper conformity of the parts to the whole and to one another is impossible.

Results, even in the hands of well meaning, sympathetic people, can be and have been monstrous. People have done things they knew were terrible, or that could have terrible consequences, feeling that they were morally compelled, on other ground, to do them.

For more than fifty years, and especially since the late 1950s, we've had large groups of people knowingly acting to make it possible to reduce large populations, almost all innocent in military terms, into masses of rotting unburied corpses.

There is no reason to think that the US population, or the Russian population, was in any substantial doubt about what was being done, and threatened, by our military forces. rshowalter "Science in the News" 8/29/00 7:26am

Even today, people deny crucial aspects of the holocaust in part for intellectual reasons. What they know of it seems not to fit what they "know" about what human beings do. Some of the actions and intentions of our own military forces are denied, or suppressed from consciousness, due to similar "ignorances."

To the degree that people were responsible members of German society during the Nazi years, they needed to know enough for the complex cooperation, and focused and mutual coercion, that they actually showed. (That is, everybody had to know practically everything, except for details of execution.) The same holds for us. rshowalter "Science in the News" 8/29/00 8:03am

But were the American and NATO forces using or threatening to use nuclear weapons aggressors or defenders? What about the Russians? There can be MANY views of this, and most people, from most positions, have reasons to be give credence, in one way or another, to several perspectives.

My own view is that the Americans, at most times, were the agressors, though they had good reasons to do what they did. Perhaps they had no choice, in term of the imperatives they faced, until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

But the Cold War is over now, nuclear weapons should be taken down, and they should be prohibited.

I don't think the mechanics of doing this are difficult, setting the costs and challenges against the needs.

I set out one possible way of proceeding in an all-day web meeting with "becq" on Sept 25, 2000 Once the inescapable reality of fear and mistrust is recognized, there may be many ways.

BadNewsWade - 07:34pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#364 of 367)

What do people think of the massive popularity of S&M in this context? On the one hand it could be a disturbing feature of a very sadistic society, on the other a sign of progress, that people are getting it off their chest in a safe place rather than in real life.

Any takers?

rshowalter - 07:35pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#365 of 367)  | 

rshowalter - 02:47pm Feb 28, 2001 EST (#798

It is worth pointing out a practical sense in which nuclear war is entirely, vividly real - a sense in which crimes and massive injuries have already happened. They have happened, over and over, in great detail, in the imaginations of people. And those imaginations have been made vivid, and reinforced repeatedly, by careful and detailed rehearsals.

People who are part of forces set up to launch nuclear weapons think about what they are going to have to do. In all sorts of ways. Again and again. They have to go on, for years, in a condition where they are plotting premeditated mass murder, and ready to commit it.

Some among them, if not all, will have guilt feelings about this. And will have built up psychological rationalizations about this. And they will have had to endure a great deal of emotional strain, dealing with this. In the minds of these people, on both sides, nuclear war has already happened. And it has also happened, to an inescapable degree, in their hearts.

  • * *******

    Nuclear weapons are intended to make enemies fear death, and politicians and populations subject to that threat have in fact felt the fear. They have imagined, clearly and vividly, what nuclear destruction would mean to them personally, to the people they care about, to their countries, and to the body of emotional reactions that they live by. In the minds of these people, on both sides, nuclear war has already happened, and they have been injured, violated, and outraged.

    It is a mistake to think that nuclear weapons can be considered, realistically, in an abstract, analytical, emotionless way. Absolutely everybody involved is intensely emotional about them. And the emotions involved are deeply conflicted.

    This can get in the way of the logic of all concerned. This can immobilize all concerned. The emotional nature of nuclear weapons, and damage already done, and now being sustained, needs to be remembered.

    When we negotiate as if fear, and distrust aren't essential parts of our nuclear impasse, we may feel that we are being "polite" but we are also being impractical. The sensible thing is to acknowledge the fear, distrust, and other emotions that are there. And deal with these emotions as they are, in ways that work for all the human beings involved.

    #799 included a analogous point about trust .

    Gretchen Morgenstern described some interesting circumstances and approaches to settling differences of opionion - when it really matters. New Economy: Investors Finally Consider Internet Companies' Shaky Math

    We can make disastrous, very big scale mistakes. In military and political matters, we've made some. There are relationships of fact and logic that need to be attended to - carefully - - in public - - and established beyond a reasonable doubt - by the workaday standards that apply in jury trials. We can.

    BadNewsWade - 07:36pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#366 of 367)

    ooops ive wondered in on a large complex discussion which is still live with talk on things I m too stupid to understand

    I'll get me coat.

    rshowalter - 08:18pm Oct 23, 2002 BST (#367 of 367)  | 

    Not too stupid. The basic point, at the top of the thread - is simple - but it is hard - because it deals with sources of horror that are normal and natural - - and need to be understood humanely, and controlled. A sort of "exception handing" so that the natural human need to exclude outsiders doesn't get out of hand.

    Here are some recent links to the larger discussion I'm working on - here on TALK, and at the NYT:


    5151-52 gisterme

    5153 includes:

    For more details about the discourse involved, click "rshowalter" in the upper left of this posting.