A poster over at Charles Stross’ diary made a comment about nazis that stuck in my mind for days, because he’s very right:
I started writing this as a sort of open snark-gram to Caitlyn Jenner, but I just couldn’t do it. As I started to think things through from different angles, I just got more and more depressed. So, I hit “Move to Trash” and tried again.
Root cause analysis, for me, always comes back to privilege, which is an instance of exceptionalism.
I grew up reading feats of military derring-do, and watching films like “Seven Samurai” and “Harakiri” – books and movies about martial glory and the character of the warrior. I noticed early on that a big piece of military glory and heroism is the stand against great odds – the acceptance that one’s mission will probably cost one’s life, but that’s a secondary concern: doing the right thing matters more. I read a lot about the samurai and bushido, and I always deeply felt the distinction between katsujin ken (the life-giving sword) and setsunin-to (the life-taking sword). Somehow it all ties together in my formative anarchy as part of something basically anti-authoritarian, because the authority and the establishment usually are the “powers that be” against which the life-giving sword must work.
I wish you all a good year! Health and safety first and foremost, then all the other good things. I also wish you special strength and skill at one all-important task: telling fact from opinion.
(Content Warning: war, death)
I’m going to begin today’s sermon with a transcript from a podcast I recently heard. It’s David Wood, speaking at Politics and Prose on “What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.” Wood’s view is that wars can cause “Moral Injury” – a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder to our sense of right and wrong. The bit that stuck in my mind, which I went back and replayed and bookmarked, was an example that he gave – an example that is very typical of the experiences of many soldiers:
[Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen Seven Samurai, I am going to drop an important plot-point. And what’s wrong with you?]
I grew up reading about feats of derring-do, famous last stands, and martial arts philosophy. My favorite movie was, and remains, “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa – it’s an extended meditation on the different aspects of military honor, courage, despair, humor, and the fleeting moments of peace that warriors can occasionally snatch out of the mud and blood and awfulness.
The first poem I learned by heart was Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est” (here)
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,And towards our distant rest began to trudge.Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf gas-shells dropping softly behind.
If any question why we died,Tell them, because our fathers lied.
Before long they saw the towers and flags of Dictionopolis sparkling in the sunshine, and in a few moments they reached the great wall and stood at the gateway to the city.
The defining mark of the state is authority, the right to rule. The primary obligation of man is autonomy, the refusal to be ruled. It would seem, then, the there can be no resolution of the conflict between the autonomy of the individual and the putative authority of the state.