Thinking of another article to write for this great online newspaper knowing there is a person out there watching and waiting to pounce has caused me no small amount of stress. It is certain that when I write political pieces not everyone will agree with what I might say or allude to however well constructed and researched they might be. I felt the only way to avoid controversy would be to write about Madonna and her cross or maybe the latest movies that appeal to me like Borat or Man of the Year. However, then I thought for a second and sure enough those articles would be wrought with controversy as well. There are people out there who, thanks to the immediacy of blogs and message boards, do not have to study writing to speak their mind and apparently are not afraid of how foolish they might look when they do it.
I was planning on writing something about everyone's favorite nutty dictator Kim Jong Il titled something witty like "Licensed to Il" or "It's Time to get Il" using the pop references of the great Beastie's songs as the springboard to gain attention. However, as I was doing my research on the matter reading message boards and news articles paying special attention to the comments written by the readers I noticed this incredibly macho attitude surfacing from many of the commentators. A lot of it centered on fire urinating contests about who would win in a fist fight Korea or USA. Almost none of them thought to offer their insight on how to avoid the conflict through diplomacy or any other means. I started to ask myself, was it not cool anymore to want peace in the world?
Now I know this question might sound a tad too granola for many of us, and you might be expecting me to start extolling the virtues of drum circles and certain flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. However, being myself an avid slam dancer and knowing that joy that is felt when a nice clean head shot is scored in violent video games like Counterstrike or Halo, I understand those instincts left over from the days when we used to ravage Europe with swords and axes chopping up anyone who looked funny, don't just go away with thirty minute songs about bouncing. Nevertheless, whatever happened to sublimation? Did we forget that when things go nuclear we all lose? What exactly did we learn from WWII that is being forgotten by all the people who want to go again for a third? It is almost as if when enough time goes by and the populations get large enough there is a human version of the lemming instinct that tells a bunch of grunting testosterone-laden people to charge headlong into the barrel of a fully automatic 90mm machinegun.
Human behavior is a tricky discussion and many people start getting upset when the proposition is put forth that we can predict their actions scientifically much like we can with monkeys, mice, cows or even sheep. It somehow takes away the special quality of our consciousness if Pavlov's bell works on people as well as dogs. Perhaps this is why the scientists and "smarty pants" out there spent much of their young life hanging by their underwear from fences and flagpoles. It is uncomfortable for people to be told they are only following the impulses of the reptilian when they grab a weapon and start pointing it at the closest "enemy" they can find, an enemy that may not even exist.
I want to refer you to another Google video, which shows an aspect of human behavior that is especially apropos to us Americans given our current circumstances. It is about an experiment conducted in the early sixties by a controversial behaviorist named Stanley Milgram.
The experiments took place following the Nurnberg trials and asked the questions of how seemingly average people could be capable of the vicious acts of barbarism that took place in Germany during WWII. The video is located at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6266248749244746109&q=milgram and it is extremely interesting to watch. If you have not heard of the actual experiment, it starts out simply as a means to measure learning potential through pain. The person is convinced that he is delivering an increasingly stronger electric shock to a test subject if that subject answers a complicated word association incorrectly. Little does he know the test subject is an actor, there is no electric shock delivered, and the real experiment is on how long and at what prodding it would take to encourage a person to deliver what they think is a lethal amount of electricity. The results were staggering nearly seventy percent of the people studied delivered the maximum levels of shock, what they thought was 450 volts.
Before we start to judge that seventy percent as monsters, let it be said that this is not what the results show. Rather it is that human beings are not the freethinking creatures we are led to believe. Many of us are following the orders of an authority figure, which by virtue of their positions of authority hold a special control over us that we do not even recognize. This is true about people regardless of their political orientation. Sports, classrooms, television, and yes even rock concerts have instilled in people the desire to be led whether the leader is worthy or not. During childhood, this is advantageous to an organism because our parents look out for our best interests even when we want to toddle into the lion's den as it were. With that said, we can understand a little better why the atrocities of Abu- Ghraib and others have been committed. That cute diminutive soldier seen in the photos treating the prisoners like dogs was not some sort of inhuman monster she was just like you and me. The suicide bombers and Islamic insurgents are not a different breed of human which is worthy of these atrocities they are just like you and me programmed to hate the US much as we were programmed to once hate African/Americans or communists or even Islamic fundamentalists.
What I am trying to say is please allow yourself to question authority no matter how much an outcast that might make you. Given the chance to stop the Nazi's before they even began would you? If the German people did not think that they were capable of conquering the world because their leaders told them so, do you really think they would have tried? Currently whether it is true or not the general population of the US thinks that we can whoop anyone who questions our policies. I am not going to argue that because primarily it is a servile mentality.
The belief that the US military is better than everyone else's mostly centers on our superior nuclear capabilities and it wouldn't take very many of them to end it all. In fact, though we have a highly trained and highly equipped military do we really want to see what might happen if we took on the world. Isn't it better to focus on making friends rather than making enemies? I know that might sound like hippy free love again but still, we all win when we all get along. In this case, the tie is much better than the tie that is mutually assured destruction.