Archive for the ‘Honor’ Category

Was anyone actually surprised?

We all grew up on stories of young starlets going to Hollywood and making it big either because of or in spite of a dalliance on the casting couch. On 16 Oct, Ben Zimmer wrote a piece for the Atlantic in which he disclosed the origin of that phrase: “the casting couch” and he traces the phenomenon beyond Hollywood of the 20’s and 30’s and to Broadway where the Schubert brothers apparently kept apartments for their dalliances with actresses and dancers.

In 1920, Photoplay magazine ran an article which Zimmerman quotes as saying, “young women are not advanced in their chosen profession unless they submit to the advances of studio managers, directors or influential male stars.”

Suddenly, we’re not talking about the activity of a few rich and powerful men.

We’re talking about an aspect of a sub-culture.

Women choosing this profession of actress must surely have heard the same stories as you and I. They knew advancing in their craft mean headshots and dance lessons and a voice coach and nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein. We have heard a great many starlets come out with their stories of how Harvey assaulted them or asked for a massage or made some lewd comment. That we haven’t yet heard from Sally Mae of Podunk, Arkansas about the time she rejected Harvey and was told she would never work in Hollywood again suggest that, perhaps, even when not embraced, Harvey’s advances were an accepted, expected part of doing business in Hollywood.

Until it wasn’t.

Until whoever complained first spoke out and then so many followed her talking about their experiences YEARS after the fact. These poor victims who had made so much money and garnered so much fame as a result of their dance lessons, their head shots, their voice coach and their nights at the Four Seasons with Harvey Weinstein.

I have never met a good man who one day discovered he wanted to be a pimp. Pimping, it could be supposed, might be that vehicle he took to such fortunes as might buy his mother a house and send his sisters to college and build a hospital to name after his father. Such noble use of wealth seems incompatible with the base nature required to be a merchant in the rental of women’s bodies (Dan Akroyd in DOCTOR DETROIT and Will Ferrell in THE GOOD GUYS being the exception that proves the rule, perhaps.)

Being a pimp simply carries with it a moral burden and a blood guilt that good men would refuse to bear.

If my son said he was thinking of becoming a pimp, I’d lay out for him the moral issues and the stain such deeds imprint on one’s soul. If my daughter were thinking of going to Hollywood, I’d remind her that success depended a great deal on “who you blow” rather than “who you know.” It has always been this way.

I’m not arguing that since it has always been this way no victim should complain or that Harvey Weinstein should be viewed only as an artist and a businessman in an environment flowing with the eager attentions of women. I am arguing that every woman who posed for a head shot had already decided whether she was going to submit to his advances and had already decided she would at least keep quiet so she could be part of that sub-culture.

I hope it is time to throw out the casting couch and demand that these flesh merchants be honorable men. I don’t expect it, I’m sure a director with a true White Knight’s respect for women could never cast an interesting movie where some young starlet wears the Black Widow costume or exposes her body (for the sake of the art, of course) or embodies the literary and commercial excellence of the FIFTY SHADES movies.

These women knew these advances were going to occur when they walked into the room and declared they were an actress.

And they still walked in that room.

Harvey Weinstein might be a terrible example of the merchant mentality where sex is bought and sold for influence and favor just as any commodity is. But I doubt he is the worst. He’s just the one we’re going to talk about this week. #BringBackOurGirls

He will be replaced and hound starlets will kneel before his replacement auditioning as expected for the lead role in the remake of BUTTERFLY or 9 1/2 WEEKS. I don’t fault them. It is how powerful merchants have always behaved. What cannot be won, must be purchased and everything has its price in their world.

I do not fault, either, the young actresses posing for headshots and trying to relax when such a man touches them and they do what they must to advance in their profession. I do hope neither plays the hypocrite and pretends they did not know, they did not accept, they did want to pay this price.

One last note: I think the greatest fault and condemnation in these stories falls to the men by whom these women thought they were held dear. Where were the brothers, the fathers, the boyfriends? Why did none of these men break role and stand up to the villain and punish him? Had they, too, accepted it was merely part of the culture of Hollywood? We’re they afraid of that offense some women seem to feel when a man thinks they need rescued?

Advertisements

“They (the common people) are totally incapable of real freedom, and if it were granted to them, they would straightaway vote themselves a master, or a thousand masters within twenty-four hours.”
-Ragnar Redbeard   MIGHT IS RIGHT

The greatest problem for the anarchist is not the state.

The problem for the anarchist is not that system of institutions and traditions that insist they have a right to seize the wealth of the capitalist under the guise of taxation or oppress the hungry masses seeking a true communism only to be met with border walls.

These could be swept away. Every state eventually finds its end and passes away. It isn’t likely, but it is conceivable that there could be an uprising that destroys the state, destroys the very idea of the state, and when asked what it intends to set in its place, replies “Nothing.”

The subsequent, inevitable failure of that “nothing” is not the fault of those men who rise up and say, “Be my slaves! Serve me!” The end of that nothing would not be in the hands of that man who says, “I am a leader, let me organize your lives and offer you security for your liberty.”

The problem for the anarchist is that the vast majority of people do not want to be free.

Freedom is scary and difficult. It requires being painfully aware of one’s own inadequacies (as most men are) and then deciding to trust one’s own ability regardless. How much easier is it to place one’s children in the hands of an authority that assures you it is strong and benevolent? How much easier is it to trust in that faceless, soulless authority and accept what it teaches than it is to face the unknown and risk extinction by thinking for yourself?

Anarchy, whether hyphenated as capitalist or communist or primitivist or pacifist, is doomed not because there will be those few men who want to lead, but because there will be legions who want to be led. Modern anarchy fails to make a place for that man who aspires only to be a valued serf.

Now, there are few men who openly admit that serfdom is their chief desire. There are, perhaps, few men who recognize that is the place they seek. But what else shall we say of that man who says, “I just want a good job (working for another) and the distractions of professional sportball and a case of that beer which promises to deliver sex and respect”?

That man does not want to be free. He merely wants a benevolent Master.

Modern anarchy is doomed because it refuses to make a place for that man and refuses to acknowledge him and refuses to accept his right to enter into a voluntary association where he is a slave, or at least, unequal. Being denied, that man then destroys the nothing that replaces the state. Why should he support a nothing which fails to recognize and support him?

All free men must accept then that some free men will accept the burden of being Master.

The only chance to preserve freedom for those men who want to be free is to make a place for those men who cannot be free and refuse to be free. Even more important than protecting our “non-state, voluntary associations” from the slaver, is the necessity of protecting them from the slave.

Its important to mention now that the world is inevitably a hostile place. We haven’t found a way to get along with each other in the last 300,000 years, why would even the most utopian among us imagine we will do so in the future? With this in mind, the primary duty of a free man is prowess and strength, enough to protect his own liberty and secure his own existence at least. Secondly, and perhaps in conjunction with the first, is the duty to preserve his group.

Let’s dismiss any notions now that anarchy must be without hierarchy. In the ideal vision of anarcho-capitalism, every corporation will have a CEO and a board who have greater significance from the honest man turning wrenches on the factory floor. Even in anarcho-communism, that honest man turning wrenches will answer to some functionary whose task it is to identify problems and implement solutions.

In truth, I do not see anarchy being swept in with the sudden enlightenment of all people everywhere or the revolution that the rock throwing fascists in Berkeley imagine they are the fore-runners of. Instead, I imagine Guillaume Fay is correct in his anticipation of a “convergence of catastrophes” that will level the current systems.

It is impossible to suggest that every voluntary association that rises in the wake of this collapse with be “ancom” or “ancap” or take on any specific model theorized about now. Different peoples always have and always will find different solutions to life’s pressures. I also do not imagine that the technology necessary for the popular visions of ancap and ancom prosperity will survive the collapse, especially if one of those catastrophes is the depletion of oil.

The immediate response to the collapse will be tribal. A group of hungry, desperate, frightened survivors will watch their world pass away and then begin finding their way into the future. Philosophy and labels will not be among their immediate concerns in the initial years.

Even now, there are tribalists, men bound together by oaths and friendship and loyalties that rely on models that pre-date the state and will, I imagine, outlast it as well. These associations have a feudal nature in that they are held together by oaths between men. Unlike the current model where a soldier or statesman takes an oath to support a constitution or a vague assemblage of “the people”, these oaths are between individuals who look each other in the eye and say, “I swear…”

In this sense, these tribalist groups ARE anarchist. Instead of being born into a condition of expected servitude to a state’s laws and regulations, these are free men, anarchs, choosing to subordinate some of their self-rule in the interest of the group. They are also feudalist, in that each assumes a set of duties toward the other and accepts a place within a hierarchy determined by the group’s vision and its responses to the pressures it needs to overcome in order to survive.

There will be some groups that form in the final stages of the collapse or even after the collapse. But those groups formed now and already possessed of a sense of tribal identity and solid, genuine relationships will have an obvious advantage. Many of them already possess arms, defensible arable land,  and, most importantly, some training as a “unit.”

These groups will not only have a better chance of surviving during the closing acts of the collapse, but they will be the groups most likely to have the stability to offer a place to “refugees” from outside the tribe that agree to labor or supply meaningful skills to the group.  In the anarchy following the collapse, these will not be men demanding a living wage or human rights. They will instead be those frightened masses needing a new master since the old one has passed.

That these groups exist now provides another advantage: they have time to develop traditions and ideas about those refugees. They could be, even now, debating whether the refugees lot will be a cruel slavery in the mines or a pleasant second class citizen role with the possibility of joining the free men as circumstances and individual virtue allow.

Avoiding the crushing pressure of solving this problem only in the instance creates a circumstance where the tribe can reason a method to make that serfdom as livable and dignified as possible. This assumes, of course, that any tribe whose leaders cannot reason out that such serfdom serves everyone, including future generations, better than a harsh slavery will not last long anyway. The refugee can be offered a place if his presence benefits the tribe. He can enter into the voluntary association and make his own oaths to the men who will defend him and provide for him in return for his loyalty and labor.

But even if a transfer to anarchy somehow occurs without the annihilation of the present empire, only the feudal model provides a place for that man who is not interested in real freedom. In the ancap model, he is an employee and one unprotected by the state. The modern serf could never abide being genuinely at the mercy of market forces without a regulatory agency to see he is paid and has safe conditions. The ancom model simply offers such a man a spot next to a bullet riddled wall if he dare voice his reservations (though the ancoms will deny this and fall back to their old assertion that “real communism has never been tried”, the historic model indicates any man not eager to voice the party position will be executed.)

In the anarcho-feudal model, such a man could enter into an oathbound relationship that obligates both parties to sincerely seek the other’s best interest. The serf could rest assured that the system did not consider him a mere employee who might be sacrificed to the bottom line, but a part of the tribe, even if only on the periphery. He is not merely a valued member of the team at some corporate seminar, but a man who has given his word and received another’s that their destinies are bound together.

We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.

C. S. Lewis THE ABOLITION OF MAN

PART ONE can be found here.

With recent attention turned to the use of torture for information gathering purposes sanctioned by the United States Government, I’ve had to discuss torture as a common practice among cultures where “honor” was a highly prized value. Specifically, I am reminded of the prevalence of torture among American Indians and the “blood eagle” among the Norse.

What I find is that these tribes did not use torture as a means to gather information or any advantage in war. We don’t find records of prisoners in Indian hands being questioned or being told that their torture would end once they cooperated. We do find records of men and women being tortured and treated very harshly for years only to be accepted as full members of the tribe at some future point.

An Indian warrior living among the tribes of the American Southwest and the American Northeast, where torture seems to have been most prevalent, expected to be tortured if taken prisoner, just as his foes knew to expect torture at his hands if they fell into them. The purpose of this torture seems to have been twofold. On one hand, it served as a simple act of revenge and was often accomplished by women who had lost husbands and sons to the enemy.

Secondly, it tested the warrior’s mettle, possibly for the last time, and gave him a chance to prove his toughness, his spirit, and his honor. There are stories of great torture lasting for days wherein the victim did not cry out. This was seen as a great show of courage even among enemies. It was also apparently common for a victim who did cry out to be killed immediately, provided he had suffered in silence a sufficient time. White soldiers often began crying out immediately under torture and those cries were ignored.

In this cultural context, one sees torture used as part of an honor system where an enemy is provided a chance to prove he is strong and brave, and any need for revenge can also be satisfied. It was expected that both of these values were respected by all parties to the conflict.

What we do not see is instances of one tribe torturing prisoners while crying out that the other tribe is monstrous for its treatment of captives. Suffering for personal glory and the well being of the tribe is a warrior’s lot and the routine torture of prisoners is seen as a part of this.

The Norse Rite of the Blood Eagle was not such a part of a shared set of values. The blood eagle may have been a form of execution where a prisoner had his back cut open, his ribs hacked from his spine, and his lungs pulled out. In truth, we do not know what was meant when the Skalds reported that an eagle was cut on or in a man’s back, but this is the popular image, based on a description in the ORKNEYINGA SAGA.

To my knowledge, there are no human remains that suggest they were the victim of this rite as so described and earlier sources suggest it may have been so simple as carving the picture of an eagle on the victim’s back.

The most recent pop culture exploration of the blood eagle was in The History Channel’s VIKINGS, where Ragnar Hairy Pants (That IS what Lothbrok means. Kinda takes some of the grandeur out of it, huh?) inflicted this punishment on his enemy. What seems to have caught the public’s imagination most was Ragnar’s  explanation that if the victim suffered in silence, he would prove he was worthy of Valhalla.

This, Gentle Reader, is good entertainment, but the sagas make no mention of such an aspect to the rite.

It was an execution or the prelude to an execution, pure and simple.

The Rite of the Blood Eagle (whatever it was) seems to have had only one objective; the painful death of an enemy. Ivarr the Boneless inflicts this death on his father’s slayer. Torf-Einarr inflicted this death on his enemy Halfdan Long Legs.

Neither are being honored in any respect. Nor are either of them being questioned. Neither has a chance to end their suffering with a confession or a vital piece of disclosure.

These are important distinctions when considering torture among those cultures and in our own.

 

Honor and the Torturer: PART ONE

Posted: December 12, 2014 in Honor
Tags: , , ,

We’ve all seen responses to the recent (Dec 2014) release of the US Senate’s Report concerning the CIA’s use of torture during the ongoing Global War on Terror. Some claim to be sickened that their republic would stoop to such measures, but to me, the cries seem shallow, hollow, or simply false. We’ve all known for ten years this was happening. It happened under President Bush, and most of the reaction is coming from people who are simply so excited about another chance to talk about Bush that they are about to pee.

Liberal outrage comes and goes like hashtag crusades against #Kony or #HobbyLobby. There was no substance to the voiced outrage then and there is no substance to the voiced outrage now.

But that outrage has given certain conservative elements of our culture an excuse to parade their patriotism and righteous indignation about the liberals’s righteous indignation. And these “conservative” sentiments seem perfectly sincere.

I’m not going to address the report’s conclusion that, in the end, torture yielded no benefit whatsoever. Only the very naive cling to some notion that interrogators are too stupid to know when a subject is lying to save his skin. Torture works. That it works is a poor excuse for using it.

On FaceBook, I saw a photograph of a man falling from one of the twin towers and the caption around this tragic death turned social media meme read that “This is why I don’t give a shit how we gathered information from terrorists.”

My FaceBook friend list is dominated by people I deployed to Iraq or A-stan with. Good men all, and many of them agreed with that sentiment. Those deaths and the many that followed and the possibility of preventing other such murders were all the justification we needed for torture.

On the surface, its hard to argue with. What is more important; my sons’s lives and safety or the way a terrorist is treated?

If the bad guys need killing, why does it matter how we identified them or how we found them?

It matters because we are the good guys and they are the bad guys. I’m not weak. I’m not squeamish. But our entire cause rests on the idea that human beings are obligated to treat each other with a modicum of benevolence.

It doesn’t matter how the terrorists are treated. It matters what we do. It matters how we conduct ourselves. It matters what deeds we commit and what deeds we even tolerate in our presence.

The GWOT began when Al Qaeda murdered thousands of non-combatants. They behaved worse than any rabid beast and in that attack, they demonstrated there was no possibility of peace or co-existence with the culture of Radical/Extremist Islam. They proved it was necessary to annihilate that culture. Those men must be killed and their way of thinking exterminated.

These facts were undeniable. Radical/Extremist Islam must be eradicated.

The only questions that remained concerned logistics.

And how to stare into the abyss, fight monsters, and not become monsters ourselves.

Its easy to suggest that we’re the good guys because we were attacked and its easy to cite the countless heroic deeds done to protect the innocent as we waged this just, necessary cultural genocide. We give candy to children, build schools for girls, wells for villages, and we put our bodies between murderous dogs and their intended innocent victims.

But then we piss on the corpses of their dead. We humiliate the prisoner without any expectation outside the moment’s amusement.

And in the names of justice and efficiency, we tortured.

When we stared into that abyss, it stared back and we crumbled.

The test of whether we are good and honorable men doesn’t come when we are defending what we love and cherish. It doesn’t come when the innocent cry out for aid. Those cries are easy to answer.

The test comes when the evil-doer has fallen into your hands and you now face the same temptation they faced. “I hate, therefore I will hurt.” When we faced that temptation to hurt and we yielded to it, some of that evil crept into us.

That they have done evil, that they have killed innocents, that they have tortured cannot be the guide we use to determine what is moral and honorable in our conduct. It doesn’t work. We cannot follow the thoughts and inclinations and deeds of evil men and hope we somehow come to some place other than that desperate darkness they found. Good men cannot allow evil men to provoke them into committing evil deeds.

It is sometimes necessary to put down a mad dog.

What makes us different from the terrorist is that we do not kick that dog first.

In pursuit of their warped vision of what is Good, the terrorists have yielded their humanity to the Adversary. If we follow and commit the atrocities they embraced, no matter how loudly we voice our reluctance, we too sink into the abyss and serve the Adversary.

To argue that we serve a greater good, that we need to commit torture because the benefits of expediency and information and the possibility of saved lives justifies it, only commits us more completely to the path that the terrorists took as they started down the road to suicide bombs and public beheadings.

I do not ask myself if I would commit torture to save my sons. I am weak. My answer might shine light into parts of my soul I am not ready to examine.

But I ask if I would want my sons to carry the taint of having tortured another human being, no matter how monstrous, and I know what is right.

Good men do not torture nor do they allow torture to be conducted on their behalf.

Honor First.

PART ONE has been my commentary as a warrior and a veteran to revelations concerning activities by the United States during the GWOT.
PART TWO will concern the perception of torture among the Norse and some Native American tribes.