Stopping a War in Minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft

I just intervened to thwart a war. Alex colonized Evan’s island demanding more property. Evan refused and in protest tore down what Alex built there. I intervened suggesting more beach land so both could share the land. Evan was firm in his position to leave the land as it was. Alex refused to build on other land.

I needed a different solution for peacekeeping.

The only solution was that both share property by together building in another area of the island. With a slick architectural plan I offered, Evan was free to rebuild his land as if unscathed by the invading regime. The trade was fair, and a war was thwarted.

My kids learned a few things. First, wars start over property and resources. There is only so much land in the world and people want each other’s land so they can have more people live there. Second, it is not fair to go in and steal another person’s land or to destroy someone else’s property. Third, there is an organization called the United Nations whose job it is to get countries to cooperate so that they share land in the world and stop wars.

When they get old enough to watch the news they will see that the UN fails more than it succeeds. The US supports Israel even though they terrorize Palestinians out of their own land, and that acquiring wealth on a global scale is valued more than protecting people. All this happens as the UN basically sits back and watches while the US runs rampant through international law.

Bummer.

Amazing how shared distribution of wealth can stop two kids from fighting. Good ideas work. Grown-ups are just bigger versions of kids most of the time. What would happen if we just shared more stuff instead of killing each other to have more.

Professor Daddy gave them their first social studies lesson.

Now to fix some bowls of Lucky Charms, blueberries, and strawberries as they play – like adults should.

The Lesser of Two Evils is False

The statement “the lesser of two evils” is a principle adopted in political strategy. It is a defensive idea. When faced with two threats it is reasonable to choose the lesser threat. But what does this really mean without an understanding, even a basic understanding, of evil itself?

St. Augustine asks the question, What is evil without the good? His answer is simply, nothing – an understanding that has shaped much of philosophical and theological through for centuries.

Nothing evil exists in itself – St. Augustine – The Enchiridion

When we are faced with a political choice between what we think are two evils, we are basically saying that by choosing any evil we are making a choice for nothing over something at all. There is no freedom in that choice. It is not even a choice since there is nothing to choose from.

So what do we really mean?

What we mean when we say this is “I am choosing something that does not fit my ideal.” When we look at candidates for office we want someone to represent our best interests and to fit our ideal of what “good” means. If someone does not fit our idea of good, it does not follow that such a person is bad. It simply means that he or she is not quite as good as we would expect or desire.

In short, the phrase itself is about self-interest. The choice between candidates is not a choice of two evils. Rather, it is a choice for or against our desire and ideal image of leadership.

Another way to put it is this: So conditioned by self-interest are we, that choosing what does not meet our self-interest is considered evil.

Doesn’t that view of other people strike you as just a little…evil?

White Christians Say “Redskin” Shouldn’t Offend Indians

Flipping through radio stations this afternoon I landed on a Christian station. Within a minute I heard such an absurdly offensive assertion that even the callers were confused.

On Way, Truth, Life Radio (WTRL) 89.9 in State College, PA the evening begins with “In the Market with Janet Parshall.” This program is produced by Moody Radio which gets us to the core of American Fundamentalism. What is the purpose of Moody Radio?

Moody Radio promises to provide programming filled with solid biblical insight and creative expressions of faith that help you take the next step in your personal relationship with Christ.

This isn’t just about programming radio for your listening pleasure; this is about converting people to their distinctive understanding of Jesus Christ. I didn’t even know that it was a Christian station until I heard a little spot from Ken Ham who is the brain trust behind the infamous Creation Museum in Kentucky. His little bit was about how dragons were real and that they were in fact dinosaurs.

The assertion that Janet and guest Craig Parshall made went something like this:

  • Football teams market their brand based on success.
  • Invoking a racial slur is not a good business decision if you want to have a successful image.
  • Therefore, “Redskins” is not a racial slur.

The hosts went on to say that the debate over the mascot of Redskin is a fabrication of political correctness. “Where do we go with this? Where does it end?” they said. A 49er is a dirty gold digger. A Buccaneer is a nasty pirate. So what about them?

What I heard was: Well everyone else is doing it so why can’t they?

I wouldn’t dare teach my 8 and 6-year-old boys that such an ethic is responsible. I teach him to be principled no matter what others are doing or saying. That is just what virtuous people do from Socrates to Confucius.

The image of the Indian our Radio hosts conjured follows a white myth of the Indian. He is an emotionless, brave, and fearless warrior. The Indian is more of a mystical deity than a human being. This was a popular image in film before the Great Depression.

As I learned in a recent presentation, viewing, and discussion about the film Reel Injun, that mythic imagery was blown up by one movie – John Wayne’s persona in Stagecoach. From that point through several decades, the American Native was seen as savage, mindless, aggressive, unethical, and closer to animal than man. The women were sexualized and became sources of masculine pleasure. The American Indian became the race that could uphold white dominance all the way through to the Civil Rights era.

This is significant. Either the mascot for the Redskins was an intentional slur drawing on the image of the savage native, or it was that false idealization of the native as someone less than human. No matter what, the image of the Indian changed. Even if the image of the Redskin may have once been an image of dignity, it most assuredly has not been this way for a very long time.

Ethics 101: Just because something is so, therefore does not imply that it ought to be so.

In my mind that was where the academic assertion fell apart. I thought it was absurd, short-sighted, and a clear ploy to get me all frustrated. It worked because I kept listening.

A self-identified Choctaw called in. He said in no uncertain terms that Redskin is an offensive term and has been for quite some time. It did not make sense to him why his people were not given the same protection as other minorities. Why couldn’t his people tell us why a term used to give them an identity? Why couldn’t they dictate their own racial identity? To me, that seemed like a very reasonable question.

Rather than address the question, they dictated to this Choctaw why he should not be offended by the term “Redskin.”

Let me put this in sharper terms to highlight the offensive nature of this statement and the assertions made by the Parshalls – two privileged white people talking on a self-identified Christian program.

  • Faggot should not be offensive since it can mean a bundle of wood or even a cigarette.
  • Nigger just means the color black.
  • WOP is just an acronym for someone without papers, basically an illegal immigrant.
  • Kike is really a term that points to the anti-Christian sentiment of immigrant Jews.

If you were offended by any of that, good. You should be. I should be and am. The conservative diatribe that I heard is what I have been hearing for the entirety of this year with regard to racial slurs: It’s 2013 people, lighten up.

It does not matter what year it is. It does not matter how long and deep a tradition is. If we are acting with indifference and apathy to the psychological and social needs of any group of people, we are ceasing to protect the pursuit of happiness that defines an American citizen.

Theirs is not a position against political correctness, whatever that may mean.

It is a bold-faced dismissal of people of color.

Syria, Affliction, and Simone Weil

Syria If you do not help us, we will be killed

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty

(T)he afflicted are not listened to. They are like someone whose tongue has been cut out and who occasionally forgets the fact. When they move their lips no ear perceives any sound. And they themselves soon sink into impotence in the use of language, because of the certainty of not being heard. – Simone Weil “Human Personality” 1943

The issues surrounding the Syria conflict are simpler than many of us want to imagine. Maybe the simplicity is hard to imagine given the human suffering and death that continues to pile on.

In between political leaders playing “chicken” on the international highway, stand innocent lives waiting to be crushed. While that happens they are being gassed and tortured on either side. The international political community is not so much concerned about their welfare as to what the violence means to strategic advantage.

President Obama first threatened to execute strikes before congressional approval. This was the infamous “red line.” Knowing that congress was rife with war hawks who are not afraid to bomb a potential threat, he wanted to catch Congress with its pants down. Someone needed to take the blame for an already botched policy and both Obama and congress have been playing that game since day one of his presidency. This turned out to be a political failure.

The United States needs to keep the oil pipelines and Israel safe. Without a safe Israel, the United States is weaker in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin’s plea to the American people for the United  States to work with the United Nations was not as amicable as it sounded. Syria is a strategic place for Russia just as is Iran: Protect the borders and make use of Tartus for both trade and military presence in the Mediterranean. There is territory and money at stake in Syria and all of these external forces want that land for one reason or another.

We might be more comfortable saying that intervention and death are more complicated than that when faced with religious and political whips indiscriminately flailing in school yards. But the reality does not care about the complexity of the causes.

Every conflict is about balancing the scales of self-interest. It’s just willed ignorance to think otherwise. So Putin is right, there is no such thing as “American exceptionalism” but for an over-inflated ego. However, there is no such thing as “Russian exceptionalism” either. As long as people who have no real skin in the game aren’t needlessly killed by the power-hungry lobbing missiles at them, who really cares who “wins” that game? Let’s be pragmatic, not ideological.

The French philosopher and theologian Simone Weil (1909-1943) had an incisive grasp of the simplicity of world power, how it behaves, and what it does to people who have no power to control it. For her, there was a certain limit to the force in the world that the powerful can use to assert their will on others. There are times in history when some of these actors wield more power than others. Her line of sight was on the German armies that occupied France.

The victims of force are the afflicted. One who is afflicted is totally dehumanized, has lost a will to do much of anything, and most importantly, has lost the ability to be human. Humanity is defined by its ability to receive what is good and beautiful whose source is God. She sums up her notion of force from her essay, The Iliad, or the Poem of Force with these poignant and powerful words:

The true hero, the true subject, the centre of the Iliad, is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relation to force, as swept away, blinded, by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to.

So there is another side to force. Those who wield it are eventually damaged. No human power can possibly control the weight of the force in the world. Its sum is too much for anyone to bear. Empires crumble with the delusion of world domination.

In the predicament of Syria, Egypt, and many nations on the great continent of Africa we see force and self-interest of the powerful killing people. If those who have the power to save the people enslaved by force only use that power to satisfy self-interest, who will dry the tears and mop up the blood of the afflicted?