24 December 2012

peace on earth - perspectives

There has been appropriately despairing horror at the deaths of young children in a gun rampage at an American school. And diverse comment on it, including this moving discussion of the backdrop of greater numbers of dead by guns in America in 'lesser' events day-in day-out. That deeply personal article argues also that young American men go to war for their country motivated not least by the fact that in their private lives they are at war, as young people in America. So the fight-ability of war, the recruit-ability of large armed forces, is assisted by this sickness at home, or so it is argued.

Others, such as Glenn Greenwald, note that there is one reaction to death of young at home in America, another to deaths of children in other places in 'state-sanctioned' killings.

There is an interesting 'intellectual' nexus between on the one hand the numbing of public attitudes towards prosecution of war as the key to strategic purpose, encompassing alteration of customary international law, in effect, to sanction remote and secretly authorised killings and on the other the National Rifle Association's blaming violent games and videos (a point worth making) and the proposal for a good guy with a gun to protect every school in America.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” 
Is that national security policy or the NRA?

I go back to what I wrote in 2003 to then Australian Foreign Minister Downer:
it is in the nature of modern war that it tends, more than anything else - certainly it does not tend to ‘victory’ - to import into the righteous invading countries the problems you seek to eliminate by invading... Your assertion of effectiveness of violence in international policy drifts down to validate the use of violence by non-states in international affairs, and increasingly by individuals in national and sub-national affairs, and indeed, I suggest, in domestic life. We are dealing not just with a narrow national security issue but a large ethical dimension.
The process is self-feeding, self-perpetuating. Sustained also by the difficulty, ever, of shaking national policies from deeply worn ruts.

Also regarding contrasting of perspectives: the media howl about the anti-Christmas fatwa of an evangelical mullah at the Lakemba mosque in Sydney. More sensible Moslem voices seeing it removed swiftly.  I look forward to similar patterns of conduct when next there is an attack on Moslems (or other minorities) by people who do not share their views.

The miasma that poisons our public and private thinking in Australia is that we are living on the edge of misery and we need to keep at bay contrary thoughts, contrary people, contrary values. This fed from the top by the antagonistic nature of our politics, the constant damnation by opposition, the adoption of ways of campaigning that appeal to base instincts and the perversion of politics here as in the US and UK by the great media mogul with his domination of the press and intimidation of politicians.

Let me end the year then by noting that we still rank second after Norway on the UN Development Program's Human Development Index... Norway above us no doubt because it is an even bigger-government country than we are imaged to be by clods who want to rip down community supports and wage protections. Thank goodness we have Ross Gittins.

Also in the media this month the dreadful cyclone that hit first Samoa and then Fiji. And so much of the popular media had its focus on the fate of "Aussies" having holidays disrupted. A shame that young adults could not learn from being in a place at a time where their energies could be useful to other people, people who presumably so recently smiled at them and were their hosts; that seems far from the 'schoolie' mindset or that of the schoolie-parent.

I could grinch on. But should call a halt and simply hope that starting locally we all be more insightful, aware and compassionate in 2013.