A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Whither Humanity?

This started as a response to the rationalization against war in Iraq by a friend and flowed into a much larger thing. She stated "I don't see why Hussein was any more evil in the past few years"...

He wasn't any more evil. Such a thing would have been impossible. You cannot govern over rape-rooms, the torture and execution of children, and the slaughter of civilian dissenters by feeding them feet-first into plastic shredders and descend any more into evil in my book.

The question for me, and I suspect in part for Bush, is: Does a civil society allow such atrocities to continue, merely in exchange for more inexpensive comforts?

The "no blood for oil" argument against the war has been proven false. Hypocritically, "blood for oil" was indeed the status quo. For cheap oil, America and the rest of the world had turned a blind eye to the atrocities of an area of the world where 7th century tribal law is prevalent.

Bush's foreign policy on it's face states that we will not suffer a country to support terrorism. The 9/11 commission listed chapter and verse Saddam's proven links to terrorism.

But his policy also suggests a question much much bigger, and far more profound: Is there such an intrinsic value to life that obliges the powerful and influential of the world to extend protection to all those living under brutal rule?

A prosaic example: If you witnessed your neighbor shoot one of his children, and then start hunting for his other children, and you have your neighbor in your own sights, what is your responsibility?

To me, it is really just that simple. I know our constitution very clearly lays out the government's responsibility to protecting only it's citizens. Yes, a cogent argument can be made that creating democracies around the world makes U.S. citizens far safer in the long run. Leaving aside that argument, I submit that our collective conscience demands more of us than simply ignoring the tragedies outside our own borders. I submit that making the noble effort to bring peace and prosperity to the world is far more important than the quasi-noble terrestrial application of Star Trek's Prime Directive. The horses have already left the barn; closing the gate now isn't going to make things any better, and may prevent them from returning on their own.

The status quo led to Rwanda. Led to the Balkans, and the Sudan genocides. Led to Nazi Germany. Led to Soviet Russia. Led to Pol Pot and Baby Doc, etc. etc... The status quo, in other words, led to the loss of over 100 million lives; murdered in the 20th century while the rest of the world coccooned itself in it's high-browed rationalizations.

Are we no better than that? Ignore for the moment the potential added horror of allowing those sorts of despots to prosper and plot with 21st century weapons. Are we really so civilized that we will watch and intellectualize as another 100 million people die? Have we really become so old or if you prefer, so advanced that we have forgotten the importance of waging the war against the ever fertile darkness of humanity's evils?

I am better than that dammit. I am a child of privelege in the sense that I was born American. I am a child of privelege in the sense my parent were loving and encouraging in my intellectual, physical and moral growth. And in a larger sense, I bear the great responsibility and honor of being a child of Ronald Reagan and his vision of America; her history and destiny:

"...But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

I wear the badge of "idealist" with honor. I am one, and I hope that the civilized nations of the world come to hold the same aspirations, and, in the words of Dylan Thomas, I hope that we never stop raging:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close
of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men
at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave
by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and
sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who
see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there
on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of
the light.