Self determination – or delusion?

| April 2, 2024

It is remarkably easy to convince people to kill, enslave or persecute others. All one has to do is convince them that we are superior and that they are backward, lazy, uncivilised or in some way a danger to our way of life.

The Israelis are “God’s Chosen” (whose God? Not the Egyptian’s) and the Palestinians are not; Australian aborigines are stone age people, we live in a civilised society; the Afghans had weapons of mass destruction; the Red Indians were animals; we brought civilisation to India. If people are treated like animals for long enough they begin to react like animals.

The British army found during WW2 that almost anyone can be put into a situation where, given time, torture can become an acceptable means of procuring information.

The Nuremberg trials were held by the Allies against representatives of the defeated Nazi Germany for plotting and carrying out invasions of other countries across Europe and atrocities against their citizens in World War II. The Germans were told the Jews were rats and had to be exterminated. They pleaded obedience to orders but this was not accepted by the mainly American judges.

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a United States military prison within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. As of April 2023, of the 779 people detained there since January 2002 when the military prison first opened after the September 11 attacks, 740 had been transferred elsewhere, 30 remained there, and nine had died while in custody.

American soldiers were told the detainees were a permanent danger to the West and we needed their plans and schedules for their next attacks in a hurry – hence the need for torture. Throughout history, people have been given false, misleading information to convince them that we have a right and duty to impose our way onto others.

Something Made Me

Most people have said or done something they later regretted. Many have wondered why they did it – ‘something made me’. Our brains are constantly being bombarded with a tremendous amount of information from our senses, some of which is immediately relevant and acted on, some stored for future use and some disregarded, but nevertheless stored.

It is this latter data which surfaces when similar circumstances occur – we can’t consciously recall it because we are not aware it has been stored. This is why we should not have advertising media as a background component – if we don’t consciously listen to the advertisement, we don’t subject it to our normal logical processes of acceptance (truth or fiction).

We feel that we have self determination, that we are in charge of our destinies. However, we are controlled to a great extent on our past experiences. We justify our actions, make excuses, blame others or claim “What else could I have done?” Very few of us are prepared to claim like Martin Luther and say “Here I stand. I can do no other”. We may claim that our action was the lesser of two evils and hence not worthy of criticism; in court cases which go on for extended durations, it is generally accepted that both parties were in the wrong.

If a person commits a felony in the firm belief that he is in the right, does this exonerate him? A judge commits a man to death. He is later shown to be innocent; is the judge liable? Our system of justice is not perfect; jail often does not rehabilitate the offender (sometimes makes him worse by allowing him to be trained by the other inmates). Maybe we should look more closely at ‘criminals’, find out why they committed the crime and do something about those circumstances. Locking people away costs a lot of time, manpower and money.

The Lottery of Life

What is ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’? Consider two lotteries, A and B. Lottery A is done in the normal way – the tickets are sold, stubs put into a container and mixed together. The winner is then drawn. In lottery B, the winner is drawn before the tickets are sold. The results are identical but most would say that B was fraudulent. Was it?

Many people would say ‘everyone is equal’ without thinking too mush about it; yet it is obvious to everyone that this is not the case. Maybe everyone is equal in the sight of the law (although we are aware that this is also not true in fact) but in reality some people are leaders, others are followers; some are clever and some not; some are philosophers and some, doers; some good with machines and some with other people. We all have our own good and bad characteristics.

Maybe we should be less keen on judging others. In any crisis, the ‘usual suspects’ who race to help are generally the police, medics, firefighters and state emergency service personnel – not the leaders of the community, the politicians, etc. The volunteers of any society are the ones we should regard with great respect.