Thinker thinks

Another person of note from the Iraqi blogs is someone who went by the name "thinker". I think the below is what she would consider to be her greatest post. She called it her "epiphany". I'm not sure how useful it is, but I do like her pointing out that there's no one person "in charge" in a modern democracy. And I like the way she said that this was impossible according to communist doctrine. Regardless, without further ado, here is what she wrote back in 2004 ...

Hello Iraqi friends! OK, I'll start...

We use he word 'plan' differently.

In the 1950s and 60s, Soviet leaders were seeking intelligence on the American system.  The US was an engine of economic and industrial growth, and productivity. The government was popular. Everything worked.  Even the phone system. There were no periodic collapses.

But, according to Marxist economic theory, this was impossible. So the Soviet leadership was convinced that there had to be some secret organization planning and controlling the economy, businesses , etc. They devoted their resources to finding this organization that was doing the planning and controlling everything. Nothing can work without planning and intent.

Ahhh.  But they didn't understand our system of planning.

In a dictatorship, the Leaders have much more power than in a democracy.  After all, a king can say, "do it" and it is done.  Central planning is easy because the king can 'force' everyone to consensus.  Tribal systems work on consensus too.

In a democratic government, there are millions of plans for the government, contradictory plans, plans, upon plans...all different and some the opposite of one another. Different committees of congress have opposite plans and the president might have a different plan.

Let's use Defense planning as an example. I'll bet there are detailed plans in the US Defense Department for invading every country in the world. There are probably even different types of these plans.  But, these are not 'plans' in the Soviet style because obviously we have no plan for such a thing. Like the US architects style, these are just concepts and 'thinking excercises' done to be prepared in the event of a disaster. They are not plans.

These types of studies are done in the Transportation, Education and other Departments. In any direction that an elected official decides to go, he has many, many plans to choose from depending on the circumstances, the problem that has to be solved, his budget.

But, Congress might control the budget, teachers unions at the local level might control part of the policy, local politicians might have a different plan preference, etc.
To the Soviets, this looked like chaos. How could you possibly have a 5 Year Plan in such a system?

The way planning is done in a democracy is decentalized but provides for maximum flexibility to change plans, alter plans at any given time to allow for changed circumstances, new ideas, new understandings, etc. Planning is SEPARATE from decision making.

I want to explain this to you so that you know that there was a plan to 'invade' Iraq many years before we went in...but I would not be surprised to learn that there was also a 'plan' SOMEWHERE to invade England! And, of course you know how ridiculous that is! When we say the word 'plan'...please remember this difference!

Planning in the US is a process of fact-finding, having a million possibilities, and being prepared so that under any circumstance or crisis, we can go in any direction at any given time.  FLEXIBLE! If there is a crisis, someone has thought about the different possibilities for years and can present mulitiple plans, their consequences, etc. to decision makers.  Then, the decision makers might all have different ideas. And the people in a democracy in different roles change often.

When combined with 'free speech' and transparency, there is almost no way to implement a conspiracy, sinister design, or force everyone to agree.
We compromise, work out win/win agreements, all based on the moral and rational arguments of large numbers of people.

It is a system that may have to be lived to be understood.

No one has the power that you Iraqis think they have. It is all decentralized power sharing.  And all of our people understand it.  We don't relate to one another as puppets, bosses, dictators, or as superiors.  Even the President of the United States.

Until you understand realationships in the US, nothing will make sense.

We even relate in families this way more than other cultures.  When the passengers in the last plane on Sept. 11th realized what the hijackers true intent was...the passengers on the plane...VOTED on a plan!




Charles Again

As I mentioned previously, a blog commentator, Charles, had some brilliant insights. Here is his most brilliant one, which I have already put into my "enlightenment" document:

OK, let me finally say how I imagine the old world view they have lived in might be influencing Maha and Rana,

Baathist totalitarianism, like all totalitarianisms, did not just say, “nyah, nyah, we leaders will grind you people under our heels forever and you can’t do anything about it!” They said, things are hard now because we are in a struggle, but all your collective sacrifice will someday lead to a wonderful utopia (vague and untested) where Arabs are powerful, respected, and free (i.e., unconstrained as a ‘people,’ dignity uncompromised); while those leering, almost supernaturally evil, zionist and colonialist forces now opposing us will have vanished from the earth. This is the background promise always being pushed off into the future (communism’s ever receding future lead eventually to disillusionment).

Well Saddam claimed that his wars were the first phases in a push to achieve the dream. Rana and Maha saw that death and destruction came from this. They knew that Saddam was excessive in sacrificing lives and people and was cruel. They saw that other nations (the UN) said one could not justify war of aggression. They conceded this simple point, as the Europeans have, “thou shall not kill to rearrange the world.” But that doesn’t mean the supposed dream goal looked bad to them. Or that they had adopted a western world view.

Then we come riding in, seemingly led by Paul to rearrange the world by force, but for our own dream goals. They say, hey, if you’re going to allow this sort of thing, then why shouldn’t our vision of an ideal future have been allowed to be reached this way. We are not saying that we should be allowed to do that, but better us than you! Saddam is out of their lives, and they aren’t unhappy about that, but their “background mental universe” is not out of their lives.

When we argue back about “why its OK for us” we argue the content of our vision. Good if we can convince them, but a world view shift is a messy and slow thing, our ideas are too linked together, and it seems as if everything might crumble before we build up a new set of links. People don’t want to assume that “everything” they know is false, and it isn’t, but only those who embrace such a feeling can make the jump quickly. Anyway, they don’t necessarily dislike the content of the vague dream which was promised by Baathists, even though they may have disliked the reality of daily life under Baathists.

So, before getting into arguing about the worth of our (less vague and more tested) dream, I’d reply to them in these terms: It is not all about our goals being “better” so therefore we are allowed to use force: we were forced into having to use force. I think Ken said it very well when he said at root this was a continuation of the 1991 war at the end of which the rest of the UN left us “holding the bag.” Think of it this way. When Saddam unleashed his push to achieve dominance, he chose his terms of engagement with the world.

I wish I had grabbed Charles's contact details while he was around. It was news to me that Saddam wasn't just going "nyah nyah".




Softly changing minds

From the Iraqi blogs (of a decade ago), in particular, Sarmad's "Road of a Nation", there is some great writing from Charles, who is a physicist (and it is interesting to note that these gems come from someone with a hard science background not a soft arts background). He came up with several brilliant insights, so this is just one:

In the biography of Benjamin Franklin he writes about how he suddenly had a revelation concerning how to convince people in argument.

Up till then he was like you, he would attack and bludgeon the other's point of view with logic and information and devastating critiques.

The other person, threatened, always battened down the hatches and never let the ideas penetrate.

I think your "left" "right" defining does that too.

Then he found that if he listened to the other person respectfully, and then instead of dismissing said, "oh that's interesting, I would have thought ..., why isn't that so?" He could lead the other on gently by questions until that person thinks of the weaknesses in his position or comes to the conclusion Franklin wanted to implant.

I'm not sure I will be able to practice this myself, but it's an interesting approach. There is also this massive website, but again I think it is beyond me. I think I need to join forces with someone who has this sort of adaptability. I'm just a bludgeoner.




Pope Punchup

The Pope recently said that if his friend insulted his mother, he would resort to violence. Only against someone weaker than him of course. He wouldn't dare attack a guy stronger than him.

What a world we live in. Verbal insults require a violent reaction, while Iraqi men having their tongues cut out by Saddam requires no reaction at all. :-(

Christians (which the Pope claims to be) are meant to be following the example of Jesus Christ, ie turn the other cheek, love thy enemy and forgive trespassers even when they're nailing you to a fucking cross. Instead what we see from horrible Christians in places like South America is hatred of the totally innocent USA. This stupid religion needs to be abandoned.

Here is what a Christian SHOULD be doing. The problem in this world isn't a lack of self-reaction to provocations and an over-reaction to provocations to others. It's the exact opposite. People will over-react to provocations against them, ie their human rights are sacrosanct, but when it comes to provocations against others, they just yawn. This is a very bad philosophy creating a very bad world. The yardstick that should be used is that you should never react to a provocation unless you would also react to an identical provocation against a stranger.

There is a rule in computing - be generous in what you will accept, but be strict in what you produce. The same rule applies in human relations. If you want to live in a peaceful world, then start with yourself. Make a decision to allow as much provocation as you can withstand. ie if someone verbally insults you, walk away. Even if someone punches you in the stomach, you will only experience momentary discomfort and you will recover. WALK AWAY. This is your chance to be a Christian martyr! Although you definitely have a right to self-defence, you should not exercise that right, or at least take a long time before you exercise it, and only if other paths fail. But you SHOULD react if someone is about to chop off your hand or nail you to a cross. Why? Because you need that hand in order to defend the innocent. Also don't let anyone steal your money. Why? Because you need that money to help protect the innocent also.

If you want to react against human rights abusers, then act when you see someone else's human rights being abused. See here for an example. The other thing you can do if you are personally attacked is to report the problem to the authorities. You can be sure that the authorities won't over-react. In the case of Iraqi women being raped by their own government (Saddam) the authorities (the UN) just yawned. If you believe the authorities are not reacting to your problem adequately, then you should seek to change the authorities so that the problem is solved for everyone, not just yourself.

When I started Year 11 at school, I was determined that I wasn't going to fight. I hate fighting. I basically had about 1 fight every year at school. People would only leave me alone after I demonstrated I was willing to fight. I wanted to follow Jesus's example and not fight. I got valuable data from this exercise. I generally had a reputation for being a weakling. I didn't mind that. I was trying to be a pacifist, not a boxing champion. This led me to the point where someone smaller than me was trying to take over my locker (at boarding school). We almost came to blows, but I said "stop, you can have it". One of his friends, who I'd never had any dealings with at all, and bigger than me, and also who ludicrously claimed to be a Christian, punched me in the stomach and told me to not tell the teachers. The smaller guy still wouldn't leave me alone though, continually bullying me. Eventually I was talking to a teacher who asked me how things were going and I said I was being bullied. He told me that the natural reaction to that was to fight back, and that's what I needed to do. That is also the advice from prison. About 10 minutes later I returned to class, was bullied by the smaller guy, and I said if he wanted to fight me, he could do it here. He wanted to go to the toilets instead of the classroom so that the fight couldn't be broken up, and possibly so that he could get assistance from his friends. I refused and challenged him to fight right here. He relented and we fought. I was shocked that he managed to duck away from my punch, but as my arm extended, it made contact with his ear, and he complained about being hurt. I wrestled him to the ground and shortly after the fight was broken up. I was unscathed. These people underestimate my ability and think they can prove themselves on me.

Anyway, I resorted to violence after the authorities failed to react properly to my human rights abuses. America and Israel are in the same position. Neither country should need to resort to self-defence. After being attacked, in an ideal world they should have just said to the UN "please fix this problem". But sometimes it is the whole world that is wrong, not you. The US needs to resort to self-help because the authorities are grossly immoral and do not care about human rights abuses. In an ideal world, the US should only have to defend itself if the UN says "I'm sorry, we don't have the required capacity to protect you, could you please help us protect you?".

So that's the ideal path. Be slow to anger when your own human rights are being abused. But be quick to anger when someone else's human rights are being abused. If no-one comes to your aid when it is your human rights being abused, then you should consider the possibility that the abuse is not that great. If it was a great abuse, surely others would come to your aid? They would not allow that travesty to be conducted in their presence. They would take that affront personally, right? Just the same as you take the rape of Iranian girls by their dictator personally. You do, right? As I said, sometimes it is the world that is at fault, not you. But I can tell you that if I heard someone say something nasty to the Pope, I would not react with violence against them. I would just intercede with words, telling this person that they are being nasty. I might bite my tongue if the abuser was physically bigger than me though.

One other thing to note is the saying "for evil to prevail, all that it requires is that good men do nothing". This is the case with a country like Sweden. They are basically saying they don't give a shit what happens to anyone else except them. The Swedes are helping to make the world a nasty place. That is selfish and not what Christianity should be.

There was actually one guy at school, a big guy, who a couple of times interceded on my behalf, saying to one bully "what has he ever done to you?". I was very grateful for that. This guy was better than the authorities. The guy may as well have been called "America".


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