Many of us cannot help looking because of what Susan Sontag has called “the perennial seductiveness of war.” It is a kind of rubbernecking, staring at the bloody aftermath of something that is not an act of God but of man. The effect, as Ms. Sontag pointed out in an essay in The New Yorker in 2002, is anything but certain.
“Making suffering loom larger, by globalizing it, may spur people to feel they ought to ‘care’ more,” she wrote. “It also invites them to feel that the sufferings and misfortunes are too vast, too irrevocable, too epic to be much changed by any local, political intervention.”
So now that war comes to us in real time, do we feel helpless or empowered? Do we care more, or will the ubiquity of images and information desensitize us to the point where human suffering loses meaning when it is part of a scroll that includes a video of your niece twerking? Oh, we say as our index finger navigates to the next item, another one of those.
As war becomes a more remote, mechanized activity, posts and images from the target area have significant value. When a trigger gets pulled or bombs explode, real people are often on the wrong end of it. And bearing witness to the consequences gives meaning to what we see.
this study suggests that cognitive differences between men and women are not solely inherited. It suggests that, to a degree hitherto unacknowledged, they are learned from the roles a society expects males and females to perform, and that those differences can change as society changes.
the term civilian originally applied to white European servants and non-military personnel engaged in colonial rule.9 The colonial powers insisted on the protection of “their” civilians but did not legally recognize civilians among the people under their rule. Before civilians are killed, their civilian status is challenged or erased, and international law has been repeatedly called upon to justify these erasures. We see echoes of this history in the IDF’s persistent efforts to disqualify Palestinians from the status of civilian. Palestinians in Gaza live in inescapable proximity to Hamas combatants. They are exposed to the gaze of Israeli drones whose operators equate spatial proximity with association and guilt as well as to the terrifying force of Israeli bombs. They are also exposed to an international context in which many are quick to condemn the violence of non-state militaries like Hamas and slow to condemn the violence of state armed forces like the IDF. When the footage of the boys killed on the beach emerged, we watched in horror. It is certainly wrong to kill children. Yet when we see children being shot dead, we also need to acknowledge the ways in which we have dehumanized and demonized their families and friends who are no longer children
empire is a constant war. Global empires are constant world wars against conquered peoples. What the West calls the First World War was to a considerable extent bringing the war home to Europe. It is time for people in the West to abandon comforting lies and face up to the imperial realities of the ‘First World War
‘There is no smoking gun … the Germans were not the only imperialists and not the only ones to succumb to paranoia.’ Winston Churchill described the British in a confidential memorandum on 10 January 1914: ‘[W]e are not a young people with an innocent record and a scanty inheritance. We have engrossed to ourselves, in times when other powerful nations were paralysed by barbarism or internal war, an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world. We have got all we want in territory, and our claim to be left in the unmolested enjoyment of vast and splendid possessions, mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force, often seems less reasonable to others than to us.’
(Christopher Clark writes in his magisterial book, The Sleepwalkers: how Europe went to war in 1914 (Penguin, 2013):)
both the kindness and gratitude groups showed measurable improvements over those who simply monitored their mood. Both the kindness and gratitude groups enjoyed a higher percent of happy days, where they felt optimistic and expected the best. They were also more satisfied with their lives, which they perceived to be more meaningful, and they felt more connected with others each day. In effect, all of these positive outcomes—this increased sense of connectedness, enhanced satisfaction with daily life, optimism, and reduced anxiety—address in some way the problems which qualified participants for the study in the first place. (Remember, they were all clinically distressed and seeking therapy that was at least more than a month out.) So these results suggest that this brief intervention—which was self-guided, and lasted only two weeks—didn’t just increase feelings of gratitude. Keeping lists of gratitude and kindness made people feel happier, more connected, and more meaningful—doing the work that therapy is partly designed to do, all before a single professional session.
Before we recreate a situation like that of 100 years ago, stop, think (because this is how it starts):
It is too early to know what happened to Flight MH17. It may indeed have been shot down by Russian separatists, as the Ukraine government and its western allies are claiming. Or it may have been shot down by forces linked to the Ukraine government. If separatists were responsible, it is likely to have been a horrible mistake rather than a deliberate attack on a civilian airline, since it is very difficult to see what possible benefits such an attack could bring to the separatist cause. Naturally that isn’t the way the Kiev government and its supporters are presenting it.
I would love it if we would reserve the terms “wisdom” and “wise” for guidance that makes life better – especially useful guidance that makes life better for most or all of us – including all the creatures of this living, fragile Earth – over the long term. That’s what we need wisdom for, now more than ever.
The whole idea of “leaners” and “lifters” is the central teaching of the right wing ideologue, Ayn Rand, who penned books like The Virtue of Selfishness. It’s a self-serving crock. Rand found out the hard way. After a lifetime proselytising on behalf of the “producers” and denouncing anyone needing government assistance as “parasites,” when Rand became old and sick, she discovered that even a bestselling author could not afford health care in the neoliberal US. She availed herself of Medicare and ended her life on what she had despised – social security.
even thoughts of being wealthy can create a feeling of increased entitlement — you start to feel superior to everyone else and thus more deserving: something at the centre of narcissism. They found this was true of people who were, in real life, better off. Wealthier people were more likely to agree with statements like “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than other people” and place themselves higher on a self-assessed “class ladder” that indicated increasing levels of income, education and job prestige. This had straightforward and clearly measurable effects on behaviour.
the great whales … may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces. Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere …