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Author Topic: EP120: The Sundial Brigade  (Read 58234 times)

Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #25 on: August 27, 2007, 04:59:16 PM
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.

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swdragoon

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Reply #26 on: August 27, 2007, 06:03:41 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.

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Pink Shift

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Reply #27 on: August 27, 2007, 07:15:22 PM
Mr Tweedy,
Very well
said.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.

I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

e. e. cummings


Chodon

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Reply #28 on: August 27, 2007, 07:21:41 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.

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Mr. Tweedy

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Reply #29 on: August 27, 2007, 07:33:53 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?

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swdragoon

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Reply #30 on: August 27, 2007, 07:42:42 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.
 :'(

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Chodon

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Reply #31 on: August 27, 2007, 07:49:24 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

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


sirana

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Reply #32 on: August 27, 2007, 07:57:22 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.



sirana

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Reply #33 on: August 27, 2007, 08:06:40 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.



swdragoon

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Reply #34 on: August 27, 2007, 08:11:00 PM
all viable targets
and if it was the mo i would agree they were freedom fighters.

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sirana

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Reply #35 on: August 27, 2007, 08:15:33 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?



Chodon

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Reply #36 on: August 27, 2007, 08:15:55 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.  

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


swdragoon

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Reply #37 on: August 27, 2007, 08:18:31 PM
not buy its self
no flying an airplane into the world trade towers was though.

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ajames

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Reply #38 on: August 27, 2007, 11:12:40 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.   



bolddeceiver

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Reply #39 on: August 28, 2007, 12:20:28 AM
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.



Pink Shift

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Reply #40 on: August 28, 2007, 01:06:56 AM
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.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2007, 01:09:27 AM by Pink Shift »

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.

I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

e. e. cummings


swdragoon

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Reply #41 on: August 28, 2007, 02:45:04 AM
heroshima and nagisaki wer chosen for thear miltary value not civil...

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Opabinia

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Reply #42 on: August 28, 2007, 03:47:11 AM
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.



swdragoon

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Reply #43 on: August 28, 2007, 06:52:42 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.

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wakela

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Reply #44 on: August 28, 2007, 08:50:24 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.



tpi

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Reply #45 on: August 28, 2007, 01:06:32 PM
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.  :)


Redds

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Reply #46 on: August 28, 2007, 03:27:49 PM
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.



Redds

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Reply #47 on: August 28, 2007, 03:29:54 PM
I live in the UK so I think I just broke the law.



Chodon

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Reply #48 on: August 28, 2007, 03:59:17 PM
I live in the UK so I think I just broke the law.

Thought-criminal! :o

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


Pink Shift

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Reply #49 on: August 28, 2007, 04:10:35 PM
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.

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.

I imagine that yes is the only living thing.

e. e. cummings