Thursday, February 01, 2007

Schema, Neural Circuitry, and Creating an Enemy From Iran

In 1932, Frederic Bartlett developed the concept of "schema." Take the classic school-game "telephone" (which I used to illustrate the introduction of error in information processing in Chapter 9 of "A Theory of Power") , but now, rather than passing a verbal message, consider passing along a picture. The first person in a chain is given a very unique drawing of a human face--say something that Pablo Picasso may have drawn--and told to quickly copy the drawing and pass their copy on to the next person. Each person down the line is only given the sketch of produced by the prior person, not the original drawing. What happens is that the "uniqueness" of the original drawing is lost. Unlike the relatives "flat" linguistic topography of a verbal message, the errors in information processing introduced in this exercise trend the developing image toward a norm for what humans consider to be a generic face. This generic face is an example of Bartlett's "schema." It is an example of when the errors introduced into information processing converge on an ontogenically established norm (because of a "valley" topography of our neural circuitry) rather than diverging randomly.

Another example of schema is the categorization of enemy/friend. This schema has been defined by our ontogeny and hardwired to a large degree into our neural circuitry by observed similarities between "us" an "them" (a theme that, on a side note, was borrowed from Robert Anton Wilson by the writers of the series "Lost"). This creates an interesting epiphenomenon in our modern connectivity society: talking about any group that is different than "us," especially talking about those differences, leads to the schematic categorization of "enemy." This is even true to the point that talking *about* any group, rather than *with* that group is autonomically interpreted by human brains as instruction to categorize that group as "enemy." Of course, the context of "enemy" varies, from social competitors to military opponents, but the basic categorization preempts rationality.

So, if--hypothetically--you want to polarize the American people against Iran by identifying them as "our" enemy, all that is necessary is to leverage the neural circuitry underlying this schema by starting a discussion about them. It really doesn't matter what we say about "them," as long as the entire discussion is framed in the context of "us" and "them." Long hard-wired neural circuitry that we all share, that preempts rationality, and that *did* work quite well for us on the African savannas assures that "they" become the enemy.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the traits of a despotic police theocracy that strangles the will of its people, that openly calls for wiping other soverign people off the map (Iran's "them"), and ushering in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation doesn't play into the categorization of the Iranian regime as an "enemy" at all.

Your suggestion that an "us vs. them" propaganda campaign is needed on top of all this to nudge us past our inability to classify overt aggression and madness as "enemy" status is absurd. With regard to Iran, the "us vs. them" phenomenon is subsequent to the initial recognition that they are exhibiting characteristics that not a friend, but an enemy would possess.

Likewise, your statement that "It really doesn't matter what we say about "them," as long as the entire discussion is framed in the context of 'us' and 'them.'" leaves far too many exceptions to the rule you're trying to create. For example, "They (the Sudanese Christians) are being oppressed." vs. "They (the Sudanese Muslims) are oppressing." We are talking "about" both groups rather than "with" both groups, yet most of us would not conclude both are enemies because neither one are "us".

This should help illustrate that an enemy is defined by the actions of the group being discussed and not merely by the fact they are being discussed in the first place. This seems rather obvious.

-Smitty Broham

goritsas said...

Jeff,

Unlke Smitty Broham I sense the importance of the observation. Maybe it might be summed up in the oft repeated para-phrase:

Either you're with us or you're against us.

I suspect the Iranian elite are as busy preparing their possibly soon to suffer populace for the fight just as the machine is getting up to speed with those "crazy yanks!"

In any case, "Yo, Smitty Broham!" seems to be more of a disinformation spammer, in my probably distorted perspective.

sventastic said...

I agree that there is a deeply ingrained tendency in humanity to create binaries: good/bad, moral/immoral, friend/enemy.
We create even more mischief by further elaborating on these simplistic binaries, and create complex and sophisticated reasons and mythologies about why "our" side is right, and "they" are consistently dehumanized and abstracted into "enemies".
This tendency makes it easy for folks to be controlled by government and/or media propaganda.
I think it is an astute observation that people tend to go for the path of least resistence when dealing with issues, and that those who wish to exploit the masses pander to the lowest common denominator..."us" vs. "them."
Happens all the time.
Thus, it becomes incumbant on each and every single one of use to assess the situation for ourselves, using our own experience, common sense, and logic to come to conclusions and make decisions.
The world is much more complex than just "good" and "bad." in fact, all experience is relative to the experiencer.
For instance, the mosquito that bites you and drinks your blood thinks you are "good" for dinner, while you think it is a "bad" parasite for giving you malaria.
Who is correct? There is no objective answer.
Even further, everything is interconnected and interdependent:
There can be no "good" without "bad" to compare it against, and vice versa.
Thus, all dualities are ultimately of the nature of equality:
Since "good" depends on "bad" for its very existence (same with "us" vs. "them") they are rationally of the same ontological status.
All assertions of "good" or "bad" are rendered meaningless by simple logic. Thus, the attempts by fundamentalists, or the random person on the street, to pursuade people to hate and fear each other are merely unfounded delusions. This does not make them any less harmful, but it does reduce the need to take them too seriously. As reasonable, well-meaning people, we too must avoid the pitfall of dualistic fundamentalism.

Anonymous said...

Goritsas,

I did not call into question the "importance" of Jeff's post. I called into question the assertions it made.

Bush's "with us or against us" declaration has very little to do with my outlook on Iran. I don't consider the Swiss to necessarily be "with us" either and at the same time, don't autmoatically see them as "against us" (nor do I see them as enemies despite the fact we are referring to "them" instead of "us").

I outlined several traits of the Iranian regime which most rational people can see as qualities which are not possessed by those we consider "friends". Not being a friend does not autumatically mean enemy, yet in the example we are discussing, Iran, their behavior is such that reluctance to qualify them as an enemy is willful ignorance. You didn't address a single trait I identified with regard to how they can be considered anything but qualities of an enemy, or at least, who should be an enemy.

In a lazy, yet expected manner, you accuse my post as being disinformative without expanding on the generic accusation. Iran is not a despotic police theocracy? Iran has not openly called for the wiping off the map of Israel and sponsoring seminars entitled "A World Without Zionism: A World Without America"? Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons in order to usher in the return of the 12th Imam of Shia Islam (a goal he has expressly stated)? Iran is not strangling the will of the Iranian populace who are opposed to the theocracy in high percentages? I'm confused about what part of my post was disinformative.

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Sventastic,

You just completed a post which thoroughly disqualifies you from making any determinations about anything. In your world, the Holocaust was both good and bad depending on your take. The Cambodian killing fields were good and bad. The Red Terror in Russia was good and bad. Hepatitis is good and bad.

The logical conclusion of your world is that never is there a time when intervention should take place to stop anything because someone, somewhere can see it another way. Sure the Jews being cremated alive saw their situation as bad, but wait! Hitler and the SS saw it as good. Sure the Cambodians getting their brains smashed out of their eardrums saw their situation as bad, but wait! The Khmer Rouge saw unquestioned obedience as good.

All the more confusing, you admit good and bad exist, yet you neutralize the meaning of either by stating both exist simultaneously, suggesting that good is not better than bad is not better than good. Nonsense.

Seemingly then, you contradict yourself when expressing distaste for things like (from our last exchange) US policy, nuclear winter, and in this post, persuading people to "hate and fear each other". Why do you portray them in a negative light when something like the Holocaust (according to your logic) is good and bad? Psychological babble about duality doesn't address Iran's ambitions when speaking in terms of actual enemies vs. manufactured enemies.

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Smitty --

You want a direct rebuttal of your claims? Okay, I'm game.

Iran is not a despotic, theocratic police state: in fact, Iran is an experiment in merging Islam with democracy. I would consider letting you get away with your assertion in this case, except for one point, you attribute the words of Ahmadinejad as if he IS Iran, when, in fact, he has VERY limited power, including NO POWER WHATSOEVER over military action.

In fact, a large portion of the population DOES support Ahmadinejad: that's how he became president. Of course, he may very well be equally as devisive as Bush in the US, so I suppose I could get behind the idea that MY will has been strangled by his election and re-election, and so the liberals in Iran can say the same...

Ahmadinejad is not the first to rattle sabers, of course, but once you understand that that is ALL he can do... then the whole idea of US response becomes a little absurd. What is the Supreme Leader saying? Is he rattling sabers or is he going about business as usual. Seeing as how we NEVER hear anything about him, I'm inclined to think the latter.

Anyway, enough...

Jeff, nice... I think this is an important idea for looking at ourselves and the way we frame our own thinking, as much as it is from a political perspective. Thanks!

Janene

sventastic said...

"We can begin by examining the mental afflictions that arise as a result of mistaken thoughts and that cause us to take mistaken actions. The main mental afflictions are desire or attachment, aversion, and stupidity. Desire's referent object, what it focuses on, is something we consider pleasant. Aversion's referent object is something we find unpleasant, and stupidity's referent object is a mistake of wrong view. Therefore, what we need to examine are these three objects: those we consider pleasant, those we consider unpleasant, and mistakes.
When we examine these objects, however, we cannot find anything really there at all. Whatever object we analyze, we find that it is merely imputed to exist in dependence on its parts. Analyzing the parts themselves, we find that they too are imputed to exist in dependence on their own parts. Down to the subtlest particles of matter imaginable, nothing has any type of existence other than as a mere dependent imputation. Therefore, since there really is no object out there, no reference point for any notions of pleasant or unpleasant, pleasant and unpleasant themselves cannot exist. This is what Nagarjuna teaches in the ninth verse:
'How could it be possible for sentient being who are like illusions or objects that are like reflections to be either pleasant or unpleasant?'
To put this in the form of a logical reasoning:
Pleasant and unpleasant do not truly exist, because the bases for the respective notions of pleasant and unpleasant are individuals and objects that themselves are appearance-emptiness, like illusions and reflections.
If there is no support or basis that can have these qualities of pleasant and unpleasant, then how can the qualities themselves really exist? They cannot.
Another way to analyze is to look at the very notions of pleasant and unpleasant themselves. Pleasant and unpleasant could truly exist only if they did so independent of each other. However, pleasant cannot inherently exist before there is any notion of unpleasant, because it would have no reference point. Pleasant has no reference point in the absence of unpleasant. Similarly, unpleasant cannot exist in the absence of pleasant, because it would have no reference point. You cannot have a thought of something being unpleasant without a thought of what pleasant means as well. Therefore, pleasant depends for its existence on unpleasant, but unpleasant itself depends on pleasant to exist. Therefore, neither one truly exists, as Nagarjuna teaches beginning with the tenth verse:
'We imagine something to be pleasant based on our idea of what is unpleasant. But unpleasant too does not exist independent of pleasant. Therefore, for pleasant to truly exist would be impossible.'
Pleasant does not truly exist because the concept of unpleasant that it must depend upon for its existence in turn depends on it - pleasant - for its existence. The very thing pleasant exists in dependence upon must depend on pleasant itself in order to exist. Therefore, pleasant is not real.
The eleventh verse demonstrates the lack of inherent existence of unpleasant:
'We imagine something to be unpleasant based on our idea of what is pleasant. But pleasant too does not exist independent of unpleasant. Therefore, for unpleasant to truly exist would be impossible.'
Unpleasant has no nature of its own because the concept of pleasant that it must depend upon for its existence in turn depends upon it in order to exist. So the very thing that unpleasant depends on in fact depends upon it. Therefore, unpleasant is not real either.

We can examine clean and unclean in the same way. Clean exists only in dependence upon unclean. Unclean exists only in dependence on clean. So they exist only in dependence on each other, and therefore they cannot truly exist. If one thing depends upon something else, but that other thing must depend upon it, then neither one can really exist. Long and short, hot and cold, good and bad happiness and unhappiness are all exactly the same. They are dependently existent and therefore they are not truly existent.

In the twelfth verse, Nagarjuna describes how it is that since neither pleasant nor unpleasant exists, neither do the afflictive emotions of desire and aversion that appear to arise from contact with pleasant and unpleasant things:
'Since pleasant does not exist, how could desire exist? Since unpeasant does not exist, how could aversion exist?'
To put this in the form of a logical reasoning:
Desire and aversion have no inherent existence because their reference points, pleasant and unpleasant, do not truly exist, just as is the case with the desire and aversion that appear in dreams.

- Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.
Sun of Wisdom Pages 149 - 152

Erik Davis said...

This is a comment far to the side of the Smitty Brohan and friends debate.

First of all, Jeff, I largely agree with you. We have a long-ingrained tendency to find our fulfillment in others: that fulfillment for states is usually found in destruction, violence and genocide. This is a basic Hegelian insight, really.

I agree that all that is needed to convert public awareness of Iran from a non-entity to an active enemy is to keep it in the spotlight. To be even more aggressive about this transformation, it certainly doesn't hurt that the Fox channel and others insist on consistently distorting the already silly and often straightforwardly stupid words of Mr. Ahmadinejad.

But this feels like an unfinished post. It's hard enough to show why things suck, and how those sucky things work, and you've done an admirable job here. Next step: how do we, as proponents of rhizome, or at least those of us who oppose war as the 'health of the state,' oppose this neural programming socially (and not just individually), and prevent war?

How, to ask the same question in a way that Marx (for all my differences with the man) asked as long ago as his Theses on Feuerbach, do we make the switch from an importance on ideas, to an importance on social practice?

Cheers, and thanks for another excellent post.

Anonymous said...

Janene,

Far from rebutting my claims you focused instead on my overview of Iran. Iran is despotic in the fact that the Supreme Ayatollah was not elected, but took power by force and there is no democratic system present that allows anyone else to take his position. The definition of a despot is “A ruler with absolute power”. That is who Khomeini is. Iran is theocratic in that the Qur’an is law. The definition of a theocracy is “A government ruled by or subject to religious authority”. Iran is a police state. The definition of a police state is “A state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force”. Iran has a secret police force in charge of such pleasantries as torturing and raping the Canadian photographer who managed to snap a picture of a protest outside Evin prison in Tehran. Or the MOIS agents who raided homes of striking bus drivers in the night, often times kidnapping family members for blackmail to force them back to work. Or the revolutionary guard militias (there are more than one) whom Amnesty Int’l condemned for their increasing attacks against political dissidents and religious and ethnic minorities. Simply saying “Iran is not a despotic, theocratic police state” doesn’t actually generate truth, but I do understand your wanting to avoid the details.

The substance of Jeff’s post which I disagreed with is that it is not these features of the Iranian regime (not the populace) but our framing our discussions about Iran in an “us vs. them” framework which alone is what creates the impression of an enemy. My point was that the very real features of the Iranian regime are enough to identify them as being an enemy and a psychological mind trick is not needed. Going further, I pointed out that this “us vs. them” alone is not enough to create an enemy. I gave an example for that and as I am writing, I am wondering why I am having to expand upon the example I already gave any more since you never addressed it in the first place. Nice try, Janene.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

Smitty-
There will be as many diverse views on any particular subject as there are people discussing it, and thus, similar to the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle in quantum physics, the mere act of observing, let alone trying to relate or actively distort, any information is not in the form of an objective report, but a subjective, and therefore relative, personal perspective.
Nonetheless, some will be more in accord with how things actually work, and others will be more deluded and ignorant.
In the world of moral absolutism which I assume you are trying to inhabit, where verifiable good and bad exist, the very same principles that make Iran seem so despotic to you must necessary also be applicable to the United States, or else they are not truly existent nor absolutes. The US is not exempt from the absolute moral framework you are attempting to hold Iran accountable to.
When one examines the various actions of the United States, one finds they are remarkably similar to those of Iran.
Quoting your post:
The definition of a despot is “A ruler with absolute power”. That is who Khomeini is. Iran is theocratic in that the Qur’an is law. The definition of a theocracy is “A government ruled by or subject to religious authority”. Iran is a police state. The definition of a police state is “A state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force”.
The Executive Branch of our own government, aided and abetted by their cronies in the Judicial Branch, are actively purporting the solitary authority of George Bush as the "unitary executive," in a blatant attempt to give him "absolute power," and therefore making him, by your own definition, a despot.
George Bush, at least in the way he presents himself, is a right wing Christian fundamentalist, and many in his administration are as well, and therefore, I would call at least the Executive Branch of our government a strong attempt at theocracy, mainly becuase Bush has asserted many times that he has communicated with God or Christ and is doing His bidding, the Bible is law, and therefore the government is subject to religious authority.
America would also fit your own definition of a police state, in that the government is actively breaking the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution by illegally spying on its own citizens, reserves the right to arbitrarily suspend habeaus corpus in imprisioning and torturing anyone it wants, including American citizens, amongst numerous other nefarious and anti-democratic activities, conducted by its own secret police forces, the FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, Homeland Security, and private contractors thereof.
Thus the United States is just as culpable of civil and human rights atrocities as much as any other country, including Iran.
I will not even get into the fact that our forebears committed a genocide just as bad as the Holocaust or Red Scare in exterminating the Native American population of this continent, fought numerous illegal and immoral wars, enshrined slavery in the Consitution for generations, did not allow women to vote for generations, engaged in blatant racism in the Jim Crow laws, and continues to pollute and threaten the planet with an insane nulcear arsenal, among other things.
By your own definitions and logic, if capable, countries like Finland or Switzerland should have invaded the United States years ago to suppress the atrocities that we were committing. For example, the illegal presidency of George Bush.
The absurd consequence of your own moral absolutism is exposed by America being just as bad as Iran.
Therefore, who deserves, by virtue of their evilness, to be bombed by whom?
I suggest you read the quote I posted above. It proves through logic and example that moral absolutism is not truly existent, and thus believing that it does and acting on those beliefs are deluded and destructive.
Decrying anyone as an enemy is deluded, as they may very well make the same case against you, and be able to prove it just as well as you can against them.
Instead of "us" vs. "them," we can live more in accord to how things actually work, which is an interdependent web of coexistence, not a black and white, absolute system of discrete and separate warring entities.
Because of this, we can actively and genuinely love each other, and cease to engage in destructive behavior.

Anonymous said...

Sventastic,

Your entire post consists of a point-by-point application of my comments about Iran applied instead to the US. Somewhere along the line, you must have become confused about the simple points I'm making. My disagreement with Vail's post was not that we are all good and Iran is all bad. My disagreement was with his assertion that Iran is being established as an enemy because of the way we speak about them and not by what they are doing. The morality of the US is absolutely irrelevant when discussing what makes two entities "enemies". Take any two South American drug cartels. Morally they are on equal footing (a far more accurate analogy than your Iran and US one) yet are the fiercest of enemies.

Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception, not at all influenced by hypocritical judgment calls by one side or the other. Jeff made the statement that simply speaking about someone or some group in terms of "us" and "them" is enough to generate an enemy. I disagreed with that and provided an example that negates the assertion. Neither you nor anyone else on this board that has responded has taken one step toward the actual disagreements I've expressed over Jeff's post. Instead, you've all been preoccupied with disarming accusations against Iran or leveling comparisons between us and Iran than addressing what it is I've said. I could honestly care less if you view Iran and America on equal terms. Delusion on that scale is not easily dealt with, and in any event, is not the point.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

Believing that anyone is a truly existent enemy is an exercise in futility and delusion.
Investment in duality will lead to nothing but despair and suffering.
If you doubt this, read the extensive quote I posted above, and then get back to me.

Anonymous said...

Sven,

The only rambling psychobabble more inapplicable to real life than your own posts are the posts you copy and paste from others.

As near as I can tell, you fall back on abstract philosophies completely unrepresentative of how anything actually is because the few times you've ventured real life examples, or attempted to deal with those I give, they have been detached from anything resembling reality.

This would be a problem for most of us, but I'm sure in your worldview where the Holocaust is both good and bad, or neither good nor bad, and the SS were not the Jews' enemies but instead some other philosophic creature lacking the quality of "evil" or "enemy", your inaccuracies could only be identified as such with the existence of accuracy, which serves no other purpose than to neutralize the meaning of either.

So in this case, you are both right and wrong, and neither right nor wrong. Hey, I'm beginning to like this stuff. Ignoring how things actually function makes psychobabble fun AND easy.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

I'm glad you've still got your sense of humor, smit.
I would like to further debate what you consider inapplicable and unrepresentative.
I challenge you to take issue with anything Khenpo Rinpoche says in the quote I posted.

In the meantime, here's some real-life examples to whet your fiesty appetite:
If someone was a truly existent enemy, they would necessarily be interpreted as such by any observer, or else they would be a relative phenomenon rather than a fixed one, and not necessarily an enemy. For instance, the SS officers you cited were probably not considered enemies by their mothers. Although they undeniably committed atrocities, they are not inherently an "enemy," for they are not universally regarded as such.
Second, continuing with your Nazi fixation, Germany was an enemy of the United States during WWII, and yet, they are now considered an ally. If they were truly evil, as the atrocities you cite they committed would seem to make them, then how could they change from enemy to friend? If they were a truly existent enemy, it would be impossible for them to be otherwise. And yet today, there are tens of thousands of Americans living peaceably in Germany, and vice versa.
The belief in someone being our enemy is like believing a spinning sparkler in the dark to be a singular ring of fire, rather than the actuality of a hand holding a sparkler spinning around in a circle. To our eyes, it appears to be a contiguous, uninterrupted circular phenemenon of fire, and yet, the reality is far from that. The enemy you label and believe in is not just solely and uniquely that...he or she is an incomprehensibly complex assemblage of transitory elements. Are the atoms and molecules that make up his or her body inherently evil? Is the left over hair from their haircut still evil, enemy hair?
I have consistenly refuted every single example you have given, as you say, point by point, with other real world examples. By showing that the American and Iranian governments are both equally accountable for their infractions of civil rights, I have rendered considering one or the other to be good or bad, or friend or enemy, meaningless, and in doing so, have completely shown your point of view to be both delusional and self-destructive.
Again, I challenge you to take issue with any part of the Khenpo Rinpoche quote, one that logically proves my position rational, viable, applicable and represesntative, while reducing yours to untenable, facile ranting.
I know that what I present is not easy to understand, but you seem like a reasonably intelligent (and persistent) person, so my challenge stands for you find any flaw whatsoever in Khenpo Rinpoche's arguments. I may well be flawed, but he is not.
Guantlet is down. How will you react? With more dismisive childish quips, or by being an adult and using your mind?

Anonymous said...

Sven,

Your defining my response as a“dismisive childish quip” is actually more indicative of the quality of rebuttals I have to work with than anything else. As you’ll notice, my retort to Jeff’s post was not childish at all, and in fact, neither were any of my other replies to anyone else (though an accusation of dismissive would have been far more relevant to the responses I received). It is only when people go out of their way to such an extent that you can almost hear the straining to negate reality with idealized philosophy, that “dismisive childish quips” can be used to bring us back on track. Afterall, only since receiving it are you now attempting an actual real life conversation without filling up the board with quotes from philosophers (even though a debate with your philosopher is the real substance of your challenge). I guess “dismisive childish quips” have their place afterall. It is also somewhat comical that when I apply your tactics of psychobabble do you consider it “childish”. I guess the shoe fit quite nicely.

Ours is a problem of definitions, it seems. When I speak and use words to form sentences, I do so with the goal of speaking in a way others will understand what I say. The definition of “enemy” is: “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent”. This is how probably 99% of the world understands the word and is what 99% of the world means when they use it. I fit into this 99% while you scratch at every effort to fit the 1% who don’t, apparently for no other reason that to come off as enlightened or perhaps just to be contrary. Check any dictionary you would like and your definition of “enemy” is nowhere to be found. Your definition of “enemy” has such specific and narrow qualities as to make it virtually non-existent, which I guess is where your conclusion comes from that there is no such animal. If that is the definition you wish to stick to, then you are absolutely correct.

But for the far greater rest of us who use the word to convey the actual meaning it carries, a Waffen SS officer need not be an enemy to every carbon-based (and I suppose non-carbon based) entity he comes across to be considered an enemy. The Waffen SS officer’s mother may not consider her son to be an enemy and he may not direct qualities of an enemy toward her, but that makes him no less a real, honest-to-God enemy toward the Jews he is murdering. Do you at all see the problem with telling the Jew headed toward the crematorium that the Nazi who is murdering him is not an enemy because that Nazi’s mom loves her little boy? Give me a break, Sven.

What I have already explained deals with your Nazi Germany vs. USA example as well. Or going deeper, we could identify not the nation, but the government as the enemy to help further clarify your confusion. The country of Germany was/is not our enemy, it was the fascist government. Fascism was also our enemy in Italy. Fascism would be our enemy wherever it appeared so long as we were averse to fascism and therefore would be the contiguous ring of fire in the night you refer to. The only thing capable of changing that would be our embracing instead of opposing fascism. The country of Germany need not be our enemy from here to eternity for us to identify them as an enemy because the country of Germany is not governed by fascist Nazis bent on conquest from here to eternity. Germany was our enemy while they exhibited toward us “hatred”, “harmful designs”, or “antagonistic activities”. Since they are no longer doing such things as you point out, “enemy” does not apply in the description of our relationship at this moment.

Moving on, your self-congratulatory tone when claiming to have “consistenly refuted every single example [I] have given” is a bit premature considering you didn’t actually do so. I would caution you like I cautioned the last poster I replied to; just making the claim doesn’t actually generate truth. You did in fact, attempt to place America and Iran on equal footings in regard to the traits I outlined but the attempt itself is not an accomplishment, illustrated by the fundamental problems you sloppily overlooked such as:

1) The despotism of Iran involves the complete lack of a democratic system to remove the Ayatollah. America has both elections to replace the highest ranking government official as well as impeachment procedures should that official need to be removed prior to the end of his term, as well as checks and balances on his power.
2) The theocratic nature of Iran is evident in the fact that dissent from Islam is punishable by law and law comes from the pages of the Qur’an. Apostasy brings a death sentence. Criticism of Islam can bring the same. America has organized groups of people who are systematically trying to remove Christian ideals and symbols who are not subject to any punitive measures whatsoever. What edict in the Bible can you find to support our abortion laws? Iran’s supreme ruler is a religious figure who issues religious edicts. The faith of George W. Bush is absolutely non-binding and irrelevant in congress. Priests, pastors, or rabbis have no legislative, judicial, or executive authority by virtue of the fact they are religious leaders alone.
3) Whereas in Iran, the secret police employ kidnappings and violence and intimidation to bully its citizenship into things such as returning to work or reporting or any arbitrary dissent imaginable, America is employing a relatively extremely benign set of security measures in direct reaction to the worst attack our country has ever experienced, none of which should be threatening to those not involved in illegal activity. This is beside whether you agree with what is happening or not, the illustration is meant for its comparative value alone.

This should be enough to point out for the average person reading the fact America and Iran are by no means anywhere close to the same footing. I would add that the description of America as a theocracy of any kind comes more from the people who find Christianity distasteful and want it removed totally from view than an actual assessment of theocratic principles.

You appear very bold when challenging me to respond to the long winded philosophical diatribe you pasted in. Could that be because when debating philosophy, there is no verifiable way to determine right and wrong? If I learned anything from the quote you used, it would be impossible for you to judge whether my rebuttal was “right” because “right” does not exist without “wrong” and therefore both are dependent upon the other rendering either unreal. What’s the point then? People who love to argue but don’t like to be wrong usually focus on philosophical issues for this very reason. You’re more concerned about the noise a tree falling in the woods makes rather than the “unpleasant” experience of the man trapped underneath it.

-Smitty Broham

warszawa said...

"So, if--hypothetically--you want to polarize the American people against Iran by identifying them as "our" enemy, all [sic!]that is necessary is to leverage the neural circuitry underlying this schema by starting a discussion about them. It really doesn't matter what we say about "them," as long as the entire discussion is framed in the context of "us" and "them." Long hard-wired neural circuitry that we all share, that preempts rationality, and that *did* work quite well for us on the African savannas assures that "they" become the enemy."

I don't think it's quite that simple. Clearly, there are also "Thems" who are regarded as cute, interesting, fun, boring, harmless, sexy, useful, hospitable, quaint, etc. As Smitty B. points out, the Swiss are also a Them, yet no American regards the Swiss as enemies (unless they've had some bad personal experience with the bureaucracy, suffered from the exchange rate, or gotten food poisoning from a low-temperature fondue, etc.).

The salient difference between the Iranians and the Swiss is that Switzerland has not (yet) been *framed* as an enemy, whereas Iran has. And since that negative framing has already been instigated and is now being consolidated (in the mass media), *any* further mention of The Iranian Them will encounter a distinct negative perceptual bias in many American listeners.

But the negative framing has to come first. Or to change the metaphor: you can make a horse drink, but only if you take it to water.

P.S. This is not to deny that some cultures have an ingrained or recently-acquired xenophobic streak. Geographical isolation + an induced feeling of permanent danger = Them as enemy per se.
And of course the Brown, Turbaned Muslim was already established as an enemy Them by the US media long ago. Persian or Arab now makes damn little difference, so that means less work for the warmongering propagandist in 2007.

The Swiss are something else, though.

sventastic said...

I don't know which is worse, Smitty. A blatant despotic theocracy or those within a democracy that actively seek to subvert it and create a despotic theocracy.
The Bush Administration is actively trying to destroy the checks and balances and the separation of church and state that are fundamental to our democracy, and Bush says he actively communicates with and acts on personal conversations with God:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2005/10_october/06/bush.shtml

Seems fairly despotic and theocratic to me, and even worse that he wraps himself in the flag and a putridly faux projection of patriotism while actually being the biggest hypocrit and tyrant imaginable.

Good job in trying to change the goal posts mid-game:
The definition of a theocracy is “A government ruled by or subject to religious authority”
Admitting to the international press that God told him to invade Iraq seems like irrefutable evidence that a) the American "pResident" is, at least, an attempted theocrat, and b) that he is delusional and insane, as much or moreso than Khomeini or Ahmadinejad.
All of this goes to show that you are trying to create a smokescreen of details, while not addressing the acutal, larger issue (a typical neocon ploy):
That there no such thing as a truly existing enemy.

Let me put this in the simplest way possible, so that you might be able to grasp the concept:

When standing on a particular hill, you look over at the next hill and say: "I am standing on this hill, and looking at that hill over there."

When you walk to the next hill, the statement: "I am standing on this hill, and looking at that hill over there," does not quite correspond with what you uttered before.
Which statement is correct?

Germany is our enemy. Germany is our friend. America is great. America is the great satan. All such assertions are meaningless.

Both hills are simultaneously "this" hill and "that" hill, and likewise neither "this" hill nor "that" hill. It completely depends on when and where you make the statement. Is this so very hard for you to compute?

Let me use an example from popular culture that you might be able to understand:

On the gameshow Family Feud, the host might say, "Of the people polled, X% said that A is an enemy to B."

If 'of the people polled' = SS officer's mothers, then 100% of SS officer's would not be "enemies".
If 'of the people polled' = murdered Jews, then yes, 100% of SS officers might be enemies.
Who is correct? Which is the objective, true, ultimate, absolute, undisputed, infallible authority that is beyond reproach? How do you base your assertions? On what grounds and from what data do you make your indestructible and final definitions and incontroversially correct labels?

Another thing: You were not present in the killing fields of Cambodia. You were not an objective witness there. You are actually no authority whatsoever on the subject. You are basing your view on the stories and experiences of others you never met.

My position, however, is based on personal analysis, my own experience and common sense, and employing logic, rather than yours which is based on hearsay, biased opinion, second hand accounts, and emotional reactionism.

You are acting like an irrational, screaming child that believes the world has come to an end because its precious sand castle has been swept away by the inevitably rising tide. You cannot accept that the world may not accord with your simplistic, reductionist, fundamentalist black and white framework of good versus evil and friend versus enemy, and you rant and rave and lash out at others and that which you cannot understand in your infantile insipidness.

If you actually used your reason, as opposed to your knee jerk, defensive reactionism that you are so enamoured of, then you might be able to get a clue about how things actually are.

But I digress. Let me reiterate for you:

Enemies do not exist. In your own very words:
Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception

In that case, smitty, you must admit perception is malleable; influenced by variables such indoctrinated propaganda, lack of sleep, drugs, or malnutrition. They change over time based on the vicissitudes of memory.

In which case, the object of perception, "enemy," would likewise be variable, and therefore not truly existent. If your perception of someone can change, then your judgment of them as friend or enemy is rendered completely meaningless: they are not a truly existent anything.

Can you understand this?
Despite the fact that the Jew murdered by the SS officer might consider him an enemy, (which is a complete imputed assumption on your part, because you were not there and unable to interview that specific Jew), that does not make him everybody's enemy; which is a necessary condition to meet in order to establish the SS officer as a truly existent enemy.
Your point of view is a relative one, not based on your personal experience in the examples you cite (as opposed to the mosquito and sparkler ones that I employed), not based on or proved by logic as mine are, and built like a sand castle on misperceptions, mistaken views, and closed minded, short sighted assumptions that have no basis in reality and that are swept away by the rising tide of how things actually are.
I truly wish you well, and hope that you find happiness and freedom from suffering.

sventastic said...

Smitty -
You wrote:
Fascism would be our enemy wherever it appeared so long as we were averse to fascism

Here's a very well written article for you on American Christian Fascists:

http://www.alternet.org/story/47679

Enjoy.

Oh yes, and if Germany, or its government, can shift with ease from one truly existent thing to another, (enemy to friend), I suppose the members of your family and those you consider "friends" could as well...
I think yours is a pretty poor definition altogether, for as a child, we may well perceive the dentist with his drill to be antagonistic to us, or our parents or teachers when they enforce rules we have broken.
Even if they have the best of intentions and know better and are trying to help us (the opposite of antogonism...which would make them a friend?), our perception of them is one of antagonism. You've already contradicted yourself by stating:
Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception,
And I have proved, time and again, that perception is relative and therefore not suitable to serve as the basis for any absolutist statements, like defining someone as an enemy.
Since you are predicating your flimsy arguments on even more shoddy definitions and defective logic, I would recommend you reassess your position.

Anonymous said...

Sventastic,

Misperceptions, mistaken views, closed minded, short sighted, knee jerk, defensive reactionism, infantile insipidness, irrational, screaming child, simplistic, reductionist, fundamentalist black and white framework, rant and rave and lash out, hearsay, biased opinion, second hand accounts, and emotional reactionism … ad nauseum. If you were to remove the personal insults from your post you’d be left with about a half paragraph of actual thought. The irony meter has gone off the charts because while you call me these things, your responses are the true embodiment of them. There you go trying to generate truth again with simple accusations while your behavior is living them out in real time. Fortunately in a written forum its easy to tell when the temper tantrum is over. I’ll continue responding to your post now…


I don't know which is worse, Smitty. A blatant despotic theocracy or those within a democracy that actively seek to subvert it and create a despotic theocracy.

You don’t?


… Bush says he actively communicates with and acts on personal conversations with God: Seems fairly despotic and theocratic to me…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2005/10_october/06/bush.shtml


It would save you time and embarrassment to get in the habit of reading articles you cite. This article quotes Abu Mazen (former assistant terrorist to Arafat) and Nabil Shaath (neither of whom are President Bush) recounting what they claim Bush said to them. And we know Palestinian nationalists are beyond telling a fib should it help their cause, don’t we? Where is the quote from Bush? And how mind numbingly hypocritical of you to deride my references to the Cambodian killing fields because I wasn’t present and I don’t personally know any of the survivors (“basing your view on the stories and experiences of others you never met” is how you put it) while you brandish regurgitated accounts of a statement Bush allegedly made that may be an outright lie, may be a misunderstood recollection, or may be true. Using your own standards, do you personally know Mr. Mazen or Mr. Shaath? Were you in that room? You’re putting so much effort into disagreeing with anything I say for the sake of disagreement alone you can’t even keep track of your own double-standards.


Admitting to the international press that God told him to invade Iraq seems like irrefutable evidence that a) the American "pResident" is, at least, an attempted theocrat, and b) that he is delusional and insane, as much or moreso than Khomeini or Ahmadinejad.

Here you continue with your double-standard, building on a foundation of self-admittedly worthless hearsay … but we won’t call what you’re doing “basing your view on the stories and experiences of others you never met” or even using “second hand accounts” because that’s only what I do. Not you.


Let me put this in the simplest way possible, so that you might be able to grasp the concept …

I think you’ve confused misunderstanding and disagreement. I’ve responded to both your post and the posts you can’t come up with yourself which you instead copy and paste in with understanding. I happen to disagree. If you don’t know the difference between the two you’ll need to straighten that out before continuing.


If 'of the people polled' = SS officer's mothers, then 100% of SS officer's would not be "enemies".
If 'of the people polled' = murdered Jews, then yes, 100% of SS officers might be enemies.
Who is correct? Which is the objective, true, ultimate, absolute, undisputed, infallible authority that is beyond reproach? How do you base your assertions? On what grounds and from what data do you make your indestructible and final definitions and incontroversially correct labels?


I’m surprised such an intelligent person isn’t able to recognize the fact that one entity can fulfill more than one role. An SS officer is capable of being both his mommy’s little treasure and the Jew’s mortal enemy at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive characteristics as you’re grunting and straining to make them. I can help an old lady across the street and then shoot the man at the bus stop once I get there. I can even help the old lady across the street and then push her on her face once we arrive. I need not be 100% enemy to 100% of the people 100% of the time, but when I am exhibiting the defining characteristics of who an enemy is, at that time then I am an enemy. It is up to the object of my actions and their perception to determine if I am enemy enough to be classified as “enemy”, or friendly enough to be classified as “friend”.


My position, however, is based on personal analysis, my own experience and common sense, and employing logic, rather than yours which is based on hearsay, biased opinion, second hand accounts, and emotional reactionism.

After viewing a screen full of whining and insults reminiscent of a grade school playground and watching you systematically contradict what you say you do in writing, I don’t believe you.


You are acting like an irrational, screaming child that believes the world has come to an end because its precious sand castle has been swept away by the inevitably rising tide.

How poetic. Meaningless … but poetic.


Enemies do not exist. In your own very words:
Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception


Perception does not mean to experience or understand a phenomena that does not exist, but one that does. If enemies do not exist because of the reasons given by your philosopher, then all of your insults fall into the same framework, rendering them all meaningless, because childish can only exist with maturity, biased with unbiased, short-sighted with long-term, and therefore do not exist. Yet you use them as though they are very real adjectives describing real conditions with which you stomp your feet and hurl at me because you can’t express yourself aside from such behavior. Why then do you speak of an enemy as a non-existent entity all the while filling up pages of writing with very real attributes that should be governed by the same psychobabble laws you just got done laying down. I suppose a hypocrite is dependant upon genuineness, and therefore, you’re neither. I suppose it’s helpful to subscribe to a philosophy that doesn’t allow your faults to be identified without having to also declare they don’t really exist. Just as long as your outbound judgment calls aren’t infringed upon, right Sven?


In that case, smitty, you must admit perception is malleable; influenced by variables such indoctrinated propaganda, lack of sleep, drugs, or malnutrition. They change over time based on the vicissitudes of memory.

I never disputed this. Of course perception is subject to variables.


In which case, the object of perception, "enemy," would likewise be variable, and therefore not truly existent.

You have not identified any coherent reasoning that justifies the conclusion that because something is variable, it therefore does not exist. But as long as you continue operating under the assumption that arbitrary declarations become truthful statements simply because they’ve been uttered, you have no real problems.


Despite the fact that the Jew murdered by the SS officer might consider him an enemy, (which is a complete imputed assumption on your part, because you were not there and unable to interview that specific Jew), that does not make him everybody's enemy; which is a necessary condition to meet in order to establish the SS officer as a truly existent enemy.

Not according to any recognizable definition of the word “enemy”. We’ve already been over this. You keep making these statements hoping I’ll just accept them as truthful or accurate. Again, it’s not a matter of understanding, it’s a matter of disagreement. Either cite a definition for the word “enemy” that states one must be an enemy to everyone all the time or they are not an “existent enemy”, or move on.


I truly wish you well, and hope that you find happiness and freedom from suffering.

By suffering, do you mean the fact that throughout these posts, you have not addressed my fundamental contention that speaking about people in “us” and “them” terms is not enough to manufacture an enemy (or to humor you, the perception of an enemy)? Warszawa seemed to pick up on the real topic on his first post. How many more before you address the original topic?

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Sven,

Here's a very well written article for you on American Christian Fascists:

How in the world is this relevant to … anything? Are you under the impression you’re somehow responding to any of the points I made because the title of the article you pasted contains a word I used in my post?


Oh yes, and if Germany, or its government, can shift with ease from one truly existent thing to another, (enemy to friend)…

I’m guessing describing the transition from fascist, Nazi Germany to democratic Germany as “with ease” indicates the colossal ignorance of what actually took place to get from one to the other. But that is beside the point.


… I suppose the members of your family and those you consider "friends" could as well...

Umm, yes. I suppose they could. And … ?


I think yours is a pretty poor definition altogether, for as a child, we may well perceive the dentist with his drill to be antagonistic to us, or our parents or teachers when they enforce rules we have broken.
Even if they have the best of intentions and know better and are trying to help us (the opposite of antogonism...which would make them a friend?), our perception of them is one of antagonism.


A perception does not have to be a reasoned, well thought out conclusion after receiving all the facts. An ignorant or naïve perception is just as real as an informed one. Therefore, someone can view someone else ignorantly, as an enemy. This happens all the time, the most easily identifiable example being racism. And though the KKK is full of backcountry ignorant citizens, blacks are nonetheless their enemies because of their ignorant perceptions of them. The system in place that forced me to go to school every day rather than enjoy an endless summer was indeed my enemy until I wised up and realized that without that education I would not get very far. This would be an example of a variable that just because it is a variable, does not negate the existence of the object it is applied to.

This also works the other way when a substance abuser who runs to drugs or alcohol for comfort realizes it is the very source of his comfort (or "friend") that is destroying his life (or "enemy").

You've already contradicted yourself by stating:
Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception,


I don’t see how, but you said it so it must be true.


And I have proved, time and again, that perception is relative and therefore not suitable to serve as the basis for any absolutist statements, like defining someone as an enemy.

Well, you have certainly said you’ve proved it. For you, that is enough.


Since you are predicating your flimsy arguments on even more shoddy definitions and defective logic, I would recommend you reassess your position.

You are free at any time to cite the definition of “enemy” you feel is not “shoddy” or “defective”. If I were on your side, I would have done so by now instead of repeatedly complaining about it. You are also free to actually address the key points of disagreement I raised with Jeff’s post rather than whining about widely accepted definitions of words.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

Smitty -
Your dependence on definitions is admirable to a certain extent, but your clinging to them as absolutes ultimately falls apart in the face of analysis and logic.

Ironically, attachment to definitions as being true leads to further perpetuate confusion rather than clarity, and is exemplary in showing the futility of believing and investing in them as objective truths, in the contect of the discussion we are having about the true existence of phenomena.

Your disagreement with Jeff's original post is a symptom of a deeper attachment to believing in the true existence of people as enemies.
My attempts have been to diagnose this root problem of believing in things that don't exist; absolutist things like categorization, classification, status, possession of characteristics, qualities, identifications, and your favorite, definitions, to try and show that it doesn't quite work or have to be that way.

Definitions can be useful tools to a certain extent, but if we get carried away with believing in these labels, and start projecting them on to phenomena that don't accord with them, and associate more with the belief in the label than our actual experience, then we run into trouble.

For example:

You are walking down the street, and you notice your friend in front of you. You run up, happy to see them, when you realize it's a complete stranger.

How do your definitions play in this scenario?

Was the person actually your friend while you perceived him to be before you saw his face?
In your mind, he exhibited the defining characteristics he always has from your memories of your friendship with him.

How did that defintion change with the change in perception when you saw it was not really your friend?

Are definitions really so flimsy?

If so, what is the implication for basing your emotions on them, let alone international military policy?

Apparently they must be, for you admitted yourself that:

Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception

If perception can be flawed, which it often is, then our identification of the objects of our definitions can be as well. Which means we often define people as being a certain way when they are not in accord with that, and then we act on the belief that it is true. It does not have to be this way.

The definition of defintion is:
1. the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear. A statement conveying fundamental character.

You describe this is terms of actual meaning, and yet, who is the ultimate authority on making something definite, or conveying its fundamental character or actual meaning? I would like to meet that person. (I am well aware of the irony in using the definition of definition, but it just helps prove how your dependence on them is problematic).

You keep on saying that just making a statement does not make it true. And yet, how are you to believe anything that anyone says is objectively true (which means it would be a shared experience by anyone who had it)?

For something to be actually true, then it must be equally true for everyone with no exceptions. Likewise, if something is truly existent, then everyone's perception of it would have to be the same at all times in all situations, (or else it would be true for some and untrue for others who have a different perspective, thus rendering it relative and not absolute.)

But the world just doesn't work that way. You have admitted that:

Of course perception is subject to variables.

In making this statement, you completely undercut your entire stance. If things are subject to variables and don't have a true, intrinsic, inherent existence that is undisputed by everyone, then who is the absolute authority in defining the characteristics of that object? If it's your own perception, and it is impaired for some reason, that renders the entire process to be flawed and arbitrary, and therefore not actually true.

In order for someone to be a truly existent enemy that corresponds with your definition of enemy, then that person must fit that definition for everyone at all times in all situations.

But that is simply impossible.

Everyone has a different perspective, and thus none is more authoritative or objective or true than any other.

You contradict yourself when you try to assert the true existence of an enemy, but the assertion is based on a variable perception, as you say:

an ignorant or naive perception is just as real as an informed one.

That statement renders absurd all of your attempts to make anything objectively real or anyone an enemy, for you admit that someone can be wrong about the relationship between what they believe and what they are perceiving.
If they are incorrect in identifying the defining characteristics of the object, then they are wrong about labeling and dealing with the object in a particular way.

The root of this is that we have no other experience but our own.

We cannot ever know what someone else knows, or see what they have seen. We can only have our own personal point of view, one that you admit is fallible and changes. What then are the implications for asserting and clinging to absolute truths?

when I am exhibiting the defining characteristics of who an enemy is, at that time then I am an enemy. It is up to the object of my actions and their perception to determine if I am an enemy.

This is an absurd statement. At first, you try to assert the possibility for you being something absolute, an enemy, but then you place the burden of determining that on someone else, which is problematic in two ways:

first, you can never know what they think.

second, what if they perceive you as a friend? Like the old lady you use as an example. She may well regard you as a friend, and can't regard you as anything after you kill her. Does that mean you are her friend? It does, based on your previous assertion that Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception, and yet, you are not exhibiting those defining characteristics, are you?
A bit of a convoluted mess you've gotten yourself in.

You asserted that:

one entity can fulfill more than one role.

This assertion again undermines your stance, for it opens the door of relativity, which trounces any assertions of absolutism. Your investment in definitions, truth, and objectivity is predicated on absolutes, but your admitting that things are relative (SS officer's mother's opinion is just as valid as the murdered Jew's), completely dispells the possibility for an absolute, singular definition.

If something was truly existent, or someone was a true enemy, they would always be that way and could not change, for the simple reason that if they can change, then their defining characteristics do as well, and cannot be trusted long enough for you to assert them to be anything.

In fact, if you look at the chemistry and physics of things, they are all in a constant state of flux, and therefore, defy your attempts to utterly solidfy them into one truly existent thing that a definition can apply to.

Further, you can break down objects physically ad infinitum, and likewise pan out into the universe infititely. Since everything is simultaneously interdependent, from the atoms that make up your body to the galaxies spinning in the cosmos, you cannot truly separate one phenomenon from another in order to define it as a discrete entity.

The whole point of this is say that as human beings, we live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance: we try to separate ourselves from our experience as an independent, objective observer (which in itself is simply not how things are), and then we start defining and labeling things.

This is not necessarily problematic in and of itself, and indeed can be useful. The problems arise when we start believing in and investing in our conceptual frameworks, and projecting them inappropriately and consequently suffering when things do not match our definitions or expectations of them.

Making a sand castle is fun and creative. But if we want and expect it to last forever, we will be sorely disappointed.

Appearances are not a problem. Problems arise when we cling to our definitions and labels of them in an ever changing and relative world.

In America in February it is considered winter. Yet, in Australia, it is summer. The calendar that we believe in, as well as the climate and weather, in America is exhibiting the defining characteristics of winter, and yet, simultaneously, the same calendar but different climate and weather in Australia is exhibiting the defining characteristics of summer. So which is correct? What happens to this schema when global warming changes all the climates, and they no longer have the previous static defining characteristics we depended on?

Where does this leave us?

We can skillfully use words and definitions, but we should not take them too seriously. We should beware humanity's prediliction for grasping to things as being true and untrue when doing so does not accord with reality. Finally, we should assess for ourselves, using reason, common sense, logic, and examples, about how our own patterns of belief function, so that we can act in ways that do not harm ourselves or others, and in fact, serve to make our inexpressible experience of the world, beyond words and definitions, a non-dually happy one.

Anonymous said...

Your disagreement with Jeff's original post is a symptom of a deeper attachment to believing in the true existence of people as enemies.

Ok, so when speaking with you, we’ll shift the conversation from the errant dogma Jeff attempted to create to a conversation focused around the question of whether an enemy truly exists. When speaking with everyone else, I’ll use the definition that everyone understands and intends to mean when dealing with the word.


You are walking down the street, and you notice your friend in front of you. You run up, happy to see them, when you realize it's a complete stranger.

How do your definitions play in this scenario?


I think a key to your scenario is your colloquial use of the phrase “your friend”. If I were to apply the tedious philosophy you describe, I would have to take exception with your use of this phrase even within the context of your explanation, because this person would not only have to be a friend to you, they would have to be a friend to absolutely everyone and everything that could potentially encounter them for you to accurately describe them as “your friend”.


Was the person actually your friend while you perceived him to be before you saw his face?
In your mind, he exhibited the defining characteristics he always has from your memories of your friendship with him.
How did that defintion change with the change in perception when you saw it was not really your friend?


It is not the definition that changes Sven. The definition of an enemy will remain the same. What changes is who or what you apply it to. Enemies can become friends. Friends can become enemies. But it is not the definition that changes. There is only one way to understand the word “enemy”.


Are definitions really so flimsy?

No, see above. But the way in which they are applied can be.


Apparently they must be, for you admitted yourself that:
Identifying an enemy is a matter of perception


No, see above.


If perception can be flawed, which it often is, then our identification of the objects of our definitions can be as well. Which means we often define people as being a certain way when they are not in accord with that, and then we act on the belief that it is true. It does not have to be this way.

Flawed perceptions are problems. Applying these flawed perceptions to someone and acting on them is a problem. But operating in this flawed state or out of it is irrelevant when you apparently want to discuss whether an enemy is real. Regardless of the flawed outlook, an enemy or a friend can still be identified and treated as such. I would like to revisit above where you used the phrase “your friend”. The word “your” is completely unnecessary in your framework because identifying the source viewpoint is not needed when someone is universally a “friend”. A universal friend would be his friend, her friend, their friend, our friend, any which way you dice it. But you, even in the midst of trying to negate the existence of things such as friends or enemies, used a critical identifier when discussing the friend. You did so because you realized that to one particular person, that other person is an actual, real friend. “your friend” might not be “my friend” might not be “his friend” might not be “their friend”. But despite all this, whoever the “your” is in “your friend” sees and experiences a very real friend, and to them, they are objectively a friend. The same applies to enemy. The SS officer is a real precious treasure to his mom and a real certifiable enemy to the Jew. This stems from the fact that the SS officer behaves toward his mother in a manner befitting a loving son but to the Jew in a manner befitting a murderous executioner. I understand your point Sven. You hold the view that because a Martian can’t land on earth, see this Nazi apart from his behavior toward the Jew or toward his mom, and recognize a universal, inherent quality of “enemy”, then it can’t be universally said that this Nazi is an “enemy”. I already told you that if this was the uncommon definition you’re using whenever you hear or use the word “enemy” then you are absolutely correct. But again, I’m not speaking in universal terms. I’m talking in terms of roles between participants. And perhaps inadvertently, this is what you reverted to when using such a phrase as “your friend”.


The definition of defintion is:
1. the act of defining or making definite, distinct, or clear. A statement conveying fundamental character.
You describe this is terms of actual meaning, and yet, who is the ultimate authority on making something definite, or conveying its fundamental character or actual meaning?


The person that harbors the perception. Just for fun, lets say two people hit it off and become great friends. The first few years of the relationship is defined by these two people enjoying each other’s company and viewing favorably the behavior of one to the other and vice versa. But then the relationship changes to where time spent together is not enjoyable for either and much more so, the relationship deteriorates to the point where one or both people are stealing from each other, slandering each other, and even physically harming each other. How does your philosophy explain this phenomena? 99% of people could view the situation as a move from friends to enemies. But you say neither exist. But you can’t deny a change in the dynamics of the relationship has taken place either. What words would you use, Sven, to communicate this to human beings?


You keep on saying that just making a statement does not make it true. And yet, how are you to believe anything that anyone says is objectively true (which means it would be a shared experience by anyone who had it)?

I don’t have catch-all rules for every challenge you issue so I’ll instead address specifically what you’re referring to. When I tell you just making a statement does not generate truth, I did this in reaction to your saying such things as you don’t rely on second-hand accounts or hearsay to formulate your opinions when in the very same post making this claim, you relied exclusively on second-hand accounts and hearsay to put forth an argument. It doesn’t take much on my side to conclude that at least that statement you made is not true, as exhibited by your actions. You also made other statements such as you systematically disproved my assertions using logic and reason (or some malarchy to that effect) but I didn’t happen to agree or see as convincing any of your attempted “proofs”. The fact you are playing dueling philosophies by lording what you perceive as “better logic” or “better reason” over mine contradicts the very premise of your overall argument. Wouldn’t your logic have to be universally seen as “better” than mine for it to truly be so? At least one person doesn’t see it that way (me) which renders your self-laudatory praise about “better” anything an exercise in meaninglessness and demonstrates that not even the person pitching the philosophy (you) believes the rubbish in the first place … as evidenced by your assertion that “For something to be actually true, then it must be equally true for everyone with no exceptions. Likewise, if something is truly existent, then everyone's perception of it would have to be the same at all times in all situations, (or else it would be true for some and untrue for others who have a different perspective, thus rendering it relative and not absolute.


Of course perception is subject to variables.
In making this statement, you completely undercut your entire stance. If things are subject to variables and don't have a true, intrinsic, inherent existence that is undisputed by everyone, then who is the absolute authority in defining the characteristics of that object?


Already answered above.


If it's your own perception, and it is impaired for some reason, that renders the entire process to be flawed and arbitrary, and therefore not actually true.

This is another example of you making a claim and hoping everyone will sign on in agreement. Because perception is at times impaired, and thereby renders the process flawed, then it is not actually true is not a conclusion I would arrive at. But you did. Come to think of it, wouldn’t this statement to be a truthful statement have to be viewed as truthful by everyone reading it? By your own words, it absolutely would. But at least one person disagrees with it and if you’re suggesting that it remains true apart from my recognizing it as such, then you have to also admit that perception is critical in terms of what is true, and therefore, what is real. And you have the nerve to accuse me of creating a “convoluted mess”?

Reading the rest of your post, I see it is just different flavors of the same concept I’ve already explained. I’m growing tired of re-explaining the same fundamental point in your onslaught of slightly different scenarios.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

We must examine what is "real."
All we have is our individual experience. That experience is based on our perceptions. Many of our perceptions are distorted, ignorant, or impaired, and thus our basis for reality, and how we try to define and labelit, is as well.

Therefore, we must be careful about how we go about living our lives, and not take for granted that our perspective is the only valid one; that our definitions are always correct, for more often then not, they are skewed.

It is not the impaired perceptions that are a problem per se (they are what they are), but it is our constant creation of, clinging to, and investment in our conceptual framework of labels and definitions that is problematic.

If you had actually read the second half of my post, you might have caught on to this.

I suggest you take the time to check it out, and actually engage in the thought experiments I present, rather than dismiss and get caught up in the semantics.
It's to cool to analyze them that way, but you know what I'm getting at, and as usual, you are not addressing the point. I can rephrase the thought experiment for you:

While walking down the street, the stream of experience you identify with and label as you has the perception of recognition of the object you identify with as someone that exhibits the generally held characteristics of friend, labeled Bob, appears. You run up to this person, but you then see that it is someone you do not know; he does not exhibit the characteristics you associate with Bob at all.

Since the perception of the object changes, the definition of it does as well. This happens all the time. What if this is the case with your identification of people you label as enemies, and they are not who you thought they were at all? That would be a shame for everyone for you to expend the time and energy in being angry at them when it was unfounded.

You say that the person who harbors the perception is the creator of the definition...if this is so, then you cannot depend on commonly held notions of anything, let alone 99%, for everyone would have a necssarily different defintion for everything by virtue of the fact that everyone is different and have varying experiences to base their definitions on.

Further, there is no way to verify your definitions with others, especially quickly or on a large scale; if you tried, they might also be lying to you, or be misinformed or have impaired perception. So you contradict yourself yet again by trying to assert the existence of objective, absolute definitions, while placing the burden of creating them on individuals, who are relative and diverse. You keep on getting into the same muddle...maybe you should try something else.

Since you've stuck with this discussion for so long, there must be something interesting going on here for you, so why not investigate it for yourself?

Looking deeply into our perceptions, we see that all experience is empty of true nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Smitty, all phenomena are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. Therefore, Smitty, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no phenomena, no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind consciousness dhatu; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment. Therefore, Smitty, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of prajnaparamita.

Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear. They transcend falsity and attain complete freedom.

James Kielland said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

If you had actually read the second half of my post, you might have caught on to this.

I read your entire post Sventastic, every time you post one. As I see it, the biggest problem you are having with me is not that I don’t read your post, but that I do read it.


I suggest you take the time to check it out, and actually engage in the thought experiments I present, rather than dismiss and get caught up in the semantics.

Because I don’t respond to every single “thought experiment” you present does not mean I don’t consider them. As I stated previously, I’m growing tired of responding to your ever slightly changing scenarios with what is inevitably a reiteration of a point I have already made as clearly as I can.


as usual, you are not addressing the point

Again, the problem you’re having with me is not that I don’t address your points, but that I do. You wait to talk rather than listen. You’re spending so much effort coming up with these “what-if” scenarios to illustrate your point (which I have demonstrated I understood about 12 posts ago) that you ignore incoming attempts to achieve the same goal. Would you like me to sift through our correspondence so far and highlight in red, bold letters the scenarios, questions, and “thought experiments” you purposefully avoided responding to, such as how you would communicate the change in dynamics of a relationship as it shifts from friendly to hostile, while keeping in mind neither friendly nor hostile truly exists (to refer only to the most recent failure to “address my point”)? This is more curiosity to see if you can communicate what you view to be accurate descriptions to human beings on earth rather than saying there is no such thing as friendship, there is no such thing as hostility, and there are no real dynamics.


While walking down the street, the stream of experience you identify with and label as you has the perception of recognition of the object you identify with as someone that exhibits the generally held characteristics of friend, labeled Bob, appears.

LOL. And I don’t’ mean that figuratively, I mean literally, LOL. Do you realize that your reluctance to engage in colloquial conversation has forced you to come across as a long-winded robotic dictionary? So to make sure I understand you, I run into a guy that I mistake for my friend Bob. Do you speak in such an arcane manner to be understood as clearly as possible, or to wrap a cloak of pseudo-academia around otherwise silly philosophical ideas? Ok, so I mistake this guy for a friend named Bob …


You run up to this person, but you then see that it is someone you do not know; he does not exhibit the characteristics you associate with Bob at all. Since the perception of the object changes, the definition of it does as well. This happens all the time. What if this is the case with your identification of people you label as enemies … That would be a shame for everyone for you to expend the time and energy in being angry at them when it was unfounded.

What if? I suppose it would indeed be a shame. So what? You must have me mistaken for the guy making the point it would not be a shame. Help me out, was that the thought experiment?


You say that the person who harbors the perception is the creator of the definition...

Slight distinction … you had asked me who the ultimate authority in “making something definite” was. Perhaps my not keeping your aversion to definitions in check is requiring a clarification … the definition (in this case “enemy”) is not being created, it is being applied. The definition of enemy which I provided above is not being created anew, but the person who harbors the perception has applied it to someone or something.


if this is so, then you cannot depend on commonly held notions of anything, let alone 99%, for everyone would have a necssarily different defintion for everything by virtue of the fact that everyone is different and have varying experiences to base their definitions on.

Well as you see, this is not so. What I said was that 99% of people using or hearing the word “enemy” understand it to be someone or something that exhibits the characteristics of an enemy, not that 99% of people will recognize any given object the same way. You sought to convolute the definition into nothingness by adding the uncommon requirements that everyone and everything that encounters this “enemy” object universally sees an inherent “enemy” quality. I am also not speaking of “commonly held notions” or “universal recognition” but the perception between the relevant parties. Sven, seriously, how many times need we go over this? I know a lot has been said, but these two points I just had to re-clarify for the fourth or fifth time have been fundamental, simple points I’ve been making even before you desired reframing the conversation from the question of how to manufacture an enemy with speech patterns (Jeff’s original post) to whether an enemy even exists.


So you contradict yourself yet again by trying to assert the existence of objective, absolute definitions, while placing the burden of creating them on individuals, who are relative and diverse. You keep on getting into the same muddle...maybe you should try something else.

My God Sven, I don’t speak in the convoluted way you choose to so I’m at a loss for what it is that prevents you from understanding what I type. Definitions ARE absolute, but are not universally applied absolutely. Everyone in the world can have their own, distinct object to which they apply the identification “enemy”, yet the definition of enemy will remain the same. Once applied, it would be clear to all that regardless of whether they share this perception, they nonetheless understand how that person views the object.
You are also repeatedly attempting to build on your assumptions of what I’m saying rather than the clear things I’ve said. For example, in this post, as in almost every one you’ve posted, you start with a “you say this …” then move to an “if this is so …” (repeat this anywhere from 2 to 8 times) which leaves you at a conclusion based on your chain of “if this is so …” logical progression. But as I’ve begun pointing out in the last couple posts, by the time you get to your first “if this is so …” you are already off the mark so the whole build up to your conclusion is based on complete misunderstanding. What do you think that does to your actual conclusion? And how many words and sentences of faulty progression could you have spared this board had you not engaged in a monologue debate with yourself.


Looking deeply into our perceptions, we see that all experience is empty of true nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Smitty, all phenomena are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. Therefore, Smitty, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no phenomena, no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind consciousness dhatu; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment. Therefore, Smitty, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of prajnaparamita.
Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear. They transcend falsity and attain complete freedom.


Hmm, is this grand finale of psycho-meaninglessness the result of universal truth, or are your assertions subject to what you admit are your frequently skewed perceptions? I am always entertained by people who claim (rather absolutely) that there are no absolutes, or (rather universally) that there are no universal qualities, and that we must be careful to remember that our perspective is not the only valid one, all the while “correcting” everyone else who disagrees with … your perspective. Good show, Sven!

-Smitty Broham (who does not exist)

Anonymous said...

Smitty,
"[U]shering in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation..."

What the fuck? Pull your head out of your ass. Who is the only nation that has ever used nuclear weapons against another people? You're going have to do better than making outrageously inflammatory assertions. I don't why I should read anything else you write, if this is representative of your opinions.

Loser Leftwinger

Anonymous said...

"ushering in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation..."

Well in that case we better attack right this minute. This is just a little tiny bit overblown is it not? It reminds of the warnings of a "mushroom cloud" over New York and the "grave and gathering threat." This should give you pause. But I doubt it does.

Anonymous said...

Loser Leftwinger,

If my statement about the Iranian president seeking to "usher in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation" is the only tidbit of my posts you had a comment for, why bother? You obviously missed the substance of my disagreement with Jeff's post, like everybody with the exception of one poster did so far, which was simply speaking of people in "us" and "them" terminology is not enough to create an enemy. Have you any thoughts about that, or are you content to complain about a fragment of one sentence I wrote (50% of the complaint being thoughtless profanity) that has really nothing to do with the main point?

Ahmadinejad publically stated that the main mission of the Islamic Revolution is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. I'm going out on a limb and assuming you have no idea what that infers. You see, many Shia Muslims believe this 12th Imam is only going to reappear within the context of an apocalyptic world event, ohhh, something like a nuclear war. Since Iran does not yet have the ability to produce massive earthquakes or hurricanes, their nuclear program they currently have would do nicely.

Who has used nuclear weapons and who has not adds no significance to the aspirations of Ahmadinejad. I don't see how they would, perhaps you could expand on that.

I don't why I should read anything else you write, if this is representative of your opinions.

Well, if you consider one sentence fragment out of about 15 pages of writing to be "representative" on any scale of my opinions I don't know what to tell you. Catch a clue.

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Loser,

Well in that case we better attack right this minute.

This is not a judgment call I made in my post, as the post was not about the merits of attacking Iran "right this minute" or not. My judgment call was in identifying the Iranian regime as an enemy, not by how we speak of them, but by what they do.

This is just a little tiny bit overblown is it not?

Unfortunately to respond to this I would need a crystal ball. It would not at all be overblown if Iran's military were to launch a few nuclear-armed Shahab 3 missiles into Israel next month and murder hundreds of thousands of people. In that scenario, your skepticism would make you look like an ignorant fool. But if Iran were to never commit an act of aggression toward Israel or any other nation then discussing nuclear war with them would definitely be overblown and would make people discussing such a thing look like alarmist fools. The problem here is neither you nor I know what Iran will actually do. All we can do is take a lesson from history and listen when a militarizing nation is clearly stating their intentions.

It reminds of the warnings of a "mushroom cloud" over New York and the "grave and gathering threat." This should give you pause. But I doubt it does.

If this was the 1930s and Chamberlain, instead of appeasing Germany, attacked them, you would probably have been in the first row of people protesting and complaining about the warmongering and "overblown" reaction on the part of Britain. A fascist Germany about to murder over 6 million Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals while trying to conquer Europe sounded quite "overblown" then as well, I'm sure. 19 Saudi Arabians coordinating a multi-plane hi-jacking and using them as guided missiles to destroy the World Trade Center towers and hitting our military headquarters sounded quite "overblown" on September 10 as well, I'm sure. The Japanese Imperial Navy attacking and destroying our naval base in Pearl Harbor sounded quite "overblown" on December 6th as well, I'm sure. The point I'm making is not that any of these examples are comparable to Iran and their nuclear program (although there are more than obvious parallels between Hitler's sentiment toward the Jews and the Iranian leadership) but to illustrate that lots of things sound "overblown" before they happen. And they are usually the same events that arm-chair generals with 20-20 hindsight complain should have been identified and prevented after they happen.

This does not mean we have to be alarmist over every idle threat every despot makes, but in the case of Iran who is quickly acquiring nuclear weaponry and has no qualms about clearly stating their belligerent and offensive plans for other sovereign nations, calling it "overblown" to think they might be serious slides more to the naive side of the scale.

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Smitty,
from your warning about "genocidal nuclear annihilation", it is clear that you have a ideological agenda. I don't know where you got your intel about the Shia prophesy. Forgive me, if I don't just take your word on faith, or even that of teh Bushies. but let's assume that it is correct, your argument leaves huge gaps. Amin?? may not share the view with "many Muslims" that an apocalyptic event must precede the 12th Iman. even if he does it does not follow that he believes it is he rather than Allah that should trigger such an apocalyptic event. I mean who needs a prophesy if the faithful make it all happen? isn't the prophesy superfluous in that case? Your sarcastic statement that Iran does not have the ability to produce earthquakes begs the question of whether Amin?? belives that he rather than Allah should trigger the apocalyptic event. You also clearly assume that nuclear weapons must trigger the apocalyptic event. You don't explain why the apocalyptic event can't be brought about by plague thru the use of biowarfare. The Bushies are talking nuclear not biowarfare, so you take their cue. It must be nuclear, if the Bushies say so. Settting aside these difficulties in your reasoning, your warnings are still over the top by your own reckoning. You have not shown according to Shia prophesy that the apocalyptic event preceding the 12th Iman must have a genocidal character. How can we credit yoru word use of "genocidal", then? Combined with the word annihilation you create an over the top image worthy of a sci-fi horror flick. Maybe in the Pre-Iraq war days, folks might take this kind of rhetoric seriously, today it's a little hard to swallow. Maybe I should give you the benefit of the doubt. You are sayign that Iran would pose a threat iwth nuclear weaposn because of its indirect links to Hezbollah. Perhaps, Iran could act through Hezbollah to hurt us. That's not what you said. What you said was bullshit. The kind of bullshit that is finely crafted to get us in another unnecessary war. Let me explain the cursing, I talk bullshit to bullshit.

Loser Leftwinger

Anonymous said...

Loser,

Allow me to start this reply off by expressing how unsurprised I am that you failed a second time to address any of the actual substance of the majority of my post you took issue with to instead continue harping on one fraction of one sentence.

from your warning about "genocidal nuclear annihilation", it is clear that you have a ideological agenda.

You caught me red-handed Loser. Thank you for shedding light on my “ideological agenda” which in this case is apparently the ability to recap the publicly expressed sentiments of Iran’s president. Congrats.


I don't know where you got your intel about the Shia prophesy. Forgive me, if I don't just take your word on faith, or even that of teh Bushies.

The Mahdi transcends the Shia/Sunni schism and characteristics both of the individual as well as the preconditions for his return can be easily found should one not be so lazy and juvenile as to “assume that it is correct” and skeptically argue from a starting point of ignorance. Try doing some research sometime; no one asked you to take anything on faith.


Amin?? may not share the view with "many Muslims" that an apocalyptic event must precede the 12th Iman.

This is the argument you’re offering me? That Ahmadinejad “may not” share a view? You’re kidding me right?


even if he does it does not follow that he believes it is he rather than Allah that should trigger such an apocalyptic event. I mean who needs a prophesy if the faithful make it all happen? isn't the prophesy superfluous in that case?

This reasoning is one that doesn’t see the forest for the trees. In all three major religions, it is widely believed that God uses man to accomplish his plans at times. For example, Jehovah referred to the Babylonian army that carried a portion of Israel’s kingdom away into captivity as “His” army (despite their rampant paganism and unrighteousness) because He was using them to fulfill his will against Israel in punishment for their idolatry. Your assumption that because God Himself did not reach down out of the clouds with a visible arm and accomplish something, therefore God is not behind it, has absolutely no weight behind it. Read the Bible, read the Tanakh, read the Qur’an. You will find in all three holy books God using men and events to accomplish His will.


Your sarcastic statement that Iran does not have the ability to produce earthquakes begs the question of whether Amin?? belives that he rather than Allah should trigger the apocalyptic event.

Ok … and?


You also clearly assume that nuclear weapons must trigger the apocalyptic event. You don't explain why the apocalyptic event can't be brought about by plague thru the use of biowarfare.

I’m not assuming anything. If you’ll review what I said, it was that the nuclear program Ahamadinejad is pursuing in his publicly stated goal of paving the way for the appearance of the 12th Imam would “do nicely”. I did not state it had to be a nuclear program to the exclusion of every other possibility one could muster up. Read more carefully.


The Bushies are talking nuclear not biowarfare, so you take their cue. It must be nuclear, if the Bushies say so.

Well first of all, there is no sense in concluding that because I disagree with you then I must agree with President Bush. I happen to be opposed to most of the decisions Bush has made since he began his presidency, voting for him neither time, but your attempt at clairvoyance was entertaining nonetheless.

Secondly, the Bush administration is “talking nuclear” because that is the technology Iran is pursuing. Iran is rapidly pursuing scientists for nuclear, not bio/chem warfare. Iran is being assisted by Russian financing and technological know-how to equip them with nuclear, not bio/chem weapons. Iran has nuclear, not bio/chem facilities spread out among his country and it is Iran’s nuclear, not bio/chem pursuit that is nearest to fruition. For Bush to be discussing bio/chem threats from a nation that is so obviously pursuing a nuclear program would be nonsensical … much like your complaint that I am a “Bushie” or that the most significant connection between Iran and nuclear technology is Bush’s aversion to it.


You have not shown according to Shia prophesy that the apocalyptic event preceding the 12th Iman must have a genocidal character. How can we credit yoru word use of "genocidal", then?

First, it is not my responsibility to educate you. If you disagree with something I’ve said, research it and dispute it rather than whining about how I haven’t provided you with enough evidence.

Second, I never stated that this apocalyptic event must be preceded by genocide (though if you knew anything of the events Muslims are waiting for before the advent of the Mahdi, genocide fits like a glove). My comments about genocide were directly related to Ahmadinejad’s proclamation that he intends to wipe Israel off the map. Last I checked, wiping an ethnically concentrated group of people off the map qualifies as genocide.

Genocide: “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.”

Yep, turns out I was correct. Ahmadinejad’s goal of wiping Israel off the map, if realized, would indeed be genocide and all I had to do was consult a dictionary to confirm it. Therefore, I “credit” my use of the word “genocidal” to Ahmadinejad’s own stated aspirations.


Combined with the word annihilation you create an over the top image worthy of a sci-fi horror flick.

If Ahmadinejad realizes his goals, combining the words “genocidal” and annihilation” isn’t as remarkable as you make it sound. In fact, the two are practically synonyms for the intention Iran’s leadership has for Israel. Tell me Loser, wouldn’t it be downright logical to conclude that after committing genocide, an annihilation has also occurred in the same event? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that one would annihilate a nation by committing genocide? The two words here are inextricably the same. Do you care to offer any clarification why “combining” them rather than their individual uses creates such an over-the-top image for you?


You are sayign that Iran would pose a threat iwth nuclear weaposn because of its indirect links to Hezbollah.

Um, no I never said that. Iran does not need Hezbollah to deliver nuclear weapons. Iran has Shahab-3 missiles that are well within striking Europe, much more Israel. Why would Iran need to rely on a distant militia infiltrating a country via land when all they have to do is lob in a missile?


Perhaps, Iran could act through Hezbollah to hurt us. That's not what you said.

Correct Loser, that’s not what I said. At this point I don’t know what you’re talking about.


What you said was bullshit. The kind of bullshit that is finely crafted to get us in another unnecessary war. Let me explain the cursing, I talk bullshit to bullshit.

I see. I do suppose its easier to address the ideas of someone with whom you disagree with a single word, “bullshit”, than it is to address the ideas intelligently. I would probably attempt the same rebuttal if I were only capable of offering the confused, uninformed, and evasive response you came up with.

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

http://www.theonion.com/content/point/this_war_will_destabilize_the

Anonymous said...

For a clarification on why Sventastic's contribution to a discussion has dwindled to pasting in links to The Onion, see his previous attempts at debate in older posts. Apparently ignoring posts by choosing to summarize them as "bullshit" and poking fun at them with completely off the topic humor is the best the intelligent minds on this site have to offer. But hey, when all else fails ...

-Smitty Broham

sventastic said...

Aw Smitty (who does not exist),
I'm going to let the irony speak for itself on this one.
I really do wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Smitty,
Frankly, I don't care very much about this issue. I don't want to waste any more of my precious life researching depressing issues. What I do care about is avoiding another unnecessary war. What interested me about your post, what alarmed me about your post, is your war-mongering tone. The "facts" are anything you want them to be. Anyone can find facts to support any conclusion they want. You have to dig a little deeper than the facts. Your warning at the top of the post is much more telling, and in reality, much more important than your carefully wrought facts. We could debate all day long about the facts. We might disagree about what the facts are. As an aside, but only as an aside, Iran would want to act through Hezbollah to avoid massive retaliation by the U.S. After all, This is a world of assymmetrical warfare we live. Now we could debate all day long about whether the facts support these statements. What is worth talking about however is what we really want. Bullshit is real. You have provided us with an ample supply. Bullshit loosely defined is having a basic unconcern with the truth. Ideologues such as yourself do not care about the truth of their facts, but rather with how they advance their particular agenda.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to waste any more of my precious life researching depressing issues.

More? You mean to tell me you researched something?


What interested me about your post, what alarmed me about your post, is your war-mongering tone.

How shocked I am to hear you crap out the “war mongering” accusation. Never mind the fact I never called for any action of any kind against Iran anywhere in my posts and the extent of my so-called “war mongering” was connecting two very simple dots and drawing a conclusion; one which, by the way, I never dogmatically asserted despite the clarity behind such language as “burning the nations in an Islamic fire” coming from the president of a regime pursuing nuclear technology. Never mind the fact that the entire context of my comments revolved around the fact that by what Iran is doing and not by how we speak of them is what creates the impression of an enemy, and that the nuclear annihilation comment you take exception with was one characteristic of several that could be seen as a goal, not necessarily one that was sure to happen. I suppose seeing any of that as “war mongering” must be preceded by “ignore mongering” … something you’re entirely composed of.


Anyone can find facts to support any conclusion they want.

Except you apparently, who has yet to provide one.

You have to dig a little deeper than the facts.

Dig deeper than the facts? The unnerving part is that this makes sense to you.


Your warning at the top of the post is much more telling, and in reality, much more important than your carefully wrought facts.

Yes, it tells me that you didn’t make it beyond the intro of my post, at which time you formulated your “facts don’t matter” method of argumentation that in your eyes lends credibility to whining and cursing and blanket accusations about the rest of what I said which you didn’t read. The only reason you latched on to the one fragment of one sentence I wrote early on in my posts (besides the fact you didn’t read the rest of what was written) is because the rest of my posts contained a measure of specificity you weren’t/aren’t prepared to address. This is also the explanation for your intellectually lazy “bullshit” outburst which addresses exactly none of the points I made.


What is worth talking about however is what we really want. Bullshit is real. You have provided us with an ample supply.

There are good responses, bad responses, and downright pointless, immature responses. Guess where this one is headed. “What is worth talking about however is what we really want.” What does that even mean? Are you just pulling words out of a hat?


Bullshit loosely defined is having a basic unconcern with the truth.

Loosely defined? As opposed to the strict definition “bullshit” carries?


Ideologues such as yourself do not care about the truth of their facts, but rather with how they advance their particular agenda.

How quaint. You’ve managed to work in another buzz word, “ideologue”. This, I guess, is supposed to discredit in some way the posts I’ve made, not by refuting anything, but just because you made an accusation. Do you watch football, Loser? Do you ever notice how when the ball goes out of bounds, both teams take it upon themselves to jump around the field, motioning in the direction they’re headed as if the refs are going to be convinced not by who last touched the ball, but by which team is carrying on the most? That is the mental image I get when people who are so insecure in their flimsy responses that they have to throw out accusations such as “war mongering” and “ideologue” because these are descriptions which would otherwise not be seen from the content of the posts themselves. If I were a war monger, it should be evident from my comments, not by your making incessant accusations. Yet I never called for war or even a police action against Iran in the content of my posts. If I were an ideologue, it would be apparent from my comments, not by your making incessant accusations. Yet what is the ideology I am advancing in my posts? You see, just because you’re jumping about the intellectual field motioning in your direction isn’t enough to create a reality of my being a “war monger” or “ideologue”. The refs are smarter than that.

-Smitty Broham

Anonymous said...

Smitty,
I'm sure that in your world the phrase "ushering in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation" is meant as a gesture of friendship. For the rest of us, however, it is shocking and intemperate. Intemperate remarks wouldn't be so bad, but for the fact that we have in the American people a sympathetic ear. To most people, hearing "genocidal nuclear annihilation" is enough to raise their blood pressure. It provokes feelings of fear and anger that overwhelm more rational thinking. This is dangerous to peace. Whether you personally want war or not, has little to do with the probable effect of your words. If I say in all sincerity that all Israelis are war criminals it is likely to provoke feelings of agression toward them and, given enough time and repitition, war, regardless of my position. If you don't want war, then I applaud you. But I would suggest that you temper your words to that end.

You complain that I haven't read your posts. You're right I haven't. I was too put off my your bit about "genocidal nuclear annihilation". Now I'm sorry if you want me to debate in meticulous detail each and every factual assertion you have made. Sorry. I'm simply not interested. I have, in my view, called you out on some very intemperate language that I feel is likely to lend itself to war with Iran. And yes I matched what I considered your intemperate remarks with my own. You are offended. Now you know how I felt.

You want to get into the facts. But I'm afraid that many of the facts are beyond the scope of a political discussion. Remember during the lead-up to the Iraq war, we heard all sorts of scary things about Iraq. We heard about yellow-cake uranium being sought from Niger by Saddam. We heard insinuations about links between Saddam and Al-Queda. And many other scary things, I've forgotten and would like to forget. Today, we continue to learn that the Bush administration "misspoke" on many of these matters. Now at the time I didn't know whether what the administration said was true or not. Moreover, there was not much I could do to verify these assertions. I can't really verify your assertions either. Yes,I could tout out counterpunch on the left and you could probably tout out some rightwing outfit. But would we really get anywhere? People have a way of finding facts that fit with what they want to believe. If you dispute this trivial insight I suggest you do some research into the field of pyschology. Let me give you an example, you claim that Iran's leader is genocidal because he would destroy the Jewish State of Israel. I don't agree that wishing the destruction of the state of Israel amounts to genocidal intentions. The whole idea of a Jewish State is highly debatable. The fact doesn't mean anything unless we put into the context of our worldview. As an aside, if you really wanted to educate me why didn't you at least cite your sources.

What we really want? What is so difficult to understand. It's about whether we want war or peace, for one thing. The facts don't tell us what we want to do. We find facts to support what we want to do. Let's be honest enough to admit it. Let's skip the farce of having a neutral discussion of the facts. I am not saying that facts are completely irrelevant. Facts are useful to test the feasibility of our desires.

Smitty, I don't watch football. I don't even have a TV, and I wouldn't watch football even if I did. In any event, I'm not accusing you of being an ideologue, I'm saying that you are, as far as I'm concerned, an ideologue. I have provided reasons for thinking so. But ultimately this is not an argument, it is my personal opinion as based on my reading of your posts. There is nothing to argue about.

Anonymous said...

dI'm sure that in your world the phrase "ushering in the apocalypse through genocidal nuclear annihilation" is meant as a gesture of friendship.

I’ve clarified twice now what I intended with this sentence. I’m tempted to do so a third time in the face of this comment of yours which tells me how little still you understand what I was getting at.


To most people, hearing "genocidal nuclear annihilation" is enough to raise their blood pressure. It provokes feelings of fear and anger that overwhelm more rational thinking. This is dangerous to peace.

I’m sorry that such things might have raised your blood pressure. I’m sorry that it provokes feelings of fear and anger. I’m sorry the world isn’t the utopian civilization you close your eyes and hope for as you plug your ears and blame the people listening to the threats of “Islamic fire” rather than the fascists making them.


Whether you personally want war or not, has little to do with the probable effect of your words.

Lets not talk about the bad man and he’ll maybe just go away. If you find the analyses of a threat so distasteful, shouldn’t you find the threat itself the more so? It’s ironic to watch you disregard the “probable effect” of Ahmadinejad’s words but ring your hands over the “probable effect” of the words of some guy on the Internet.


If I say in all sincerity that all Israelis are war criminals it is likely to provoke feelings of agression toward them and, given enough time and repitition, war, regardless of my position.

You’re wrong. A statement as absurd as the one you proposed would not be taken seriously by the majority of the people hearing it and therefore, would illicit no serious feelings beyond perhaps skepticism and disbelief. My comments about Ahmadinejad are not as scary as the ones he has made himself, which makes my comments quite believable. Negative and scary as well, but since when has this world been free of negative and scary influences? Do you model the solution after the ostrich?


If you don't want war, then I applaud you. But I would suggest that you temper your words to that end.

Is it truly your contention that it is not the threat about which I speak that is the true problem, but the fact I am identifying it as a threat? Can you also help the impoverished masses of this world by refusing to identify them as poor? What sort of temperament do you request when discussing the subject at hand? I know you don’t care for “nuclear annihilation”. If I were to use Ahmadinejad’s phrase, “Islamic fire”, would that lower your blood pressure at all? Really, Loser, how thick of a sugar coating need I add to calm your nerves? Does the threat level fluctuate based on the terminology we use to discuss it? “Annihilation” is such a harsh word, if we can find a more snuggly synonym, the problem’s almost solved!


You complain that I haven't read your posts. You're right I haven't. I was too put off my your bit about "genocidal nuclear annihilation".

Then perhaps you’re not in the most informed position to be vocalizing any disagreement. I get it, you don’t care for that fragment of that sentence. Was there anything else you took exception with or does one contrary statement disqualify everything else I said?


Now I'm sorry if you want me to debate in meticulous detail each and every factual assertion you have made. Sorry. I'm simply not interested.

No need to take it from one extreme (your failing to address any single point I made) to another (“debating in meticulous detail each and every factual assertion I have made”). I’d be quite surprised if you managed to intelligently address even a couple of the points I made. And you have a very strange habit of taking the time to express such passionate disagreement when you have at the same time such an acute lack of interest. Pardon my assumptions, but I believe your sudden “lack of interest” syndrome only arose when challenged to something more articulate than the meaningless “bullshit” rebuttal.


I have, in my view, called you out on some very intemperate language that I feel is likely to lend itself to war with Iran.

Your remarkable ability to misplace blame from the threat I discuss to the way I discuss it scares me more than Ahmadinejad because it is symptomatic of a fundamental inability to recognize and deal with threats. It is not the pursuit of weapons grade nuclear weapons in defiance of the entire UN Security Council, the kidnapping of a dozen British soldiers, or the open calls for the destruction of sovereign nations (once nuclear weaponry is achieved) that leads to war, it is the “intemperate language” I used. Catch a clue.


You are offended. Now you know how I felt.

When people discredit themselves with their own comments, I am not offended.


Today, we continue to learn that the Bush administration "misspoke" on many of these matters.

Yes, the US regime was in error, the Chinese regime was in error, the British regime was in error, the Russian regime was in error, the French regime was in error, the German regime was in error, the Italian regime was in error … in fact, it would be easier for me to detail who was not in error. The whole world was in error. The UN resolutions which authorized the use of force (Article VII of the UN charter) were voted for multiple times in unanimous agreement against Iraq and all the scary things we thought about Saddam.


I can't really verify your assertions either.

Sure you could. You just don’t have the interest, remember?


Let me give you an example, you claim that Iran's leader is genocidal because he would destroy the Jewish State of Israel. I don't agree that wishing the destruction of the state of Israel amounts to genocidal intentions.

Hmm, destroying a particular race of human beings doesn’t sound like genocide to you. Well Loser, there’s not much I can do in the face of such a renouncement of the meanings of words. You could refuse to agree that the sky is blue or that milk comes from cows. The level of absurdity would be about the same.


The whole idea of a Jewish State is highly debatable.

More or less debatable than the idea of the 19 or so Arab states? More or less debatable than the idea of a French state? More or less debatable than the idea of a Russian state, a Mexican state, a German state, etc? Exactly what is the debate that surrounds only a Jewish state but no others?


As an aside, if you really wanted to educate me why didn't you at least cite your sources.

Well as I’ve already explained, it is not my responsibility to educate you, nor do I have the desire to, nor do I have the time to. You’ve already sweepingly categorized my comments as “bullshit”, what possible reason could I have for trying to prove any of this “bullshit” to you? If you can so easily dismiss everything I said by first not reading it and secondly calling it all “bullshit”, who knows how many hours of my time I’d be wasting citing my sources which would all quickly be “bullshit sources” and educating you with a “bullshit” lesson.

Second, what would you like proven? You never even read the posts, admitting finally in this latest reply what I suspected all along.

Third, you have stated we must dig deeper than facts. I’m afraid all I can provide you is facts. You want more. I can’t help you.


What we really want? What is so difficult to understand. It's about whether we want war or peace, for one thing. The facts don't tell us what we want to do. We find facts to support what we want to do.

Regardless of the desires for peace, it takes all parties involved for peace to be maintained. My desire for peace will hopefully project the same desires on others, but there is no guarantee and if history is our guide, it could be called downright naive. Although we can and do find facts that support what we want, the actions of others are sometimes real and separate from what we want. If we want peace and Iran wants to smoke Israel with a nuke, what functional relevance does our finding a reason for peace have? There are more reasons for peace than there are for war and far better ones at that. But identifying facts to support peace will not prevent an immediate blast zone followed by various levels of radiation. God forbid that should ever happen again, but you’ll need to explain how compiling a rolodex of facts supporting peace will stem such aggression if you want to be taken seriously. More is needed than hopeful expectation.


Let's skip the farce of having a neutral discussion of the facts.

I never once suggested my side of the discussion is “neutral”. You should put more effort into responding to what was said instead of what wasn’t.


In any event, I'm not accusing you of being an ideologue, I'm saying that you are, as far as I'm concerned, an ideologue.

And I’m not saying that 2 + 2 = 4. I’m saying that 2 + 2, as far as I’m concerned, = 4. Do you proof read anything you type?


But ultimately this is not an argument, it is my personal opinion as based on my reading of your posts.

Or your lack of reading to be more accurate.

-Smitty Broham