Re: Knowing the people, and clearing one's mind

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 11:26:30 MDT

Jacques Du Pasquier wrote:
> Samantha Atkins a écrit (2.10.2001/02:12) :
> > Seriously, we our freedom, wealth, time and even lives on the
> > line does it really matter all that much whether we consider a
> > kamikaze terrorist to be cowardly or not? I certainly don't see
> > any point
> > in wasting one more line of text on the subject. As alwasy, my
> > humble opinion.
> You spoke eloquently in another post of the diverse human cultures,
> how precious they are and how much we will benefit from them (and I do
> hope and want to live such a future).
> But here (and in the other thread about justice, islam etc.) I felt
> you show little interest in understanding the people who made 9/11,
> and the cultural aspect of it. More than that : you explicitly reject
> such interest ("I certainly don't see any point in wasting one more
> line of text...").

You have utterly missed what I was attempting to say.
Tremendously dirty deeds have been done by the US in the world.
In many ways we have set ourselves up. Now that we ourselves
have been hit back we are ready to condemn and misunderstand any
who are against us and many voices call for blowing them off the
map. We sit and argue about who was brave and who was cowardly
when our world and lives and theirs are at stake as well as our
future. This judging of the courage or cowardice of the actual
attackers strikes me as very tremendously beside the point and

> Well, here is a first point : how can you predict them without
> understanding them ?

I can predict that many hate the US for some of its past and
future actions (not especially for our goodness as some would
like to believe). I can predict more of them will take
increasingly desperate and horrific action as we press this
"war" more deeply on their homelands.

> We heard "cowardice" (I was surprised, too), and we heard "madness",
> and we heard "evil".
> In my view, all three are false.

I agree with you here.
> What is true is that they caused a DAMAGE to us (so it is "not good
> for us", that's for sure), and we don't want to let them cause such
> damage again.
> But it's a matter of OUR INTEREST, not of them being "evil". In their
> world, in fact, they are like David with Goliath. They are unarmed,
> dominated, victim of injustice, ruled by the evil miscreant US-Israeli
> forces, but they are proud, brave, pious, and they act heroically.
> (they already defeated the Soviets !)

Again, I agree.

> You would call evil someone pervert who hurts for the sake of hurting,
> for example, just because they enjoy to cause suffering. This is just
> not the situation.
> Why is this important ? For two reasons :
> 1) First, as I said, to predict them. But not only to predict them in
> the sense of designy security tricks in the airplanes. Also, to
> predict how such violent movements will be generated from existing
> socio-cultural conditions. That's why I was trying to tell you
> about islam in the other thread -- maybe living in a place where we
> have 10 % muslims discourages me taking the "black-bok",
> "mad-evil", "coward-or-brave-what-do-we-care" approach on the
> violent islamists -- but you answered by general "argument" to make
> any mention of islam irrelevant.

That misses my points. But I do not believe Islam is itself as
central as oppression, injustice and victims lashing out against
who they see as the oppressor any way that they can. Islam, or
rather the more militant edge of it, is relevant but I don't
believe it is the most central for understanding the story. It
is easier for many to do amateur "analysis" of Islam and blame
Islam than come to grips
with guilt and culpability on our as well as "their" side.

> 2) SEcond, because if one's principles are in such a mess that one
> must discard reality to be able to act without strong moral
> dissonance, then proper action will be very difficult at some
> point. One should get a clear picture of things, what is an ennemy,
> and interest, good, evil, damage, justice, these sort of things. So
> this is not really about ben Laden. It is about extropian clarity
> of mind, principles usable in making choices, not carried like
> baggage.

> Ben Laden is not mad, not evil, not coward (I don't know him
> personnally, but at least it doesn't appear to be). But he is an
> ENNEMY (read his "Declaration of war against the Americans" in case
> you have any doubt). Do you need to morally diminish your ennemy to
> acknowledge him as such ? Of course not !

Will we make him and others like him less an enemy by bombing
the hell out of large sections of the Mid East that we have
already been screwing with in often horrendous ways for
decades? Very doubtful. Will it help our reaching Singularity
to engage in such hypocritical posturings as "Infinite
Justice". Hell no.
> You may object that this way of thinking tends to polarize the
> situation, by accepting that "good" guys can be our ennemies, and be a
> fullfilling prophecy avoiding that we build a harmonious world
> together, with all the good guys, by explaining them that they are
> wrong to act as they do, and that by just adapting a little their
> behaviour, we can consider them as really good guy and not "very
> evil-mad" good guy. But that which you may overlook, is that they
> don't give a damn of your "harmony" and your "sense of justice", which
> is just degenerated christian-atheist nonsense. For them, justice is
> otherwise.

I don't disagree at all and see some point in being clear
certainly. But I still think whether we judge the terrorist as
cowards or courageous is a side-show to the main questions and
issues. We are hypocrites to hate these terrorist when our CIA
has done much worse in many countries, toppled and created
entire regimes, engaged in torture, terrorizing civilian
populations and so on. Any "solution" that does not admit our
own dirty deeds and work toward stopping our own real terrorism
is a very dangerous cover-up and scapegoating. Was what was
done to the WTC and Pentagon wrong? Of course. But was it also
a seriously aggreivated wrong from our own past actions? I
think the answer again has to be affirmative.

- samantha

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