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September 23, 2003

 Life 
Haa...??
Mehrad Vaezinejad  [info|posts]

peaceLast week, there was a documentary about John Lennon on a UK television channel. (Channel Four, I suppose). I'm not and have never been, to say, a fan of John Lennon although I appreciate his level of creativity in many of his songs.

Here, I do not tend to talk about John Lennon's private life or to criticise his artistic achievements. For me, a sentence, (one of his last) has become a serious concern in recent nights and thus made me to cite it as a post.

“Imagine Peace!” is that sentence, quoted by Lennon in New York on December 8, 1980 from one of his own songs, “Imagine” (released in 1971). It was eventually his last speech (or an interview, that’s not my case!). Thereafter, he came out from the hall and was shot dead by gunfire on the same night he was addressing to peace.

His word is short, simple and straight to the point. Imagine Peace! No manslaughter, no mankind extermination! A total peace, dominant throughout a world in which human beings simply do not kill each other.

It does sound utopian; actually it is utopian. And you’re right; I should’ve gone out of my mind to post something like this. Thinking optimistically, it would be one of those activists’ slogans found in many of their websites. You know, I mean it’s not quite … (what do you call it?)… ha! It’s not quite scientific. Only lunatics might think of something like this, but why? Why is it so far even from a dream?

It might seem foolish, but I couldn’t find an answer, not even some sort of unrealistic justification as of those who believe in determinism, for that question. I believe this pale, tasteless modern democracy is way behind what it should be, or had to be, I don’t know. (Ask me and it is not even at the same step where it had been started in Athens or Persepolis.)

I do not think all these atrocities are spontaneous. I cannot accept that a war is mainly created due to humans’ nature – as Hobbes somehow suggests- and that it had been and will be like this throughout history.

I am neither defending, nor offending butchers and butcheries. I do not even know if it’s their fault. My question is not about rights or wrongs anymore..... Morality sucks!

I’m just saying, just feeling, that it shouldn’t have been like this. I’m just asking whether it could’ve been not like this. And if not real, it was at least possible for us now, just to “Imagine Peace”.

Comments
yahya at September 23, 2003 09:46 PM [permalink]:

I think some of this has built into us through evolution. It is believed that there were lots of other species similar to human that didn't survived. Resources have been always limited, and destroying others helped human to survive as the only human-like species. Even now, resources are limited that is why there is so many wars on teritories and other natural resources. I don't want
to say this is the only reason, but I think it is one of the main driving forces of most conflicts.

Alan K. Henderson at September 24, 2003 01:12 AM [permalink]:

The problem with Lennon was that while he talked about peace he never offered any pracical prescriptions for achieving it. For instance, he was one of many who thought that peace would come to Vietnam if the US left. The US left, and North Vietnam invaded and instigated mass murder in the South.

That mindset continues today. Western leftists (Yoko Ono being one) assume that the key to world peace is for the US military to render itself inert, assuming that most of the world's violent woes are somehow the natural product of one individual country. They believe that thugs like Mideastern terrorist leaders and Communist dictators of past and present are willing and capable of bargaining in good faith.

Peace has two ingredients. First, law enforcement in all its forms - from armies to police forces all the way down to the citizen defending his home - must have a visible deterrent to violent crime, must demonstrate a willingness to use it, and must use it judiciously.

The second prerequisite rests not with governments but with society as a whole. The people must genuinely value the rights of all others to their inherent rights to physical safety, property, beliefs, and peaceable pursuits. We may argue over the merits of various beliefs and pursuits (both secular and religious), but we must not base the value of others on their conformity to our ideals.

I once described the US as having the most peaceful ideological discord in the world. It is not the most peaceful overall (Switzerland, for one, has a lower violent crime rate) but crimes rooted in dogmatic conflict are rare in the US - and in the West in general and in other parts of the globe (such as Japan and Taiwan).

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 07:56 AM [permalink]:

I've heard they had some sort of democracy in Athens couple of millennia ago, but did they have democracy in Persepolis? How about Egypt?! Hmmm...

Kaveh Kh. at September 24, 2003 08:26 AM [permalink]:

The democracy in Athens was for adult "free" men. Everyone else was treated like they were not: women, children and slaves.

I just have two things to add: (1) there is no drift in the society without idealism, idealist bring donw courageous ideas and also foolish thoughts but are always redempted of their boldness when practicality wins the game. (2) there used to be a long lasting "Roman Peace" through the Roman world, some people are willing to call the US intentions for global domination ending in an "American Peace", but let me remind you that even the "Pax Romana" ended in the worst kind of chaos for that empire.

Mehrad at September 24, 2003 09:07 AM [permalink]:

Dear Senior Grad,
Reading it again, I should say the sentence you're referring to might be misleading. I didn't mean they had democracy in Persia twenty five hundred years ago, the fact is they didn't. Even in Athens, as you've mentioned, "they had some SORT of democracy".

I do not care about the names we use, let it be "Democracy", "Aristocracy", "Oligarchy",...whatever.

What I was trying to say could be something like this: I'm not much proud of mankind current situation in general, compared to the old societies as Athens or Persepolis. (if you agree to call those society.)

All I'm saying is, the accumulated empirical knowledge of billions of men and wemon, should have been led to something more satisfactory for us today. (That at least people weren't killed by eachother this much!)

Honestly, put aside the tremendous technological facilities, and I don't think there'll be much to be honoured of in humanities(take the general usage of this word), comparing ourselves to citizens of Persepolis and Athens.

Anyway, there are always points to disagree on, but I hope, at least, I could have made myself clear this time.

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 09:26 AM [permalink]:

yahya,

I like your comments (they're relatively well-written, succinct without being "laconic", and to-the-point), but I'm sorry that I have had to disagree with most of them so far!

First of all, as amusing as they are, I'm not convinced by the revolutionary explanations for our behavior. To me, they make good subjects for popular books and casual chitchat in parties, but they lack, or so it seems to me, the minimum standard to be considered scientific. (I'm no expert, but we have a few guys here who seem to have read Popper, Kuhn, and that other guy who wrote "Against Method" and "Farewell to Reason" whose name I can't spell, and I guess they should shed light on how much of a science such evolutionary speculations are.)

Secondly, I believe you are wrong about the insufficiency of available resource. I remember I once read somewhere that there *are* enough resources for all people on the earth to live a decent life. You may search the web for making sure about that, or it may be pointed out in the following article --which I read a while ago and I am not going to read again-- which happens to confirm Mehrad's position on morality.

Enjoy: http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/singermag.html

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 12:44 PM [permalink]:

Switzerland?!

I know for a fact that both homicide and suicide rates are far far higher in the US compared to an average European country. :-) See Bowling for Columbie for the homicide rate, and google the web for suicide rates.

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 12:59 PM [permalink]:

Whoops! I may have been wrong about suicide rates.

This is what I found: link

Shiraz at September 24, 2003 01:23 PM [permalink]:

Hey! the suicide rates were interesting. The common point was most of the ex-USSR countries have the higher rates. This might be the result of sudden deterioration of their living conditions, no jobs, no money, no heat, no food etc. even though their countries became free!

Senior Grad at September 24, 2003 01:35 PM [permalink]:

And perhaps we can add "no religion"!

In my google search I came across www.med.uio.no/iasp/bertolote.pdf which has a chart comparing cultural backgrounds of those who have successfully committed suicide. Acording to this chart, muslims seem to be drawn to suicide less than followers of other religions. I suppose even the measly number of suicides among muslims can be accounted for by suicide bombers!

saoshyant at September 24, 2003 03:06 PM [permalink]:

And Thou be warned that thou shalt not mess with suicide (suicidal) bombers :0

Alan K. Henderson at September 24, 2003 10:25 PM [permalink]:

Bowling for Columbine is a fraud. FrontPage Magazine has some details.

England is rapidly becoming less safe from crime than the United States. The contributors at Brit blog point a finger at the draconian gun laws that make it virtually impossible for citizens to legally defend themselves. People naturally take the path of least resistance to achieve their endeavors, and those who endeavor to rob are most active in unarmed populations. In the US, crime statistics are more favorable for gun-rights-friendly Texas than for places like Washigton DC that have stringent gun control laws.

The ancient experiments in democracy lacked the foundation of individual liberty under rule of law (i. e. all are equally protected by and equally subject to the law) that underpins modern democracy.

An Iranian Student at September 25, 2003 01:24 AM [permalink]:

I'm happy someone like you contributes to this blog, Alan. Keep it up!

AIS at September 25, 2003 01:27 AM [permalink]:

And Senior Grad, could you please stop commenting -in this teacher like voice- on other people's linguistic/technical/stylistic capabilities? Thanks!

Mohammad at September 25, 2003 12:41 PM [permalink]:

Hi,
Is there any web link to the documentary u mentioned in your posting?

Hazhir at September 25, 2003 01:08 PM [permalink]:

I think Yahya's point about possible survival values of non-peaceful traits is an important one. For example, two weeks ago in a discussion forum between Scientists and Dalai Lama, one of the main arguments of scientist in response to peaceful teachings of Buddhists where the exact same argument as Yahya brought up (None of the scientists there were considered evolutionarists, rather they were neural scientists, psychologists etc). I don't know how Senior Grad dismisses a whole field with several serious scientists to "lack...the minimum standard to be considered scientific", I think this comment itself lacks minimum standard to be considered scientific, until Senior Grad brings enough evdience for his arguments.
Note that I don't want to preach evolutionary arguments here, as I am not a big fan of them myself. I think they can easily be over-used to conditions they really don't apply to. Specifically, evolution unfolds in fairly long time spans and people are poor at taking the time dimension into account when they want to apply evolutionary logic.
Senior grad also dismisses the shortage of resources being an important factor in promoting conflict. I can't comment on his reference, yet based on what ever I have read, from resource-dependence perspective in organizational level, to sustainability literature in global issues, I find resource shortage and conflict over resources as one of the strongest explanatory variables that shows up almost in every theory. Another question sinior grad might be referring to is whether there is/will be resource shortage, if we could have an optimal allocation of total resources. This one is a more controversial question, you can search google for "limits to growth" or check this link to get a sense of this controversy. Yet the general consensus is that there is shortage of resources if we don't have optimal allocation, and having optimal allocation is fairly unrealistic, if not the core problem leading to conflict.
About Yahya's evolutionary comment, I want to add a caveat: one should be careful that evolution is looking backward, in the sense that it lags by adopting the organism to the past conditions, not to what is currently happening, or what is needed for future. Therefore there is no reason to assume that non-peaceful traits have survival value in the current conditions of the world, if they have evolved to be embedded in our genes through last 1 million years.

Senior Grad at September 25, 2003 05:17 PM [permalink]:

Calm down guys! :-) I guess I need to reply to your counter-comments, not because it's not rude not to answer, but because I don't like you to think that I've chickened out. The problem is, I don't have much time right now to read all the referred links, for which I apologize.

Alan: Bowling for Columbine may not be an honest-to-goodness documentary. Of course it depends on how you narrow down the definition of this term. I agree that it was an anti-NRA rhetoric, but do you claim that he made up those figures? I was specifically refering to the homicide rates in the US versus other countries, not the whole film. Let's try to find something documented on the web that confirms (or as you might claim, disproves) Micheal Moore's statistics. Again, I don't have time for doing this right now.

AIS: I shall avoid confronting you, because you don't seem to have a good record, as far as the maturity for engaging in a heated debate is concerned. I'm sorry if I sounded "teacher-like" to you (apparently, I do to a lot of folks, but it is no fault of mine), and I don't recall where exactly I commented on people's abilities! I also don't see on what basis you compliment people. Alan's English is impressive, but you should see where he is coming from. Based on what he has said (and I haven't read his blog yet), he probably is a member of NRA himself. :-)

Hazhir: By "science" I did not mean to use the term in a broad sense. For example, I don't consider theology or philosophy or even math a *science*. As I confessed above, I'm no expert in the Philosophy of Science. One (characteristic?)function of science, however, is the ability to predict. That is why astronomy is a science, in that specific sense of the world, and Darwinistic theories are not. I agree that, as I have said in a series of comments on grouping some time ago, strife may be part of our nature (assuming that we assume that there is such a thing as human nature), but as Peter Singer points out, you cannot draw moral consequences from it, but that's another story.

I remember I once read somewhere that Karl Popper did not even consider the whole field of psychoanalysis to have scientific merit. Not because he had a contempt for Freud, but because this field did not match his criteria for being sceince. Let me repeat, I am not that familiar with the work of philosophers of science who I suppose discuss the nature of science and how it evolves and so on and so forth. That's why I invited others who seem to know more to discuss this issue.

Re resource shortage and conflict over resources, you need to distinguish these two. I only claimed that there *are* enough resources on earth to feed the entire human population, but as we see, it is not automatic that having enough resources lead to having everybody well-fed. So I agree with you (and yahya) that the *idea* that there is probably not enough resources for us all to live well leads to conflict, but this idea is, the way I remember I once read somewhere, is far from factual.

saoshyant at September 25, 2003 09:21 PM [permalink]:

Senior Grad:

Now, I am offended,you responded to everybody, but you have not responded to my divine warning :-(

Senior Grad at September 25, 2003 09:40 PM [permalink]:

I'm sorry saoshyant. I sometimes just don't read the long detailed comments. But if you're talking about the funny one-liner you wrote right after my mentioning suicide bombers, then here is what I can offer in response:

Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them.

The Cow: 007 (Shakir's translation!)

saoshyant at September 26, 2003 01:06 AM [permalink]:

Dear SG, that was exactly it (the comment that I jokingly expected you to address),

many many thanks,

Saosh

Borzumehr at September 26, 2003 06:22 PM [permalink]:

Actually according to the evolutionists, the human race is to be considered a relatively peaceful species per se ie. when it is studied in its natural environment.
That we are apes who also have half-carnivorous characteristics of hunter animals seems to add to the continuos crisis we find ourselves in, but the main trouble comes mainly from the recent (in evolutionary terms) development of 'civilisation' that has caused this species to live by the millions in the same space it was actually evolved to live in tribes of fewer than a hundred.

The fact that we manage to survive such unnatural circumstances rather well and have been more or less successful in keeping the balance till now, supports this claim since it couldn't have been possible if we were violent by nature.

Senior Grad at September 26, 2003 06:38 PM [permalink]:

Micheal Moore writes:

"I've also been accused of making up the gun homicide counts in the United States and various countries around the world. That is, like all the rest of this stuff, a bald-face lie. Every statistic in the film is true. They all come directly from the government. Here are the facts, right from the sources: ..."

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/wackoattacko/

I apologize for mentioning "homicide" in my previous comments. Apparently Moore's figures were only those of gun deaths. Forms of homicide (I'm not sure about the legal meaning of this word, because it's technically considered to be different from manslaughter, I just meant "murder") in different societies may vary.

AIS at September 27, 2003 05:03 AM [permalink]:

SG, since when does coming from the NRA automatically make someone unworthy of praise?!
(if that's where Alan belongs to in the first place)

AIS at September 27, 2003 05:10 AM [permalink]:

O, by the way, Michael Moore might be lying about that as well, ever thought about it this way? Is that so unthinkable?
(He actually seems to be very good at it)

Senior Grad at September 27, 2003 10:34 AM [permalink]:

I admire Michael Moore's audacity, because I myself, by nature or by nurture, am a rebel. :-( Bowling for Columbine was the best film I had seen in ages. He may be lying (did you check the link and his sources?), but his passion for giving those whom he considers as villains (such as Charlton Heston) a hard time is praiseworthy, even though sometimes --I agree-- it can be too much.

Babak at September 30, 2003 03:34 PM [permalink]:

I didn't get the point. What was the problem with film. Just that it was edited an did not have all the speach?

Babak at September 30, 2003 03:35 PM [permalink]:

I didn't get the point. What was the problem with the film. Just that it was edited an did not have all the speach?

AIS at October 2, 2003 12:06 AM [permalink]:

"He (Michael Moor) may be lying... but his passion for giving those whom he considers as villains (such as Charlton Heston) a hard time is praiseworthy"

Senior Grad,
Are you serious about this?!
The same can be said about the bastards in Hamas or Hezbollah!
What about of logic and remaining faithful to the truth and the facts? Have they no value? Can they be so easily sacrificed for political propaganda?
I wonder...

Alan K. Henderson at October 2, 2003 02:00 AM [permalink]:

Sorry, my second comment was supposed to have a hyperlink to the FPM column:

http://www.frontpagemag.com...

The article recounts various instances of Moore's dishonesty - too many to summarize here.