The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A commentary

I am moved to address the following post:

""If some neo-con positions are based on pure naked self interest, then things are more frightening than I ever thought. For example, the only possible self interest based reason for a male to be rabidly anti-abortion and anti birth control is if he hopes for many more huge wars of conquest and figures we are going to need every woman to have six or so kids to provide the needed cannon fodder a couple of decades in the future."
1) I didn't say "some" positions, I said "all" positions are based on self interest.
2) I didn't say "naked" which might imply "direct".
3) Conversational language is a tricky thing, and we take for granted that a certain looseness oils the wheels of communication. I'm sure what you meant to say was not "the only possible reason" but rather "the only reason I can think of" or something of that kind.
4) Another possible reason is actual spiritual/philosophical belief that abortion is murder, that life begins at fertilization. Taken further, there are those who believe the only purpose for sex is reproduction. A person who believes either of these things might reasonably be expected to be against abortion or birth control.
5) A sociobiological theorist might, however, take the position that such religious beliefs actually relate to exactly what you said: the drive to increase population to produce larger armies and/or work forces. These needs become cultural programming, and work their way into the spiritual texts of a culture so that they are "unconscious competance." After all, the "DINK" lifestyule (dual income, no kids) can be quite fancy-free and luxurient. Makes perfect sense for an individual couple to desire it. But no self-replicating society could ever encourage it, right? I mean, that's social suicide--the society collapses in one generation.
Why do I sacrifice for my children? Self interest. I LOVE being a dad, and consider the investments I make in time and energy the soundest of my life. But there isn't necessarily DIRECT payoff.

Viewed through this lens, there are many reasons to, for instance, invade Iraq. Among them are both "positive" and "negative" reasons, depending on your frame of reference. (I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with any of these, I've just heard them in discussions by sincere, intelligent people)
1) Spreading Democracy. For its own sake. Help those people!
2) Spreading Democracy. For our sake. We are safer if they think like we do. Democracy decreases psychological dissatisfaction on the part of a populace, makes suicide bombers less likely.
3) Spread Christianity. For its own sake. Muslims are deluded by a false prophet. We should save their souls.
4) Spread Christianity. For our soul's sake. We get brownie points in heaven for bringing souls to God.
5) spread Christianity. For our security's sake. We'll be safer if the Middle East thinks more like we do.
6) Stopping terrorism. Saddam was a sponsor of terrorism, directly or indirectly. He dominated his people and stockpiled WMD's. He defied the United Nations and blocked our weapons inspectors. He was a clear and present danger.
7) Stopping terrorism--indirectly. By destroying the infrastructure of an establishm government, we sent a message to the rest of the world: if we even THINK you had anything to do with hurting us, we will kill you. Whether the rest of the world agrees with it, supports us, of whatever...we will kill you. Don't even DREAM of providing aid and succor to anyone who would hurt us. Or we will kill you.
8) Oil. Altruistic Americanism Our society runs on energy. Iraq has the second-largest reserves in the world. We need that oil to keep our country strong. Our people want it, but Americans are so nice we don't want to believe we're an empire. So we need an excuse to go take it. American's won't ask too many questions. If we don't do this, in a few years freezing Americans will ask us: "why didn't you?" I'm willing to die to provide a secure future for my children. (This is someone who would welcome an alternative energy technology)
9) Oil. Honestly greedy American. I'm in the oil business. My friends and I sell oil and oil infrastructure. If we invade Iraq, we'll make beaucoup bucks. (This, in it's purest form, is someone who would squash an alternative energy technology unless he owned a big piece of it.)
10) There are other reasons--some more positive, some hideous. But the above probably covers better than 95%
I actually think that everyone involved in the decision to invade Iraq had some combination of the above (or other) reasons--I don't think it was simple at all. Some, I think, made their decisions for what I would consider honorable, honest, positive reasons. And some for the most cynical and evil reasons imaginable. Most were somewhere in-between. But ALL were responding to self-interest, "naked" or not.

I can understand an abortion-clinic bomber. If I REALLY believed that doctors are murdering babies in there, and that the law wouldn't stop it...I might have to blow one up myself. It would be like killing Nazis to free Jews in a concentration camp, or John Brown killing white men to free blacks. Issues that deal with the nature of the human soul are hideously difficult to resolve. I don't know when life begins. I know that I'm willing to stand on the following position: by the time the fertilized tissue can survive outside the mother's body, it is, to me, "alive." I may be wrong, but that's the position I'm willing to defend. Before that point, it's the mother's business. I'm not willing to stand between a woman and her body. Too much evil has been done in the name of God, by well-meaning people who believe that THEY understand the ultimate nature of the universe better than others. I won't go there.

But I can't pretend that I don't understand people who do.

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