The Myth of the Just War

The Myth of the Just War 

The notion that war can be just is almost entirely utopian. The arguments used to justify wars seem morally sound in a vacuum, but when put into practice, the justifications fall apart. Justifying war becomes a slippery slope, especially when considering that those whom are most capable of waging war can do so asymmetrically. The rules for the use of force (aka rules of engagement) and the Geneva Conventions have been enacted (and modified with alarming exceptions) to paint war as being more humanitarian (as ironic as that may sound), and when coupled with actions sanctioned by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations, and the United States, these rules and actions are subsequently utilized as means to justify engaging in armed conflict to further the geopolitical agendas of the most powerful and corrupt institutions with which humanity has ever been burdened. War is only justified as an act of self-defense in the face of an imminent threat, but this term, “imminent,” must be further defined in light of the rampant abuse and perversion of the concept of “imminent threat” for the U.S. Empire’s Global War on Terrorism. Furthermore, due to the contemporary nature of limitless war on the idea called “terrorism,” the definitions of the terms “non-combatant/combatant” and terrorism must also be revised. 

It is imperative that a very specific definition for imminent threat be established, for this would eliminate all of the slippery slopes offered by just war theory. A threat is imminent if a foreign state or group formally declares war and expresses or proves intent to wage war on the state or people which it threatens; this would warrant self-defense. This definition can be amended by noting that it would not be morally impermissible for a third party (e.g. an ally) to come to the aid of the state or people being threatened. However, to eliminate this amendment from becoming a slippery slope, the third party can only act in defense of those facing an imminent threat, and must not wage an offensive war against the aggressor. An offensive war, though strategically sound, is never just due to the inevitable deaths of innocents.

Last, to eliminate the mildest justification of offensive war, it must be noted that even when the utmost of care is taken to ensure that no innocent lives are lost, the common people whom are subject to the will of an entity (e.g. their own government) who initiated a threat against another group, when invaded or faced with conflict by any outside force acting preventively, will inevitably find themselves engaged in warfare as an act of self-defense of an imminent threat—even if that threatening force is acting with “good intention.” This act of being thrust into armed conflict by virtue of being invaded by an otherwise benign outside force renders the outside force (acting preventively or on behalf of a weaker party) unjust in its actions.

Even the most seemingly reasonable arguments can have slippery slopes. In just war theory, it is said that a “‘preventive war’ may be justified,” (542) but this justification only works in theory. In practice, preventive wars are justified to onlookers through fear and coercion via propaganda and often through false flag events. A false flag event is an attack or false information, often state-sponsored, enacted by an entity against its self or its own people but blamed on an outside force as a justification for acting against the outside force to which the attribution for the action had been given. History is riddled with false flag events, but these are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, though the actions which had been subsequently carried out were in fact real, and often carried with them grave consequences. Preventive wars are coerced by various means, and this implies offensive war, and offensive war can never be permitted.

The second rule in just war theory states that “the war must be sanctioned by proper authority.” (542) People who have assumed positions of power are not immune to the effects of power. Lord Acton, a 19th century British politician has been attributed with saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” ergo, to have trust in “proper authority” (those with the power to unilaterally decide to wage war), is in fact an all-too-often naïve trust in corrupt authorities. Faith in the sanctions of war by a “proper authority” is blind, and is positively allegorical to trusting religious authorities in medieval and contemporary religious wars. 

Just war theory’s third rule discusses the importance of intentions in the decision to wage war. This rule, stated by Thomas Aquinas, claims that the intent must be for “the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil,” and that “it may happen that the war is declared by the legitimate authority…and yet be rendered unlawful through a wicked intention.” (543) It is affirmable that Aquinas is correct in the possibility of wicked intention, and people must be wary of this likely and grave possibility. Good intention, from a Kantian perspective, is central to the justification of war, but good intention cannot be exclusionary of the injustice of an offensive war.

The fourth rule in just war theory is easily refuted; it states that “all peaceful means of sorting out differences between adversaries should be tried first.” (543) If two neutral parties have a disagreement or claim against one another, at no point in that conflict does violence become necessary to resolve the conflict. It is only when one entity or individual uses force against another that diplomacy fails; such instances of force in person-to-person (or even group) interactions are violence, coercion, theft of property, wrongful detainment, and the imminent threat of any of these instances. Until any of the previous conditions of force are met, there is no excuse for diplomacy to fail (and even with all of these conditions having been met, war is still avoidable if diplomacy persists). The slippery slope of the failure of diplomacy used as justification to wage war is that diplomacy has quite often been willfully surrendered as a means to wage war. Even when both parties refuse to maintain diplomacy, war simply cannot be the next option.

These rebuttals to the claims of just war theorists are transferrable as moral principles to be used in the common person’s experience outside of war, and since these principles are applicable in the common experience, then they are equally applicable to just war theory (i.e., if the layman can be diplomatic, so must the diplomat; the microcosm is reflective of the macro). These principles are absolutely applicable to the common experience, and should not be disregarded when potentially facing war, however, if war does inevitably occur, there are intra-war principles which cannot be ignored.

War, unfortunately, has never been a stranger for humanity, so when facing its near-inevitability there are many misconceived notions about acceptable behavior when engaged in armed conflict which must be remedied. Under the subject of “noncombatant immunity” in an addendum to just war theory, there is a claim that “some noncombatants are almost certain to be killed or harmed in any war” and due to their unavoidability or lack of intent as being a target, these deaths are therefore “pardonable.” (543) This is perhaps the most abhorrent and easy-to-refute fallacy about just war theory. Since an offensive war can never be justified, the aggressors posing the threat can never be pardoned for causing accidental non-combatant deaths for such a thing would have to be pre-conceived as an inevitable condition of waging an offensive war. Intentions matter, but good intentions do not make a person or entity immune from suffering the consequences of their actions if their actions result in foreseen and guaranteed morally unforgivable outcomes. 

The idea of non-combatant casualties can never be considered “pardonable” due to the real-world lack of liability on the behalf of the people involved in causing the casualties. Specifically (in contemporary terms), when an explosive armament is launched at a perceived target and non-combatant casualties accrue, neither the pilot/operator (or on-the-ground forces calling in/launching the strike) nor the superiors higher in the chain of command (including the politicians far away and the voters who may have elected them) are held responsible (such an instance would be extraordinarily rare). Furthermore, such strikes are notorious for resulting in overwhelmingly high numbers of non-combatant casualties relative to the low or non-existent numbers of deaths of the perceived target(s). This has been substantiated ad nauseam in various investigative works, more recently in the work of Jeremy Scahill’s (et al) coverage of U.S. drone strikes in The Drone Papers.

The “big-picture” or collectivist/paternalistic arguments which are used to justify non-combatant deaths are the factors (amid conscious decisions to wage an offensive war) which denote the assumed liability for the repercussions of killing innocent people; it is necessary to include in this moral imperative that true non-combatants can only include those having absolutely nothing to do with war, and that combatants must also include those involved in war-time decision-making. We will re-visit this subject in detail further in the essay.

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people, and the claim that it is simply inevitable “and therefore pardonable” is morally reprehensible. The final claim on this matter which I will refute states that the prevention of such incidents are “widely regarded as the most fundamental ‘rule of war’,” but this is stated merely hyperbolically by the organizations which established the rules of war because they are fully aware that these rules are broken intentionally and extra-judicially (as in the case of the methodical assassination of members of the al-Awlaki family in Yemen, some of whom were U.S. citizens).These rules are nothing more than a court-jester in a masquerade directed toward a generally consenting and indifferent public. These rules are intended to soften the impact of the thought of sending a society’s children to war, and to limit the blowback of wartime misdeeds.

Finally, I will make a potentially controversial claim which asserts the necessity of terrorism. Terrorism is defined as “violence against non-combatants for political, religious, or ideological ends.” (544) It is crucial to understand a revised definition of “combatant,” for purposes of justifying terrorism. In warfare, it is essential that the criteria for being considered a combatant include not only those currently engaged in armed conflict (actively participating in the use of violent force at a given moment) but also those whom are in positions of power, passively engaged in combat through strategic decision-making (e.g. pertinent military officers and pertinent politicians).

Currently, the standard for when a combatant becomes a non-combatant is if he/she disarms and surrenders (if they don’t already meet certain other conditions), rendering him/her immune to further fatal persecution (though this standard is seldom abided); this definition includes all persons not actively engaged in the use of force and grants them immunity from fatal persecution, even if they had, just a moment prior, slaughtered or ordered the execution of a great number of people (though, at the point of capture, legal arbitration could take over and assume a feigned moral high ground for purposes of political optics). A revision of the definition of combatant would justify the killing of those whom would otherwise be considered non-combatants if they had committed atrocities passively via orders to subordinates. This is precisely how punishments are dealt to those whom are found guilty of having committed war crimes; terrorism, by definition, could therefore hypothetically be no different than a war crime tribunal. Since wars are waged for political, religious, and/or ideological purposes, and if terrorism occurs for the same reasons, then war and terrorism are definitively identical.

The notion that terrorism is exceptionally different from waging war must be rejected, and the exploitation of the word “terrorism” for political gain and fear-mongering must also cease. The power of terrorism as a political term must be re-allocated exclusively for when real terrorism actually occurs, for the rampant abuse of the word leads to the dilution of its meaning (as in the case of “fascist,” “nazi,” and “racist”). Additionally, the definition of combatant must include those who would be otherwise held liable for the deaths of innocent people in any reasonable capacity (this would exclude voters, for they often lack knowledge of the subject and persecuting voters would be genocidal and counter-productive). The intent of assuming liability for innocent deaths is to deter people from waging war in the first place, for if every leader feared their own persecution due to the potential deaths of innocents, then they would be more reluctant in their wartime decision-making processes and (ideally) condemn, resign from, or fight against waging war. Of course, an impeccable intelligence apparatus and numerous other methodologies is required to ensure that no wrongful death occurs, and only with such an achievement could war no longer be synonymous with terrorism, but until such a far-fetched thing is achieved, war and terrorism will remain one and the same.

I will offer a non-warfare example of decision-making, liability, and punishment as it pertains to the defense of terrorism and the revision of the definition of combatant. A parent decides to starve his children to get them to comply with the parent’s established rules one child dies of starvation, and the parent is arrested, tried, charged, and imprisoned. This is allegorical to unilaterally imposed sanctions or other actions against economically poor nations resulting in mass famine, therefore genocide. The notion that military pilots, military officers, and politicians should not be held liable for the consequences of their actions—no matter how indirect—is akin to saying that the father of the child who starved to death should not be held liable for the child’s inability to acquire sustenance.

Haig Khatchadourian “argues that acts of terrorism are always wrong because they violate basic principles of just war theory and, except in rare cases where other overriding moral principles apply, they violate their victims’ right to be treated as moral persons.” (547) Even a staunch opponent such as Khatchadourian admits that there is sometimes an exception to justifying an act of terrorism (which, as previously established, is no different than committing an act of war). Khatchadourian does not include in his remarks about terrorism the widely-accepted definition which specifically excludes the mention of “innocent people.” Khatchadourian’s remarks are based on the assumption that terrorism can only be enacted against innocents, while the definition specifically states “non-combatants.” Without a revision of the definition of non-combatant, coupled with ignorance of the definition of terrorism, Khatchadourian’s understanding rests within the widely-accepted paradigm which regards terrorism as an atrocious anomaly that exists only in the hearts of evil men.

An alternative revision to the definition of the word terrorism has been offered “that confines terrorism to nonstate actors [e.g.al Qaeda],” (548) but this definition is intended specifically to constrict the paradigm as a means to avoid the justification of terrorism by means of a revision of the definitions of terms like “combatant” and “non-combatant,” and to further justify the prolonging of the current Global War on Terrorism which has no perceivable end in sight.

To further refute the validity of the “nonstate actor” definition of terrorism, it must be noted that the U.S. government has contradicted its own policies by arming, funding, training, and providing supplies for organizations which fall under this “nonstate actor” version of being a terrorist organization. The U.S. Department of State, via plans outlined by a private think tank called The Brookings Institution, has even gone as far as removing (pg. 117) at least one organization from its list of terrorist organizations, for example, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, for geopolitical purposes against Iran. In fact, the U.S. government’s actions have gotten so far out of control that Pentagon armed fighters in Syria have fought against CIA armed fighters.

The morally deprived institutions, regarded as “proper authorities,” which most often seek to wage war have been proven, time and time again, to possess no ability to consider abiding by sound, moral principles which would enable diplomacy, peace, and prosperity. Due to the incomprehensible amount of propaganda and disinformation which inundates many societies, it is no wonder that a given public offers little resistance or dissension against the status quo. This general apathy and docility can only be remedied by a benign re-education campaign via a simple revision of an understanding of what constitutes a truly just war. It is not only the author of this paper who understands that there are powerful and corrupt entities which seek the Orwellian ‘re-definining’ of words vital to the prolonging and justification of war, but there are numerous other theorists who acknowledge these patterns, which is precisely why it is crucial for the sake of saving countless lives that this incessant information-warfare be met with counter-information warfare measures, tenfold.

Literature (non-linked) Reference

Vaughn, Lewis. “Political Violence: War, Terrorism, and Torture.” Doing Ethics: Moral

Reasoning and Contemporary Issues. W.W. Norton & Company, 2016.

A Brief Insight into Anarchism

 

Note: This was first written in December of 2016. I’ve since grown as a writer/researcher and I understand that there may be flaws in this article. If anything is wrong with what you read, please email me (see the contact page).

The word ‘anarchy’ is used almost entirely derogatorily in political discussions, for example, ‘without government, it would be complete chaos! It would be total anarchy!’ The vast majority of people are naturally repulsed by the thought of complete disorder – and rightfully so; but why has ‘anarchy’ become synonymous with ‘chaos’, ‘disorder’, or my favorite, ‘no rules’? The most likely reason for this misconception is that the etymological background of the word ‘anarchy’ is lost to the majority of those who are aware of the word. Additionally, the rapid parroting of baseless interpretations gives the word nothing but negative connotations, particularly since the state naturally seeks self-perpetuation by maintaining the status quo, not by changing it (therefore, it is not in the state’s best interest to let positive paradigms of the word ‘anarchy’ to exist—these false paradigms are typically propagated by mass media institutions). Let’s have a look at the actual meaning of the word ‘anarchy’: An, from Greek, meaning without, and archy, or arkhos, meaning ruler(s). Any other term (contemporarily) deemed synonymous with ‘anarchy’ is utilized merely to demonize the word and, be it consciously or subconsciously by its user, to demonize the entire philosophy of anarchism.

When viewed as an ism, anarchy suddenly becomes less intimidating thanks to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Que’est-ce-que la Propriété (What is Property?), published in June of 1840. Proudhon, unbeknownst to himself around the time of publication, was possibly the first person known to have introduced this type of political philosophy against the state.  Proudhon was, however, not without opposition in his own time; Karl Marx was quick to retort with his own works on communism, at times directly attacking Proudhonian philosophy. Proudhon believed communism to be a “primitive form of association”; he also states (of communism):

The members of a community, it is true, have no private property; but the community is proprietor, and proprietor not only of goods, but also of persons and wills. In consequence of this principle of absolute property, labour, which should only be a condition imposed upon man by nature, becomes in all communities a human commandment, and therefore odious. (Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, Proudhon, A Biography, pg. 48-49)

Proudhon later was adamant to ensure that his ideals were not to be confused with those of communist ideals, and that his conception of property was more in line with how we today would view it in a Lockean sense.

Herein we can see the birth pangs of two mutually exclusive (yet enigmatically compatible in some contemporary circles) sociopolitical ideologies. The ideological rift between Proudhonian anarchism and (in part, Hegel-inspired) Marxist communism however, only widens as communism becomes self-evidently detrimental to the human condition as with and henceforth, for example, the rise of Bolshevism in the early 20th century (the rise and ideological foundation of which, ironically, was not too dissimilar from the occupy movement) and the subsequent deaths of over 100 million people between all communist regimes.

During the early years of the Bolshevik takeover when private property in the USSR was being seized and redistributed by the state, it had been decreed, “a household of one to five people had a right to own one work-horse and a foal (young horse)” and, to exemplify the extent to which a given state will not denounce its own practices, the text referenced was published in 1966 by the USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of History in Moscow –nearly 40 years after the Bolshevik takeover. The text proudly continued to explain the history of the aforementioned forceful seizure and redistribution of private property as such: “Thus the victory of the October Revolution ended once and for all the system of landed proprietorship, a shameful relic of the Middle Ages, and at the same time it rescued the peasantry from exploitation by landowners.” [emphasis added] (Chebayevsky, F.V., History of the October Revolution, pg. 310-311)  We can see clearly here in this state-published history book that statists view individual liberty and private property as being antitheses to their statist theses, thus, in coincidence with Hegelian dialectic, the statist syntheses will always conclude with force, coercion, and collectivism all in the name of a falsely romanticized stated objective (that objective being the feigned proletarian uprising resulting in forced wealth redistribution vis-à-vis, ironically, the unsustainability of oligarchy – oligarchy, paradoxically, being the very basis of Bolshevism).

Post USSR, Hegelian dialectic as it pertains to the perpetuation of statism (and of the state itself), can be observed through mass media productions in the form of problem-reaction-solution; specifically, the destruction of three separate world trade center buildings in New York City and partial destruction of the Pentagon in 2001 (thesis/problem) the continuous media event that metastasized global hysteria (antithesis/reaction), and the subsequent global war on an idea (terrorism) that follows (synthesis/solution).  The state becomes an immoral entity in this regard when its citizens become unknowingly subject to manipulation by the media.

Enter Edward Bernays, the founder of what became modern propaganda, and the American nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays’ claim to fame was his persuasion of the American public that certain products were not only acceptable, but also normal, in fact the consumer that does not partake in the consumption of said product would be the odd one, and fear of social ostracizing is always an underlying threat with the consumer. Bernays was so incredibly effective at marketing, advertising, and public relations that the U.S. government made use of his abilities to persuade the American public that the U.S. needed to enter World War I. Bernays himself begins his book Propaganda with, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” (Bernays, Edward, Propaganda, pg. 1) The moral dilemma with propaganda is not that people are persuaded to believe one thing or another, it’s that the state and its outlets are self-declared legitimate authorities both as governors and as disseminators of truth (while neither authority can possibly be legitimate). The first question that naturally arises in the discussion of propaganda is ‘if the media is privately owned, how can the government disseminate propaganda?’ The answer to this question begins with Mussolini-era fascism (not the loosely and almost always misused ‘fascism’ that is ambiguous in meaning and rarely correct).

The fundamental definition of fascism is the collusion of private and governmental entities in order to create domestic and foreign policies that favor both types of entities. Lobbying, for example, is a nice way of saying ‘legal bribery’, and is the mechanism by which American capitalism (which is in fact fascism) is allowed to exist. Countries that claim to be ‘capitalist’ are often merely an amalgamation of socialism, capitalism, communism, and fascism, but ultimately private interests in any given society always manage to become high priority governmental interests (yet the original private interest remains hidden from the public). On Mussolini, George Seldes wrote, “The corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director.” (Seldes, George, Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism, pg. 426) Corporationism, or corporatism, is derived from the Italian corporativisimo, which is in reference to a collective good (a tenet of utilitarianism) being dominant in a hierarchy of collectivism and individualism, this of course being antithetical to Western classical liberal ideals of individual liberty. Thus, a new word for fascism had emerged, leaving the pejorative nature of the word fascism as ambiguous as the state that it may serve, and that new (and rather underused) word is ‘corporatocracy’. 

When men are given power over others, they are quick to turn a blind eye to human suffering for the sake of maximizing profit. The methods by which money, labor and resources are usurped are entirely clandestine – but also technically usurped legally, because those whom are the architects of the law are also those whom would have otherwise desired to break those laws had they not designed said laws in a fashion that best serves their interests. There must always be an actor to carry out these clandestine usurpations, for they cannot happen on their own; thus, takes the stage the economic hit man:

Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign ‘aid’ organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. (Perkins, John, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Preface, ix)

The economic hit man is just one of many complex machinations of the state and the institutions by which it is upheld. It becomes impossible for a rational person to condone state-sanctioned actions performed under auspices such as ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘preventing terrorism’, and other seemingly philanthropic and valiant reasons, when the result almost always ends in the de facto surrender of a nation’s sovereignty, the surrendering of individual liberties for the sake of greater security, and the virtual enslavement of a nation’s people for the betterment of transnational corporations and banks. In countless examples, we can see how the people of any given society suffer horribly when their government hands them over on a silver platter to overwhelmingly powerful entities. When the people no longer have control over their own destinies, the state becomes not only undesirable, but also archaic and obsolete – and outright abhorrent at best. When the people make heard their voices against the state, the state always retaliates, but let us take a look at the state conceptualized as having no borders, having no legal confines, nor owing allegiance to anything or anyone except its own architects – I give you: globalization.

In 1999 in Seattle, tens of thousands of people took to the streets with the intent of spreading a message of anti-globalization while a congregation of international corporate and governmental leaders planned the world’s future at the World Trade Organization meeting nearby. The City of Seattle naturally responded to the protests with force to protect the WTO meeting, and ultimately to maintain the state’s hegemony over the people it governed (via the squelching of free speech). The protestors viewed the day as being a success since anti-globalist messages became far more known to the public given the dramatic events that unfolded during the protests:

Since then, the movement has grown stronger and the fury has spread. Virtually every major meeting of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization is now the scene of conflict and turmoil. The death of a protestor in Genoa in 2001 was just the beginning of what may be many more casualties in the war against globalization. (Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and its Discontents, pg. 3)

However, the state emerged victorious, yet again, as it’s media apparatus ultimately controlled the narrative: ‘anarchist protestors, lawless and disrespectful to private property, caused untold millions in damage during WTO protests’. Mind you, the accusatory nature of the official narrative is purely conjectural and baseless, but successful nonetheless as propaganda.

One is naturally inclined to ask, ‘what exactly were they protesting in Seattle?’ and the answer is neither short nor simple. Here are a few examples of what was being protested: first, the Thai shrimp trade is conducted utilizing slavery (zero wages, being held and forced to work against their will), but affluent societies purchase this shrimp, and the method of acquisition goes almost entirely unnoticed. Why do the recipients of this immoral practice not boycott the product, or at a minimum stop condoning its sale and purchase? Another example: there is a stadium currently being built in Qatar for a future FIFA event, and just a couple of years into its construction, over 1,200 Indians and Nepalese have died building the stadium (keep in mind the kingdoms in the Persian Gulf import workers from impoverished nations, luring them in with false promises and glorified work contracts, but upon their arrival their contracts are nowhere to be found and a new and much less desirable contract is presented to the imported worker; the worker’s passport is then seized and held by their local-national sponsor and might be returned to them upon fulfillment of their contract.)

The powerful and affluent western states are enablers of third world slavery because it benefits them by proxy (the Persian Gulf for example produces oil and props up the world reserve currency, the U.S. dollar) and the West is automatically absolved of moral obligation to intervene in foreign affairs (only when convenient) under the guise of intervention being antithetical to maintaining good diplomatic and trade relations with foreign states. Another example: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994, resulted in massive job loss in the United States and was ultimately extremely detrimental to the Mexican economy – the repercussions of NAFTA are felt to this day. These are just a few of numerous examples of why the people in Seattle took to the streets that day in 1999.

‘Free trade’ agreements (aspects of globalization) are decided upon by governments foreign to the people caught in the middle of the agreements, and therefore ought to be deemed null and void, as the people neither voted for the ‘agreement’, nor knowingly voted for the ‘elected’ ‘representatives’ that push these agreements. More examples of agreements as it pertains to globalization is the European Union, the Euro Zone, and the Lisbon Treaty: the EU parliament votes on laws that unilaterally affect all citizens of the EU, regardless of which member of parliament belonging to whichever country voted for whichever law – so a citizen of Greece will have to comply with laws, regulations and taxes that a French parliament member voted in favor of.  All EU member states that ‘voted’ themselves into the Euro Zone forced their citizens to adopt a currency, thus granting the utmost control to an overarching, unelected governing body (the central power-house of which is located in Brussels—an infinitely complex and redundant bureaucracy).

The nature of an expansionist super-state like the former USSR, EU, or US naturally leads to societies seeking to restore their sovereignty before they are swallowed up by neo-imperialism. The United Kingdom, for example, never joined the Euro Zone, retained its own currency, and recently voted to leave the EU (this is significant particularly amid talks that are currently taking place to form an EU army, in which many British citizens would want to take no part). A final example of the undesirable results of globalism and dictated laws in the modern era is the Treaty of Lisbon. Lisbon makes the EU a supranational federal-style state, virtually dissolving national sovereignty of individual states under its dominion, and restricting individual liberties rather than liberating individuals; for example on the subject of expression, citizens may ‘hold opinions’ so long as they do not compromise public order or ruin the integrity of morals, among other vague exceptions.  On the subject of the deprivation of life, for example, one is permitted to live so long as one is not rioting or causing insurrection. Lisbon is so vaguely written (based on the European Convention on Human Rights) that the state can conveniently choose which laws to enforce, when to enforce them, and when it is acceptable to make exceptions for those laws, be it to quell civil unrest or simply to bolster its coffers on the backs of the unknowing citizen.

Although the average, unknowing citizen is disarmed both in knowledge and with proportionate arms to that of its governors, those whom actively and passively engage in civil disobedience at least possess the cerebral capacity and the gumption to arm themselves cognitively and with physical armaments.  Without these people who want to enact positive change in their society, no change would ever occur. Violence only begets more violence and one certainly cannot condone non-defensive uses of force, but we can utilize the example of revolutionary Catalonia.  Catalonia for years had achieved and maintained autonomy (statelessness) amid Spanish economic depression (thanks in large to the anarchists), but was returned to statehood by the fascist Spanish government and anything of significance that was uniquely Catalan had become outlawed – even the Catalan language itself. One significant event that lead to the loss of Catalan autonomy was when the anarchists (ironically) and the communists established a government of sorts that was divided into many factions (when unification and formation of a small government was a better option than being conquered by the fascists). The pro-government communist faction had, by Orwell’s account, essentially sold out the anarchists for fear of death by the Franco regime, so the anarchists started “distributing in huge numbers a leaflet saying: ‘Be on your guard!’ and hinting that ‘a certain Party’ (meaning the Communists) was plotting a coup d’etat.” [emphases author’s]. What happened next, as is evidential today, was the failure of the anarchists to defend themselves and retain their stateless society. This of course is a classic example of a fully functional anarchist society falling apart due to interference from government, not from internal dysfunction or disorganization. Another consideration worth noting from Orwell regarding the destabilization of a free society was when the Spanish government (as can be seen throughout the world’s history) gave an “order to surrender all private weapons, coinciding with the decision to build up a heavily-armed ‘non-political’ police-force from which trade union members were to be excluded.” (Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia, pg. 156, 222) There is however one prolific writer in the realm of philosophy who, despite her radicalism, did not agree with having an armed society, nor, for that matter, a society without the state.

Ayn Rand, a legend in her own time and even posthumously, is the founder of objectivist philosophy (objectivism, which is partially compatible with the general ethos of anarchism) and is the author of Atlas Shrugged among other revered works, actually denounced anarchism, calling it “a naïve floating abstraction”, insisting that “a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the first criminal who came along.” (Rand, Ayn, The Virtue of Selfishness, pg. 112) Rand however, does not take into account during her vague explanations of the fundamental roles of the state the fact that the state automatically becomes corrupt by virtue of it declaring itself to be the ultimate authority on all things that may be governed. Humans are the factor that cause dysfunction within the state because humans are taught to be corrupt and are taught to seek power (inadvertently or otherwise, and regardless of genetic predisposition), however even a computer program for example cannot ‘be’ the state, because as objective as a program may seem to be, ultimately a human must design the program, and even with a ‘perfect’ program, it could, like all things, become corrupted. To refute Ayn Rand’s denunciation of anarchism and naïve praise of the state we’ll go back in time about half of a millennium.

Niccolò Machiavelli proves for us, long before the contemporary proliferation of ‘democracies’, that the innate nature of a ruler is not to allow his people freedom, but to maintain control over them in part by instilling and maintaining an ever-present fear of consequences for disobedience to laws; Machiavelli also says “when a prince acquires a new state, which he adds as a province to his old one, then it is necessary to disarm the men of that state, except those who have been his adherents in acquiring it.” But more alarming than the almost-expectedness of a ruler seeking the forced disarmament of a society is the pressure put upon a ruler to not only maintain power, but to hold onto his/her own life – Machiavelli writes:

He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking. But he who reaches sovereignty by popular favour finds himself alone, and has none around him, or few, who are not prepared to obey him. (Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince, pg. 96, 188)

This excerpt explains perfectly the automatic method by which the state becomes corrupt. Regardless of the form of which the state takes (but in particular with a state that, theoretically, rules with the consent of the governed) it will default toward corruption as it favors those whom have already obtained power, for they have learned to seek more power and enjoy the benefits of having power. Power corrupts, and power generates authority, and fear is the mechanism by which the people are controlled and even by which the people are convinced that the state – that an illegitimate authority – is necessary and vital to happiness, to the preservation of life, and to the thriving of the human species (for the non-theists, or for the speciocentrics). Fear, exercised in countless ways both subtly and overtly, is not the only mechanism by which a society is controlled; another method is giving the people the illusion of choice, or making the people believe on a fundamental level that their choices are their own, and that their actions are of their own volition, or that the vote that they cast actually has an effect on the outcome.

Lysander Spooner in the mid-late 19th century discusses the futility in thinking one is free simply because one has the ‘freedom’ to cast a ballot. In summation, one is presented with two choices: to vote, or not to vote. If one votes, one is granting their consent to be governed in a fashion suitable to one’s own needs; however if one does not vote, one is sacrificing that tool which can make one’s life better – but either way one is being governed with or without consent. Either way, dominion is placed over the life of the individual regardless of what was placed on the ballot, or whether a ballot was cast at all. Choice, in this regard, is simply choosing the ever-cliché “lesser of two evils” which ultimately is using force against your friends, family and neighbors whom may have voted for the ‘other’ evil (and thus used force against you). Analogous to this, Spooner uses the example of when a man “has been forced into battle, where he must kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing.” (Spooner, Lysander, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, pg. 8) What Spooner is alluding to in this excerpt is an old concept known as the non-aggression principle – the foundation of anarchism.

The non-aggression principle can be stated in any number of ways, and has been expressed throughout history in many forms by well-known philosophers and statespersons alike such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. One could state that the non-aggression principle is simply the understanding that one cannot use force (or coercion) against another unless it is in defense of one’s self or property (or in defense of the defenseless). In other words, live and let live! Any task or duty that the state proclaims only it can carry out can in fact be privatized and performed better – without stealing money (taxation) from the people as a means to carry out said task. A good reference for how exactly this can be accomplished, in previously inconceivable detail, is a book called The Market for Liberty. The basis of this book is that a truly free market (with a real ‘invisible hand’ to guide it, not the ‘invisible hand’ of today’s market) would enable a balance to exist so that a society would function nearly flawlessly without the state (and without external governmental interference).

A stateless society would not only function better without government, but also statelessness would remove the suppression of human achievement. NASA, for example, received .5% of the U.S. federal budget, whereas “defense” received at least 20% (more than 20%; much “defense” spending cannot/will not be accounted for). One could argue that “defense” spending would ultimately benefit the preservation of NASA (the argument being that without ‘pre-emptively attacking them there so they can’t attack us here,’ NASA would be lost to some eternal and unknown and invisible (and non-existent) threat), but one could also argue that the non-aggression principle, applied, would ultimately eliminate the alleged need to defend anything (unless a real threat presents itself then it would go without saying that non-preemptive ­self-defense would be absolutely warranted). If one believes in the idea of ‘live and let live’, one is very close to being an anarchist or is in fact certainly an anarchist.

The adage is not ‘live and let live—except when your neighbor does something that you disagree with, in which case you would have the right to force or coerce them into being forbidden from doing that thing that you don’t like under threat of imprisonment in a cage against their will for many years by a self-proclaimed and illegitimate authority that you said is allowed to govern others and to govern all the people that disagree with you even if they don’t want to be governed and aren’t actually hurting anyone.’

The adage is not ‘live and let live—except for innocent people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time on the other side of the planet in a volatile place and die without ever knowing what it was that killed them; those people are not allowed to live if it is for a purported greater good that allegedly preserves my own way of life and keeps me happy and safe.’

The best known works pertinent to anarchism are numerous and enlightening (there simply is not enough space in this essay to fit all of the concepts pertinent to anarchism; we have only just begun to breach the subject); works about anarchism are refutable only with incomplete and therefore illegitimate arguments, but one does not need to read dozens of books on the subject to comprehend why anarchism is morally superior to the state, or even to understand how anarchism works. Understanding the state is in fact the most imperative task that awaits humanity. The state is complex, but not incomprehensible, and it has only grown more complex over millennia. Anarchism however does not grow more complex, and remains eternally a counter to the state. The state is dynamic and polymorphic and also static in its inherent aims, but anarchism is eternally static and aims only to undermine the state. For as long as the concept of the state persists and manifests itself as humans causing harm to others and to themselves (not to mention causing harm to other forms of life), the concept of anarchism will exist in memory – in knowledge – and as a response to the state. With gumption and compassion, stateless societies have been formed and can still be formed in the future, but such a shift cannot occur without inciting the proper motivations and presenting the appropriate information to the inquisitive or open-minded person or audience; the next time someone thoughtlessly says, ‘well if there is no government, there would be total anarchy!’ feel obliged to respond with, ‘yes, but only by the very definition of the word you are correct—wouldn’t it be wonderful?’

Works Cited

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph via George Woodcock, What is Property? Via Proudhon, A Biography, 2nd ed., Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1972 pg. 48-49

Chebayevsky, F.V., et al, History of the October Revolution, 1st ed., Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, Institute of History, 1966 pg. 310-311

Bernays, Edward, Propaganda, 2005 Paperback ed., Brooklyn: Ig Publishing, 2005 pg. 1

Seldes, George, Sawdust Caesar: The Untold History of Mussolini and Fascism, 1935 ed., Manhattan: Harper & Brothers, 1935 pg. 426

Perkins, John, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 1st ed., San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004 Preface, ix

Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and its Discontents, 1st ed., New York: Penguin Books, 2002 pg. 3

Orwell, George, Homage to Catalonia, 2000 ed., New York: Penguin Books, 2000 pg. 156, 222

Rand, Ayn, The Virtue of Selfishness, 1st ed., New York: Signet Books, 1964 pg. 112

Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince, iBooks ed., pg. 96, 188

Spooner, Lysander, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, Copied ed., Free Patriot Press pg. 8

Deconstructing an Elephant

*Note to the reader — This was first written in September of 2016. I’ve since refined my understanding of Derrida and have lost a once confused sense of reverence for him. Fortunately, the use of Derridian thought in this essay does not necessarily praise Derrida as the messiah who contributed largely to neo-Marxist/postmodernist thought—if anything my attitude toward Derrida in this essay is expressed as being somewhat neutral. Articles that I will publish later will exhibit my true feelings about Derrida.

Allow me to begin by stating that we will not be dissecting and analyzing the anatomy of Elephas maximus, we will simply be extracting some specific excerpts from Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” followed by the deconstruction of one of those excerpts as per Jacques Derrida’s thought. The practical (and theoretical) intent of this exercise is to break down the intended meaning of Orwell’s thesis in Elephant, and then further deconstruct just one word that Orwell chooses and, equally importantly, words that he omits, and we will finally discuss some practical application of our newfound understandings. It should be noted that it has been Orwell whom has often been credited with saying that omission is the most powerful form of lie (though evidence of Orwell having stated this seems to be scarce, and third-hand at best). Orwell’s intimate understanding of the manipulation of language (in all its forms) is quite pertinent to Derrida’s deconstructive concept of différance in his work, Of Grammatology.

The term différance is an amalgamation of the French différence and the verb différer, (“différer” meaning both “to defer” and/or “to differ”); note the a inserted where there otherwise would be an e (Cassell’s French Dictionary, 10th ed., pg. 258). The intent of the “creation” of the word and concept of différance is to subvert the hierarchy of opposing terms or concepts, particularly as it regards the speaking-writing binary opposition, wherein speaking is the traditionally preferred method of conveying thoughts due to its seemingly inherent truths simply by virtue of its presence as a spoken word. Différance, when written, succeeds in its subversion of the spoken différence in that only in writing does the word achieve its advantage (in the traditional binary opposition hierarchy) due to its altered meaning that cannot be perceived with hearing but only with sight (or with touch should the word be translated into braille, which would serve only to further subvert this hierarchy); the two words are pronounced precisely the same but are perceived differently with the eyes, thus making only one true différance (as is illustrated simply by writing and reading the word). The meaning of a word can only be described by deferring to other objects or concepts and by addressing the differences between other objects or concepts relative to the subject word, which causes what has been deemed a temporal delay (a potentially indefinite postponement) or simply, deference. In other words, language is composed entirely of differences between words and not of any "intrinsic” value for each word (for context is required to understand the value of a word); however, the temporal delay is eliminated and the hierarchy of words successfully turned around in the instance of différance, as it can only exist in written form.

Enter George Orwell: a subversive, multi-faceted man; a virtuous, humble and ambitious man that was graceful enough to warn all who might read his messages of what a “dystopic” society might be like through works of autobiography and of politically allegorical fiction, be it via the anthropomorphizing of rebellious farm animals turned tyrants/slaves, or the persecution of a man’s very own thoughts that he cannot be allowed to think according to the laws of his society. Orwell himself emphasized in some of his works the importance of having an intimate familiarity with language in order to subvert attempts of others at manipulating language for nefarious purposes. For example, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is a prime example from Orwell’s Animal Farm (Orwell pg. 51-52) of the manipulation of words in order to fulfill a socio-political agenda. The word “dystopic”, for example, is itself a word omitted from the English lexicon; it is an untruth, an unacknowledged word that, ironically, sounds like it ought to have the antonym “utopic” (being the recognizable word that would be used to describe something as being “of utopia”). Instead we must use the word “dystopian” to describe something as being “of dystopia”. The problem (or rather the supportive argument that Derrida may have approved of) therein is the forced creation of a new word (“dystopic”) due to the lack of collective agreement that such a word exists in some official capacity (although general understanding of this particular conjured word typically suffices for purposes of conveying the meaning of the word “dystopian”). The invocation of the not-uncommonly used “dystopic” raises questions regarding the barriers of language and the limitations of human understanding of concepts that language creates: if “dystopic” is not officially a word, then can it have meaning? Dystopic is clearly (to me, and no doubt to many others) antonymous with “utopic,” so perhaps our understanding of the word “officially” needs to be clarified or altered, but who or what deems an entity or group of people to be official? From where does one derive the authority to grant authority to another? This conundrum can go on ad infinitum. This example is why contracts are so long – everything in a contract must be clearly defined. We must understand the meaning of “the,” or at least agree to the entirely subjective pre-determined meaning of “the” before we can proceed (at the whim of the provider of the contract), legally, officially, and with (or without?) authority. The convolution of the meaning of words is due to the fact that no intrinsic value can exist in any word, only collective (but not total) acknowledgement of the meaning of a word, which again can only be described by comparing the word (with some degree of context) with other words or concepts, as with the example of “dystopic”.

In the early-mid 1920s when Orwell was working in British-colonized Burma as a police officer, he had been pursuing a rampaging work-elephant to either scare it off or, as a last resort, put the elephant down (the latter of which he most certainly did not want to do, as putting down the elephant would not involve hurling insults at the elephant, but rather hurling lethal projectiles). The thesis of Orwell’s essay can be summed up in the second paragraph of his essay:

Theoretically—and secretly, of course—I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. … All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible.

Here is what Orwell’s thought process had evolved into by the end of his pursuit of the elephant:

And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedoms that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib… (Orwell, George, “Shooting an Elephant”, pg 540 & 542).

I extracted the excerpts above to outline Orwell’s duality of mind—his own problematic dichotomous thoughts—thoughts of conflicting ideology. Orwell used the word “Empire” with a capital “E”, emphasizing the proper title, and stateliness of a given empire such as that of the British. The emphasis here is critical and can only be understood through visual observation – one must deprive one’s self of the pre-disposition of the ‘reading voice’ in one’s own mind to remove or discard the capitalization of the “E” in Empire – only through the conscious suppression of what I will call “cognitive de-capitalization bias” can we see the hidden meaning of “Empire” and all that it implies. It is not uncommon, for example, to capitalize other similar monolithic abstracts such as God or the State. To capitalize the “E” in Empire is to deify or canonize the very concept of the State. To make proper the very title of the oppressor, which torments Orwell in his ideological struggle, is to grant the oppressor a reverent status that is collectively known and acknowledged, all the while regarded as tyrannical by the sparse individual. Through cognitive de-capitalization bias, one is unknowingly removing one’s self from the awareness of the idolization of the State. In other words, subconsciously—especially through spoken word (where capitalization is non-existent and merely implicit)—it is quite common to overlook the conscious emphasis placed by the orator and the writer on the composition of a word.

It is imperative that a greater emphasis be placed on the relevance of both reading and writing, particularly to collectively reduce naïve pre-conceived notions of the socio-political systems that have been in place for millennia; notions of greatness, necessity, virtue, nobility, and even divinity—notions that have served the will of the many but more importantly and more vastly (and historically as well as contemporarily) have served the will of the few.

To be utterly aware of the words and their meanings that are used throughout our lives in all forms of media is to be armed with knowledge, but this awareness is not enough—we cannot simply read or listen to words issued to us and thus understand the world that we live in—we must pay attention to what information is being omitted. Read between the words. Cognitive de-capitalization bias is one ailment that must be overcome among a sea of cognitive ailments. Words, concepts, and bits of information are deceptive in nature, for they are utilized to persuade us of something; this persuasion must be identified and deferred to its binary opposite—particularly that opposite which is omitted. When we look at the binary oppositions thematically expressed in Orwell’s 1984 (war-peace, freedom-slavery, and ignorance-strength), we can clearly understand the need to subvert these oxymoronic hierarchies, for they are antithetical to individual liberty. However, when a diametrically-opposed hierarchy is not clearly present (as in the example of “Empire”) due to its brazen omission (dependent solely on the apathy and docility of the masses), this is the moment when we must look closely at what is not being told so that we may, without fear, effectively and openly question authority in order to free ourselves from our collective physical and cognitive enslavement.

Works Cited

Girard, Denis, et al, Cassell’s French Dictionary, 10th ed., New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1981 pg. 258

Orwell, George, Animal Farm, Published 1945, http://msxnet.org/orwell/animal_farm.pdf pg. 51-52

Orwell, George, 1984, Published 1949, http://www.planetebook.com/ebooks/1984.pdf, pg. 6

Orwell, George, "Shooting an Elephant”, Literature: The Human Experience, Shorter Eleventh Edition, Richard Abcarian, et al, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012, pg 540 & 542

Axiom

We see ourselves as individuals, as non-conformists conforming with the idea of non-conformity purely for the sake of not conforming to the collective – to the conforming and non-conforming collective of individuals.

We hear about a greater good, of many greater goods, bigger than ourselves, more important than the individual, and that you, the individual, must conform with this new idea because figures of self-proclaimed authority, by various means, compelled you to conform, to join the collective, to not think for yourself, to rarely ask questions, to adopt new principles and to adapt to a new paradigm.

We speak, from within the collective, of the great Authority committing valorous and noble acts in order to preserve our way of life in accordance with the new paradigm, to conform with the new principles, for the greater good; acts which, in a vacuum, conform with what we are told is the right way.

We see the great, all-knowing Authority lying, cheating, stealing, murdering—committing genocide—and yet, neither the individual nor the collective dare stray from the path that we are told is the right way, principled, of sound moral judgment, and for the greater good.

We hear our whole lives to stand up for the weak, to believe in ourselves, to create our own future, except when the all-knowing, all-powerful and, as always, great Authority tells us it is illegal, immoral, against the will of the collective, and will result in your being ostracized, your incarceration, or your assassination.

We speak of atrocities committed in far off lands and feign love and empathy for those suffering, and for the lives lost in pointless clandestine wars and faux revolutions, for the lives lost to slavery condoned by the affluent and consumerist collective West by proxy—via “globalization”—vicariously through our vivaciously elected, loving “representatives” who villainously erode individual sovereignty, who do in fact commit, as the character V once said,  “violently vicious and voracious violation[s] of volition” (V for Vendetta 2006)— all the while feigning democratization of the Eastern slave-class.

Yet we dare not speak against the all-knowing, all-powerful, omni-present and great Authority— which loves us, very, very much. We will never see any change if we never speak the truth; if we don’t question everything and if we have no qualms with the status quo. If we hear no dissent, no doubts, no difference in debilitating data that defies the damned Authority to its detriment, then how can we even see, hear, or speak of evil?

*

The title of this work was chosen to express the duality of inherent truths; inherent truths are seemingly relative to the individual perceiving the truth, and to the entity propagating the truth. The poem itself was inspired by a westernization of the Japanese story of the Three Wise Monkeys, Mizaru, Kikazaru, and Iwazaru, correspondingly whose actions are to see, hear and speak no evil. This work has been made allegorical for the actions of the United States government, and of empire in general.

‘Neo-imperialist’ is a common word used to define the United States government, in contemporary terms, as a state which commits reprehensible acts ever since its inception as a sovereign nation (and prior to its acknowledgement as a nation), but in particular, post-World War II when it took the stage as a major (and eventually leading) world power. The reference to “V” is a reference to Guy Fawkes’ affiliation with the assassination plot of King James I in 1605 (which is still recognized today in British society via a tour of the London Dungeon, and via Guy Fawkes day on the 5th of November during which effigies of Guy Fawkes are burned in public). The assassination plot over 400 years ago inspired the 2006 film V for Vendetta, which was made as a political allegory for dystopian western society.  The Wachowskis, who directed the paradigm-challenging film, The Matrix, assisted in making V for Vendetta, both of which are works of deep and serious socio-political allegory.

All controversy and accusations aside, this poem is a call to action for the free-thinking individual to seek the truth of the world that we live in, to come to an intimate understanding of the machinations of globalization, and to withdraw consent from being governed by in-quantifiably unqualified, incompetent, and corrupt politicians. This poem is intended to inspire the individual to refuse to ignore baser instincts, to incite rebellion, dissent, peace, and love.