I’m reading in
The Essential Gandhi by Fischer chapter 15, titled
Gandhi’s Message to All Men and just a few pages into the chapter I’m struck with a strong disagreement.
Up until now, I agree strongly with Gandhi’s arguments for strict adherence to purity and non-violence. When you are gentle, and compelling in the face of an oppressor, when you yield materially without resistance … well, what’s the aim of a bully? Generally, a real bully enjoys the struggle some.
Dad told me of a story which convinced him that there was power in non-violence … he had pissed off a bully who told him that he was going to be beaten up after school. After consultation with a friend of his who was in fact a gun-nut who later entered the Air Force, dad wrote a note for the bully and met him after school for the big showdown.
The bully struck him, and following his friend’s advice, dad did nothing to stop him, or strike back. The bully got one lick in, which didn’t hurt dad too bad. But there was no struggle to keep the bully occupied.
Dad’s letter to the bully consisted something of “I’m sorry for you, to be embarrassed in such a manner.” Despite his fears, dad didn’t get his ass kicked after all, he merely got one strike at him.
Turn the other cheek.
At this occasion, the power and appeal of Dad’s non-violence was that the cruelty, terror, unjustness, whatever negative adjectives you can use to describe the bully’s wrongful aggression, were starkly illustrated to Dad, the bully, and onlookers … what’s the point to fighting an enemy who is not in it for the fight? Says Gandhi, “They say ‘means are after all [just] means.’ I would say ‘means are after all everything.'” What is the end that justifies the mean of bullying? Of unwarranted aggression?
It is harder to see the evil in violence when it is construed as a means to an end … violent revolution, war … other examples I can’t think of just now … what if they held a war and nobody came? Gandhi would ask such a question, and I envision in my mind a country surrendering to an invading army, offering no resistance … why fight, when in the end justice will prevail anyway? Assuming, for the sake of example, we’re not dealing with Hitler and instead just mere territorial greed, if the country being attacked can absorb and then overwhelm the invader with … righteousness, love, truth … and so soften the invader as to purge the enemy therefor of the bad things which caused the invader to invade in the first place, and come to regret and hope to rectify these actions, well then is not everyone better off?
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact, all those totalitarian regimes, the reformation of Taiwan, are all beautiful examples of the fatal flaw of an unjust and oppressive system: it’s being run by humans. Humans tend to want to be pretty moral creatures, setting things right, atoning for their past transgressions, that sort of thing. The braver ones, the Mikhail Gorbachevs, the past leaders of South Africa, that leader in Taiwan that Ian told me about … they’ll actually go so far as to say “Look, this is wrong, let’s try to set it right.” These are the truest reformers, because they have the ability to simply maintain the status quo to their benefit, but they instead endure great material loss and put a lot of under-appreciated effort into doing the right thing.
How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they’re forever banned?
The thing that tends to be scary about the modern world though, is that humans are less and less employed in the means … it is easier to see the inhumanity of war when soldiers are charging at each other with fixed bayonets, staring each other in the eye and keeping a question on their own humanity open. It is a harder thing to do when you are dropping bombs on people, particularly big bombs, bombs affixed to missiles which can cross the globe and annihilate awesome amounts of life at the push of a button.
But then, it’s humans that have to build the machines, humans that have to push those buttons. And you’re better able, I’ve found, to build and operate complex gadgets when you’re acting out of rationality and not emotion.
Dad proferred some of his doubts about the Oklahoma City bombing … if Tim McVeigh was that freaking bonkers … a patriot that would indiscriminately blow up people … how capable was he of the planning required to build and plant that damned bomb? While I really don’t know all the details, the fact that he was so easily caught, while smelling of some government conspiracy, is also symptomatic of sloppy work. It’s one thing to build a big bomb and kill people with it as a loner. It’s another thing to do that really well. All the kids that were killed in the pre-school? A sign of mental competence would have been to check beforehand … like those guys at the World Trade Center, who rented an easily-traceable truck, leaving even the serial numbers on the vehicles … these are not people thinking clearly.
Luckily, it takes a great deal of effort to build something as complex as a nuclear bomb. Unfortunately, bombs have gotten a lot cheaper, because even though it takes a lot of clear minds and steady heads to build them, and a decent government capable of assembling the effort, the governments that have pulled it off weren’t good enough that they lasted so well, and the integrity of Russia’s stock-piles are in great question …
Anyways, back to being invaded … what do you do when a well-organized, well-tuned and strong terror machine is knocking on your border? You know, the Third Reich or something. They think you’re not even human. While non-violent swaraj has a chance of working, it’s more likely, I might tend to think, that by the time your good feelings overwhelmed the enemy, the numbers of people killed would not justify it. That’s assuming good triumphs in the end in any reasonably timely fashion … as effective as we are now at the arts of mind-control, propaganda and the like, it’s quite possible for at least an extended period of time to manipulate and control most of the population’s thinking and morality to suit your own ends. A human’s greatest strength is it’s ability to communicate good ideas … while high morality is a good idea, if the oppressor does a good job of eliminating those with the good ideas … well … self-sustaining. With time such a system could theoretically weed out any human intentions toward the good idea – nightmare scenarios like
I’ve clearly been thinking about this too much. But there’s times when you must take the great bravery it takes to stand up in non-violence to face the wrath and hatred of those you are trying to overcome through virtue, and there are times when you’ve got to take the great bravery it takes to reject this idea and out-muscle the opposing force, often with guns, weapons, civilian casualties, untold amounts of human suffering.
While my greatest sympathies would tend towards the side of non-violent and virtuous action against the foe, I also support the idea that violence would sometimes be the better course of action. The right answer to Hitler in Europe, and Tojo in Japan, was I think the one we delivered.
I think that anyone who takes up violent action though, should take it up with the greatest humility possible. These are extreme situations … when you are going off to hurt or kill others for the greater good … you should acknowledge that suffering and always interrogate yourself and feel true to your conviction that yes, this is the best way.
And you should do the job right.
I agree with World War II. I am heartened even more with the doctrine of total victory … if something is that evil that you must enforce violence against it, then you better be damn sure that fucker is eliminated. Nazism? Just say no, all the way … the system of barbaric conquest that was in place in Japan? Get rid of it!
That humility comes into play especially when I think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Towards the end of total victory, we inflicted awesome violence upon those cities. I think that America generally does feel somewhat ambivalent about that action. I think it is healthy that we continue to question the wisdom of that action … that reveals some humility on our part regarding the action we took.
We went all the way in World War II because we believed we were doing the right thing. We were firm in our convictions.
We failed in Vietnam, and I think too we failed in the Persian Gulf against Saddam Hussein, because we did not have a full moral conviction behind our actions. In Vietnam, we sunk to humiliating levels of inhumane barbarity in fighting the enemy … if you are going to kill, you should do so acknowledging the full human dignity of those you kill. Ultimately the greatest price you will pay is the bad feeling of having had to kill a person, or several people, in the case of combat … unless you are damn certain you are doing the right thing, you can’t do this honorably, and the only way you can achieve the end of surviving is to get even more fucked in the head … we didn’t believe in what we were doing, and we failed to retaliate after Tet, I understand, because we didn’t truly believe in the war, and lacked the conviction it would have taken to see that carnage through.
We failed in Iraq, I think I can say. Yes, by the standards of warfare, we did really well and kicked lots of Iraqi ass.
By the standards of swaraj, or human struggle, we failed. We liberated Kuwait back to it’s royal masters, but when push came to shove, when George Bush saw those pictures of carnage on the highway of death, he couldn’t stand it. Instead of the total victory that we stood for in World War II, we collapsed when faced with this moral dilemma. We did not push to Baghdad and rid the area of Saddam Hussein because we felt remorse at our own actions. They were undertaken for material benefit – oil, International prestige, and not for any great motivation on the part of the people involved. We chickened out.
Perhaps that George Bush sat on that popularity, doing nothing with it … maybe he was overwhelmed with what happened? He couldn’t stand the pain we were inflicting .. he didn’t believe in it because it was wrong, and he got really weirded out after the war as to his ability to really act right.
Well, that’s pushing it … but …
I opposed the war. The day before the bombs began to fall I participated in my first protest. We marched from Lincoln Park down Lake Shore Drive and into Daley Plaza. I was full of great conviction then, shouting “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your fucking war!” I sincerely believed and continue to believe that without the violence, which is now used by Saddam to justify himself, that he would have collapsed more readily under the more humane and oppressive weight of sanctions and a huge fucking Army waiting out in the desert for him, with great patience, for him to fall. As the stand-off continued, I heard more reports on the radio of small signs that Saddam’s control was being eroded. It would have taken a long while … it took a long while to sit out apartheid, but in the end, quiet pressure won out, and fewer people lost their lives in armed conflict.
When the war started, I shut my mouth, and supported our soldiers. I may question the virtue, but wars aren’t won by consensus … if we’re going to do it with violence, then I will put my support behind it. That we failed to follow through though … Saddam Hussein is still fucking there! Some argue that eliminating him would cause a power vacuum … maybe Iran might get ambitious … maybe I’m a fool, but if one leader’s bad, and you remove him, someone takes his place … maybe or maybe not he’s a better leader. If you replace Saddam Hussein, you’re prolly trading up though … if that leader can’t hold Iraq together though … well, maybe we could do the right thing and acknowledge the truth that the country is pretty cobbled together and maybe a better solution is possible … hindsight is 20/20, possibly. Crystal balls are pretty murky though .. to not do the right thing on the chance that something bad might happen … that’s wrong.
I dunno. But the fact that there is so much opposition to sanctions, that we’d rather just forget about Iraq … we wish it’d just go away. We did wrong.
We should acknowledge the Allied casualties of war, but we should also try to repent for the Iraqis who died. I have believed this for so long … every Iraqi killed was a human tragedy. Every child that dies in Iraq now from lack of nourishment, whether it’s Saddam holding back or not … what the hell are we doing there now? Traipsing around, trying to coerce and cajole Saddam into letting us find his poison gases? We should either give up or strong-arm him the right way.
I dunno, and my arguments are getting emotional …
Grandma is now online, dialing in to EnterAct with a term program called “Black Night” and reading her email with pine. “But ‘q’ is what I type to start Quick Mail at work!” It will take her awhile to get the hang of things through a shell. Luckily I have her password and stuff so I can wander in and set things up for her when need be.
As we were leaving her work at the University of Chicago, I remarked that this was the second occasion I had to be on a college campus during my vacation. The nice thing about college campuses being, imho, a good number of attractive women my age. I wasn’t particularly revelrous, if that is even a word, recalling my earlier occasion to be at Northwestern to attend a memorial service for Marcus Marinho, an EnterActer.
I knew Marcus very little, but he seemed like a good guy. This was affirmed over and over again as friends of his spoke of his good nature, his helpful attitude toward things. I didn’t feel such a loss, except for the fact that I don’t get a chance to know him. His comrades felt a very deep loss, which I could only barely grasp, I think. After all, he was a great guy, and what’s most jarring perhaps, was that he was young, and the fateful car crash in California that took his life was something people don’t normally expect from someone in their twenties.
And among the number of his comrades was most of EnterAct, which closed for the day so everyone could attend. I could tell that they were each grieved in some way, but they seemed to be taking things pretty well. I liked the chance to get together with all of them. We went out to a restaurant in Evanston, and sat together, seventeen people at a table, like a great extended family, and I a cousin come to visit from afar. I knew most of the people there, but some were new faces. I felt comfortable with everybody. It was nice to see Mike, Elyse, Tracy, Jim, Jess, Juan, Charlie and the others. I’m even more interested in working there now, having been reminded of what a good group there is that I could so easily be a part of.
I just sent Tracy my resume. Mike said they need people in the Network Operations Center.
Of course, if they find out that due to a brain fart I typed
rm /etc/* the other day they might try to keep me away from the Unix systems. Moshen was helpful in my crisis when he told me that he had once accidentally nuked /etc himself on his own system.
For the unenlightened, that command kills off the important system configuration files. That kills a system, basically, if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily I’m half competent enough to have pulled my shit out of the fire even without backups to fall back on. As backups go though, I was lucky to have sasquatch at my disposal, and doubly lucky that it’s running the same, or near-same version of FreeBSD as stumpy here.
Mom’s buying a new computer. A Compaq. My single greatest misgiving is that the memory system on there seems very non-standard, and despite Compaq’s promise of ass-kicking performance, I’m wary of it’s limitation of 48M of RAM, in an apparently proprietary format. But then, mom’s not much of a power user, the price was damn right, and in the worst case it’s not hard to replace a motherboard. She bought the system mail-order from Milwaukee, WI. No sales tax that way.
I payed bills today, and am now broke. Maybe I shouldn’t buy that harddrive I wanna get off Inspector’s Gadgets when I get back to town? I thought today that the beauty of credit cards is that you can spend money that you have not yet earned. Well, I know I’m in line for the money, about $300 or so … it seems kind of extravagant but I’m telling myself the most important use is supplying stumpy with enough space that it can keep a directory of FreeBSD source code and track -stable or maybe even -current if I feel bold. With source in hand, I can learn a bit more how the system works you see?
I can also amass more mp3s.
The snow was falling very prettily as I walked home this evening from buying soap, deodorant and washcloths at Walgreens.
My mind is blank right now. Maybe I should read History. History set me asleep today. Foul portents.
Dinner tonight included chicken tenders and french fries. They’ve got the funky new lard-enriched fries like at Burger King. I’m not eating fries any more. I mean, I like a fry that’s not limp, but not brittle either. Yuck! I prefer limp to brittle but Americans seem good at settling for second best.
There was a long line throughout dinner, people waiting on their fried foods. The cook came out and said that they only had two “fry-o-laters” with which to make the chicken and french fries, and so that we should all send email to the powers that be to get them newer, better, or more “fry-o-laters”
Whatever that thing is.
Oh, coolest news of the day: Netscape is releasing their source code!
Means two very important things to me. The first is that we can get the bugs outta Netscape and make it the way we want, adding customizability and porting it among platforms. It also means that Microsoft’s competitor is about to enroll tens of thousands of hackers throughout the world in it’s effort – people who work for free! If you’re gonna give your product away for free, you might as well have the community develop it for free. Linux and FreeBSD demonstrate that this philosophy actually produces a pretty damned fine product.
Or, even looking at things from the point of view of desperation, if the man is gonna run you down, you can do a lot worse than just giving the technology away and thus give the victor a rather hollow victory .. because now even if Netscape will be going out of business, there will still be a competing product out there. Makes me feel right patriotic to the freeware movement.
And grateful to Netscape for giving the community it’s hard-won gift in it’s totality.
This section was written Sunday evening on the Pilot.
I was waiting on Green Street for the bus to take me to the train station. A campus bus called the Illini pulled up and I nodded my head “no” to save him the trouble of stopping. He stopped anyway, pulling the door open.
“What bus are you waiting for?”
“That one aint running anymore.”
“I need to get to the train station. Any suggestions?”
Clearly this was a difficult request. He hopped on the radio and asked about another bus.
“You can catch the yellow. It’s up there. Hop on.”
I rode with him a block towards Wright. He stopped in front of the Union to pick up a group of students.
“See that bus up there?”
“That’s the yellow – he’s waitin’ for you.”
“Thanks!” as I took off running in front of Everett to catch up with the bus resting at the Wright Street shelter. As the doors opened I looked at the driver and tried to explain myself.
“The other guy sent me.”
“That would be Chip.”
“He’s a great guy!”
I am so excited. I haven’t rode a train in years. Being in one of the front cars, I swear I can hear the sound of what I believe to be the beautiful putt-putt of the train’s diesel engine.
The leg room is astonishing! Trains, being the wonderfully fuel-efficient devices that they are, have less to gain by packing us in like sardines. To serve more passengers they only have to add another car. For an airplane or a bus to do the same … well they can’t do the same!
And that, of course, is why trains are superior. Nowadays even trucks ride trains, in a sense, for the long-haul. There are modular containers which can be stacked on trains and ships and placed on trailers for local delivery. That’s just cool.
So, Monday morning I got up at 0630h and rode to work with mom. I dozed off in her office, then grabbed a very inexpensive breakfast of French Toast in the cafeteria. After that we headed off to traffic court for my 1030h hearing.
On the way out, mom introduced me to “the girls” – all her Physical Therapists seem to be in their twenties, which seems weird but cool. Like college, only everyone’s a few years older, and there’s four peers as opposed to 40,000.
Anyways, we waited in traffic court, the proceedings going uninterestingly. From what I could tell, mine was a somewhat special case. Others seemed to feature mainly repeat offenders for speeding and other infractions. I was in there for a moving violation which resulted in an accident with no injuries, property damage, and no problems insurance wise. All the same, when I was called forward to the bench, the witness, Mr. Goldman, whose car I had hit, was not present, and the prosecutor said that the police officer was sick with the flu and asked for a reschedule. As the judge explained that I would have to come back in March, I interrupted, “Your honor, can I just plead guilty?” She seemed a bit surprised, but complied, issuing me a thirty dollar fine, a light penalty considering other fines were running forty to sixty with “supervision”.
My intent was, of course, to avoid the expense of traveling to and fro for such a trivial matter. Thirty dollars is less expensive than the cost of round-trip between Chicago and school, without even counting opportunity cost of missed classes and work.
After paying my fine I saw Mr. Goldman in the lobby. He had been delayed due to car troubles. Irony. He seemed disappointed or frustrated or otherwise unhappy with my guilty plea. “No, you say ‘Not guilty’ because it was just an accident and they let you off!” My understanding ran contrary to this, but I know Mr. Goldman’s testimony and that of the police officer could only have helped. This is this matter of impatience on my part. Some have suggested this gives me a criminal record or somesuch, but I figured if just going and pleading guilty was so bad the judge might have said something, especially as I hadn’t bothered to consult the legal counsel, which would have taken longer.
Ahh, the intricacies of court.
So, after that, I drove back, with mom in the car, which was very nice of her. I didn’t want to miss all the things I had scheduled, like the NASO meeting, dinner with a friend, and work from 1900h.
At the NASO meeting I volunteered to write thank-you letters for Organizations that had contributed to Pow Wow. Bill said he thought that the lack of thank-you letters was offensive, and that furthermore he hadn’t time to finish the rest.
I’m a Rhetoric major.
Of course, this was after one of the more … outspoken members launched an attack on what she felt to be a terrible lack of Native Americans in Native American Student Organization, being reflected in the President and the Treasurer-elect being non-enrolled persons. This sparked a debate that was way tangential about the meaning of enrollment, qualifications for what is a Native American, and stipulations that NASO might attach to it’s executives. She was particularly offensive in her approach, but she seemed to be the only one who felt such a way. The other enrolled Indians seemed perfectly comfortable with us white oppressor types pitching in to help the group. The president is a white guy, which is kinda cool in it’s colorfulness, while still illustrating the problem of Native Americans at the University: there just aint enough.
One of her objections were to
fake Indians or folks who claimed some Indian ancestry but weren’t enrolled. I may be 1/16th Cherokee, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m a white guy, and that’s all I’ve ever claimed to be. I thought she was just barking up the wrong tree with me. Lots of passion and justifiable resentment, but it just isn’t targeted very constructively, in my opinion.
So, Bill Clinton came to town today. The whole place has been excited and everything all day. He didn’t say anything interesting, which is to be expected. Jon got irritated when Al Gore referred to the University as the central cloverleaf of the Information Superhighway.
We hate the term Information Superhighway in the first place. Jon said the abusive metaphors were driving him nuts.
Whatever. It’s Al Gore. He invented the first term so if he wants to be a schmuck about pushing his metaphors around, more power to him.
If you start talking about Cyberspace though, don’t expect any sympathy from dannyman.
Anyways, the cool part was when Al Gore started yelling. See, all the dopes who got to make speeches before the president got to be more expressive towards the audience. This includes Al Gore, who CNN apparently didn’t give a shit about. Bill Clinton comes to the podium in the midst of scandal after his State of the Union address and the world’s cameras power up.
Al Gore however, was shouting things like a pro wrestler. It was kinda weird, and I wondered if something hadn’t gotten into his water. It’s good to see him trying to resemble a human being though. Maybe.
I was giggling at the image in my head of Al Gore wearing a mask and some colorful wrestling costume threatening the Republican party or scandal-mongers with his mighty physical prowess.
Whatchya gonna do, when Al Gore runs wild on you? Grrr!
Clinton was greeted at Willard by
local heros … I was a bit wary of the heroics when the first lady to shake his hand was Mrs. Ramos, director of Food Services. What is so heroic about the crap that passes for service on this campus tends to escape me. The rest of the heros seemed like nice folk though.
At the end of Bill’s speech, he was shaking hands on his way out. Tsoni had a good position, given his place in the College Democrats leading the Schmidt campaign. He shook hands and exchanged a few words both with Bill and Al. He patted Bill on the shoulder and the allegation, apparently founded by me, is that Al gore rubbed his head. He doesn’t believe that and I was babbling it to everybody so excitedly that it’s now dubious as to whether it actually happened or if it is simply the product of a rather flamboyant guy making irresponsible claims and folks gobbling it up. Eventually I may well receive independent confirmation of the occurrence. Tsoni doesn’t remember it happening, but seems open-minded about it. I think the experience was likely somewhat surreal.
Tsoni’s been glowing all day. And all the hall that does know him, has been absorbing it.
Tsoni’s the man.