Monday, January 18, 2010

Open Thread

This joint is yours.

I might draw your attention to a new post on the ecocosmology blog.

It is called "Natural Terrorism vs Human Terrorism".


  1. Natural Terrorism vs Human Terrorism. That's an interesting take on things. To my mind, "terrorism" implies some sort of malicious intent, usually to influence some sort of desired behavior or outcome, so I'm not so sure that the idea of Natural Terrorism is valid. At least not without implying that some sort of malicious intelligence is running things. Fundamentalist Christian dogma notwithstanding, I don't believe that's the case, but that's just me, and I could be wrong.

    Hard to fathom the "reason" behind natural disasters, assuming there actually IS one in the first place. Probably more important to focus on one's REACTIONS to events IMO, as we're currently learning in Haiti. News reports today are that US "peacekeepers" are having trouble maintaining martial law, as roving gangs of looters are breaking into shops in search of food and shelter items due to understandably slow relief efforts. Granted, I'm not on the ground there and am no expert, but I can't help but wonder if focusing on property rights in the aftermath of a disaster of this proportion might not be a little misguided, and possibly betray once again our pro-western capitalist mentality bias at the expense of a little common sense humanity.

  2. Just a shout out to James Howard Kunstler over at Clusterfuck Nation. He's a weekly read for me, but this week's post Disasters Far and Near seems particularly relevant.

  3. A truly memorable quote from Kunstler's weekly blog (link above):
    It's necessary to start telling ourselves a different story about where we are going. We're destined to become a different kind of society and economy. If that future economy is not based on real productive activity conducted at a scale consistent with resource realities, then we will starve to death, or watch our infrastructures of daily life crumble away to nothing, or hack each other to pieces as the the people in Haiti may do before the end of this week. Goldman Sachs and its cohorts are not necessary for the future economy of the USA. In fact, they're already dead. The real zombies of this world stalk the sidewalks of Wall Street, not the swamps of Port-au-Prince.

  4. disaffected,

    "To my mind, "terrorism" implies some sort of malicious intent, usually to influence some sort of desired behavior or outcome, so I'm not so sure that the idea of Natural Terrorism is valid."

    That does get to the heart of some of our criminal law. And your point is valid, while the use of "intent" may not be.

    Intent is commonly misunderstood. I am sure you will grasp the implication with this quote from criminal cases: "intent follows the bullet" ...

    So, if I am target practising and my bullet ricochets and hits a person and does damage, I "intended" that to happen. The notion you are getting at is more likely "mens rea", a.k.a. "guilty mind".

    When I fired the gun I had no guilty mind, I wanted the bullet to go through the bullseye then stop when it hit the large rock behind the target.

    The fact I had no guilty mind before the unwanted events transpired, effects my punishment under our law (e.g. assault, not murder), but not my guilt as the case may be.

    The analysis of terror, death, destruction, and all the rest that goes with natural and cosmic disaster can be done with a notion of a superior intelligence who designed it, or it can be done in a vacuum of no superior intelligence designing it.

    In either case natural disaster and terror are brought to the hearts and minds of living beings, and the "bringer" in natural cases is the natural cosmos.

    We have a notion of punishing human terror, but no coherent notion of dealing with the natural disasters other than showing our compassion by helping those harmed.

    The tenets of ecocosmology urge us to react to the future terror (coming our way from our Sun) with compassion as well.

    Compassion for the earth and compassion for species by developing a way to get to a safe haven, and not being here when it happens.

    The bullet from the Sun will ricochet into us but we have time to dodge it and the terror it will bring.

    Perhaps you have defined a difference between "terror" and "terrorism"?

    Anyway, good comment disaffected, your mind is alive!

  5. Dredd,
    Yeah I can buy that, especially with the added distinction of terror vs. terrorism. The idea of avoiding knowable and predictatable natural disasters is well taken as well, although our track record in that regard is not at all encouraging, what with the once and ongoing financial meltdown, our propensity for settling in large numbers in known high risk areas (South Florida, New Orleans, Southern California, etc.), the quite predictable effects of overpopulation, and the ongoing experiment we're conducting of burning a few million years of fossil fuels in only a few hundred years.

    Maybe the next few generations will pull their head out of the sand and get things turned around for the better (even though it appears increasingly, especially with climate change, that many of the worst effects may already be locked in), but it appears that the baby boomers are no better custodians than their parents, and actually quite a bit worse, accounting for the fact that they have had the information to make better decisions for quite some time now.