File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 43

Date: Sun, 07 Oct 2001 20:51:09 +0100
Subject: Re: Different approach to terrorist threat (ethics)

Eric/All (the inclusive all...)

The trouble with the email I am responding to is in the first sentence, 
as I stated previously on the whole I have some sympathy for the 
sentiments expressed but the problem remains in the first sentence....

Consider it from an ethical standpoint - how would you justify it? - 
 From an everyday ethical standpoint it appears problematic. Consider - 
for example that the money you spent going to the cinema would be enough 
to provide basic health care to several children  who may die from 
easily preventable illenesses. It follows then that the suffering of the 
children is no more and no less than our own suffering would be in these 
circumstances and consequently that we cannot escape responsibility for 
the suffering because we have personally done nothing to bring it about. 
The fact that we have not directly killed anyone is not enough to enable 
us to claim that we are morally nuetral, rather by accepting the status 
quo we are extraordinarily guilty. From this I would extrapolate that we 
should accept that passively or actively supporting globalising state 
activity  is not morally acceptable, especially when it includes violent 
intervention into a country constructed by the G8 countries into a poor 
third world country.

The state is sometimes understood as being constituted out of 
legitimised violence, usually understood by those on the right as the 
means by which 'the other' is contained, controlled and kept outside of 
the city gates. The state does not represent the guardian of our 
freedoms. It would be foolish to say so, given that we are confronted 
daily by the horrendus mutations of constutitutive power, both civil and 
state that are imposed on the ontological body of human freedoms and by 
the ongoing 'development' sponsored negation of  freedom, equality and 

The belief that we need to retaliate against an individual and/or group 
of individuals who are responding to the world as if they are James Bond 
or Blofeld does not strike me as very productive and more than that in 
this 'society of the spectacle' it is precisely how victory will be 
guaranteed to the forces of globalisation...

Finally they are now talking of 'imposing democracy' on the country... 
now where have I heard such sentiments expressed before...

Best joke of the weekend was an american media spokesperson stating that 
'searching people, x-raying their luggage' was a serious incursion into 
their freedom... And there I was thinking that freedom was something 
more complex than that...


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

>As I have stated before, I think to the extent that it can be shown Bid
>Laden was involved in these acts of terrorism, retaliation is
>necessary.  I think the Taliban is a pernicious government and believe,
>under these circumstances, some limited form of military intervention
>may be required to replace it with a more democratic form of government
>in Afghanistan. I believe the U.S. government has doing the right thing
>strategically in sending them food and other supplies.  I have also been
>pleased to see the U.S. government has so far moved slowly, deliberately
>and with some restraint. I also think the case has been made that there
>now needs to be greater security and greater intelligence to combat the
>threat of terrorist retaliation domestically.  America certainly needs
>to secure itself as a nation.
>I still remain cynical about the role of government in this, however. I
>don't think this conflict is about freedom, democracy, civilization or
>our open, pluralistic society. I simply do not believe "The government
>we have is our only weapon, we must support it." Instead, I think,
>pragmatically, given the immediate conditions that now exist, some
>limited support of the government is necessary to defend ourselves
>against terrorism. 
>Shawn and Steve have talked about how government is merely a historical
>and technological aberration, one that has usually not been on the side
>of human life. I agree. Government as a weapon has often been used in
>the past to dominate and oppress its own citizenry.  Government as a
>weapon is a loaded gun and, therefore, always dangerous. 
>As Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out, however, government as a
>weapon is also a two-edged sword.  In the past, it has often been the
>vehicle through which grievances has been addressed, rights defended and
>positive as well as negative freedoms granted.
>In my view, it is utter madness to reduce the social role of government
>right now, as Harry Browne and other libertarians advocate.  Basically,
>their political platform is one that states - lets legalize marijuana
>and piss on the poor. Against their ilk, the role of government in
>support of the welfare state and as a safety net needs to be defended
>until the day comes when something less terroristic than neo-liberalism
>can be offered as the sole panacea. 
>At the same time, we also need to be vigilant and honest with ourselves
>about the likelihood that the current administration, in the name of
>fighting terrorism, is also pushing for programs that simply manage and
>control dissent, exasperate the class divisions that already exist and
>simply leave far too many without any visible means of support as the
>current global economic crisis deepens.
>As the global level, we need to recognize that the policies of the U.S.
>government have often been, and here I speak with some restraint,
>somewhat counterproductive.  Just as the Bush administration has
>vigorously pushed for its agenda, I believe progressives worldwide
>should now pressure this government to forgive the Third world-debt, end
>the sanctions in Iraq, allow HIV vaccines to flow into Africa and
>recognize that Palestinians have been the victims of racism (in a way
>that strangely approaches the conditions of our own native Americans). 
>These are just some suggestions, of course, and in no way meant to be
>So I hope this helps you understand, Hugh, where I support you and where
>I must disagree.  In my view, when the house is burning, it is not a
>time for silence.  Instead, it is a time to cry out - FIRE!
>P.S. - I also think, historically, what is characteristic about the
>postmodern period is that people are becoming incredulous about the
>concept of God and religious institutions are undergoing a crisis of
>legitimization.  This has been brought about for two main reasons.  1.
>The development of science, especially evolution, has undermined the
>intellectual foundations of theology. 2. The development of globalism
>has meant that religious cultures no longer exist in silos, but now
>confront one another face-to-face.
>While the main driver of globalism remains technological and economic,
>this crisis of religion makes the transition more difficult as religious
>institutions strive to maintain their hegemony while at the same time
>they can feel the world sliding irrevocably from their grasp.
>Perhaps future historians will regard our period as the time when
>religion went supernova, blazing incredibly for a short period before it
>became merely a burned out cinder.  What will the post-religious society
>be like? How can this be created? 
>Those are also political questions. Perhaps, religion is merely
>government in drag.


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