Sunday, February 19, 2006

The cartoon thing

This is a long unedited post mostly to talk about some of the stuff bothering me. This cartoon as news thing really is bothering me, and I just wanted to talk about it. It is probably overly tangential by a great deal, but the issue is obviously complex, and it made me question what I consider important. It can also be easily taken out of context to destroy any political future I might have, so hopefully that does not happen.

Being an international news tracker, I have seen a lot of American flags get torn up. Most notably for this discussion, a lot of them seriously messed up by Middle Eastern protesters.

I consider being objective and empathetic to be one of the primary virtues of political analysis. This does not mean being impartial to the sense where you cannot say that a killer is wrong. It is objective in the sense that you assume the average person is doing what he is doing for a reason. A reason that he thinks is good, and that alone justifies a significant effort to answer why?

I have heard a lot of reasons why America is such a focus of hate. I look down on the racism involved, and I condemn acts of terrorism, but some of the reasons at least explain why America has become such a dirty word in circles. Foreign policy, arrogance and great deal of misunderstanding made me often look at flag burners "Well, I would never do that. In their situation, I don't think I would do that. However, I probably would not be a huge fan of America."

At the very least, I gave the opinion that the west is "evil" an open ear.

This cartoon nonsense is driving me nuts. Its crazy, its beyond reason, and it makes me look down on the entire religion. Taken out of context, that makes me a pretty significant bigot, but to be fair, I look down on a good number of religions.

I think that fanaticism made me high school a bit more interesting, and occasionally far more annoying. As such, I have very distinct opinions on some aspects of western religion. Many of these are very distinct critiques.

But this whole cartoon thing is just beyond all reason. I already knew my empathy had bounds because of the basic outliers, the clearest answer being a complete lack of empathy towards the Nazi movement. I think its insanity is so beyond approach that it is not worth criticizing. But during my time, I never felt such a true void of empathy for a group. Typically I could rack things up to "they got a bad lot."

But people are dyeing over a doodle, and when that happens, I start wondering "are the people who on the streets still truly human?" First of all, this is not a condemnation against, say, Pakistanis. I have no plans to ill treat Pakistanis in the future. That said, if met one of the guys burning Danish flags and talking real talk about terrorism and death, my only real question is, "are you for real?"

When does humanity stop? Using an extreme example, I think a truly dire serial killer loses his humanity in a philosophical sense. My direct reading of Kant is laughable for someone who considers himself Kantian [editor's note: my spell check had Kantian, but not Kant], but one of my favorite ideas of his is that what sets man apart from animals is rationality.

The idea of rationality gives me a lot of breathing room in my philosophies and lets me sleep at night. Although I love animals, I do want to pass my days by considering myself running on "another level" than my cat. And rationality seems like a pretty good jumping off point. The idea that humans can follow logic, both linguistic and nonlinguistic, makes me happy to be a human.

And that is where my empathy comes from, the idea that I can rationalize things out because I am human, and since that guy is also human, he can do the same. So returning to a serial killer, is he still human? Under my definition, he needs to show rationality to be human.

My argument gets really messy here and rather than mostly relying on real philosophers, basically exclusively relies on them. The problem is that rationality, for me, is the use of logic and the synthesis of information. Yet, that requires a starting point for information to be synthesized. The only starting point that seems logical to me is along the lines of "I think, therefore I am" or just generally self recognition.

Starting with the postulates, "I am a sentient being that exists" and the postulate "the things that I sense also exist" is required for my world view to fly. Because assuming those two postulates, I can not empathize with serial killers.

So now my argument has taken on a new light. Its not really rationality I care about. Rationality might be still involved, but really I could envision an entirely "rational" serial killer (in that he can synthesis information and logic) yet he starts with different postulates other than "I am a sentient being that exists" and the postulate "the things that I sense also exist."

I don't know if any "trained" philosophers read this blog, but what are these postulates called? I know that opposing the second postulate would be something like skepticism, but would be the acceptance of both called?

So anyway, I guess my revoking of the title of humanity from a killer would be simply not "getting" these two things. So now that I have one outlier, its clear that we have criterion worth using to discuss other people, in this case, the flag burners.

I honestly don't think that the flag burners "get" these two things. As I watched a Danish flag burn it just seemed insane to me. How in the world could they honestly believe that the entire country should be punished because of the handful people that were really involved in the publication of these cartoons?

I can think of some artists in America that I really don't want to represent me, and I would call anyone who said that "because they are American they do represent you" straight up batty.

If the United States started active aggression against Iran because of a political cartoon depicting YHWH, those protesting would be rightfully considered lunatics.

I always hated the line "how do you negotiate with mad men?" Beyond trite, it seemed like a cop out. But serious, what does the west do here? I know some things it should not do, starting with ambassadors wearing one of the stupid cartoons on a t-shirt.

The only real approach I see here is marginalizing the fanatics. Seeing no empathy in them, I think we can pretty much rack them up as a "lost cause." But America has its own lunatic fanatics, and we try to tuck them away, like Michigan, Kansas, or the White House [editors note: sorry for the low blow, but I am mad at religion right now].

The goal is for the sane Muslim community to outweigh the insane. Not in numbers, but in weight. For me to sleep a night, I have to believe that the vast majority of the Muslim community is looking at all of this going "what the heck?" I guess it depends on what you define the Muslim community, but I really just hope that I am right in saying that.

With the US, I think that the fanatics have more power than they do numbers as well, but not nearly to the same extent. I think much of America's problems come from the oversized weight of those fanatics, but we are clearly no Iran.

Marginalizing the fanatic community, sadly, might inherently be an internal thing. If the west tries to reach is big gangly hand into the middle-east, its likely things will only just get far worse. That is a dark note to end on, but I really should do other things. I just wanted to type a little bit.

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