Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Never Again"

When the public of Japan heard the Emperor's voice broadcast publicly for the first time that wasn't the end of it. here it is if you can be bothered watching,
Atom bombs make surrender attractive
But also Japan suffering its first real defeat on home soil ever, kind of collectively said 'Never Again' this humiliating surrender, the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the economically efficient bombing of Tokyo all added up to a strong desire not to occupy the losers seat in history.
Understandable for a proud people with as Nietzsche would say a 'barbarian' moral geneology. And so Japan set about transforming its world conquest into economic growth. To disasterous cost to its environment, and more or less a great depreciation in the intangible quality or enjoyment of the average Japanese civilian. Longer working hours, no time with the family, sleep deprivation, cramped living conditions, cram schools and so fourth.
And Japan went bust sometime in the 1990's and its aggressive approach to Never again sort of came to a grinding halt, at least for a decade.
Then on the 11th of September 2001 another high profile defeat occured when fire defeated the architectural ideology of the World Trade Towers. A deliberate act, and the human cost inspired Americans to collectively say 'Never Again' and somewhere from the ashes rose the 'war on terror'
Now lots been said, but I wanted to clarify for myself something said by Thomas Jefferson long ago a rather negative statement in some contexts used to justify fanatacism in American bad guys in movies ruthless CIA men and shit -

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots

It would seem Jefferson advocates 'breaking a few eggs to make an omelette' but this statement to me seems odd for such an otherwise enlightened thinker like Jefferson.
In part I suspect that he is simply saying 'when the democratic system breaks down, or someone tries to take it from you, stage a coup' and this is born out when you read the entire quote
God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

But another part of me likes to think the intrinsic wisdom of the selected quote is akin to something his contemporary Franklin said -
People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both

Here, here. If you were today to go and meld both statements together you would come up with the statement something like -

People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither for the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots

What does that now say? I have completely missapropriated Jefferson and Franklin's words but preserved Franklin's message and added an explanation of the currency of sacrifice.
Suddenly all those people that died became patriots. Even though they weren't 'taking up arms against a tyrant' it simply means to me...well let me give you another low profile example, a couple infact.

In Istanbul I was stupid, I accepted the offer of a drink from a stranger. I was doubly stupid because I'd been explicitely warned lots of times that the hard and fast rule was to refuse, but the nice me trusts people, particularly friendly, smiley, small people who chat to me for 40 minutes and show me around before offering a drink.
And thus I found myself in a shadey bar surrounded by unsmiling big aggressive looking people who where charging my 'friend' $610 for some champagne we didn't drink. Eventually after having my wallet searched and all my money within it removed I saw daylight again with my pretty face intact, and one could be tempted to say 'I'll never trust a starnager again' or simply 'never again' I thought I'd been smart enough to stay out of any legally binding contracts and even though it was fruitless reported it to the police. But I didn't accept the arguement 'never again' because at the end of the day, what I lose by not talking to or accepting offers from locals while travelling, is a far greater loss than the small risk of getting scammed again.
So if someone asks me for the time I'm not going to say 'fuck off in the future' I might try to minimise my risk by saying 'okay you can buy me a drink, at this place right here (hopefully not pointing to a dark shady bar in an alley) and then I have to go' but that's as far as it goes.
What I'm not going to do is hide in hotel rooms, not carry cash but only travellers cheques, insist on photographing everyone I see and taking a DNA sample and losing precious time and life avoiding the loss of whatever cash is in my wallet.

Another example, I locked up my bike outside RMIT one day, in Bowen St near the always active basketball courts. I ducked into boarders to buy a book and when I came back after roughly 1 hour my bike was so thoroughly gone that I was unsure whether I had ridden into the city afterall. And all this in broad daylight next to a frequented outdoor basketball court by the entrance to an even more frequented library.
I ended up with a new bike, but again one would be tempted to say 'Never again' and buy the biggest thickest locks in the world, have a chain fitted that locked my seat post to the frame, spend an extra minute double checking my locks and only locking my bike infront of a police station with transparant front windows.
Because the fear of theft seriously endangers more than my wallet, the enjoyment of cycling, having to lug heavy U-bar locks around, having to take ten minutes to lock up. Never cycling into the city at night, ducking out of restaurants or friends apartments every 15 minutes to make sure it is still there.
Yet these are all the measures that are come up with when I think 'Never Again' fuck why not put an immobiliser in the rear hub and be done with it. And a CC camera that constantly displays my bikes status on a screen on my mobile phone.
Don't get me wrong the invention of such stupidity is almost inevitable as soon as they figure out a way to make them out of carbon fiber they will be on all top end bicycles.
I did end up doubling the number of locks on my bike, but this was because I took the opportunity of insurance and theft to upgrade. And my new wheels were worth more than a lot of entry level bicycles.
So I used the same lock on the back, left the seatpost and had just a token chain to lock my front wheel to the downtube and I could throw my helmet on it. Increase to lock up time 3 seconds. Certainty my bike won't be stolen in whole or in part = same as before. Enjoyment of cycling - stronger than before.
Yes that's the amazing thing, my new bike was even more of a joy to ride than my old one (albeit it is more prone to punctures) but punctures are just a way to spend quality time with something you love.
So here's the thing, instead of saying 'Never Again' I said 'Yes, again and again, however many times it takes until you realise you won't diminish my love of cycling/talking to strangers/liberty/croissants'

SO back to the tragedy of the world trade tower attack. Even though nobody that died that day, turned up to work to die, wanted to die (although I can't be sure), pretty sure didn't want to die in that way, and furthermore didn't want to involuntarily be the 'blood of patriots' that renewed the tree of liberty.
I will suggest that this kind of loss, is exactly what Franklin was talking about and the best interpretation (though perhaps not the intent) of Jefferson.
That is, instead of saying 'Never again' they perhaps would have preserved their liberty better to defiantly and heroicly say (yes I am a hero of bike theft) 'Again and again, you can tear down buildings and kill our citizens but we won't reduce our liberty to increase our security'
Amazingly considering the way history turned out George W Bush said something much to this effect:
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America — with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Unfortunately it just never translated into any action or policy to that effect, not from the defiant volunteers and rescue workers, but alas with the introduction of tighter airport security and finger printing and restricted iimmigration and then moves into the middle east and increased defence spending and the patriot act reducing the individuals right to privacy and association and then the use of torture such as waterboarding and the detainment of Australian and British citizens in Guantanemo bay and leaking the identity of CIA operatives as punishment and so on and so fourth.
But I think that in order to enjoy the life of truly being free, you have to accept a certain vulnerability to once in every 600 years or so 2000 people dying from a breach, so that 706 million people in the year 2007 don't lose extra minutes (say 5) of their lives adding up to 6700 years roughly which divided by a life expectancy of 80 years totals 83.75 lifetimes each year and if you accepted an arbitrary frequency of such attacks being pulled off, at say once every 500 years then an accountant might tell you to prevent 2000 lives being lost, we check shoes at the airport at the expense of 41,000 lifetimes that could be spent doing better things and that's just before you even go down the road of looking at military casualties and civilian casualties in the 'never again' strategy that is the war on terror.
I know the war is unpopular and George Bush is virtually forgotten in light of the Democratic nominations and furthermore saving lives isn't about numbers.
But the fact is, that there are some causes worth dying for, and enjoyment of life and freedom from fear are two of them. To free yourself from fear, you have to sometimes say 'Again and again' not 'Never again' because its as simple as just not being afraid.

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