Escape Artists

Escape Pod => Episode Comments => Topic started by: Bdoomed on August 23, 2007, 03:04:34 PM



Title: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Bdoomed on August 23, 2007, 03:04:34 PM
EP120: The Sundial Brigade (http://escapepod.org/2007/08/23/ep120-the-sundial-brigade/)

By James Trimarco (http://hometown.aol.com/tokapu/index.htm?f=fs).
Read by Graydancer (of The Ropecast (http://www.tagintheseam.com/)).
First appeared in Glorifying Terrorism (http://rackstrawpress.nfshost.com/), ed. Farah
Mendlesohn.
Closing song: “Think For Yourself” by George Hrab (http://www.geologicrecords.net/)

Not long after that, Antonio had an appointment with his curator, Yoshi, at the Department of Human Heritage. Antonio explained his situation in the Tyrranean language.

“So you’re unsatisfied with your role as a beggar,” Yoshi said. “That’s hardly surprising. The unemployed of the early twenty-first century were also unhappy. Your emotions are true to period, that’s all.”

“But it’s all wrong,” Antonio insisted. “I did well in school. I studied to be an engineer. If this was the real Italy, someone like me wouldn’t end up like this.”

Yoshi’s mouth curved into the sterile non-smile of a bureaucrat with no time for sympathy.


Rated R. Contains strong themes of violence and terrorism, strong language, and some sexual content.


Referenced Sites:
UK Terrorism Act 2006 (http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/ukpga_20060011_en.pdf)
Greydancer.com (http://www.graydancer.com/)
Stranger Things (http://www.strangerthings.tv/)

(http://escapepod.org/wp-images/podcast-mini4.gif)
Listen to this week’s Escape Pod! (http://escapepod.org/podpress_trac/web/237/0/EP120_TheSundialBrigade.mp3)


Title: Burning Question
Post by: Ruhlandpedia on August 23, 2007, 03:45:44 PM
As the story came to an end the burning question in my mind was, what would happen if a sub-gun was shot in subspace.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Zathras on August 23, 2007, 03:59:31 PM
Overall, I liked the story.  Hard to believe a piece of fiction such as this would be under scrutiny by a government.  You would think they would have more serious issues to worry about.   Are TV shows such as "24" going to be banned? 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 23, 2007, 06:07:51 PM
Not what I expected
 from the introduction.
The closest that it comes to
 a freedom of speech issue
 is when Elona is arrested
 or people's fear of speaking what they wish
 or the cameras being everywhere;
 but those are old news in England
The cautionary tale about
 what would happen if
 Islamic extremist take over
 overwhelms all.
We would be forced
 to live
 in strictly defined roles
Maybe the story would have been more powerful
 if the time frame was ancient Rome
 and the oppression of that era.
The question it raises is:
 Would we kill
 innocent
 people
 and the civilized world
 to be free?
Is one often ask
 and answered.
Sometimes we
 fight
 and
 sometimes we do not.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Het Irv on August 23, 2007, 07:59:39 PM
Wow.  This is now one of my favorite stories that has run on Escape Pod.  Not only does this story have a deep underling idea, but its got unfathomable technology.  Is the bomb at the end a portable wormhole? Does it matter?  This was a great story written to question a questionable point of law.

'Grats to all involved


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Leon Kensington on August 23, 2007, 11:43:21 PM
I really liked the questions that this story brought up.  Questions like:  What makes a terrorist?  When are you a terrorist and when are you a rebel?

I really liked the story and may pick up the entire anthology, I remember Cory Doctorow talking about the anthology and I remember thinking it was a great concept.

Story:  8 out of 10                                          Reading:  7 out of 10


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 24, 2007, 06:16:43 AM
I liked how this story expressed how not every terrorist/rebel knows the weight of his actions before they commit to them.  The main character (forgot his name) had no idea he was going to kill his girlfriend/the whole city when he planted the bomb.  This kind of stuff happens today. 

A guy I work with had his son blown up in Egypt (he's still recovering a couple of years later).  The guy carrying the bomb thought he was supposed to set it somewhere and walk away.  He didn't know he was getting a one-way ticket to the afterlife when his "friends" set the bomb off still on his back...

Steve's intro was the most concerning part of this whole story.  I don't agree with the recent wave of Muslim extremist terrorism, but I acknowledge the extemist's right to disagree with the status quo.  The US was founded on the principle that the second amendment is there to protect the exercising of your first amendment rights.  The UK doesn't have either.  :-\


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Brian Reilly on August 24, 2007, 10:11:32 AM
 Are TV shows such as "24" going to be banned? 

No, "24" doesn't glorify terrorism, but is all about glorifying state-sponsored torture. I think the law is fine with that.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: raygunray on August 24, 2007, 10:17:57 AM
The story takes a spin on "One man's terrorist is anothers freedom fighter." In this case, this world is forced to live in the past and not move forward.  While most terrorists of any stripe are fighting to resurface an idealized "Golden Age" which probably didn't exist. Interpolating the two views was very clever.

It also realizes that most people turn to terrorism where there is nothing left to a person. Nothing but a void.  Some people wish to fill that void with blood, just to act against the nothingness of their life.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Listener on August 24, 2007, 11:55:56 AM
I did not like this story.

It was well-written and I think the acting was pretty good (except there wasn't enough dead space between sections).  However, from the moment I heard what the story was about, I could plot out in my head what would happen.  Not the details -- the museum city idea is truly chilling and distressing -- but the general "guy doesn't want to fight the power, guy is incited to fight the power, guy fights the power, guy finds out his contact was part of the power all along" plot.

I don't know.  It's just not my thing.  It rang hollow with me, hollow and a little overdone.  Not to take away from the author or reader, but the story itself didn't work for me.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 24, 2007, 12:08:53 PM
I like this story.  I like it because I hate it.

It leaves me sad and empty, fills me with feelings of bitterness and regret at the sheer awfulness of what I just heard.  But this sadness is to a point: It illustrates the tragic stupidity of terrorism.  How anyone could construe this story as glamorizing or encouraging terrorism is beyond me: This is as anti-terrorist a piece as you could write.

I think the greatest strength of this piece is that it treats the subject with such compassion.  Antonio is not a lunatic or a fanatic.  He isn't mad with idealistic zeal.  He is a man with deep and legitimate grievances.  His pain is real and his anger is justified.  While what he finally does is wrong, it is important to see his story, the string of tragedy and injustice leading up to his final wrong choice.  This teaches us to remember that those who do evil are still human and to recognize that none of us should consider themselves "above" such acts.  Antonio could be anybody: There is no one endowed with the inherent goodness to make them immune to temptation in the midst of despair.

This piece was brilliantly written, top to bottom, but there's one part I want to comment on especially, and that is the descriptions of nudity.  I've complained about gratuitous sex in past episodes and if I laid out my moral beliefs, some of you would doubtless gasp that such extreme prudishness endures into the 21st century.  But this was good: The description of Enola's body was not neither gratuitous nor pornographic.  It let me feel what Antonio felt toward her, that mix of desire, awe and protectiveness that a woman's nakedness does (and should) inspire in her man.  I empathized, and so his motivation for violence and his anguish at the horrid end both hit me at a deeply emotional level.  Again, brilliant writing.

Along those lines, I was very impressed with the detailed and authentic portrayal of everyone and everything.  The Martians are violently oppressive while thinking themselves benevolent: So like real people.  The conversations around the dinner table vividly lay out the frustrations of the family while they give us insight into their unique personalities.  The authentic Italian details were great: You could smell.  The condom was a poignant illustration of Antonio and Enola's stifled romance.  All wonderful, all literary, all adding to the tragedy of the conclusion.

And what a tragedy!  In his sorrow and desperation, Antonio is conned into an act of violence he does not really understand, and he ends up destroying all the things he had wanted to protect.  What is this Sundial Brigade, really?  We don't really know.  Antnio doesn't really know.  The comment about terrorism being "true to period" leads me to doubt that the Sundial Brigade is anything more than just another group of exploiters.  They exploited Antonio, certainly: He would never have planted the bomb if he'd had even a glimmer of understanding about the consequences of that action or the motives of the people goading him into it.

And that, I think, is probably a reflection of terrorism in the real-world.  I always wonder what exactly, the young men (and the occasional woman) who strap bombs onto themselves and blow up strangers are hoping to accomplish.  They are surely motivated by idea about revenge, or justice, or pleasing Allah, or patriotism, or something.  But their actions accomplish nothing at all except pointless death and maiming of people who have nothing to do with them.  What have terrorist accomplished in Iraq?  Thousands of dead Iraqis... and that's it.  I don't know whether the bombers have their minds twisted from the outside–as did Antonio–or if they have convinced themselves, but they must surely believe that their ambiguous, arbitrary violence is serving some purpose, some greater good.  But they aren't.  If these people could be given a clear view of what their actions were really accomplishing, free from egoistic delusion, free from blinding hate, then I think they would be far fewer in number.

But there is never a shortage of evil men willing to exploit hopeless, frustrated people, people desperate for a way to do something, anything, just to feel some kind of empowerment.  "Strap this bomb on yourself: It will accomplish something."  Given the right circumstance, such a lie would be easy to believe.

...As is illustrated by this story.

Both thumbs way up.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Loz on August 24, 2007, 01:40:26 PM
That was a good story, I suppose the one thing the fantastically advanced Martians/Terranians can't do is mind control, so they can lock the humans in these backwards worlds but can't make them mentally believe they are of that time, a la The Matrix?It seems odd that the Terranians want humans to act 'true to period' and yet keep imposing themselves on their lives, surely it would work smoother if they didn't know they were there?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Jim on August 25, 2007, 07:53:45 AM
This story does exactly what science fiction is supposed to do, in that it holds a funhouse mirror up to our own world and shows it to us from an odd angle, making us see it in a way that can make us uncomfortable.

This is exactly the kind of story that attracts me to science fiction in the first place.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 25, 2007, 11:48:47 AM
This story does exactly what science fiction is supposed to do, in that it holds a funhouse mirror up to our own world and shows it to us from an odd angle, making us see it in a way that can make us uncomfortable.

This is exactly the kind of story that attracts me to science fiction in the first place.

Good point
 same for me.

Thank god that
 a friend
 sent me this link
 after I listened
 to the story or
 else I would
 have had the
 song in my
 head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfx8Nc6VKnI


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 26, 2007, 01:31:03 AM
   While i agree with what i believe Steve was saying at the beginning. That being we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try to is jut foolish. But as to one mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. I must call bs. While i would agree with and even assist fighting against this government at no point in time dose anybody in this story attempt to do that. Instead they strike at civilians whom have little to no say in the stasis quo. No attempt is made to combat those in power.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Ruhlandpedia on August 26, 2007, 02:57:01 AM
At no point in time dose anybody...attempt to do that.

Didn't the man in the flying lightbulb say that they were trying to make the city seem dangerous? Or, at least more dangerous than it was already with people being phased away into subspace...


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 26, 2007, 09:19:09 AM
   While i agree with what i believe Steve was saying at the beginning. That being we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try to is jut foolish. But as to one mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. I must call bs. While i would agree with and even assist fighting against this government at no point in time dose anybody in this story attempt to do that. Instead they strike at civilians whom have little to no say in the stasis quo. No attempt is made to combat those in power.

I did not hear
 Steve say
 "we can't combat terror by removing out freedoms and to try is just foolish".
I think that his comments
 did focus on the freedom of speech issue
 and
 that might have been
 the intent of the whole book.
In doing so
 he focused our attention
 on that issue for this story.
But if he said the main
 intent of this story
 is to show the oppression of Islamic extremist;
 how they force
 men
 and
 women
 into roles defined by
 their interpretation of Islamic law;
 we might be talking about that.
Maybe
 he should put those types of
 comments at the end of the story
 so that we can
 listen
 and
 think
 about the story
 without outside influences.

As you say
 the protagonist does move
 too quickly
 from a "going along to get along guy"
 to planting a bomb.
I feel a person would
 explore other avenues first;
 especially a knowledgeable person
 from the 24th century.

Of the two;
 Islamic extremist
 and
 freedom of speech issue;
 the freedom of speech issue is presented the weakest.
The aspects of the law
 that is disturbing
 is that it cast a wide net
 and
 can be applied arbitrarily.
Yet the people in the story
 know the rules;
 are warned of infractions
 and have progressive punishments.
That is not
 to say
 this is OK.

If the story presented examples
 of arbitrary interpretations of
 "time period appropriate"
 actions
 and
 punishments
 for example,
 then
 the freedom of speech issue
 would have been stronger.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 26, 2007, 11:42:20 AM
As to the anthology, if this story is indicative of the other stories I don't think the authors need worry about jack-booted policemen kicking in their doors in the wee hours of the night and taking them away.  This story doesn't come close to glorifying terrorism, directly or indirectly.  As such, it is hardly a test or challenge to this new law in the U.K.

However, as it purports to be challenging this law and defending free speech, deals with a hot topic, and has many talented authors contributing to it, I am sure the anthology will sell extremely well.  Kudos to the marketing people.  [Yes, I can be very cynical.  This cynicism does not extend to the editors/authors of the anthology, whom I have no reason to believe were involved in this project for any reason other than championing free speech.]

As to the story, I think I would have liked it more if it hadn't been so constrained by its political message.  By this I mean there were some very cool ideas that I would have liked to see developed more, rather than the political message that was developed.  But I suppose I can't complain too much, as this political message was probably the genesis of the story, and without it, the story might not have been written at all.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on August 26, 2007, 01:00:03 PM
"This story doesn't come close to glorifying terrorism, directly or indirectly."

Well, what does or does not glorify terrorism is an interesting question. For instance, the Strange Horizons reviewer didn't think the stories in the anthology glorified terrorism, including some that I felt did. He pointed out the difficulty of glorifying terrorism, since terrorism is a "mucky, dirty business" -- well, of course it is.

The goal of most of the stories in the anthology seemed to be to make terrorists understandable, and to create situations in which terrorism may or may not be the correct act. Lucy Kemnitzer's "John Brown's Body" looked at how we would view acts of terrorism by slaves in the American south (which, of course, were viewed at the time with hysterical villification, as Nat Turner's rebellion). Katherine Sparrow's piece (whose current title I have forgotten) shows terrorists whose actions save the world. I have an egg in this basket, of course -- my story, "The Debt of the Innocent," posed terrorists who murdered a few sick infants in order to save the life of many more sick infants.

Of course, any of these acts are a "mucky, dirty business." But so is almost any glorious act -- certainly any of the acts associated with the connotation of glory as something that happens in war. Slaughtering an enemy soldier is not a glorious business, even if you are defending your land. Certainly, it's not a glorious business when you've gone to the middle east to spread your religion, or traveled across the ocean to kill the thirteen-year-old boys the fuhrer has forced to take up arms in the name of the Fatherland.

Glorious things can, however, be accomplished by inglorious acts. Shooting a German soldier is not glorious; liberating Auschwitz is.

Likewise, in the stories from the anthology, to kill white slaveholders is not glorious. To protest the brutal enslavement of one's people is. I believe the stories in these anthologies have often been held to a very high standard of "glory" -- a standard much higher than that proposed by the ambiguous British law.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 26, 2007, 01:35:34 PM
Palimpsest,
What if the word
 was not
 "glorifying"
 but
 "encouraging"
 as in mean
 to fill with courage
 or
 strength
 of purpose.
Encourage suggests the
 raising of one's
 confidence
 especially by an
 external agency.

Would this
 change
 your comments?

Understanding
 the workings of terrorism
 is important
 so as to possibly to
 avoid it taking root.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: bolddeceiver on August 26, 2007, 05:32:16 PM
Like a lot of the people posting here, I was more interested in the context than the story itself.  Don't get me wrong, the story was good, but what really got me thinking is the discussion of the UK terrorism legislation.  I'm kind of surprised I hadn't heard about that provision elsewhere. I am a pretty close follower of world politics; I guess this one slipped past me.

Does anyone know if Battlestar Galactica is airing in the UK?  It would seem that Season 3 would be questionable, by the letter of the law in question.

But on the other hand, I think the lack of fines and arrests of SF authors points to an interesting phenomenon.  It is possible to take some of the most controversial subjects of the day, set it in the future or replace the players with robots or aliens, and people are very slow to directly recognize what is going on.  You see the same thing in some of the great Cold War era SF.  I guess this could be read two ways; it either means SF writers are powerless to move opinion because people are so slow to recognize current events in SF, or it could mean they are capable of stealth satire, able to subtly and subconsciously affect people's attitudes through this kind of invisible analog.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 26, 2007, 06:01:34 PM
Thank you for providing some more information on the anthology, Palimpsest - the stories you spoke of sound very interesting, and I would love to read your story!  It seems that these stories are taking a broader look at terrorism than I thought [I'm not sure I would consider killing some to save many terrorism per se, for example, but that is another discussion], and I will keep my eye out for the anthology now, which quite honestly I had no intention of doing before reading your post.

My reaction to The Sundial Brigade remains the same, and it is just that, a reaction.  But really I don't care if it challenges the law or not.  It's a bad law, and I only hope the British government does not abuse it before it is taken off the books.  If the anthology raises awareness of the law, then it has accomplished something important, indeed.

 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 02:04:37 AM
First let me apologize for seemingly putting words i mr. eEly's mouth. I is very easy to hear what you believe echoed in somebody else's words. I did not mean to speak for him.

And to Ruhlandpedia yes he dose say this but it still doesn't make a museum a valid military target. Or one for freedom fighters.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: wherethewild on August 27, 2007, 10:18:23 AM

I really, really liked this story.

EscapePod is certainly making me think about what stories I like and why, and interestingly it appears I like a bit of SF in my politics (as opposed to a little bit of politics in my SF, which is how I previously thought of it).


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 27, 2007, 10:50:09 AM
But as to one mans terrorist is another's freedom fighter. I must call bs. While i would agree with and even assist fighting against this government at no point in time dose anybody in this story attempt to do that. Instead they strike at civilians whom have little to no say in the stasis quo. No attempt is made to combat those in power.

What would the British have called Militiamen if the US lost the Revolutionary war?  George Washington would have been the 18th century version of Osama Bin Laden.  (I hope the Brits don't come get me for talking about old-school terrorism).

Terrorists or freedom fighters are defined by who won the war.  The point of any army is to cause terror in the other army (and people).  They want to scare them out of fighting, making every army "terrorist" in a sense.  That's why the Germans (and the US, and the British) bombed cities of no military value.  Does that make them terrorists?  Maybe we need a definition of terrorism.  As far as I see it it's a person or group who wants to make change through fear.  Under that defintion some politicians are terrorists (Ban guns or assault-weapon armed criminals will invade your home and kill your family!).

My two cents...I'm expecting change.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 27, 2007, 11:59:16 AM
What would the British have called Militiamen if the US lost the Revolutionary war?  George Washington would have been the 18th century version of Osama Bin Laden.  (I hope the Brits don't come get me for talking about old-school terrorism).

Terrorists or freedom fighters are defined by who won the war.

No no no.  I could not disagree with you more, and I think you're being wrong on this is dangerous.

The British called the militiamen rebels, which they were.  All rebels are not terrorists.  Terrorists use ambiguous violence, attacking indiscriminately with no regard for who they kill.  George Washington did not do that.  He didn't send agents to England to bomb London markets.  He did not target random British citizens for assassination.

Terrorism is a very specific type of violence that basically amounts to holding a population hostage.  The purpose is to cow the population into doing what you want because they fear execution.  It is debatable as the whether the bombing of a non-strategic city is terrorism.  Maybe it is.  But equating terrorism with war in a general sense is not accurate, and it is a dangerous equivocation to say that anyone who uses violence to achieve a goal is an "Osama bin Laden."  To do that is to say that all acts of violence are morally equal.

I'd say that the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters has nothing to do with who wins the war.  Freedom fighters use violence against specific targets who are essential parts of the oppressive regime and whose deaths weaken that regime in a quantifiable way.  They fight for (what they perceive to be) the good of the man on the street, to bring freedom to their people, as the name suggests.  Terrorists don't care who they kill, and their ends are selfish: They kill on the man on the street for the sake of their ideology.  These distinctions do not vanish when the terrorists win or the freedom fighters loose.

It's also interesting to note that a freedom fighter is generally trying to dethrone an oppressive minority.  In contrast, a terrorist is almost always a member of a minority group that is trying to subjugate the majority.  (Not definitive, but generally true.)  That is the case in this story, when the minority Sundial Brigade is using terrorism to cow the majority Martians, who favor museum cities.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 01:03:41 PM
what Mr. Tweedy said pretty much hit the spot. attacking innocents to effect change through fear is terrorism. to attack a strategic targets to remove a government is not.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 27, 2007, 02:15:22 PM
Mr Tweedy,
Very well
said.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 27, 2007, 02:21:41 PM
To do that is to say that all acts of violence are morally equal.
All acts of violence are immoral.  There is no way to morally blow someone up, or shoot them in the face.  It's the ends that justify the means.

I'd say that the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters has nothing to do with who wins the war.  Freedom fighters use violence against specific targets who are essential parts of the oppressive regime and whose deaths weaken that regime in a quantifiable way.  They fight for (what they perceive to be) the good of the man on the street, to bring freedom to their people, as the name suggests.  Terrorists don't care who they kill, and their ends are selfish: They kill on the man on the street for the sake of their ideology.  These distinctions do not vanish when the terrorists win or the freedom fighters loose.
I think if you ask a terrorist or a freedom fighter he would think he is bringing freedom to his people.  The targets of terrorism have changed since the 18th century, but the object has not.  They want the general populace to be so afraid they simply quit fighting.  Most British soldiers did not care about the Americas, but they would be shot by the revolutionaries (or terrorists) nonetheless.  The British soldiers used terror on the colonists at the Boston Massacre.

It's also interesting to note that a freedom fighter is generally trying to dethrone an oppressive minority.  In contrast, a terrorist is almost always a member of a minority group that is trying to subjugate the majority.  (Not definitive, but generally true.)  That is the case in this story, when the minority Sundial Brigade is using terrorism to cow the majority Martians, who favor museum cities.
I can see your case being a modern distinction when you think of the stereotypical angry, young middle eastern terrorist.  The American revolutionary war soldier was undoubtedly in the minority (at first) and was overthrowing a large regime.  The point I was trying to get across was that governments use the term "terrorist" to marginalize and dehumanize a group just like the terms "Jap", "Jerry", and "Kraut" were used in World War II to dehumanize our enemies then.  Each terrorist has a story and cause, and I'm not making a judgement on if it's right or wrong.  Personally, I believe the current wave of Middle Eastern Terrorism is abhorrent, but you need to understand the underlying reasons for a terrorist to use terror to stop them.  I think this story illustrates this point well.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 27, 2007, 02:33:53 PM
All acts of violence are immoral.  There is no way to morally blow someone up, or shoot them in the face.  It's the ends that justify the means.

I'm confused.

If you think all violence is immoral, then what's with the assault rifle and the quotes from Ben Franklin and Leonidas?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 02:42:42 PM
I fear you are in the majority. And i am deeply saddened at what that means for the future.
I think that maybe by calling our current conflict a “war on terror” has given credence to your logic. But i continue to see a grate difference between the two. And i fear that if the world continues to handle both groups the same it will be a very bloody conflict. Also i do not reference only the terrorist that spring to mind but also thoughts of Spain, Ireland ,the Philippine Islands ,and the US.
 :'(


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 27, 2007, 02:49:24 PM
All acts of violence are immoral.  There is no way to morally blow someone up, or shoot them in the face.  It's the ends that justify the means.

I'm confused.

If you think all violence is immoral, then what's with the assault rifle and the quotes from Ben Franklin and Leonidas?

I'll try to keep this short because I don't want to de-rail this thread.

Violence is immoral, but the greater good sometimes requires it.  Nobody who is a good person wants to commit violent acts (if they do they are not a good person).  However, sometimes violence is needed to protect safety, values, or liberties.

::counts coins in hand:: I think you gave me too much change, Mr. Tweedy.   ;D


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: sirana on August 27, 2007, 02:57:22 PM
to be honest, I didn't enjoy the story at all.
I was really looking forward to it, the "Glorifying Terrorism"-anthology is a truly interesting concept (and the cover is just kick-ass), but I was pretty disappointed with the story.

The characters were as cliche as they come, the dialogue was awkward and the story shied away from the really interesting questions about terrorism, imho.

Characters: the "they killed my mother, so now I want revenge" character has been done over and over again, so has the "they imprisoned my girlfriend". combining the two doesn't make it any better. Also I don't buy the transformation of Antonio from more or less upstanding citizen to terrorist in two days.
And is it really necessary to have the hero and THE GREAT EXPLAINATOR to literally ascend on a clowd, while the latter explains what it really was about?
The relationship between Antonio and his girlfriend also feels rather hollow to me, it serves only as a point to show more about the world they live in, but doesn't say much about the characters or their feelings.
Also Antonio's reaction to Ilona's death struck me as rather strange and unrealistic.
Which leads me to my next point:

Dialogue: The dialogue in the whole piece felt strange and fake to me, but especially the dialogue between Antonio and Jussuf at the end made me cringe:

I'm worried about Ilona. She's there in the prison.
- Then the gas has already got her, Tony. Don't feel bad. She would have wanted this.
No.
- Some things are worth dying for.
Like what?
- Like your humanity. You know how we need to see that.
What's that supposed to mean?
- I maybe a dissident and an exile, but I'm still a Terranian.

Who would talk that way in that situation? Jussuf may be a Terranian and so it may fit the story when he speaks strange. What is Antonio's excuse?


Issues: Maybe I'm wrong, but wouldn't the conflict of killing innocent people (or Terranians) be something that might at least cross Antonio's mind? The only thing he seems to think after he has decided to blow up the museum about is "where is the bomb from?" and "oh, i'm going to destroy some art".
Also the fact that Antonio doesn't really know how many people the bomb is going to kill, takes a lot of the moral implications out of the story. he isn't really the one who decides about the life of the innocent people, the unknown politician is.
But because we don't get anything about his thoughts on this matter the whole dilemma of killing innocent people (which imho should be at the heart of a story like this) gets mostly ignored.
Much of the setting also felt very unrealistic to me, but since realism isn't that important for the story anyways, I won't go deeper into that.

The reading also didn't do much for me, but that is a pretty minor nitpick, compared to all the other things I hated about the story.
My least favorite Escapepod story so far, especially because my expectations were pretty high.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: sirana on August 27, 2007, 03:06:40 PM
Terrorism is a very specific type of violence that basically amounts to holding a population hostage.  The purpose is to cow the population into doing what you want because they fear execution. 
(...) Freedom fighters use violence against specific targets who are essential parts of the oppressive regime and whose deaths weaken that regime in a quantifiable way. 

I would say the difference isn't as clear cut as you make it out to be.
Is the insurgent in Iraq that attacks a military convoi with a IED a terrorist or a freedom fighter?
How about the suicide bomber who drives a truckload of explosives in a police HQ?
How about the person who flies a plane into the Pentagon?

I'd say all three examples would be included in your definition of the violence freedom fighters use, but I'd find it difficult not to call them terrorism.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 03:11:00 PM
all viable targets
and if it was the mo i would agree they were freedom fighters.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: sirana on August 27, 2007, 03:15:33 PM
all viable targets
and if it was the mo i would agree they were freedom fighters.
so you'd say flying a plane into the Pentagon is not terrorism?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 27, 2007, 03:15:55 PM
I went back and re-read my posts and got confused myself, so here's my thought in a nutshell:
No terrorist is going to think he's a terrorist.  He's going to call himself a freedom fighter (just like Antonio).  He thinks he has a good good cause and what he is doing is right.  Antonio had the good fortune (or bad fortune I suppose) to see the consequences of his actions and realize how wrong they were.  


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 03:18:31 PM
not buy its self
no flying an airplane into the world trade towers was though.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 27, 2007, 06:12:40 PM
Here are some defining features of terrorism and terrorist acts as I see it.

Violent Acts committed by a relatively powerless faction against a vastly superior force.

Violent Acts committed for a general political cause rather than military strategic advantage.

Violent Acts committed against soft, civilian targets, sometimes selected for symbolic purposes and sometimes selected relatively at random.

Violent Acts that have no immediate goal other than to spread fear and weaken an opponents resolve.

Terrorism probably needs to be viewed along a continuum.  In general, the more violent an act, and the more features above that it meets, the further along it is on the continuum.  So hijacking a plane and holding the passengers hostage to negotiate release of political prisoners is very threatening and potentially lethal and meets probably 3 out of the 4 features above [there actually is an immediate goal in this kind of terrorism].  Flying a plane into the World Trade Center meets all of the above features and, well, you get the point.

Sadly, in the U.S. we are fighting a war against terrorism and haven't really bothered to define it.  But that hasn't stopped us from giving out government a lot of power and giving up our some of our rights to fight it.  Looks like we aren't alone, though.   


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: bolddeceiver on August 27, 2007, 07:20:28 PM
what Mr. Tweedy said pretty much hit the spot. attacking innocents to effect change through fear is terrorism. to attack a strategic targets to remove a government is not.

While I generally agree with this, it is important to understand that these things aren't cut-and-dried.  While your description applies to WTC or the London subway or bus bombs in the West Bank, it could just as easily apply to Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  It's not just rogue independents who use terror and attacks against civilian populations as a tool of political action.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 27, 2007, 08:06:56 PM
what Mr. Tweedy said pretty much hit the spot. attacking innocents to effect change through fear is terrorism. to attack a strategic targets to remove a government is not.

While I generally agree with this, it is important to understand that these things aren't cut-and-dried.  While your description applies to WTC or the London subway or bus bombs in the West Bank, it could just as easily apply to Hiroshima or Nagasaki.  It's not just rogue independents who use terror and attacks against civilian populations as a tool of political action.

Most thing are not,
 "cut and dried"
It is
 a red flag
 when they are presented that way.
It would be difficult
 to apply what was said
 to Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Japan and the USA
 were two governments
 of established countries.
In WWII and throughout
 most of history civilian cities
 were caught in the crossfire of war.
The method in Japan was
 drastically different
 and new to the human race.
Not all violence is equal
 nor is all violence wrong.
It is OK to defend yourself
 or another person
 from being harmed
 by another person.
It is OK for a nation
 to defend itself
 from attack.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 27, 2007, 09:45:04 PM
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Opabinia on August 27, 2007, 10:47:11 PM
So, how are people classifying the Nat Turner rebellion, then? Or the French resistance during WWII?

Terrorism is often the recourse of oppresed populations who don't have access to a sanctioned army.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 28, 2007, 01:52:42 AM
in a word ineffective

the first is a mass murder (i would say justified)
the second was attacks on military and government targets from a gorilla uprising.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: wakela on August 28, 2007, 03:50:24 AM
Loved the story.  This is I think what science fiction should be.  Though I can't argue with any of sirana's points.

I have to admit that the Think for Yourself song was stuck in my head for the rest of the day, but I found its message kind of condescening.  The singer is telling me that I need to be more skeptical of people telling me what to think...except him.  "Everyone who doesn't think like me is a conformist sheep!  You guys should all be thinking like me!"  Everyone is a conformist, we just conform to different things.

Was V for Vendetta shown in the UK?  Is it available now?  I liked the movie, but you could very easily make the case that it glorifies terrorism.  Before you give me all the reasons why it doesn't glorify terrorism, keep in mind that whether or not it actually does is irrelevant.  A UK censor only has to think it does.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: tpi on August 28, 2007, 08:06:32 AM
As a whole, I liked the story. In the beginning had some trouble adjusting to the very low and deep voice of the reader, but after a while I got used to it.
There was one very small detail in the beginning of the story which bugged me a while.
The main protagonist goes to the butcher’s shop to buy ham and meat. He buy two kilos of ham which is quite a lot for two or three persons, especially for an apparent begger to buy. Especially when he bought (asked, borrowed, begged what ever) also kilogram of meat. I was waiting for a long time that there would be a feast or something which would explain the amount of the meat.  :)


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Redds on August 28, 2007, 10:27:49 AM
I kind of get the feeling that people are missing the point arguing about whether terrorists have to be majority or minority. Every right thinking person has to abhor violence yet what I think this story tried to outline was the path of an educated individual to committing an act of extreme undirected violence. I really disagree with Pink Shifts interpretation that this is a warning about Islamic extremism confining people in set roles, I couldn't see that anywhere.

I saw the sad fact that you can't force people to act "in period", i.e. adopt a set of values because that is what you decide for them, you can't protect free speech through blanket censorship and you can't create freedom by imprisoning people without trial. If I lived in fear of these conditions I think I would try something extreme.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Redds on August 28, 2007, 10:29:54 AM
I live in the UK so I think I just broke the law.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 28, 2007, 10:59:17 AM
I live in the UK so I think I just broke the law.

Thought-criminal! :o


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 28, 2007, 11:10:35 AM
I really disagree with Pink Shifts interpretation that this is a warning about Islamic extremism confining people in set roles, I couldn't see that anywhere.

The Martians took
 people from a 24th century setting
 and put them into forced roles
 in a theme park set 300 years in the past.
The mother had a technical position
 and son had an had advanced education in the 24th century
 but were forced
 to play the roles
 they were given in the 21st century theme park.

The Islamic extremist in Afghanistan dictated
 the behaviors of men and women;
 boys and girls.
They took a society
 from the 20th century
 to centuries earlier.
Women could not work outside the home
 and girls could not go to school.
Women had to wear
 certain clothes outside the home.
Men had to have beards of a certain length.
There were
 many other rules.
Imams roamed the street to
 enforce the laws.

The parallels are very strong.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 28, 2007, 11:17:47 AM
The parallels are very strong.

I Agree.

These parallels are present with any group that uses terror: The terrorist is always trying to impose a lifestyle that the population has no interest in living.  The "Islamofascists" of the present want to force all people to live according to their religious laws, regardless of how the people in question would choose to live or what they believe.  This is very similar to the Martians in the story, who use fear to keep the people of Earth living according to arbitrary rules, instead of living the lives they would choose for themselves.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: DKT on August 28, 2007, 11:29:53 AM
in a word ineffective

the first is a mass murder (i would say justified)
the second was attacks on military and government targets from a gorilla uprising.

The first, being the Nat Turner rebellion?  You mean mass murder, including the murder of women and children, is justified?  How, exactly?  

I think I'm more inclined to agree that there's a great blurring of the lines between freedom fighters and terrorists, especially in today's technological world where cities are bombed because they contain a military target but civilian casualties are high.  I think part of the problem is that in today's climate, the term terrorist is bandied about too easily.  

And I completely agree that often whether or not a person/group are considered terrorist is connected to whether or not they were successful.  Michael Collins (of Ireland) is now considered a hero.  Had he not been successful, I would not at all be surprised if he was dubbed a terrorist.  He may have actually been labeled a terrorist by the British at the time, I'm not sure how common the word was back then.

Terrorists do what they do because they feel they are oppressed and that they lack a comparable military to their oppressors, and so they look to alternative means of fighting.  This could be suicide bombs, guerrilla warfare, and assassinations.

In the story, Antonio certainly believes what he's doing is right, and regardless of how we define terrorism, I think we can all agree that we sympathize with why he did what he did, however misguided his actions ended up becoming.  I think what this story does best is help us try to understand why a person would do something like this and put a human face on the issue.  And that's certainly one reason why I love SF/F.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Redds on August 28, 2007, 11:31:44 AM

(Pink Shift)The parallels are very strong.(Newbie can't quote)


Ok so what you are saying is that because the Martians were forcing people to act out a life style which came from a previous era they were in some way similar to the Taliban. Everything that the Martians were forcing the Earth people to do was out of a pure consumerist drive, they were expecting the Earth people to conform to their expectations in order to provide the Martians with an experience. The Martians expected the Earth people to be grateful for the intervention in their lives after being absent for hundreds of years and used advanced technology to crush any opposition.

I do not support the Taliban or even condone their views especially about women but I did feel the Martians were closer to the Western interventionist agenda than any Islamic extremist. I think the story shows what happens if you try to subjugate a peoples way of life in order to feed another classes consumerist desires and in doing so only treat them as interchangeable pawns rather than individuals.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 28, 2007, 11:45:51 AM

(Pink Shift)The parallels are very strong.(Newbie can't quote)

Ok so what you are saying is that because the Martians were forcing people to act out a life style which came from a previous era they were in some way similar to the Taliban. Everything that the Martians were forcing the Earth people to do was out of a pure consumerist drive, they were expecting the Earth people to conform to their expectations in order to provide the Martians with an experience. The Martians expected the Earth people to be grateful for the intervention in their lives after being absent for hundreds of years and used advanced technology to crush any opposition.

Change consumerism to (Islamic extremist) religion


I do not support the Taliban or even condone their views especially about women but I did feel the Martians were closer to the Western interventionist agenda than any Islamic extremist. I think the story shows what happens if you try to subjugate a peoples way of life in order to feed another classes consumerist desires and in doing so only treat them as interchangeable pawns rather than individuals.

Change consumerism to (Islamic extremist) religion

Where
in the story
 do you find
 a focus on the economics?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 28, 2007, 12:02:13 PM
And I completely agree that often whether or not a person/group are considered terrorist is connected to whether or not they were successful.

The winners always try to vilify the losers.  I don't think we should worry about who is or is not called a terrorist in retrospect.  We should worry about what people actually do, not about how politicians spin it after the fact.

Terrorists do what they do because they feel they are oppressed and that they lack a comparable military to their oppressors, and so they look to alternative means of fighting.  This could be suicide bombs, guerrilla warfare, and assassinations.

Not necessarily.  In the present, the terrorists are almost universally the ones doing the oppressing.  The Muslim terrorists of today are trying, literally, to conquer the world.  Example: Many of the "Iraqi insurgents" are not Iraqis at all.  They are foreigners intent on conquering the Iraqi democracy and setting up a theocratic dictatorship.  Similarly, the 9/11 attackers were not trying to defend a homeland from American aggression; they were trying to conquer us and make us bow to their ideology.

I don't know about historically, but in the 21st century terrorist are not trying to free oppressed people.  They are trying to oppress free people.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: DKT on August 28, 2007, 12:14:18 PM
The winners always try to vilify the losers.  I don't think we should worry about who is or is not called a terrorist in retrospect.  We should worry about what people actually do, not about how politicians spin it after the fact.

I agree it's important to worry about people do, but I also think it's important to study history so we have a better understanding.  This should help us deal with contemporary problems, since the reasons of terrorism is often rooted in the past.

Terrorists do what they do because they feel they are oppressed and that they lack a comparable military to their oppressors, and so they look to alternative means of fighting.  This could be suicide bombs, guerrilla warfare, and assassinations.

Not necessarily.  In the present, the terrorists are almost universally the ones doing the oppressing.  The Muslim terrorists of today are trying, literally, to conquer the world.  Example: Many of the "Iraqi insurgents" are not Iraqis at all.  They are foreigners intent on conquering the Iraqi democracy and setting up a theocratic dictatorship.  Similarly, the 9/11 attackers were not trying to defend a homeland from American aggression; they were trying to conquer us and make us bow to their ideology.

I don't know about historically, but in the 21st century terrorist are not trying to free oppressed people.  They are trying to oppress free people.

I don't agree in general.  Palestinian terrorists are not oppressing Jews in Israel.  They feel like they have been oppressed and kicked out of their homeland (we can go round and round debating whether or not that's the case, but I think we can agree that's what the Palestians believe). 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Redds on August 28, 2007, 12:46:22 PM
As I understand it the Martians came back to earth and fixed the seas and the social disorder, they then basically took over and started to tell people how to live. In effect making them live in a way that they dictated but that was not based around any higher ideal merely one that provides the Martians with what they want to consume. In this case their desire is for the consumption of experiences, not even genuine but recreated from their own ideas of a past they had no part of. This is the consumerism I am talking about not economic but experiential, I don't think that matters though. The Earthlings are being forced to provide a service to the Martians which does not benefit them. They then wonder why the people are turning to "terrorism".


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 28, 2007, 02:07:00 PM
To start with if any murder is ever justified then the subjugation and ownership of ones person is the number one reason it would be.

And as much as it pains me to admit it Michale Collins was a terrorist. And defining the Irish as winners in this (ongoing conflict) is only wish full thinking.

And the Martians, to me seem to be a generalized picture of all con curing armies. Get out those history books again and look at the results of all occupied lands in all wars in world history. You will find many parallels.

In looking through my posts it may seem that i am defending the US but only be caws, i think of blurred vision. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets, but internment camps were terrorism. And there  are other examples that could be used.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 28, 2007, 03:23:12 PM
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets, but internment camps were terrorism. And there  are other examples that could be used.

I see the internment of Japanese-American citizens as an overreaction to a perceived threat, and in this way similar to the law passed in Britian.  [Yes, the threat from Japan was certainly real enough, but the threat from Japanese-Americans was certainly perceived to be much, much more dangerous than it was.  And no, I am not trying to minimize the injustice of the action or the extreme hardships it caused.] 

So if the internment was an act of terrorism, is this law an act of terrorism?  I think no on both counts, but there is enough ambiguity on what terrorism is to allow reasonable people to say otherwise, too.

Anyone else wondering if the CIA [and who knows what other government agencies] is monitoring this discussion everytime someone sends a new post?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: DKT on August 28, 2007, 03:44:15 PM
To start with if any murder is ever justified then the subjugation and ownership of ones person is the number one reason it would be.

To a very large degree, I can sympathize with Nat Turner.  However, I cannot sympathize with killing children for any reason.  Generally, I don't believe murder is justifiable.  I certainly don't believe murdering children is ever justifiable. 

And as much as it pains me to admit it Michale Collins was a terrorist. And defining the Irish as winners in this (ongoing conflict) is only wish full thinking.

Interesting.  I'm not sure I'd consider Collins a terrorist but I can easily understand why someone would, even if I don't agree.  However, your point about calling the Irish winners is well-taken.  They've certainly been dealt a pitiful hand. 

No argument at all (from me) about whether or not the Martians in the story were an occupying force in the story and the parallels that can be drawn historically (I'm not sure if that that comment was aimed for me, but I figured I'd add my opinion just to be safe). 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 28, 2007, 08:31:33 PM
Anyone else wondering if the CIA [and who knows what other government agencies] is monitoring this discussion everytime someone sends a new post?
Yeah, I was wondering that earlier today when I listened to a podcast from Science Friday about wiretapping.  The FISA act is pretty scary stuff.  It blew me away how non-US citizens can be eavesdropped upon without a warrant, but US citizens can't.  Doesn't the bill of rights say all humans have certain rights (like protection from unreasonable searches and seizures), not just Americans?  Americans lose that right if we talk to someone from a foreign country though.  It's one of those laws people are going to look back at in 50 years like we look at the internment camps. 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on August 28, 2007, 09:17:14 PM
Quote
The first, being the Nat Turner rebellion?  You mean mass murder, including the murder of women and children, is justified?  How, exactly? 


DK,

Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.

Secondly, what is it that makes the children (including infants) murdered during the Nat Turner rebellion more valuable than the children (including infants) murdered daily in the American south because of their race? Neither set of infants is complicit within the systems which have trapped them. Both are innocent victims. But if the former are murdered in liberation of the latter, why is that more of an evil than the opposite?

American southern slavery was amazingly brutal. Are people supposed to see the incredible suffering of themselves, their loved ones, and even their children WITHOUT rebelling? And what rebellion was open to them but violence?

This is the fundamental problem with claims of moral absolutism. There is no good action here. It is not good to allow your own children to be torn away from you, tortured, and eventually killed through slavery. It is not good to murder your owner's wife. There is nothing moral to be done. The Nat Turner Rebellion is a complicated, terrible thing -- and the responsibility for the evil that was done rests on the shoulders of those who put Nat Tunrer and other enslaved Africans in that position.

I really wince when I hear white people, in any situation, condemn Nat Turner because his rebellion killed infants. Yes, yes, it did. But he was fighting for infants too -- vast numbers of them.

--

I think it's important to draw a line between terrorism that is done from desperation (e.g. Nat Turner) and terrorism that is done evangelically. We see plenty of both. Osama Bin Laden is an evangelical terrorist. He is, as Tweedy says, interested in forcing other people to adhere to religious laws which they don't put faith in. Domestic Christian terrorist groups do the same.

As a Jew, I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism in Israel. It is horrible. But when Israel oppresses Palestinians, it creates a situation in which terrorism will be inevitable. People fight back for their lives, even when they have to act in self-defense against governments. Governments in turn represent people, and so civilians pay the price for governmental oppression.

I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism, but the way to get rid of it isn't to moralize about how awful it is. It's to eliminate the cause.

So, with the Nat Turner rebellion. If rich southern whites had not imported and enslaved black Africans, treating them brutally in the process, then the Nat Turner rebellion would not have happened.

To some black activists in America, Nat Turner is a hero -- not because he killed white infants, but because he was willing to defend black ones, willing to fight against the incredibly oppresive lash. The death of the white infants is still horrible. Both things have to be held in the mind simultaneously: Nat Turner is a hero; Nat Turner's actions are deeply sad.

Glory's never simple.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: bolddeceiver on August 28, 2007, 10:04:54 PM
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...

Bull.  If those were military attacks they could have hit the targets.  It is no secret at all that the point of those bombings was to kill so many people as to make the continuation of the war unthinkable.  And it worked.  But it most definitely fits most academic definitions of terrorism.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Leon Kensington on August 28, 2007, 10:14:17 PM
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...

Bull.  If those were military attacks they could have hit the targets.  It is no secret at all that the point of those bombings was to kill so many people as to make the continuation of the war unthinkable.  And it worked.  But it most definitely fits most academic definitions of terrorism.

I think that is what Dragoon ment, they were chosen as part of a military strategy.  Not for a strictly civilian target, and there is a difference.

If a war started today between the US and Russia (just to stick with the old Cold War scenario) you can be damned sure that Los Angeles and St. Petersburg would be nuked.  Why?  Because sometimes a civilian target is a military target.  The objective is not to kill civilians as it may be with a terrorist attack, but to try to show the other government "Like we give a flying frak about anything, we just want to win."


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 28, 2007, 11:34:19 PM
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.



Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on August 29, 2007, 05:16:33 AM
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.
Actually, the reason Tokyo wasn't chosen was because it was already destroyed during the firebombing raids.  Over one square mile of Tokyo was burned to the ground, killing more than the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing)

Both are an example of "Total War", which includes what I would call acts of terrorism (as I defined it before).  The goal is to make the other side decide it's not worth fighting.  Japan's ability to do anything of military value was pretty much shot by the time the nuclear bombs were dropped.  We could have parked subs all around Japan and starved them out instead of using nuclear weapons, although the nukes saved more lives in the long run (the Japanese probably would have starved before giving up).  I think they were also used to say to Russia, "Hey, look what we've got."


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 29, 2007, 08:08:34 AM
the city's of Nagasaki and Hiroshima housed most of the jappinees second army, the jappinees naval head quarters the Mitsubishi zero factories most of arisakas manufacturing arm and most of japans shipyards and dry docks. if they had been chosen to kill as many people as possible they would have been dropped on japans largest city not the hevy industry city's. what you have been told was that the point was to sap japans will to fight and it did by destroying most of japans military industrial complex.
Actually, the reason Tokyo wasn't chosen was because it was already destroyed during the firebombing raids.  Over one square mile of Tokyo was burned to the ground, killing more than the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_firebombing)

Both are an example of "Total War", which includes what I would call acts of terrorism (as I defined it before).  The goal is to make the other side decide it's not worth fighting.  Japan's ability to do anything of military value was pretty much shot by the time the nuclear bombs were dropped.  We could have parked subs all around Japan and starved them out instead of using nuclear weapons, although the nukes saved more lives in the long run (the Japanese probably would have starved before giving up).  I think they were also used to say to Russia, "Hey, look what we've got."

You might be
 interested
 in this http://www.waszak.com/japanww2.htm
Also, Japan was
 still in control of areas of Asia
 to the west of Japan
 - eastern China, Korea, and others.
Japan was in bad shape before
 the atomic bombs
 were dropped
 but they were nowhere near thinking of surrender.
It was planned that
 Russia and Britian
 would join the fight in Asia
 after the defeat of Germany.
Russia took
 control of a
 northern Japaneses island as a result.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 29, 2007, 08:23:11 AM
As I understand it the Martians came back to earth and fixed the seas and the social disorder, they then basically took over and started to tell people how to live. In effect making them live in a way that they dictated but that was not based around any higher ideal merely one that provides the Martians with what they want to consume. In this case their desire is for the consumption of experiences, not even genuine but recreated from their own ideas of a past they had no part of. This is the consumerism I am talking about not economic but experiential, I don't think that matters though. The Earthlings are being forced to provide a service to the Martians which does not benefit them. They then wonder why the people are turning to "terrorism".

The system you describe
 sounds like slavery
 which is an economic system.
The "experience" you describe
 might be described
 by others
 as very general and not specific to this story.
When one country invades another;
 or when there is a large immigration
 of a foreign culture into an established one
 the invader or foreigner attempts
 to change the country into something more familar to them.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 29, 2007, 09:17:03 AM
Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.

Thanks for pointing that out.  It always bugs the crap out of me when the AP news says "20 militants were killed, but also women and children."  Are you certain the women weren't holding guns too?  Last I checked, women posses the same number of brains and fingers as men and able to make the same choices.

And, as terrible as it, kids are sometimes pressed into taking up arms for the cowardly adults around them, in which case, they are combatants.  A "women and children were also killed" blurb glosses over these obvious facts with biased sentiment designed to inflate the sense of tragedy.

This is the fundamental problem with claims of moral absolutism. There is no good action here. It is not good to allow your own children to be torn away from you, tortured, and eventually killed through slavery. It is not good to murder your owner's wife. There is nothing moral to be done. The Nat Turner Rebellion is a complicated, terrible thing -- and the responsibility for the evil that was done rests on the shoulders of those who put Nat Tunrer and other enslaved Africans in that position.

It depends on what absolute you are claiming.  It is absolutely wrong to murder, but not all killing is murder (for instance).  My absolutism does not deny that situations can be messy and complicated, it simply claims that there is always an answer to moral questions, even if the answer is occasionally hard to figure out.  I don't claim that the answer is always easy, but I do claim that it always exists.

It is important to realize the evil is often embedded in a society (which is something I think you were getting at).  This sounds harsh (and it is), but every member of white Southern society benefitted from the exploitation of slaves, including whites who did not own slaves, including white infants, and including anybody who used Southern agricultural products.  White society at large was exploiting blacks, not just the people who were physically wielding the lashes.  I don't know enough about the Nat Turner rebellion to say what I think about his specific actions, but there are precious few "innocent" people among the exploiters in such a scenario.

To go back to the story for an example: All of the Martians were exploiting Antonio's people.  Not all of them were holding magic red guns.  Most of them weren't.  Many of them were children on field trips, but all of them were actively benefitting from and participating in the enslavement and victimization of the museum city's residents.  No Martian in the city was really innocent.

I don't agree with Palestinian terrorism, but the way to get rid of it isn't to moralize about how awful it is. It's to eliminate the cause.

I may be ignorant, but isn't it true that large segments of Palestinian society would only be appeased by the removal of every Jewish foot from Israeli soil?  That is a very aggressive demand, not one that could be met through any sort of live-and-let-live compromise.  I.e. if Palestinians view Jewish presence as the "cause," then "eliminating the cause" would mean to them the conquest and murder, subjugation or deportation of all Jews.  Obviously, the Israelis can't really bargain with people who have that as their goal.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: DKT on August 29, 2007, 10:09:36 AM
Please don't include women with children. We're adults with our own agency.


Fair enough.  I would like to say it wasn't my intention to do this, but I completely understand how it came out that way. 

Secondly, what is it that makes the children (including infants) murdered during the Nat Turner rebellion more valuable than the children (including infants) murdered daily in the American south because of their race? Neither set of infants is complicit within the systems which have trapped them. Both are innocent victims. But if the former are murdered in liberation of the latter, why is that more of an evil than the opposite?

Palimpset, where did I make a distinction and say killing children of one race was more evil than killing children of another? 

I said this: "To a very large degree, I can sympathize with Nat Turner.  However, I cannot sympathize with killing children for any reason.  Generally, I don't believe murder is justifiable.  I certainly don't believe murdering children is ever justifiable."  And I stand by it, for every child, of every race.  I never said one was more evil than the other, I only questioned Turner because he was brought up by someone else and I don't believe in punishing children for the sins of the father.  If someone wants to talk about the evils of slavery and the effects they had on children and family, I'll say the exact same thing.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: DKT on August 29, 2007, 10:19:00 AM
To go back to the story for an example: All of the Martians were exploiting Antonio's people.  Not all of them were holding magic red guns.  Most of them weren't.  Many of them were children on field trips, but all of them were actively benefitting from and participating in the enslavement and victimization of the museum city's residents.  No Martian in the city was really innocent.

Mr. Tweedy, I think you can expand on this and ask if *any* Martians are innocent while this continues, in or out of the city?  But I'm confused.  Are you saying that they're deaths are justifiable?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: SFEley on August 29, 2007, 02:47:07 PM
It depends on what absolute you are claiming.  It is absolutely wrong to murder, but not all killing is murder (for instance).  My absolutism does not deny that situations can be messy and complicated, it simply claims that there is always an answer to moral questions, even if the answer is occasionally hard to figure out.  I don't claim that the answer is always easy, but I do claim that it always exists.

You know what this makes me think about?  The problem in computer science known as the halting problem -- which in turn is related to algorithmic correctness (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correctness).  The question is, "Given a known algorithm and a known set of inputs, will the algorithm end and spit out an answer, or will it run forever?"

Mr. Tweedy, correct me if I'm wrong, but you appear to discern morality as a form of algebra.  Given a set of inputs, there is always a consistent transformation possible which returns a morally correct answer.  This algebra, while it may be non-trivial at times, is complete and computable with the resources available to us.  Some part of our minds can be treated as moral Turing machines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_machine), processing what we see in the world and telling us the moral thing to do -- which we may or may not actually do, because we have other competing incentives beyond our moral calculators.

Is this a fair characterization of your position?

If it is, and if the analogy to formal logic is fully applicable, then I have to question your faith.  Alan Turing formally proved in 1936 that there is no general answer to the halting problem.  You cannot come up with an process that will work on every algorithm and prove whether or not it will end and give you an answer;  much less prove that that answer was correct.  Sure, you can come up with trivial cases -- I could write a one-line program that will always end and return "5," and another that will always be an infinite loop -- but it is not possible to write code that can look at any code you ever give it and say "Yes, this program will always return an answer" or "There are cases in which this program will keep spinning."

This was the first of the great problems in computer science that was proven to be undecidable.  Since then many others have come to light -- usually proven undecidable because they can be reduced to a form of the halting problem.

My question for you, Mr. Tweedy, is this.  Given that formal logic -- which is rigorous, knowable, and can be communicated without ambiguity -- has problems in it which are known to be undecidable, and problems for which it is impossible to determine whether an answer is even possible...  Why do you feel that moral problems always halt?  What is your proof of this?

I will not at this time ask you to address the even bigger question, which is "Given a postulate that moral problems always return an answer, how do you prove the correctness of that answer?"  That would be a little unfair, and I'm throwing this thread too far aside already.  I'm just wondering if you can offer a convincing argument in defense of your assertion that an answer is always returned.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Jim on August 29, 2007, 03:04:45 PM
I liked the part where he punched that guy.  ;D


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 29, 2007, 03:26:58 PM
My question for you, Mr. Tweedy, is this.  Given that formal logic -- which is rigorous, knowable, and can be communicated without ambiguity -- has problems in it which are known to be undecidable, and problems for which it is impossible to determine whether an answer is even possible...  Why do you feel that moral problems always halt?  What is your proof of this?

I will not at this time ask you to address the even bigger question, which is "Given a postulate that moral problems always return an answer, how do you prove the correctness of that answer?"  That would be a little unfair, and I'm throwing this thread too far aside already.  I'm just wondering if you can offer a convincing argument in defense of your assertion that an answer is always returned.

Our divergence comes in how we define good and evil.  As I understand it, you refuse to lay down a firm definition of either, and so your answers to moral questions must always be hazy.  I define good and evil concisely as that which is in accordance with or in conflict with the will of God.  Given vague criteria, your answers are vague.  Given specific criteria, mine are specific.

Since I do not know the will of God in full, there may remain questions that I cannot definitively answer.  Once in a blue moon I do stumble upon a moral situation that strikes me as gray.  But that does not mean that the question does not have an answer, merely that I, personally, am not able to discover it at this time.  I can't do calculus; that doesn't mean calculus can't be done.

There may also be times when I get the answer wrong and have to apologize later.

I'm not sure I understand your computer analogy, so I won't address it specifically.  I'm not sure I would refer to my moral system as algebraic.  I think pattern recognition might be a better metaphor.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: SFEley on August 29, 2007, 03:44:29 PM
Our divergence comes in how we define good and evil.  As I understand it, you refuse to lay down a firm definition of either, and so your answers to moral questions must always be hazy.

Actually, I never said that.  I haven't given an opinion here about my own morality.  As it happens I do have a pretty clear and specific definition of evil which works for me in most cases.  I just haven't offered it yet, and no one has asked.  I was addressing what you said.


Quote
Since I do not know the will of God in full, there may remain questions that I cannot definitively answer.  Once in a blue moon I do stumble upon a moral situation that strikes me as gray.  But that does not mean that the question does not have an answer, merely that I, personally, am not able to discover it at this time.  I can't do calculus; that doesn't mean calculus can't be done.

But in the case of actual calculus, it's been proven that there are cases in which calculus can't be done.  (Church published a very similar paper about the undecidability of problems in lambda calculus a month before Turing's paper about the halting problem.  They're basically equivalent.)

If your moral calculus equates to God's will -- is it totally inconceivable that there may be cases in which, perhaps, God sees both sides of a problem?  How do you know this isn't possible?



Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Jim on August 29, 2007, 04:17:30 PM
Must... not... enter... theological... discussion... must... resist...


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 29, 2007, 04:20:12 PM
Actually, I never said that.  I haven't given an opinion here about my own morality.  As it happens I do have a pretty clear and specific definition of evil which works for me in most cases.  I just haven't offered it yet, and no one has asked.  I was addressing what you said.

You didn't here.  It was elsewhere, a few months ago.  Or maybe I'm reading to much into what you said then...  Anyway, I am now asking, if you're interested in explaining.  (You might not be–getting further off topic–but I am interested.)

But in the case of actual calculus, it's been proven that there are cases in which calculus can't be done.  (Church published a very similar paper about the undecidability of problems in lambda calculus a month before Turing's paper about the halting problem.  They're basically equivalent.)

If your moral calculus equates to God's will -- is it totally inconceivable that there may be cases in which, perhaps, God sees both sides of a problem?  How do you know this isn't possible?

We're getting pretty far out of my depth with the analogies.  I don't know much about calculus and I haven't read anything by Church or Turing, so it's quite possible I pulled out a bad analogy without realizing it.  I meant only this: The fact I cannot do something does not prove that it cannot be done.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "both sides of a problem."

God's will is not necessarily a linear track.  God made us to be free, and at any given time there are many right options open to us (as there are many wrong options).  There are many white paths and many black, but, no, I would say there are no gray paths, as romantic as the idea might sound.

I think you're using the word "know" in terms of scientific certainty, of irrefutable proof, and in that sense I don't really know much about anything.  (Are you the real Steve Eley?  I believe you are, but I can't prove it.)  I believe that there is no gray because that would mean that God Himself couldn't decide what was good and bad, and I don't believe that God suffers from such limitations.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Leon Kensington on August 29, 2007, 06:54:01 PM
Must... not... enter... theological... discussion... must... resist...

Just give in, it's not worth the brain hemmorage.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: SFEley on August 29, 2007, 07:21:42 PM
You didn't here.  It was elsewhere, a few months ago.  Or maybe I'm reading to much into what you said then...  Anyway, I am now asking, if you're interested in explaining.  (You might not be–getting further off topic–but I am interested.)

My definition of evil is based on a line from a Terry Pratchett novel.  "Evil begins when we start treating people as things."

Has a lot to do with this story, now that I think about it.

As for the rest...  It was an idle thought, prompted by what was really a side assertion of yours.  I'm not going to push this thread any further in that direction; what we've had so far is far too interesting to divert from.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 29, 2007, 07:51:52 PM

My definition of evil is based on a line from a Terry Pratchett novel.  "Evil begins when we start treating people as things."


Reminds me of the second formulation of Kant's moral imperative, which loosely speaking states that we should never treat others as a means to an end, but as ends in themselves.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Jonathan C. Gillespie on August 29, 2007, 09:31:26 PM
I guess what strikes me as interesting is the posit that there is no gray, rather a world of black and white.  I can come up with quite a few scenarios that are very "gray" in nature, for example the afore-mentioned bombing of Nagasaki.  Truman chose either dropping the bomb, or invading a country in the process of training its school children to fight with bamboo spears.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on August 29, 2007, 10:02:59 PM
I guess what strikes me as interesting is the posit that there is no gray, rather a world of black and white.  I can come up with quite a few scenarios that are very "gray" in nature, for example the afore-mentioned bombing of Nagasaki.  Truman chose either dropping the bomb, or invading a country in the process of training its school children to fight with bamboo spears.

I don't see where the
 "black and white"
 you are referring to is.
Your example appears to
 be supporting
 the dropping of the atomic bomb.
One of the reasons  given for
 dropping the bomb
 is that the Japaneses
 would be fanatical
 in defending the main home island
 and fight to the death
 as they did on other  islands
 and the use of kamikaze attacks.
It was estimated that the USA and its allies
 would incur causalities in the hundreds of thousands (500,000,000 or more?)
 if they invaded the main island of Japan.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on August 29, 2007, 11:12:06 PM
My definition of evil is based on a line from a Terry Pratchett novel.  "Evil begins when we start treating people as things."

Has a lot to do with this story, now that I think about it.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, with the caveat that there's more to it than just that.  (You probably have more to say, but aren't for the sake of brevity, so no complaint.)

As a final aside, I think it's a very good idea to hash things out like this, because it keeps us from being too reliant on arbitrary labels.  Classifying people with terse labels does not do justice to human complexity, and it's too easy to assume that we know what someone thinks about everything based on one.  I've found here that the labels I've applied to myself often give people wrong impressions and vice versa.  Elucidation is good.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on August 30, 2007, 12:26:13 AM
Sweet Steve and terry Pratchett think I'm evil.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 30, 2007, 05:20:40 AM
I guess what strikes me as interesting is the posit that there is no gray, rather a world of black and white.  I can come up with quite a few scenarios that are very "gray" in nature [...]

Things can become gray when you attempt to calculate the outcome, and use your calculations as your moral compass.  Things stay black and white when you have moral laws or imperatives [back to Kant again] that you use to guide your actions.  The outcome is irrelevant in determining the moral action; the ends do not justify the means.

For example, Kant stated that you should never lie.  Ever.  If you do, it is immoral, period.  Doesn't matter what the situation is, or the outcome of telling the truth will be.  We aren't gods; we can't know the full implications of what we do.  Absent this knowledge, we must act according to what we know to be moral, if we are to act morally.

That is the most compelling argument I have heard for seeing the moral world in black and white, without shades of gray.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 30, 2007, 06:07:51 AM
Also, although I won't pretend to grasp the halting problem, Turing's Test, or Lambda Calculus ["Lambda" makes me think of Revenge of the Nerds, and all rational thought stops], maybe the argument above also addresses Steve's question, at least to some degree?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Jonathan C. Gillespie on August 30, 2007, 11:32:17 AM
I see your point, and I respect Kant.  The problem is, Kant was a philosopher, not a leader.  I wonder how well Kant's principles would have held up in the gray world of politics.

Let's pretend Kant was the one deciding how to force a Japanese surrender.  Someone comes to him with U.S. Casualty estimates (I've actually heard as high as three million) in one hand, the option to send over a high-altitude bomber to wipe out 50,000 civilians in the other.  What would Kant decide was the black or white option? Would he even act, having been floored by something so outside the sheltered world of moral theory?

Or, since Kant sees everything in black and white, what would his response have been after the attack on Pearl Harbor?

Kant was wrong about lying.  Lying can and is acceptable when the ends do justify it.  Sound cold and immoral?  Consider this:  if the U.S. were attacked tomorrow by a powerful foreign nation -- say, Seattle was bombed -- and the populace was terrified, angry, or grieving...who do you want addressing the nation?  A politician that doesn't lie?  A guy that's going to stand up and tell you "You know what, we might not win this war.  Sorry guys, I give us about a 60/40 chance.  But we'll try hard!" or a guy that goes up and lies, saying "I know we're scared, I know we're angry.  But you know what?  We're at war now, and we're going to fight until we triumph."  I don't see anything wrong with a lie in those circumstances.  I'm not saying I'll approve of all lies, but some "white" lies are fine.

Kant strikes me as a wonderful person, as do most great moral philosophers.  But I think what they do best is tell us what we should all strive for in moral conduct, not what is necessarily feasible in the course of our lives.  Think of Artistotle's stance (I think I've got the right person in mind) on the "ideal" object:  We can't make it, as hard as we try, but we should do our best.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on August 30, 2007, 06:51:04 PM
I see your point, and I respect Kant.  The problem is, Kant was a philosopher, not a leader.  I wonder how well Kant's principles would have held up in the gray world of politics.

I have very great respect for Kant, but disagree with him also, though for different reasons.   


Let's pretend Kant was the one deciding how to force a Japanese surrender.  Someone comes to him with U.S. Casualty estimates (I've actually heard as high as three million) in one hand, the option to send over a high-altitude bomber to wipe out 50,000 civilians in the other.  What would Kant decide was the black or white option? Would he even act, having been floored by something so outside the sheltered world of moral theory?

The black and white option is not to kill.  Once you cross that line, for whatever reason, you are allowing your moral landscape to bleed grey.  Someone breaks into your house and the only way to keep them from killing you and your family is to kill them.  Take the black and white option - you're dead, you're family is dead.  But your soul is safe.  Not the easy option to take, by any means.  But if you kill the intruder, and if you justify this action by saying it was the moral thing to do under the circumstances, you have opened the door for a lot of other exceptions and grey areas.

So Kant probably wouldn't be in the position to make such a decision in the first place [about forcing the Japanese surrender], and if he somehow did find himself in that position, he wouldn't have dropped the bombs.

Now, we know what happened after we dropped the bombs.  We don't know, and can never know, what would have happened if we hadn't dropped them.  Maybe the estimates and guesses about what would have happened were right on the money, maybe they were way off.

All we know for certain is that dropping the bombs killed a lot of people.  And one could argue that that is all we need to know to determine that the people who were behind the decision and action to drop the bombs acted immorally.

It is crucial when considering any morality based upon absolutes to determine its assumptions.  If you state that it is morally imperative that you never kill, or never lie, why?  One possibility is that your morality is based upon your religion.  If you are a Christian, for example, you could take the position that God gave us free will, but he also gave us knowledge of good and evil.  Our path to salvation lies in doing good, and leaving the consequences of our actions up to God. 

I'm not saying that all absolute moralities believe that killing is always wrong, or that all absolute moralities are based upon religion, or that all Christians believe in free will, doing good, or a black and white morality.

However, I would guess that most absolute moralities have some element of faith behind them, for it would be hard enough for someone to follow such a moral code even if they believed in some sort of supernatural power or cosmic plan, but t would be virtually impossible to follow such a code if you didn't.

Kant strikes me as a wonderful person, as do most great moral philosophers.  But I think what they do best is tell us what we should all strive for in moral conduct, not what is necessarily feasible in the course of our lives.  Think of Artistotle's stance (I think I've got the right person in mind) on the "ideal" object:  We can't make it, as hard as we try, but we should do our best.

I respect Aristotle, too, and like much of what he had to say.  And his morality was certainly more amenable to the types of situations one might encounter in the real world.  But, and I admit this is somewhat of a cheap shot, Aristotle also "proved" that slavery was a moral practice. 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Josh on August 30, 2007, 08:41:15 PM
I loved this story! The storyline was original and the characters were believable, it was really interesting to see things form the other side.  Uh-oh, I think I've just been black listed  :P.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Mr. Tweedy on September 03, 2007, 05:13:06 PM
Black and white...

I think of absolutes in terms of goals and values, not of rules.  I think that's what gets a lot of people confused.  People here "absolute" and they imagine an ironclad principle like "never lie," but anyone with a bit of imagination can quickly come up with a scenario in which a rule like that will be useless.

But absolute morality does is not a synonym for legalism.  It doesn't mean lists of rules. 
The "black" or "white" of an action has far less to do with what is done than with why.  For instance, I believe in this moral principle: "People should be free."  So if I kill for the purpose of bringing freedom to oppressed people, then my killing is moral and right.  If I kill for the purpose of oppressing or of otherwise fulfilling some egoistic desire, then my killing is immoral and wrong.  "No violence" is a useless rule, and anyone who tries to practice it will quickly realize that there are many scenarios in which the best way to avoid a lot of violence in the future is to use a little in the present.  But "protect human freedom" is very useful.  It's a black and white and absolute, and it's practical.  (It also requires you to think about what you're doing.  As a rule of thumb, I'd say that any rule you can follow without thinking probably isn't worth following.  This means that part of being moral is being wise.  Folly can be a sin: You're not off the hook if you could have known what was right but didn't bother to find out.)

The terrorist attacks we see around the world are not wrong because they are terrorism.  They are wrong because they support bad values.  They take away people's freedom with the intention of imposing a lifestyle that the people have no chosen.  The attacks are intended to oppress.  It is for that reason that they are wrong and must be stopped.  Freedom is the issue.  Freedom is the black and white.  Freedom is the absolute.

When we consider whether or not something is wrong, I don't think the important question is "is this terrorism" or "is this (insert label here)."  The question is "is this making people free or making people slaves?"

The question of what constitutes terrorism can get very gray and murky (as we've seen on this thread).  But I don't think that's a moral question: Not all immoral violence is terrorism and I'm not sure terrorism is categorically immoral.  The question of what protects or destroys freedom is much easier to answer.

Terrorism is almost always perpetrated with intention of taking away freedom and imposing control.  It's anti-freedom, and so it's wrong.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on September 04, 2007, 05:17:55 AM
For instance, I believe in this moral principle: "People should be free."  So if I kill for the purpose of bringing freedom to oppressed people, then my killing is moral and right.  If I kill for the purpose of oppressing or of otherwise fulfilling some egoistic desire, then my killing is immoral and wrong. 
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this in principle, Mr. Tweedy.  The unfortunate thing is that using violence to stop people from enslaving others isn't always easy.   Sure, when it's some militant in the street pointing an RPG at someone, or an adult suicide bomber it's pretty cut and dry.  Things get hazy really quick though.  What if it's a child with the bomb?  They don't understand the consequences of their actions.  They sure aren't trying to enslave anyone, but they are furthering terrorist plots anyway.  Would it be okay to use violence against them?  What if the terrorist is merely a puppet and doesn't know the whole picture (like Antonio).  Freedom should be protected, but using violence to protect it is never as clear as it seems.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: timprov on September 07, 2007, 04:05:47 PM
This is one of those stories that stays with you for hours after listening to it and that's always a good thing. 


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 07, 2007, 04:39:33 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this in principle, Mr. Tweedy.  The unfortunate thing is that using violence to stop people from enslaving others isn't always easy.   Sure, when it's some militant in the street pointing an RPG at someone, or an adult suicide bomber it's pretty cut and dry.  Things get hazy really quick though.  What if it's a child with the bomb?  They don't understand the consequences of their actions.  They sure aren't trying to enslave anyone, but they are furthering terrorist plots anyway.  Would it be okay to use violence against them?  What if the terrorist is merely a puppet and doesn't know the whole picture (like Antonio).  Freedom should be protected, but using violence to protect it is never as clear as it seems.

Chodon,
I'm not sure
 what you are saying here
 about the child and the bomb.
If your comrades or family
 is threatened by a child with a bomb
 and you have the option to stop it with violence
 are you saying you wouldn't use it?
I can understand a moment of hesitation.
This situation is similar
 to when a police officer
 is threatened by a young person with a gun.
They might have a moment of hesitation
but the law and ethics
 would support
 the officer using violence to protect his life.

And I'm not sure how the
 "What if the terrorist is merely a puppet and doesn't know the whole picture (like Antonio)."
I don't understand how this affect how you would protect the innocent.



Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 07, 2007, 06:05:53 PM
I think of absolutes in terms of goals and values, not of rules.  I think that's what gets a lot of people confused...

The thing about rules is that they can be absolute, and therefore they can be black and white.  "Never kill another person" is such a rule, even if the likely consequences may be untenable. 

Goals and values can never achieve this level of absoluteness, of clarity.  Let's take a look at your case in point.

For instance, I believe in this moral principle: "People should be free."  So if I kill for the purpose of bringing freedom to oppressed people, then my killing is moral and right.  If I kill for the purpose of oppressing or of otherwise fulfilling some egoistic desire, then my killing is immoral and wrong.  "No violence" is a useless rule, and anyone who tries to practice it will quickly realize that there are many scenarios in which the best way to avoid a lot of violence in the future is to use a little in the present.  But "protect human freedom" is very useful.  It's a black and white and absolute, and it's practical...

Freedom is the issue.  Freedom is the black and white.  Freedom is the absolute.

Freedom is the absolute, so it is moral to kill for freedom, if need be.  Even though I will be taking away the freedom of the people I kill, absolutely.  But that is still moral because it serves the greater good, the freedom of the many.

I get it.  It is a practical moral philosophy, but it is not absolute, and it is not black and white.  Kant could have easily have said that "preserving human life is the issue, the black and white, the absolute".  He didn't because he knew that wasn't the case.  Shall I kill a few to save many?  Shall I kill a few more of my enemies, to save a few less of my friends?  Shall I kill a lot more of my enemies, to save a few of my family?  What if the few I kill are good, peaceful people, and the many I save are evil tyrants, inflicting misery upon the populace but not death?  Gray, murky, difficult to reach complete agreement in every case, therefore not a perfect moral system in Kant's view.

There are similar problems with "people should be free".  Who should be free?  Everyone? My friends, my enemies, people who rob, hurt other people, kill other people?  Killing for freedom is justified - does that mean killing the slave owner?  How about the slave owner's family?  Their neighbors?  Anyone who isn't a slave?  How many terrorists call themselves freedom fighters?  Or is it moral to kill random Americans and Israeli's as long as it might in some way lift the oppression of the Palestines?  Or are such killers immoral because they haven't done their homework and figured out that the Palestine people aren't really being oppressed?  Really?  Is it realistic and practical to look at such a conflict and think that both sides and all observers will agree upon what is moral and what is immoral?

And that doesn't even get into what mean by "freedom".

My point is not that "freedom" is a bad goal or value.  I believe it is a fine value, though not the only value.  But even if it were the only value in a moral system, it is not absolute or black and white.  Unless we have very different definitions of absolute and black and white, which may very well be the case.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Chodon on September 08, 2007, 07:33:39 AM
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this in principle, Mr. Tweedy.  The unfortunate thing is that using violence to stop people from enslaving others isn't always easy.   Sure, when it's some militant in the street pointing an RPG at someone, or an adult suicide bomber it's pretty cut and dry.  Things get hazy really quick though.  What if it's a child with the bomb?  They don't understand the consequences of their actions.  They sure aren't trying to enslave anyone, but they are furthering terrorist plots anyway.  Would it be okay to use violence against them?  What if the terrorist is merely a puppet and doesn't know the whole picture (like Antonio).  Freedom should be protected, but using violence to protect it is never as clear as it seems.

Chodon,
I'm not sure
 what you are saying here
 about the child and the bomb.
If your comrades or family
 is threatened by a child with a bomb
 and you have the option to stop it with violence
 are you saying you wouldn't use it?
I can understand a moment of hesitation.
This situation is similar
 to when a police officer
 is threatened by a young person with a gun.
They might have a moment of hesitation
but the law and ethics
 would support
 the officer using violence to protect his life.

And I'm not sure how the
 "What if the terrorist is merely a puppet and doesn't know the whole picture (like Antonio)."
I don't understand how this affect how you would protect the innocent.
It may be right and moral and legal to make the decision to kill someone to protect others, no matter if the other person is aware of the consequences of their actions or not.  That doesn't mean it's an easy and clear decision. 
Thousands of people suffer from PTSD, some from cases exactly like this.  In their minds it was not a simple decision and they can't justify their actions, so they struggle with this disorder.  What they did may have been right and saved lives, but it is a decision that carries serious weight.  They don't know if the kid or unknowing terrorist was going to turn around and give it up a second after they pulled the trigger. 
There is no way decisions like this are black and white.  From God's position they may be, but we don't see the whole plan and we don't know what would/could have happened, so every decision with consequences like killing always have a tint of gray.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 08, 2007, 12:38:33 PM
I was just thinking
 that you need to be alive
 to have these thoughts about the terrorist.
And
 that the rights of
 the innocent
 to live come first.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on September 08, 2007, 04:03:52 PM
" that the rights of
 the innocent
 to live come first."

But there are innocents on both sides.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 08, 2007, 08:14:18 PM
Innocents on both sides, and those who are not innocent, but could be redeemed.  I am reminded of what Gandalf said about Golem in the Lord of the Rings.

"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Opabinia on September 09, 2007, 12:43:03 AM
"Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment."

Excellent argument against capital punishment.

However, the real salient question here is:

If you sincerely believe that by acting, you will kill 5 innocents, BUT

potentially save the lives of 500 innocents,

then is the action of killing wrong?

And if it IS wrong, then how is it any more wrong than the action of a government killing 600,000 civilians as "collateral" damage?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on September 09, 2007, 01:06:37 AM
First you are assuming civilians are innocents. Second you wouldn't be intentionally killing Collateral damage.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 09, 2007, 05:34:43 AM
"Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment."

Excellent argument against capital punishment.

However, the real salient question here is:

If you sincerely believe that by acting, you will kill 5 innocents, BUT

potentially save the lives of 500 innocents,

then is the action of killing wrong?

And if it IS wrong, then how is it any more wrong than the action of a government killing 600,000 civilians as "collateral" damage?

Note that the quote is "Do not be too eager to deal out death" and not "therefore never deal out death".  Tolkien was not just an academic, he had been in a soldier in war, too.  He knew that killing was sometimes necessary.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 09, 2007, 05:46:21 AM
First you are assuming civilians are innocents. Second you wouldn't be intentionally killing Collateral damage.

Collateral damage could be a whole topic in and of itself, especially in a time when some governments and groups place military targets purposefully near schools and hospitals.  IMO, collateral damage is another gray area.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on September 09, 2007, 01:23:42 PM
The concept that collateral damage isn't in some way intentional is in itself fairly ludicrous. When we take military action, we know there will be collateral damage. It's part of the military action.

Also, if we aren't assuming civilians to be innocents, then there's no point in this conversation. At that point, there really is no difference between military action toward a military target and terrorist action toward a civilian target. What evidence do you have that the people in the twin towers were "innocent"? (and who's defining innocent here anyway, what is that, a religious definition?) Are Israelis "innocent"?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 09, 2007, 06:47:33 PM
The concept that collateral damage isn't in some way intentional is in itself fairly ludicrous. When we take military action, we know there will be collateral damage. It's part of the military action.

The term comes from the Vietnam
 war to describe meaning
 unintentional
 damage or incidental damage affecting
 facilities, equipment or personnel
, occurring as a result of
 military actions directed against
 targeted enemy forces or facilities.
Such damage can occur to
 friendly, neutral, and even enemy forces.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collateral_damage

Can you intentionally do the unintentional?

Also, if we aren't assuming civilians to be innocents, then there's no point in this conversation. At that point, there really is no difference between military action toward a military target and terrorist action toward a civilian target. What evidence do you have that the people in the twin towers were "innocent"? (and who's defining innocent here anyway, what is that, a religious definition?) Are Israelis "innocent"?

You can make the case
 that not all civilians are innocents.
Those civilians in support of the war effort;
 the manufacturing of the implements of war for example
 are valid targets of warfare under the Geneva Convention.
 
Al Queda might say
 that those in the Twin Towers
 are not innocents
 because they ultimately
 supported the financial oppression of the USA.
But, in reality they were more of an icon target.
So those in the towers were innocent.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: JonCayen on September 09, 2007, 07:09:17 PM
I am not going to comment on the morality of the story, since I disagree with the taking of civilian lives. I just want to say how this story affected me. Before i listened to this story, i really couldn't imagine myself a terrorist. But after listening to the world that these people lived in my mood changed. I may not be willing to take innocent lives with me, but if I were in that situation i just may be willing to die to destroy that system. When i realized this i noticed the thin line between terrorist and freedom fighter. And i think in West that we forget that it is a thin line. If the military is willing to accept "Collateral Damage" then are not freedom fighters given that same standard. Maybe wars are being fought the wrong way. This is a deeply philosophical story and I know there isn't one right answer. But it got me thinking and that is what freedom is all about. Also, i find it very scary about the limitations to freedom of speech that was introduced into the anti-terrorism bill. It is not my place to say if its right or wrong since I am not a member of the United Kingdom. However, if my family was killed in a terrorist attack in Canada, and my freedom to speak was limited in any way other than something that is national security. (Revealing military information and such) then i would be pretty pissed, and i would break that law very and challenge that in the courts as soon as I could. To me I prefer to me freedom is made real when i can say what ever the hell i want wheather is be knowledgeable, stupid, or exceedingly hateful.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 09, 2007, 07:25:23 PM
Maybe wars are being fought the wrong way.

What is the right way
 to fight a war?
Isn't that the point
 of many of the comments?


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on September 09, 2007, 08:57:44 PM
I know what the term means, thanks.

If I bomb my apartment building, with the intention of killing my husband, then that's my intended target. If I don't make sure there's anyone else in my apartment building, then it may not be my intention to kill the other people, but I will do it anyway.

We know that there will be non-military damage inflicted by our weapons. We act anyway. That damage is "unintentional" in that it's not the intent of the action, but it is also a consequence that's intentionally triggered by the initial action.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on September 09, 2007, 08:58:38 PM
"But, in reality they were more of an icon target.
So those in the towers were innocent."

So they're innocent because they're iconic?

Sorry, I don't think that follows.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on September 10, 2007, 12:44:19 AM
I echo what pink shift said and. Err having marital problems?

And i understand your aversion to military action. It just saddens me to see that your thoughts seem to echo many.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on September 10, 2007, 12:58:03 AM
i hope i can use the words of my favorite poet to get accost the deference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist as i see it.

To set the cause above renown,
To love the game beyond the prize,
To honour while you strike him down
The foe that comes with fearless eyes;
To count the life of battle good,
And dear the land that gave you birth,
And dearer yet the brotherhood
That binds the brave of all the earth.

Sir Walter Scott

good luck god speed and semper fidelis.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 10, 2007, 06:29:28 AM
My comments have gone somewhat far afield here, so I am going to bring them back to the story and wrap them up.

As to the story, I thought it was okay.  The science fiction part of the story intrigued me, but the main plot was uninspired.  I'd read other stories that gave me some insight into 'the mind of the terrorist', and this story didn't add anything to those, and seemed pretty cookie cutter in its approach.  I was glad to see JonCayen's post, though.  Just because the story didn't move me personally, doesn't mean it isn't relevant.

As to the morality of terrorism, I've spoken to what others believe, but not myself.  I believe that in order to justify taking civilian lives, there has to be no other viable option.  If one can step away from a situation and truly see it objectively, there will be precious few times when there is no other way.  But there may be times.  Unfortunately, seeing things objectively is extremely difficult for desperate people in desperate times.  As this story demonstrates, some terrorists are also victims, some are not.  If they are a victim, does it remove their moral responsibility?  No, but it puts it into context.

Thanks to everyone who gave me things to think about in this discussion, and here's to free speech!



Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 10, 2007, 07:22:10 AM
I know what the term means, thanks.

If I bomb my apartment building, with the intention of killing my husband, then that's my intended target. If I don't make sure there's anyone else in my apartment building, then it may not be my intention to kill the other people, but I will do it anyway.

We know that there will be non-military damage inflicted by our weapons. We act anyway. That damage is "unintentional" in that it's not the intent of the action, but it is also a consequence that's intentionally triggered by the initial action.

In a way
 the idea of collateral damage
 is a modern term
 that arose by modern weaponry
 that could be better targeted (smart bombs or helicopters)
 versus the dumb bombs of WWII.
With the new weapons comes new moral issues.

In WWII and the cold war
 the concern over CD
 was not considered.
Unfortunately, until there is a way
 to identify official combatants CD will be with us.



Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Pink Shift on September 10, 2007, 07:23:21 AM
"But, in reality they were more of an icon target.
So those in the towers were innocent."

So they're innocent because they're iconic?

Sorry, I don't think that follows.

The buildings were
 icons
 not
 the people.
That follows,
 yes?

My English
 is sometimes
 p
  o
   o
     r


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: swdragoon on September 10, 2007, 11:47:40 AM
oops as pink shift pointed out the pome above is actuly by Sir Henry Newbolt
and only a partial quote. the book i read it from atributes it to walter scott.(still my favorite)


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Rachel Swirsky on September 12, 2007, 05:02:05 PM
"As to the morality of terrorism, I've spoken to what others believe, but not myself.  I believe that in order to justify taking civilian lives, there has to be no other viable option.  If one can step away from a situation and truly see it objectively, there will be precious few times when there is no other way.  But there may be times. "

I hear you, Allen. (It's Allen, right?) I just think that rule should be applied to military action, too.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: ajames on September 12, 2007, 05:56:10 PM
Yes, Allen it is  :). 

As I was writing the words you quoted, I realized I was focusing on the kind of terrorism in the story, even though the discussion had grown to encompass much more than that.  I do believe with some minor tweaking it can be applied to other types of terrorism, and to other violent situations, including military action, too.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Planish on September 17, 2007, 04:34:36 AM
Oddly enough, the whole notion of "freedom fighter or terrorist" in the story was incidental to me. Granted, it (the story) is a product of Our Times, but what kind of comments would it have provoked prior to 9/11? Would they have been any different? Perhaps, unless written by Germans in the heyday of the Baader-Meinhof Group, Italians with the Brigate Rosse , or Irish during, well, most of the last century. It's like the citizenry of the USA has just "discovered" terrorism. A decade ago, the notion that the protagonist would be anything other than a freedom fighter would hardly have been mentioned, I bet.

Quote from: Oscar Wilde
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
- Lord Darlington, in Lady Windermere's Fan

As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (yes, a card-carrying one) I kept chuckling internally at every mention of the "periodness" of various activities and objects. Fortunately there are no SCA authenticity fanatics with weapons to zap offenders out of existence. If the weapons did exist, well, they just would not be "Period".
It was amusing to me that forcing a population to remain "in Period" at all times was the Terrible Thing that the Evil Overlords did to deserve rebellion against. I did not think of the Taliban (or the like) at all.

Ah... Now I remember the other thing that I was going to say. The first half of the story called to mind Jerome Bixby's It's A Good Life, more than anything else. "If you fail to continue to behave in a manner that amuses The Powers That Be, you get zapped away."

All in all though, I quite enjoyed the story. The only criticism I might have is that the weird "wind and surf" quality to the recording was distracting for at least the first half. I'm betting it was the result of some digital background noise removal filter.


Title: Re: EP120: The Sundial Brigade
Post by: Unblinking on October 08, 2010, 09:04:51 AM
I didn't care much for the story.  It had some really good ideas, particularly the "museum world" concept where everyone is forced to re-enact a time period of the past like they're nothing but props at a ride at Disneyworld.  That made me really sad to think of all the potential culture lost by the suppression of cultural growth--sort of like tourism, in a way.

But I just didn't care about any of the characters, and it was more message than story--that's no surprise, really, since it was published in an entire anthology of message stories.