Thursday, December 14, 2006

If it sounds like a duck...

This is a personal position paper taking up space here while Blogger gets its beta act together and finds some way to transfer Dumb Looks Still Free... which, considering that this started on 9 DEC 2006 is more than just a bit longer than a 'fast and easy' upgrade ought to take. Still, there is no such thing as an easy upgrade. 9 DEC 2006 in the morning. And with giving me scads of emails that *congratulations* you have moved successfully over to Blogger Beta, etc., etc. Yes, those arrived by the tens... the hundreds... and then soon followed by the scads of emails that said, basically, a problem had occured and maybe things were all not so bright and cheerful, etc., etc. and that they would get on it RSN. So, while DLSF is in the betweener limbo, and has a post all prepared for it, I decided to post here for a bit... so, a definite Personal Position Paper. Not The Jacksonian Party Policy.


There has been a disturbing tendency over the last few decades to degrade the meaning of words and phrases away from their original meanings so as to lessen those meanings and generalize such words to the extent that they become meaningless. By moving the necessary bar to employ such a word as, torture say, it has shifted from its medieval meaning of thumbscrews, the rack, and iron maiden past its modern uses of attaching electrodes onto body parts with intent to cause pain via electrical stimulation, to that of being made to run around naked or to have a bag of water put into one's mouth until a choking sensation stimulates deep fear. Somehow when you go from the idea of bamboo slivers under fingernails to naked human pyramids, something just gets lost in the transition. There is a difference between bodily mutilation without anesthesia and some social humiliation. To me these are two entirely different realms in which using the concept of 'torture' to cover humiliating treatment is a total degradation of the word and concept of 'torture'.

This has gone so far as to suggest that one of the more standard criminal interrogation techniques, lack of sleep, is 'torture' when applied to terrorist suspects held in military custody undergoing military investigation. A very strange thing, this juxtaposition of 'torture' and repeated and continuous lack of sleep... now would this be defined as 'involuntary'? I would assume so. Long-term? Yes, that would be necessary, too. Disorienting? Most definitely. And since 'torture' is pointless, so decry those who say that such sleep-deprivation is torture, then even if used by professional interrogators, it just yields to an inhuman and inhumane condition upon the subject. Now, what if you had that going on for two years, say? Beyond horror, isn't it?

A very strange thing, this 'torture' concept, as purported by its advocates on this part of it. Because that is my life due to organic brain functions that have tripped off a latent familial condition that has not manifest itself with anything like the sort of problems I have had for at least 3 generations. And it had a sudden onset far past the normal time for such, when it is a non-genetic based problem. Lack of restful, recovering sleep to any fair degree or the return of stamina, coupled with sudden attacks of loss of the voluntary motor functions and resulting loss of muscle tone. Yes, utterly pointless and beyond my control, very disorienting to see reality and dream become a fluid whole and no dreams ever coalescing from the vast wasteland of my sleeping hours. I do hold up pretty well under this constant, ongoing assault against my will and consciousness. Would you call this 'torture'? It fits all of the definable characteristics of those who point to such AS 'torture'. And yet, from this vast grayness that is my life I can fairly say that this is NOT 'torture'... and those cataleptic attacks are most coercive and beyond my control or ability to control my body and be conscious throughout them. Horrible, isn't it? From my position, which is fairly staked and claimed in this netherworld of no respite do let me say that using 'torture' to describe this is an insult to me. Pointless, coercive, draining and with no sign of respite nor cure nor much amelioration though the WORST of it is under control. You should have seen what I was like when it was uncontrolled, for the symptom list I have given you is the current, very mild and ameliorated form of this condition of mine. For about 8 months of that it was far, far worse. While I would wish it upon no one, I would not describe anything close to THAT condition as 'torture'.

Such has it been with other concepts, like 'Civil War' which has had a centuries long history of meaning: One organization within a Nation raises a flag and new concept of Governance, takes control over territory, puts up new Government, hands out uniforms and actively opposes the existing Government in all things in an attempt to either secede or to overthrow the existing Government and replace it with the new one. That has been a pretty stable meaning since the War of the Roses through the English Civil War the Spanish Civil War and the US Civil War. Even the folks in Lebanon had this idea down pat when you saw individual neighborhoods standing up with flags and ruling councils and identification markers so you could tell who was who. By trying to shift that between disorganizations that actively oppose each other and the current Government and offer nothing better to replace it nor any open alternative nor raise a flag nor put on uniforms, what you do NOT have is a 'Civil War'. Throwing out centuries of meaning just to get an emotional 'feel good' about saying something is a 'Civil War' when it is not, is destructive to the import of the concept itself.

War, as a concept, has also been degraded as it is moved from the realm of armed conflict to such things as: poverty, cancer, diseases of various sorts, illegal drugs and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Some of the illegal drug users and agents and growers and refiners do, indeed, get into conflicts, but a 'War on Illegal Drugs' somehow gets the mental picture of pills growing arms and legs and marching around with miniature weapons. Trying to stop a social ill or disease is definitively NOT war, no matter what else it *is*. People may still die from diseases, but this is known as dying from that disease or due to use of arms in an illegal activity. What it is NOT is a conflict against a Nation or its People. Mind you nuclear devices would be a great 'cure-all' but I do doubt that anyone is looking to employ those in the mis-stated conflicts.

Onwards we finally get to: terrorism. Here you do have a problem, especially when it is endemic but is leading nowhere. Terrorism is, at heart, illegitimate warfare against a Nation or People of a Nation. It is not just illegal as a civil crime, but it is an illegitimate use of warfare without forming the necessary foundations to give it credence. Terrorists that actually raise up a flag and so on, and do those things necessary to form Government and be accountable are 'revolutionaries' or 'secessionists' as they are putting up a new Government with which to combat the existing one. Now, some people have put forth that there is, within the definition space of civil governments that depend upon multiparty elections, this idea known as: Legitimate Armed Political Party.

That is, however, an oxymoron as NO State will allow any political group to go about in an armed fashion so as to intimidate and otherwise disrupt civil society. Using such intimidation tactics is an undermining of the meaning of 'civil society' and of 'legitimacy'. Political parties stand or fall on this thing known as 'ideas' which form something known as 'policy', which is then put to another thing known as 'a vote'. Does the concept of 'Armed Party' fit into this?

Civil disorder in societies can erode to the point of semi-lawlessness as was seen in Weimar Germany. There, in the late 1920's and early 1930's, various factions took up arms with which to assert control of segments of the population so as to 'capture' their vote. Individual 'Party Wardens' had neighborhoods that they sent goons in to ensure that the populace kept to the party line. As these groups proliferated a form of conflict evolved that involved: intimidation, threats, coercion, torture, and assassination, as well as outright extortion and murder. One of these armed parties killed its way to the top, which meant the largest single faction in the parliament, and then used its position to take over the Government so as to use it to clear out opposition to its rule. Thus an armed party that had a plurality, but nowhere near a majority, usurped power outright for itself and repressed the population once it did so. The legitimacy of the regime that followed brings into question the very concept of 'Armed Political Party' as it acted more as local strongmen to coerce their way into power on the majority of the population. Do note that the concept of 'mandate', which is to get an overwhelming majority of the votes while still having viable opposition, does not apply: mere sub-majoritarian plurality is not a mandate to do a wholesale change to Government, but is a chance to perform caretaker duties and, perhaps, negotiate some reforms into place.

Thus the conception of 'Legitimate Armed Political Party' comes to mean: able to kill your way to power, seize Government and use the power of Government against the majority of the population. That is a total undermining of civil society, by having a minority determine how the majority should live if power is seized and not shared amongst such parties as are necessary to get a coalition majority into place. Plurality coalitions are rarely a 'mandate' unless they have presented a front *before* the election in which the Coalition seeks to reform or change Government in part so as to perform necessary functions that allow the population to lead a civil life without fear *from* Government.

Here is 'terrorism' transformed into 'Legitimate Armed Political Party': they are one and the same. Terrorists look to erode the civil structure of a Nation and so does an armed political party. They both use the tools of terror and coercion upon the populace of that Nation. They both seek to undermine the Government, although terrorists just in general by creating the social atmosphere of terror while the armed political party combines *that* with then forcing its way into the Governmental structure. Both promise that if they just 'get their way' that everything will be fine... just accede to their demands and you will have nothing to worry about... save your life and liberty.

Now, what would one say if a minoritarian faction were armed by two allied Nations, so as to influence the politics of that Nation? Well, that would be meddling in the affairs of that Sovereign State now, wouldn't it?

And what if that minoritarian faction were ARMED by those two allied Nations, so as to use coercion upon the People of that Nation and to threaten its Neighbors? That would be the usurping of the Sovereign control of Armed Forces within that State, would it not?

Let us further suppose that this faction forms a political party, and coerces its way via local, neighborhood control into a minority position in the major elected body of its Nation. Would that not be outside interference in the direct running of a Sovereign State due to the influence being used by those outside Nations?

Actually, that sounds pretty hostile and would actually give rise to Casus Belli upon BOTH those outside Nations. Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it? Yet many will claim that this backed party representing the interests of the two outside Nations is 'legitimate' because they have used their ability to coerce and bribe that segment of the population. And yet that is the very problem of the Spanish Civil War in spades, as it had multiple outside Nations looking to back sections of the population in Spain so as to overthrow the legitimate government and take power. The USSR and Mexico supported by the Communist International put actual fighters into Spain, as did the Germans and Italians aided by Portugal and Ireland with assent from the Roman Catholic Church. Now THERE was a problem of interference, bar none... this thing with Hezbollah is pretty damned minor compared to that fiasco. And yet the illegitimate intrusion of Foreign Nations was just as wrong then as it is NOW. Legitimacy for civil government is *not* gained through the barrel of the gun, but via the assent of the governed. So, if Hezbollah really meant to be a part of the civil structure in Lebanon it would lay down its arms and support the Government of Lebanon to *protect them*.

Yes, the juxtaposition of that is intentional. While Lebanon was finally coming out of its Civil War, that was spurred on in more than a little bit by the presence of the PLO and its being supported by Syria, when the PLO was leaving the Syrians immediately worked a deal with Iran to support Hezbollah. Thus the Palestinians were used as pawns by Syria and Iran to work their Foreign Policy, and when their utility was coming to an end they immediately sought to make a new pawn in Lebanon to carry out their will as they were too cowardly, as Nations, to openly go about their Foreign Policy against Israel. While many decried the interference by outside Nations in Spain, today that is just seen as 'forming a legitimate armed political party'.

So where does that leave these concepts?

Torture, it appears, is turning into something given meaning to by Monty Python's Flying Circus and their depiction of the Modern Spanish Inquisition. Soon we will be having such implements of 'torture' as the Comfy Chair brought out! But only after poking with the 'Soft Cushions', but to finally end up at the 'Dish Rack'.

For 'Civil War' we have already seen it denigrated in its use to mere office politics and to long term squabbles between folks inside such dangerous organizations as the Rotary Club and YMCA. Yes, yea and verily do those squabbles amongst factions meet up with the modern ideal of 'Civil War'.

And 'Armed Intervention into the Affairs of Another Nation'? Mere building up of a political minority via the use of terror technicques so as to be seen as a terrorist group... it is just *internal* to the Nation, not external.

How will we ever come to terms with the 'Old Fashioned' sort of 'Civil War' if it is so demeaned as to mere squabbling in private organizations? Perhaps a modifier could be used to identify it, such as a 'Plus Civil War' for when any actual, physical violence happens. And a 'Double Plus Civil War' for actual open warfare between factions. And then 'Ultra Double Plus Civil War' for the real 'Old Fashioned' Civil War between competing governing ideals amongst a People.

This new outlook on language actually has a terminology to it: Newspeak.

From George Orwell's 1984.

And how do its modern day practitioners sound? Well, Orwell's description is better than mine:

One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks too plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.

Winston had finished his bread and cheese. He turned a little sideways in his chair to drink his mug of coffee. At the table on his left the man with the strident voice was still talking remorselessly away. A young woman who was perhaps his secretary, and who was sitting with her back to Winston, was listening to him and seemed to be eagerly agreeing with everything that he said. From time to time Winston caught some such remark as 'I think you're so right, I do so agree with you', uttered in a youthful and rather silly feminine voice. But the other voice never stopped for an instant, even when the girl was speaking. Winston knew the man by sight, though he knew no more about him than that he held some important post in the Fiction Department. He was a man of about thirty, with a muscular throat and a large, mobile mouth. His head was thrown back a little, and because of the angle at which he was sitting, his spectacles caught the light and presented to Winston two blank discs instead of eyes. What was slightly horrible, was that from the stream of sound that poured out of his mouth it was almost impossible to distinguish a single word. Just once Winston caught a phrase -'complete and final elimination of Goldsteinism'- jerked out very rapidly and, as it seemed, all in one piece, like a line of type cast solid. For the rest it was just a noise, a quack-quack-quacking. And yet, though you could not actually hear what the man was saying, you could not be in any doubt about its general nature. He might be denouncing Goldstein and demanding sterner measures against thought-criminals and saboteurs, he might be fulminating against the atrocities of the Eurasian army, he might be praising Big Brother or the heroes on the Malabar front -- it made no difference. Whatever it was, you could be certain that every word of it was pure orthodoxy, pure Ingsoc. As he watched the eyeless face with the jaw moving rapidly up and down, Winston had a curious feeling that this was not a real human being but some kind of dummy. It was not the man's brain that was speaking, it was his larynx. The stuff that was coming out of him consisted of words, but it was not speech in the true sense: it was a noise uttered in unconsciousness, like the quacking of a duck.

Syme had fallen silent for a moment, and with the handle of his spoon was tracing patterns in the puddle of stew. The voice from the other table quacked rapidly on, easily audible in spite of the surrounding din.

'There is a word in Newspeak,' said Syme, 'I don't know whether you know it: duckspeak, to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that have two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse, applied to someone you agree with, it is praise.'
- George Orwell, 1984, Chapter 5.
For that is what is now heard... 'torture'... quack!

'Civil War'.... quack!

'Legitimate Armed Political Party'.... quack!

For those going quackers, you are using duckspeak.

And have joined Big Brother in the ranks of Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism in the destruction of the language so that it no longer means what it says.

When your time comes to be vaporized who will speak up for you?

Because there will be no words left to describe your fate.

Just the sound of quacking.

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