Friday, May 29, 2009

Morally, Is One Innocent Life Worth More Than Another?

It's very clear that in the secular world lives have different values. Try running over a neurosurgeon and a WalMart greeter and you'll quickly learn the difference. This is to be expected...if I recall, even the Bible carries instructions on making financial restitution for the loss of a life.

But, in the moral world, where we talk in hard to gauge terms such as "justice," and "fairness," how do we value lives?

The reason I ask this question is because now, at this moment, innocent lives are being lost in Afghanistan and Pakistan...and still so, but to a lesser degree, in Iraq.

Specifically, one of our Predators (flown from Florida, or California by a pilot/technician who, after work, can go surfing) takes out a house harboring Taliban and, in the process, kills ten other people, many of whom are children.

Certainly, in such cases, our representative makes financial payments to the family of the slain innocents. This much we know.

But, is this enough? Have we made restitution?

Some would say that Pakistan is a war zone, and, as such, contains innocent people who are sometimes inadvertently killed. I can buy that argument, IF we flip the coin and address the statement I've heard that says that our war on terror knows no borders and, thus, includes our own houses. Would we send a missile into a house holding known Taliban (or other extremist groups) if innocent people were there, too? (Our most recent action of using deadly force in a situation somewhat analogous to the house in Pakistan was when we stormed the Branch Dividians in Waco, with subsequent horrendous loss of life.)

But, now, at this moment, would we bomb a house here where even the slightest prospect of taking the lives of children existed?

Then why do we do so in Pakistan?

Mind you, I'm not saying we shouldn't try to root out the Taliban, which is infamous in its treatment of those who disagree with its interpretation of Islam. I am positing, though, that we ask the question I have posed: Is the life of an innocent person in Pakistan (or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, or Mexico) worth less than the life of an innocent in U.S. of A?

We HAVE to ask this question; we HAVE to answer NO to this question; and only THEN can we find true justification for the loss of innocent lives in other places (if such justification can, indeed, be found).

Perhaps we don't ask this question for the same reason we don't ask other questions: we don't want to have to answer it with what we really feel.

Mike S.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Have Sex Tonight!

The above was the subject line in an email (spam, no doubt) I received.

I'm thinking: Stupid people! I'm a man. I don't need a REASON...all I need is a WILLING PARTNER!

Mike S.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Men Do Stupid Things

As if we all didn't know that!

I, myself, have a long list of "Stupid Things I've Done."

The earliest I can remember, and perhaps the one that could have ended all future possible idiotic acts, was sitting out behind the garage and wrapping a rope around my neck. Not that really tight, mind you. No particular reason...I was just foolin' around. (The "foolin' around" must be coded onto a certain gene in men; if you have too much of this chemical combination, Darwin's Laws will see to it that the error is corrected.)

Soon, my head began to swell and my neck tighten as the deep arteries pushed blood into my head that could not return via the closer-to-the-surface veins. (Does this remind you of how a certain kind of sex toy works?)

Well, anyway, panic ensued, and I fought to maintain control as I began quickly to unwrap the rope. The trouble was, I had used a really long rope...something like ten or more feet long...and it was taking just too damn long to get the coils off my neck.

Would I manage to take it all off before I passed out and, presumably, died?

Folks, it was close...very close. I remember passing the rope around and over my head, switching it between hands as fast as my little becoming numb fingers would go. My vision faded, each heartbeat pounded behind my beginning-to-protrude eyeballs, and my head felt as though it was going to explode.

Even as I struggled to save my stupid life, my mind was divided into the present and corporeal world (don't panic don't panic don't faster work faster work faster) and the more reflective, philosophical world (as this it? is this how I die? I hated the thought of my mother and father thinking that I had done this on purpose!)

Finally, just when the world before my eyes went red then black, I slipped the last loop off my neck and fresh air rushed into my lungs. I would have fallen to my knees, but I found that I had already done so.

The joy of living--a feeling so sweet and refreshing that, almost fifty years later, it recalls itself to me whenever I stand on a cliff or am on the edge of a thunderstorm and am washed by clean air--suffused througout every cell in my body. I was alive.

I never told this to anyone. Until now.

Mike Sledge

(Picture source unknown...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Main Problem in Establishing A Nation-State in Iraq

The main problem is evident, but not so obvious: it is the difficulty in realigning loyalties given to a gens, phratry, or clan to a new holder of authority, an entity based not on family but on location.

Media sources carried the statement that when the Al-Qaeda member Al Zarqawi was on the move, trying to elude US forces, the first question he would ask when going into a new location was (to paraphrase), "What is the tribe?"

This makes total sense, because power rested not in the hands of any provincial government, but in those of tribal leaders, sheiks. The tribes were composed of clans, which were composed of houses, which were composed of extended families.

Those of us in the United States who have difficulty grasping why matters are so chaotic in Iraq simply do not understand and fail to grasp the strength of ancient social organizations. (Now, since we have more information coming our way about Afghanistan, we will see the same problem, but on several orders of magnitude greater. And, a thorough knowledge of ethnology will be required in order to have any chance of success in that "graveyard of empires.")

That a repository of power should be based on blood is, if we think about it, understandable. Anyone who has seen Braveheart has an idea of the strength of allegiance to blood rather than to a remote and amorphous "state." A not too distant example of the strength of tribes as the norm for societal group boundaries can be found by considering how Native American tribes of North America were organized into tribes, that were groups of extended families.

But, we can also look closer to our times for examples of filial loyalty. For one, I would posit that if you go to any rural area of the US, you will find the bonds of loyalty following more ancient rather than contemporary channels: who is your father/brother carries more weight than who is your representative or senator. And, consider Bush I and Bush II...and, possibly, Bush III? The hands working the levers of power bear a strong family resemblance and are an atavistic reflection that which has ruled for many thousands of years.

Interesting, our notion of ruling authority as seen in current governmental structures is based a patriarchal form of power lineage. (This is not surprising, considering the Glass Ceiling and other impediments to women achieving parity in the workforce.) There is much evidence that, in much earlier times, lineage was traced through the mother. Again, this should not be too surprising, as evidenced by a saying in rural parts of Louisiana, "Mama's baby, Daddy's maybe." Why, when, and how did societies move from a matriarchal basis of lineage to that of patriarchal?

I would submit that this change, gradual though it was, came about once humans were able to create wealth that could be acquired, stored, transported, and passed down. The germ for this change lies in the establishment of sustained agriculture. Richard Manning's article, The Oil We Eat, is an excellent treatise which gives a very good account of how packets of energy (read that as packets of carbohydrates...grain, rice) eventually led not only to the creation of wealth but also to the creation of a widely spread group of social classes. Once man could grow his wealth, he realized he could grow even more by employing others.

But here's the rub...once man could acquire wealth, he had a chance to achieve immortality by passing this wealth (legacy) on to his heirs. Thus, the creation of harems, polygamist marriages, and other institutions in which men controlled women in an attempt to increase their chances of knowing who their offspring were. (Recall again that sage Louisiana adage.)

Thus, to get back to the premise of this blog, we won't be able to adequately address the issues facing us in wars of theology where geographical boundaries do not matter (as they did, indeed, in WWI and WWII) as much as ethnological/societal beliefs/practices. We must think in terms of "they" (them, all of them) think, and realize that a solution will not come in a nice little ribbon-tied package. And, interestingly, a side-benefit of such outside the box thinking might be that we might come to a better understanding of our own gender/power issues.

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lucky...My Very Own Economic Stimulus Plan

To heck with the Obama stimulus package...I've got Lucky, my 15-something-month-old lab/pit bull mix who claimed me as his own last December when the economy was tanking. Because of him, I've contributed a "comma figure" to the local economy.

Let's see...initial vet bill $400
Emergency bill to get a cow neck bone off his jaw $120
Ear mites (Lucky had been a stray) $100
One pair of cycling shorts $125
Many books he found he had a taste for $120
Another pair or cycling shorts $140
Second vet bill $100
Much food and treats (estimated) $400
Pair of shoes $ 80
An adult trike so I can run him in the hood $250
Pair of sunglasses $550
Pair of clear glasses $450

Get the picture? This is, by no means, the full tally of what the little sweetheart has cost.

But, like children, we try to reconcile matters of the wallet and the heart, with the heart often winning any toss-up. Just look at can you NOT love a cute little boy like this?

Thankfully, Lucky is growing out of puppyhood and his little transgressions are quickly forgiven. And, the economy shows signs of reviving, so it can do just fine without my personal contribution to the common good.

And, finally, I can always console myself that Lucky will never get a DUI or wreck the car!

Mike Sledge