Monday, January 12, 2009

Morality, Terrorism and Social Dynamics

First of all so there is no misunderstanding, war is a social contract those who put on a Uniform and fight have consented to kill and be killed. This is why we have a distinction between combatant and non-combatant. Ideally war should only be among those who have agreed to this contract. Essentially I believe that we should only consent to dehumanize those who have consented to this contract. This like war is still a last resort, and a result of preemptive strategic failures.

Good and evil have no empirical basis unless they are circumstantial. Good and evil will vary from person to person and group to group. We will justify things that increase our perceived fitness, that is how the mind is structured. I would contend that reason and self reflection complicated the equation significantly, unfortunately many people do not value reason or self reflection as they do not consider them essential for survival.

This highlights the futility in calling an even good or bad in Political science, since it is entirely relative to the individual and to the situation.

Here is a quick trivia question, why do fighter pilots have a lower resistance to killing then say an infantry man.... Psychological and physical distance. The dehumanization process at work.

Now what is racism at its core? It is one of the many forms of dehumanization. Dehumanization is especially popular in war time, with out is and several other factors only psychopaths can kill. (See On Killing by David Grossman)

Now put any healthy individual in a social situation where he will have cultural pressure to dehumanize an adversary. Add an increase in survivability and status for compliance along with the demands of an authority you have a ripe situation for extreme dehumanization. Create an asymmetric conflict, with limited means of resistance and you will find attacks on a civilian population and voila instant War Crime. Apply this model to any attacks on civilian populations by organized violence and the pattern should be clear.

Now this is the same dehumanization process used for terrorism. But it is clearly circumstantial. We know that if we drop a ball it will most likely fall. If we put a human being in these circumstances he will most likely attack a civilian population, there is no morality involved simply cause and effect.

How I ask how can we call a terrorist immoral? If anything it is circumstantial. This is of course why Intelligence agencies are necessary, you cannot preempt this situation for every individual. However I would contest that this can be avoided with larger groups, nations and communities, if preemptive measures are taken.

Modern day terrorism can be either breed from this phenomenon either nationally or more locally in isolated communities/situations.

Upon understanding this, I have come to perceive terrorism as very impersonal. However like all conflict it is subject to the mathematical like precision of Political Science.

Needless to say, one cannot solve a crisis if one is consumed with the dehumanized process. Most notably nationalism can be used for this purpose, ethnic or territorial is irrelevant. This above all else is why my own sense of Canadian nationalism is so meticulously calibrated, once understood it can become a tool to create true satisfaction within the self creating a deep sense of inner peace while preparing you for the world.

That however is another post.


penlan said...

"Here is a quick trivia question, why do fighter pilots have a lower resistance to killing then say an infantry man.... Psychological and emotional distance. The dehumanization process at work."

Did you mean Physical instead of Psychological distance? Or perhaps both but left out "physical" as well?

Brett McDowell said...

In retrospect it would be worth while to mention physical distance. I will add that.