Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Two Sides to Every Story, Take Two April 13, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,military,Political — Addicted to Yarn @ 5:46 am
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I feel like a previous post has been misunderstood so I am going to attempt to clarify (or muddy up the waters so much no one can see where they are going).

This is what I was trying to say:

War is a very powerful tool. Let me compare it to an axe. An axe is a very powerful tool. It can bring down a mighty oak, perhaps one that has stood for a hundred years. Cutting down such a tree should not be a decision made lightly. Perhaps the tree is in the way of your new condominium you want to build. Should you apply the axe to the tree? I don’t think so. Perhaps the soil has washed out from under the tree and it is leaning precariously over the home of a family. Should you apply the axe to the tree? If other methods of securing the tree and keeping the family safe have proved fruitless, than yes, you should chop down the tree with the axe.

But an axe is not a maintenance free tool. Chopping down a tree wears down the axe. Every time you resharpen the axe, a little of the metal is worn down. Chopping down the tree is necessary. The tree itself might not have done anything wrong. It’s just doing its job, which is to grow. It must obey gravity; it has no other choice. The soil is the part which has failed, causing the tree to endanger the safety of the family. But the tree still must be removed.

But do not think for a minute that there isn’t a price to pay. The axe head will be worn down. It will have to be sharpened and eventually replaced. The bigger the tree, the more of your axe you are going to wear away. If you haven’t counted the cost and do not have sufficient axe heads, you will be left with a tree which is even more unstable than before and an axe head which is all used up. You will have consumed the axe and not gained any safety for the family.

But if you do count the cost and do have enough axe heads to finish the job, you have made the family safer. You have also removed a living tree from the ecosystem and however many axe heads from your tool belt. What’s left of the axe heads can be remelted and turned into new axe heads but there is a net loss of metal. So in the end, if you were successful, you are still one tree shorter and X amount of metal shorter. There is an intangible gain (the safety of the family) and a tangible loss (the tree and the axe heads).

If the tree is the “enemy” and the axe heads are the “good guys,” in the end, there has been a net loss of life. If you believe that human life is precious and the ending of it bad, than you have to believe that war, which results in a net loss of life, is bad. It might be less bad than doing nothing, which would result in the net loss of the tree and the innocent family. But it is bad. Is the axe head bad? No. It’s simply doing its job, wielded by someone else. Is the lumberjack bad? No, he’s doing his job, too. Is the soil bad, for washing away and leaving such a precarious situation? No, it was following the rules of phyics. So who’s to blame for the net loss of life, tree and axe head?

Well, it’s complicated. Who planted the tree on a hill above a house? No one? Who didn’t maintain situational awareness to be aware there was a tree growing on the hill over the house? Who should have noticed the tree when it was small and removed it then, perhaps relocating it somewhere safer? Who made the decision to let nature take its course and not shore up the hillside to prevent errosion? Maybe there was strip mining going on which caused the hill to erode so quickly. Maybe pollution killed the ground cover, exposing the soil to the effects of erosion. There is a HUGE chain of events leading up to the current crisis of tree threatening house. Is there any one person or group to blame? Who made the family build under the tree? Why didn’t they move? Why didn’t they cut down the tree when it was smaller, using their own axe heads at their own expense?

And so on, and so forth. I believe that war is evil but as as John Stewart Mill said, “It’s not the ugliest of things.” War is bad. It might be a necessary bad. It might be better than allowing nature to continue her course. But it is bad. However, the people fighting the war aren’t bad. They are just doing their jobs, many heroically. Many are heroic in a bad situation. But they are not in a heroic situation. They are in a bad situation and they, because of their character, become heroes. But they are the hereos, the heroic ones, not the situation they are in.


8 Responses to “Two Sides to Every Story, Take Two”

  1. Joe Says:

    Your premise is sound in your example, you have accurately assessed the situation if not in a trivial matter but one that makes sense to people; I will get to my expiation of this later. On a side note that I find funny, I used to own a logging company and chopped down trees to make a living.

    When your example is done the explanation deviates from my thinking. You make the statement “If you believe that human life is precious and the ending of it bad”. This is where we depart in thinking. I do not believe ALL life is precious, I believe that all innocent life is precious. This also leads to unfortunate consequences even in your example.
    The tree is a living creature and you are forced to pick one living thing over another and kill one to save another. You sacrificed the life of the tree for a benefit to your family’s life and property. While I am not trying to compare trees to humans let’s take the example to a recent real world situation, the Somalia pirate. The pirate is also a life but this soul is not innocent whereas the America ship captain was an innocent, so the guilty take a back seat to the innocent if forced to pick between who lives and who dies.

    For me this has nothing to do with the taking of a life, for that was the choice of the pirates when they decided to commit crimes against humanity. It was only the people that traded money for the safety of people because they had more money than desire to enforce good and right actions. It is when good people do nothing to stop bad people when the situation gets worse. To state another way; who do you pick to starve, your child or your neighbors child? If the question is not forced then you would chose neither and take a little from you and give to them (I am guessing). But if literally forced to answer that question would you not protect your own child over that of a stranger? But even if you didn’t pick your own you are answering the question regardless and determined that the other child was better off than your own.

    You ask the question, and everyone does ask this, who is to blame? The unfortunate answer to this is one that leads me back to ideas outside of myself. What I am getting at is things that are right and things that are wrong, and at a core level. In the American legal system this is mala prohibita verses mala in se; the difference between wrong because we say it’s wrong and wrong because it is. There are many possible examples you give for the tree situation to exist yet the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, so what line connects the tree to the house? It is the danger that the tree posed, if the tree never threatened the house it could continue to exist in any fashion it desired yet it is only a matter of time before a tree close to a house threatens it. If not for it leaning it might have been a branch or the roots breaking through the foundation, it is only a matter of time. We can judge each action on their own merits and not try to make ourselves feel better or worse because we are the ones that have to take responsibility for our own actions. So sure you can blame the prior home owner for not resolving the issue when it would have been easy and technically you are right. You can blame the person that built the house, or nature itself for growing tree’s again technically you are right about these as well. While we look to our past to determine how things happened as to not repeat them, they are not the cause of our current woes, we are. What I am getting at is the idea that by trying to find the reason why we do it not for the future benefit but to find some justification for ourselves. We attempt to remove responsibility for our actions or even worse make ourselves feel superior to those that have come before us in that we have to “fix” things they screwed up. To get back on topic; by trying to take the side of the tree you diverge from the real idea, it is that some things are good and some things are bad. For in your current example you can blame the home owner for building the house there, but if I change the example will you feel the same way? If a child is raped by a pedophile; was it the rapists fault or the parents that moved into the neighborhood? So your tree example is correct for your initial argument and the attempt to try and paint each action as being indiscriminate, but this is rarely if ever the case.

    What I do find funny is that you spent allot of time trying to say the axe (aka. war) was not evil but at the very end state again that war is evil. You have delicately changed the blame from the axe to the person swinging the axe in one brief argument. So the argument that war is not heroic is the attempt to still persuade people that there are no moral or good actions in fighting that which is evil and not good.

    So do I believe that war is heroic? No, people just should fight that which is wrong and evil and not take credit for doing what is right. It’s like wanting to be called a hero for not going to jail or raising your kids’ right, you just should.

    I don’t intend to be harsh about this; I have honestly tried to be gentle in my explanations. I fear however I took too long to explain myself and in my ramblings and tangents lost my persuasive argument.

  2. Anna Alvarez Says:

    I liked you analogy and I agreed with you on your word picture. I think it is the way bad and evil is interchanged here that gets me. I agree war is bad and it is not something to be taken lightly but I still have to disagree war is evil. Using your own logic you can not prove war is evil but I think that is not what you were really getting at in the last blog but I had to poke. I get that you do not like war and if you have any understanding of that word and are not a psycho most people do not like war. I hate the fact war is necessary. I hate the fact people are hurt and die. I hate the fact lives are ruined by the mental stress causing depression and PTSD and/or other physical things like loss of limbs. I hate a lot of things associated with war. I think we are in agreement that war should not be taken lightly and one should better understand what they are fighting for before they start fighting. I pray for all the solders who are fighting for our country every day that they will be protected and will remain strong. I worry about my brother who is fighting over-seas. To me to say war is evil feels like a disrespect to them and I love those who serve our country to much to want to do that. War is bad and it sucks but how can you blame the tool of evil men? To blame the tool makes the real evil not responsible for their actions. I blame the driver who is drunk for the accident and not the car when an accident occurs. People can be evil and they can and will do bad things. I have been a tool of an evil man in my life time and one of the things I have come to realize is because the situation is bad and you are being used by an evil person doesn’t make you evil. I have taken responsibility for any wrong doing that occurred by me being influenced by an evil man though a lot of it still haunts me to this day. There is a certain amount of culpability in what you agree to participate in and that is why I can say that war should never be taken lightly. a lot of things in life should not be taken as lightly as they are. Sorry for my ramblings but it is an emotional issue that gets me on my soap box. Ironically I think we we agree on this issue more than it appears and I am probably just preaching to the choir at this point but thanks for letting me let off a little pent up emotional refuse.

    • Anna Alvarez Says:

      okay Joe pointed out something and I need to clarify myself. “I agree war is bad and it is not something to be taken lightly but I still have to disagree war is evil” I hate the bad things that happen in war but it can not be used to define all war as some outcomes are good. So I guess I have to technically say war is not bad but the outcomes can be.

  3. truthwalker Says:

    Don’t confuse war and the military. Saying war is evil is not even remotely the same as saying the military is evil. Saying cancer is horrible does not imply that oncologists are horrible. The purpose of military is not fight wars. It is to by deterrence prevent them (The Cold War) and by force end them (World War Two.) When people get confused and think that the military is for fighting rather than ending wars we get Vietnam. Saying war is evil does not make Paul and I evil for fighting it. That’s why we are fighting it, because it’s evil. We fight to keep the evil of war near us so that it is away from the ones we love.

    • Joe Says:

      You appear to be too emotionally tied to the subject for me to understand your point. It was just one long string of contradictory statements. I would love to hear your reason and logic behind this but so far it was just an emotional rant. For example you say a subject is not defined by its nature or use but then use specific examples of its usage to define it. You also try and defend your participation in something by your personal views, but ignore the participation as if the intent changes the actions.

    • Joe Says:

      I had a large reply to the original post but my work network must have deleted it and of course I didn’t save it in Word. I will try and summarize if not for your benefit but for others that might read this.

      The original example of the tree and the house is good to prove the original point, however there is some key points missing. What is trying to be done is separate out the morality from the argument and try and look at the base premise. This is false as the argument in it of itself is one based upon the idea that some actions are good and some are bad. War is just the vehicle by which a group of people stand up and defend themselves against another.

      After the story you start to make your final argument; “If you believe that human life is precious and the ending of it bad”. Perhaps this is where we start to fully depart reason wise. I do not believe all life is precious, I believe all innocent life is precious. If I were to agree with you fully then I could not believe in justice or other ideas of personal protection of life. Nature itself disagrees with that standpoint to a certain extent in that a mother animal typically protects their young to the death. So since I like my life and value it over that of the person trying to take it from me I defend myself with equal force. To bring this to a real world example; I do not view the Somali pirate as a valuable life as he was guilty of a crime and threatening to take another life that was innocent. If forced to make the choice between who lives and who dies then unfortunately the pirate dies to save the captain. Of course we don’t go out of our way to kill people that do immoral or wrong things but only when they take the life of an innocent. This argument is much longer then I am giving it time here so if you want me to expand on this let me know.

      So if your reason and logic are sound it will apply to other scenarios and examples. After the tree example you were trying to find a reason why or who was to blame, stating it was complicated. You bring out ideas that the tree should not have been there or the house should not have been there, or the person before should have taken care of the issue when it was easy. If we change the example do these questions still linger, or is the confusion still there? What if there is a family that moves next to a pedophile and then their child is raped and killed, was it the criminal act to blame or the criminal? Perhaps it was the parents fault for moving next door? Or should the pedophile never been let out of jail or moved to an area where people don’t live around him?

      The issue of war is hard for people I will not pretend it is easy. While I view the reason behind it simple the painful difficulty is not that the reason behind it but the means by which it is enacted, wielded, and justified. So if we start with is a poor reason or justification, since most people don’t agree with the premise, we are left with a distain for the subject and its logic. Yet the focus of our ire should not be the subject matter, since we had no argument against it before its current use, but with the means by which it was enacted, wielded, and justified. So war or the military are not the problem, they have their place just like anything else, but the justification being disagreed with and cost of being right.

      Unfortunately I need to get ready for work as it is 0535 here and work starts at 0630.

  4. Anna Alvarez Says:

    I am trying to understand you Israel, I think I may know what you are trying to say and I want to agree but I am not sure I really understand. It seems like you are introducing a brand new idea in the mix to confuse me and I really don’t think that is going to help me as I am very one track minded/ADD. the issue of war equaling evil and the issue of the purpose of the military are related but two different topics that may inter connect but I was just talking about war being evil. I think we probably will agree on a lot of ideas about the purpose of the military and what we think is wrong with our current system but that would detract from what I thought we were talking about. I didn’t think this was a very complex issue besides one of us thinks war is evil and the other doesn’t. We have very passionate and emotional reasons why we think the way we do and I respect that. I looked up war in the dictionary and didn’t see war means evil so I really thought I was safe on that assumption. Maybe we should start another blog about the purpose of the military because I am sure I would find all of your thoughts compelling and very fascinating. I can draw all kinds of historical evidence for evil purposes of war and the military for you that I think can keep us talking for a long time. I also will be able to find a lot of wars that have been fought and won that have been good and right and they are equally as compelling and fascinating. It is always easier to die for a cause than for a war. I have yet to find a war that doesn’t have a cause even if the cause is a little murky. I have the link to the definition of war. Maybe that will help. I like to have things clearly defined and I don’t want to have a disagreement because we are talking about two different things and we both don’t know it.

    I don’t want you to be offended but some of the things said kind of strike close to home with me for the reasons I have written about just like Becky feels this issue hits close to home for her and I don’t want Becky to be conflicted. I want her to be proud of of her husband and my brother and it doesn’t feel (feelings do not always equal reality) that way when she says some of the things she does. I just got the impression that Becky doesn’t like what we are fighting for so she thinks it is wrong for our solders to die and I can understand that. That is where the issues Israel brings up come into play. When fighting a war it seems there are good guys and bad guys and the side you are fighting you hope is the right one and lately that doesn’t always seem the case at least the way the media portrays it. Getting into the issue of the purpose and goal of our militaries current objectives is kind of interesting and fascinating and depressing all rolled up into one.

    I hope I don’t sound to confrontational I really don’t like conflict even the conflict with in ourselves. I know we all have conflict but I love peace better so I am willing to be bold brash and assertive of an idea if I think it helps resolve the conflict. I know my logic may seem kind of weird and i am writing this very late for me so I hope the blog entry makes sense

    • truthwalker Says:

      I appreciate you being really straight forward and kind about this. I was trying to simplify the issue by breaking it down into bite sized bits and I didn’t mean to confuse you. (I also wrote that comment after being awake for far too long.)

      But it seems like you are really confusing Becky saying that there are two sides to the story with Becky saying that Paul and are evil and participating in something evil.

      I can’t speak for Becky’s view of this war, but I can say for sure that Becky loves and is proud of both Paul and me.

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