node created 2019/09/29
My feeling then, and now, is that IF there is to be an army, then the burden of service should be shared, not assigned to the disadvantaged by one or another means, as in the case of all onerous tasks. That does not imply that those called upon to share the burden should necessarily agree. There are always cases where refusal is justified, and refusal to serve in Vietnam was, in my opinion, one such case. Same always. Garbage collection should be shared, not assigned to the disadvantaged, but if someone is ordered to dump toxic wastes in a schoolyard, he or she should refuse.
ZNet forum reply, February 3, 2005
Tagsresponsibility
Caution in handling generally accepted opinions that claim to explain whole trends of history is especially important for the historian of modern times, because the last century has produced an abundance of ideologies that pretend to be keys to history but are actually nothing but desperate efforts to escape responsibility.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
[..] we must defend not only our own right to freedom, but also other people’s rights. This is because when other people’s right to freedom is violated, our freedom exists only in name. [..] Freedom is the embodiment of independent will and thought. [..] If we are to oppose tyranny and respect independence, then the oppression embedded within and between cultures should all be destroyed. [..] even in researching and learning, our thoughts are not as free as we think they are. Under the impact of complicated thoughts, shameless suppression and temptation, defending your freedom of thought has become very difficult. We usually believe that learning can make you powerful, but in the process, our independent will or freedom of thought is often hijacked, wittingly or unwittingly. Everyone thinks that learning is a good thing, but if we lose our independent will or freedom of thought, the outcome might be even worse than not learning. Schopenhauer once said in his essay On Reading and Books: “They have read themselves stupid. If you are eager to learn, it is important that you understand this idea.” [..] Anyone who reads only one type of book or answers to one authority is essentially using books to build a jail that imprisons their thoughts. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that our ancestors invented books in the shape of bricks? [..] the concept of “freedom and the pursuit of non-material goals” is incredibly important, but also incredibly fragile. Not only does it allow us to pursue our own lives, it also prevents us from becoming tools of crime. It is humanity’s first line of defense, or we should say the last. Actually, it’s the sole line of defense. [..] Freedom is not a handout, we need to earn it with our efforts. You can lock up my body but you can never imprison my will. [..] Towards the end, as always, I’d like to share with you my life motto, a famous saying by Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state. Those who choose to disregard this responsibility can justly be accused of complicity in war crimes, which is itself designated as ‘a crime under international law’ in the principles of the Charter of Nuremberg.
As someone libertarian-leaning, what I find disturbing about all this - we all told ourselves that companies in various totalitarian regimes went along with the regime's line because they'd be "disappeared" if they didn't. Here in our country, it seems that murder, jail time, and mysterious "disappearances" are not required. Most companies will happily go along with any regime's censorship plans just to make a few more bucks, not risk losing their market position, or not be a target of a twitter outrage mob.

How are we going to maintain a free society if nobody is willing to make any effort at it?
I know of no more encouraging fact than the ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful. It is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. This morally we can do.
Tagsresponsibility
"You can’t be neutral on a moving train," I would tell them. Some were baffled by the metaphor, especially if they took it literally and tried to dissect its meaning. Others immediately saw what I meant: that events are already moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.
"You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times"
When all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.
[Q: do you believe that a nation should suffer a detrimental cost in order to compensate for wrongs committed by the governors of that nations, or by segments of that nation in the past?]

Suppose you're living under a dictatorship, and the dictators carry out some horrendous acts. So you're living in Stalinist Russia, let's say, and Stalin carries out horrible crimes. Are the people of Russia responsible for those crimes? Well, to only a very limited extent, because living under a brutal, harsh, terrorist regime, there isn't very much they can do about it. There's something they can do, and to the extent that you can do something, you're responsible for what happens. Suppose you're living in a free, democratic society, with lots of privilege, enormous, incomparable freedoms, and the government carries out violent, brutal acts. Are you responsible for it? Yeah, a lot more responsible, because there's a lot that you can do about it. If you share responsibility in criminal acts, you are liable for the consequences.
Interview by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN (June 1, 2003)
These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing. He must learn to listen to his own inner voice. He must learn to say "No!"

Finally, it is the act itself that matters. When instrumental reason is the sole guide to action, the acts it justifies are robbed of their inherent meanings and thus exist in an ethical vacuum. I recently heard an officer of a great university publicly defend an important policy decision he had made, one that many of the university's students and faculty opposed on moral grounds, with the words: "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)
If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to "demand" its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant.
"The Life of the Mind: The Groundbreaking Investigation on How We Think"
It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, “I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;—see if I would go”; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it differed one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.
My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.
These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been used to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man—of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest.
"On Violence"
Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.
Few are guilty, but all are responsible.
Tagsguilt responsibility
When it’s Tunisians and Egyptians using FB and Twitter, everyone is quick to take credit and talk about the “transformative” power of social media. When it’s genocide, suddenly everyone is mumbling and looking at the ground. You can’t have every job listing include “changing the world” and then duck responsibility when you actually do change the world, just for the worse.
But our present State is a dictatorship of Evil. “We’ve known that for a long time,” I can hear you say, “and it is not necessary for you to remind us of it once again.” So I ask you: If you are aware of this, why do you not stir yourselves? Why do you permit this autocrat to rob you of one sphere of your rights after another, little by little, both overtly and in secret? One day there will be nothing left, nothing at all, except for a mechanized national engine that has been commandeered by criminals and drunks. Has your spirit been so devastated by rape that you forget that it is not only your right, but your moral duty to put an end to this system?

If a person cannot even summon the strength to demand his rights, then there is nothing left for him but destruction. We will have deserved to be scattered to all corners of the globe, as dust before the wind, if we do not pull ourselves together in this eleventh hour and finally summon the courage that we have been lacking till now. Do not hide your cowardice under the cloak of cleverness! Because every day that you delay, every day that you do not resist this spawn of hell, your guilt is steadily increasing, like a parabolic curve.
Eventually, I realized that I had two choices. I could struggle for stupid stuff - for some trinkets and creature comforts - or I could make a choice to struggle for something that would make a better life for myself, my children and their children. You either work for yourself and your people or you work for the oppressor. Those are the two things that all young people in the United States have to decide, basically, and that they’re not going to participate in their own self-destruction.
Rio de Janeiro, incidently, is not the poor part of the country, that sort of the rich part of the country. It's not the northeast, where 35 million people or so, nobody knows what happens to them, or cares. But Rio de Janeiro, that's where people are looking, the rich parts. And this journal is a science journal, kinda like Science in the United States. It was studying malnutrition. And here's the figures it had for Rio de Janeiro: infants from 0 to 5 months, severe malnutrition, meaning medically severe, 67%; 5 months to a year, 41%; a year to 5 years, 11%. Now the reason of course for the decline, from 67 to 41 to 11, is that they will die. So that's what happens under the conditions of the economic miracle, like in Guatemala.

Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die. We kill them, that's what happens. We kill them by carrying out policies, supporting the regimes of the kind that I've described. And by intervening with force and violence to suppress and destroy any attempt, however minimal, even on a speck like Grenada, we've got to stop any attempt to bring some change into this. That's the history of our hemisphere.