Learned terrorism

Michael sent me a link to an editorial that talks about Learned Helplessness and its association with the current ‘war on terror’. The author. Kriselda Jarnsaxa, writes:

The experience of the last 15 months here in America seems to be producing a nation suffering from learned helplessness. Fear is induced through the constant, but oh-so-vague, warnings emanating from the government. Another attack is imminent, we are told, they may be coming to blow up our banks, our hotels, our apartments, our holiday celebrations. They may be coming in hidden on boats, or scuba-diving to our shores. They may already be here, hidden among us, and we don’t even know it. They may use suicide bombers or shoulder-mounted surface-to-air misses can knock planes from the sky. Crop dusters may be used to spread biological agents, or they may load a conventional bomb with nuclear waste to spread radiation throughout a large city. May… may… may… may. The list of horrors is nearly endless, as is the imagination of those whose job it is to come up with new warnings, it seems. We see no escape from this fear, and are told our only hope is to sacrifice our freedoms, our cherished liberties, our very way of life, on the altar of security, so we do – willingly, it seems – and never realizing that maybe, we should be afraid of our government, too.

I didn’t think to equate my country’s seeming inability to wake up and see the nightmare with Learned Helplessness. An interesting twist.

This follows on Bush cutting federal employee pay raise, because, as he says, the money is needed for the War on Terror:

In a letter sent Friday to congressional leaders, Bush announced he was using his authority to change workers’ pay structure in times of “national emergency or serious economic conditions” to limit raises to 3.1 percent.

Of course, one can ask why Bush doesn’t roll back the tax cuts, which only benefit the wealthy.

I don’t know why we just don’t send the Congress home. Bush has been given powers that allow him to alter or change any law he wishes in the ‘name of national security”, and Congress lets him. The American public lets him.

As long as Bush plans on bombing Iraq and, we presume, to follow through to other countries such as Iran (Israel’s personal favorite), and Saudi Arabia (the US personal favorite), the voting public of this country seems indifferent to what Bush does. However, I don’t think the public reaction (or lack of same) is based on Learned Helplessness: I think it’s based on equal parts fear, retribution, greed, and a desire to show the world that the US is top dog and can kick anyone’s butt.

Cry “Havoc!” and let loose the dogs of war

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

The Pledge

I was extremely pleased and surprised to hear that an appellate court has ruled that reciting the Oath of Allegiance is unconstitutional because of the phrase “…under God”.

Not everyone believes in a God, nor do all religions support the concept of taking an oath. In both cases, the daily oath makes kids who don’t participate feel like outsiders, especially in today’s frenzied patriotic environment.

The Oath of Allegiance and coating our cars, homes, and bodies with variations of red, white, and blue are cheap and easy ways to show our patriotism. Much simpler to say an Oath than to carefully pursue details of bills pending in Congress, or to vote based on individual merit rather than party affiliation.

Not all webloggers are so pleased as I. Amidst a tangled web considers this a giant step back, saying As a big fan of God, I hope he gets to stay in the USA. At Boboroshi.com:

It’s gotten to the point where society is evicting any piece of religion from anything political. The problem exists that, in evicting religion from our society and becoming completely secularized, those who have excised religion have not been able to replace its moral teachings.

Our society was based on a secular government, a nation whereby church and state are separated. This does not preclude the practice of religion, but does put religious practice where it belongs: celebrated by individuals in their own space, their own time, protected by law.

As for the “moral teachings” of religion, there is no religion – none – that doesn’t have incidents in its past that the modern practitioners of same would just as soon forget. And there have been few wars fought that didn’t have a kernel of religion at their core – including the current conflicts in the Middle East. In actuality, morality, or lack thereof, is a matter of individual responsibility rather than religious affiliation.

Perhaps we should create a new Oath – one with a bit broader base:

I give my promise
to all of humanity
to support freedom in all its forms.

And to the world
in which we live
one world, indivisible
I support liberty and justice for all

I can live with this.

Comments on the Communications Decency Act

y first real experience with the Internet was subscribing to a Usenet on a symbolic modeling language. I remember reading a response from a researcher in Switzerland and deciding to write my first entry into the thread. Every time someone would write from a different country I was awed. Where else and in what other circumstance could people from different countries and different cultures converse in such a way that the topic at hand becomes the focal point, not the differences of those speaking.

Where governments have trodden through the front door with fanfare and progressed with little steps, or failed, the Internet has moved quietly through the back door and succeeded. Until now.

While the Internet was nothing more than an insider’s tool, it was for the most part unconstrained and relatively open. Now that the access to the Internet is open “to the masses” we seek to impose constraints and limitations. Worse, where before each country’s boundaries were transparent, they now seek to make them not only opaque but a virtual brick wall. The main benefit of the Internet is taking down boundaries not putting them up. The Internet is owned by no Man, no Woman, and no Country.

I was following some forgotten path through the Web once when I stumbled on a letter from an Irish environmental terrorist. He wrote the letter in prison after he was captured while attempting to bomb a factory that he believed was damaging to the environment. This letter was fascinating. It was not an interview on some slick TV show, or in some slick magazine. It was an unsolicited recitation of facts and beliefs of a person that most of us would have an easy time dismissing as a nut after a two paragraph word byte in the press. Did I agree with the person? No, and I do consider myself an environmentalist. Bombs and bullets are never the way folks, nor are bricks and bats. However, the letter did give me a perspective that I would never have had if I had not read it. I cannot as easily dismiss an act of terrorism as an act of a mad person, which in a way makes the act even more frightening. Would this letter be considered “excessively violent”? Would the group that posted it be in violation of the law?

Could something like this be considered obscene? In some countries and in sometimes it could be. In certain countries, a picture of a woman bare faced and holding a career would probably be considered obscene. Full frontal nudity is considered by many in the United States as obscene but is probably considered perfectly normal in other countries. The very thing that makes the Internet great, the absence of borders, makes it virtually impossible to determine a common point of obscenity or a common point of decency.

We in the United States cannot agree within our own borders what is ‘decent’. One person believes in allowing free choice for women, and another would consider this indecent and obscene. Would information on the Internet on abortions then be considered illegal? If your child read this material, and it was presented in a scientific manner and presented only facts, would the originators of the material be in violation of the law?

If all we read in books, or all we see on TV, or all we hear on the radio, and all we can discuss on the Internet is material suitable for small children neither they nor we will ever and can ever grow, and we as a society will never mature.

Perhaps that’s what some people, including Congress, really want.

That’s it, folks.