Sunday, October 25, 2015

Killing and dying for what you believe

Praise the heroes who risk their own death to inflict death upon the forces of evil. Praise the people of principle who die proudly rather than submit to the beliefs they know are wrong. Praise the bravest of the brave, who die while performing acts of courage in the many conflicts that humanity has to resolve. Dealing death and receiving it are indispensable parts of a virtuous life.

Sacrifice does not have to be instantly supreme. You can kill or die by gradual steps guided by high principle. You can dismantle civilization a brick at a time, taking time to throw those bricks at deserving targets as you go along. All the while, blows and insults will be raining back on you as part of the grand melee.

The blows need not be actual. Acts of government and commerce can advance various beliefs, forcing compliance or death on whole nations and continents. It takes time, but it's worth it. It all rests on the basic principle that one must willingly kill and die for what's right. One must sacrifice. Let one's own life become more uncomfortable for the sake of taking down our foes. Take pride in your strength and courage to withstand the destruction of a sinful institution, even if the process leaves you poorly fed, unsheltered, bankrupt, maimed or dead. Don't blame the process of killing and dying for beliefs. Blame the opposing beliefs that force you to this extremity. Blame evil. Resist evil. Fight evil.

Don't be overly critical of the very few who seem to live very well, while exhorting the masses to soldier on in hopes of that better day when the good guys finally come out on top. You can come up with many plausible explanations for why they enjoy that status. Maybe a god likes them. Maybe they're just that much smarter and work that much harder than the rest of us. Maybe they really are jerks, but their logic makes sense so we should do what they say.

Species of social insects make war. The defenders fight, knowing that each of them will die. Individual survival does not matter. Colony survival is more important. They don't have flags, let alone coffins. They do not exhibit individuality. They do the right thing, win or lose, because it's their only chance. But it's not a noble fight for freedom. They are not free going in or coming out.

The word freedom is claimed by every person and group to represent their perfect world. Show me a people anywhere on the planet that does not call itself "freedom loving." No one says, "we want to live as slaves and minions for a small minority of overlords who can use us mercilessly for the glory of something or other." Even if they actually do live that way, they dress it up in fine language like submission to the will of God, or a sacrifice for some greater good which might not seem so good to everyone.

Nature is a free-for-all. Cruise through any natural environment and you will find life forms on top of life forms inside of life forms next to life forms, doing their thing and evolving -- successfully or unsuccessfully -- to be able to keep doing that thing, or a thing descended from it. Humans have been the same way, hampered increasingly by our creativity and inventiveness.

At first, creativity and inventiveness conferred advantages in the fight for global domination. Fast transportation and communication, combined with improving weapon technology, allowed certain groups to control large amounts of territory. It's all relative. Humans didn't go right from dugout canoes to aircraft carriers.

Unfortunately for global domination, with increased mobility and faster communication comes a greater ability to get to know each other. Along with this has come a certain distaste for widespread armed conflict. As the many wars raging at any given time will attest, this distaste is hardly universal. But it's gotten a strong enough hold to give humans a chance to interact a bit more politely and develop a sense that the little planet on which we live is going to serve any group better if all groups view it as a shared resource.

Evolutionary survival often hangs by a slender thread. What snips at our thread right now is the belief in too many people that it's better to destroy the whole thing for the greater glory of some deity or principle than it is to share it with "those people." Noble sacrifice is better than a compromised life. Live free or die. And take as many others with you as you have to. Kill them all. God will sort them out. Crap like that.

A world of truly free people would probably have less institutional violence, because the principle of individual freedom would supersede the formation of institutions that could order groups of people to fight each other. Hard to say whether there would also be less small-scale violence. The principle of respecting another person's freedom would preclude killing them, but the unrestrained expression of an individual's freedom might lead to a transgression that resulted in deaths.

Free people have to remember that they have no right to anything beyond arm's length. Go further and you are infringing on someone else's freedom. Say that you have a right to whatever your strength and guile can seize and you have diluted the principle of freedom to substitute the same old battle of competing would-be tyrants. Is life a mellow wander beside each other or an endless war? Is freedom best expressed by pushing as far as you can before you are forcibly stopped, or by renouncing the need for such things?

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