RE: Wildebeest !!

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Tue Apr 09 2002 - 11:12:11 BST

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    Subject: RE: Wildebeest !!
    Date: Tue, 9 Apr 2002 11:12:11 +0100 
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            Hi Grant,

            As usual lots to agree and disagree with here!

            <Why is it that when someone of another culture or religion gives up
    his life
    > for what he/she believes in, we suspect insanity or manipulation by people
    > with evil motives?>
            Absolutely agree here, the hypocrisy is terrible- our soldiers are
    brave, theirs are madmen- there's been analysis of the use of language in
    war reporting that's focused on this, particularly on the Gulf War, but I
    don't recall any authors off the top of my head.

            <Policemen and firemen and soldiers willingly put their
    > lives on the line on a daily basis and no one feels they are being
    > manipulated. I was seventeen when I joined the marines and a year later
    > was
    > sent into battle with dozens if not hundreds of other young men my age.
    > We
    > did it in a spirit of adventure and because that was our job at the time.
    > Nobody forced us or tricked us. We felt we were doing it for the people
    > back home, just as the policeman and the fireman is doing it for his
    > community and his family, should the need arise. Giving ones life for the
    > people and the ideas one believes in is so common you can see examples of
    > it
    > in the newspapers every day. But if someone of another culture does it,
    > we
    > suspect their motives and try to find evidence of manipulation.>
            Of course critics would say that the precise feeling that joining
    the marines was an autonomous choice is exactly what they wanted you to
    think. I don't really see soldiers and firemen as comparable. Both risk
    their lives, but one group's avowed intent is to kill people, the other to
    save them. I think the mass disillusionment felt by US soldiers in Vietnam
    as to what they were doing and why is a big indication of the problematic of
    roles like that of the soldier. The police similarly occupy a problematic
    position as they are instruments of the state- a repressive state apparatus
    in Althusser's view.

            <If you want to find answers, you need go no further from home than
    the guy
    > on the bomb squad who works at disarming bombs or the nurse in the
    > hospital
    > who comes into contact with infectious diseases in the course of work
    > every
    > day. There are thousands of people in our society who put themselves in
    > harm's way for the good of others simply because it needs to be done and
    > someone must do it. Even the circus performer knows that a moment of
    > inattention or a hangover can leave him/her crippled or dead.>
            Largely agreed, but does the circus performer need to swing on that
    trapeze? A lot of circus performers are essentially coerced into the
    business by their families- always on the road, never having a stable
    education or social life outside of the circus people what else is there for
    them to do? Which by a strange twist of word association reminds me of
    Wender's brilliant film 'Wings of Desire' which everyone must see if they
    get the chance (and don't watch the dreadful Hollywood remake of more recent
    times). There are vocations (nursing in the UK for example is a poorly
    paid, and over worked job, yet people still seem to want to do it), but I
    wouldn't bet on everyone has such utilitarian motives for doing the job they

            <The Palestinian suicide bomber is no different from any other
    soldier who
    > offers his/her life in hopes of making a difference. They are no
    > different
    > from the Jewish soldier who walks into a hail of bullets in the streets of
    > Palestine.>
            Yes, indeed. Suicide bombing is seen as the only answer to the
    military might of Israel, just as most "terrorist" groups view their extreme
    actions as being forced by their oppression. I should stress right away
    that I don't think bin Laden et al fit into that category at all. (being a
    multi-millionaire he wasn't being oppressed by anyone...).

            <The kids in the street throwing rocks think it is daring or fun
    > until they get hurt. Looking for memes and schemes, in my opinion, is a
    > waste of time and a step in the wrong direction. The reasons are personal
    > and individual.>
            Well, some Palestinian kids are taught in suicide bomber schools, so
    I don't think it's individual and personal, I think it's social and linked
    strongly to, obviously, religion, and national identity. Many would argue
    such things are memes.

            <We have a new meme going around over here in the U.S. called
    suicide by cop.
    > People who, for any number of reasons, decided they want to end their
    > lives and go out in a blaze of publicicy, walk out in front of a group of
    > policemen waving a gun and stand there grinning when told to put it down.
    > Seconds later they are dead. Who is there to blame for their actions but
    > themselves?>
            A society that protects the "right" to bear arms. Any number of gun
    related crimes (and accidents) could be avoided by gun control laws. I know
    Brodie wants to compare gun-related deaths to deaths on the road, but he's
    not comparing like with like. How about comparing instead, gun related
    deaths in countries with gun control laws (like the UK- where ne should
    acknowledge gun use in crimes is increasing) and Japan?

            Seeing individuals as the sole focus of behaviour ignores the fact
    that decisions about the acceptability of behaviour is based on society-wide
    decision making processes. If you have a society in which gun ownership is
    seen as a fundamental right then gun related deaths will follow. Social
    context is vital for individual decision making processes. Hence, for
    example, the suicide contagion proponents like Paul Marsden make the case
    for a relationship between high profile acts of suicide providing a
    legitimate context for potential sucide committers to also do it.


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