27 April 2007

Those Evil Terrorists and Other Distractions From Life, Policy, and Vision

T-shirt: "Of all the people ever born, half are alive today. Thus, you have only a fifty percent chance of dying."

You'll die. Whether you find this prospect terrifying, tragic, or a relief, it's just a fact. The point of life is not to avoid death; if it were, everyone who eventually died would, by definition, have had a pointless life. The point of life is ... well, it's pretty much whatever you end up end negotiating your own life to be, working out a series of compromises, attacks on, and retreats from society, your own flaws and potential, and the limits of physics, biology, and your imagination.

Which brings me to my point. Mitt Romney was recently asked what he saw as the most important issue. His response? The spread of radical Islamic fundamentalism. This struck me as so utterly inane that I couldn't stay tuned to hear him explain. This is like a high school guidance counselor or your uncle Freddie asking you about your life plans at 18 and you responding, "Well, diabetes is a killer. I plan to avoid that."

I will make some guarantees about terrorists. They will kill some of us. Guaranteed. They might even have one year when they kill more of us than do cigarettes, obesity, guns, food poisoning, or car wrecks. (They might, but I seriously doubt it.) As with all these other threats, I'd feel glad to know that "our best people are working on it" when it comes to mitigating their harm. But does anyone really think that terrorism is the most important issue?

And I'm left with this question: Shouldn’t leadership appeal to higher levels of Maslow's hierarchy than mere survival? Or is that the best we can do when trying to gain consensus among 51% of the voters in a country as diverse as this?


Damon said...

I guess the theory is that they start with the most basic of human needs, "survival" as you put it, and then work up from there...paved roads, tax cuts, traffic laws, etc.

Personally...I think they should spend more time on the survival than the other things.

Granted, healthcare and the like are all part of the survival spectrum.

Chrlane said...

When we talk of terrorism, we perpetuate it. While this may seem like a good idea at times to some, because it concentrates all the major lunacy into one small area, and allows us to leverage ourselves better locally, it may not be the best overall approach over time.

Sound leadership does require a certain amount of reprisal when dealing with insanity, but then you see there reaches that point where we become one ourselves if we do not retract and delineate periodically in order to reassess our objectives.

Always, there must be that desire for growth and the ability and restraint to allow it to happen.

We cannot blame people for doing what they can to survive, but we must hold them accountable for their inability to offer their neighbors that same right. (If for no other reason than there are always those who manage to stay decent no matter how harsh their circumstances.)

But when poverty and strife are entrenched, it can take several generations for a people to find that again. They become so imbalanced, that everything is a reason to be offended. There must be an intelligent, objective understanding of where they are coming from if they are no longer to be perceived as a threat.

If anything, people who are stretched beyond the limits of humanity need more and better than the privileged if there is hope that they might again be productive citizens. And this is not going to happen so long as we learn to reward those who have at the expense of those without.

In the end, the two lists- what am I putting in, and what am I getting out, are critical if success is to be achieved, or even perceived. Accountability is key here.

Ron Davison said...

I guess there would be at least two elements that I'd want to see in a politician. One, what is his/her vision of the future and the direction of progress. Two, define how government would best facilitate that. The tendency to conceive of the president as merely a police man for the world or country is, to me, shows a real lack of imagination and failure to grasp what is going on, what is possible.

I do think that its key to understand where people are coming from. I also think that some people opt for violence in ways that allow only a violent response - call it a limited vocabulary, if you will, but reason won't work with unreasonable people.

Having said that, I also agree that particular conditions help to create or perpetuate such unreasonable responses, and our approach to dealing with terrorists can actually create more terrorists (see Iraq).

Chrlane said...

"I also think that some people opt for violence in ways that allow only a violent response."

Please show me where I said otherwise.

David said...

I'm with damon and chrlane on this one. I'm not sure what that means though. Anyway, it's not a zero sum game.

Life Hiker said...

The number of radical Islamic terrorists in the world is way less than one percent of the Islamic population, to say nothing of the world population. True, they are a menace and must be dealt with by law enforcement, communications, and even the military. But Romney is simply bowing to the far right when he states they are the number one problem.

If the scientists who predict major global warming are right, the number of deaths caused by Islamic terrorists will pale in comparison to those who are, basically, killed by climate change.

If we don't control obesity, it may well cause many more deaths and major disabilities than terrorism ever will.

If we don't manage the world's population we may create conditions where simple density creates unstable countries and war.

Perhaps the greatest danger is simple-minded leaders who can't seem to understand that the world is getting smaller every day. They don't get it that country-based solutions are no longer the answer, and that inciting fear is far less productive than working for change that brings people together. Romney just dropped a few more points on my leadership scale.

David said...

LH, you are well intentioned....

Imagine someone running on the platform of changing global warming trends (when it's dubious we can do much even if the scientists are right), the world population (how?), stopping obesity (a definite country problem for us), combating terrorism through law enforcement and communications (Clintonesque), and working for change to bring people together (male cow excrement)? Would you really vote for someone who said that?

Our house isn't a very nice house. Why not start here and be a better example than we are now?

Life Hiker said...

Yes, I am well-intentioned. I suppose you're right. Campaigning on global warming is silly when we're spending $100 billion each year to fight Islamic terrorism the wrong way. Maybe Romney should have made that point.

How about this one? In Arizona where I'm vacationing this week, two-thirds of the kids who enter high school next August will not graduate. When China and India kick these kids asses in 30 years, they will walk around wondering what happened to the country they grew up in. Maybe Romney might mention this little problem as a potential #1.

I could get started on fixing "entitlements", but suffice it to say that that topic will not sell in Peoria. Even Romney would know that.

Ron Davison said...

I did, in part, imply that you'd made this point but was also just trying to clarify the point I was trying to make. I do generally agree with your point (assuming I read it right) that creating a particular kind of world would help us to make great strides towards mitigating some of these issues like terrorism and crime.

Ron Davison said...

David (and Damon),
I still maintain that society has a particular direction and to pretend that governments don't play an important role that transcends safety is to ignore huge swaths of history. Space race, classical music, basic research, transportation or communication networks ... all this and more has been created or subsidized by governments.

Ron Davison said...

Yours is really the point I was trying to make. Possibilities and threats need to be rank ordered, it seems to me. For me (and this may be proof that I'm deluded), Islamic Fundamentalist wouldn't make it on the top 20.