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Apr 29, 2012

A friend of mine recently pointed out something very true - that most people who encourage wars are cowardly. I live in a place that has gone to "pre-emptive war". That means that we attacked a country that had not directly harmed us, because we thought they might be dangerous. That was an act of cowardice. We attacked them, because we were too cowardly to let them be, because maybe they might someday be harmful.

Many people are now trying to push for wars with more countries that have not directly harmed us. They claim that they might someday have dangerous weapons. Maybe they are working on them. The evidence isn't that they are, but they could be. And if they aren't now, they might someday. So, people want to go to war with them, because they are afraid that someday they might be powerful and then might someday be dangerous to us. This is cowardice.

I live in a country that has decided that you do not have the right to ride on an airplane without either having a picture of yourself taken naked or being molested. The machines used to take the pictures come in two types and one of the types is a known cancer risk. There is no evidence that these searches make us safer, but they make people feel safer. We have thrown away our right to basic decency. This is cowardice.

If there are other humans in the world, then we do run a risk from them. Humans are dangerous animals. Any human might pose a threat to you. But killing off all possible threats is not acceptable. Just as it is not acceptable to lock people away into prisons just because they might someday commit a crime. We must learn to accept reasonable dangers. Most people manage this every day. If you drive a car, you run a significant risk of being in a car accident. Deaths by car accidents are far higher than deaths by terrorism or murder. Yet most people are not scared of driving a car or having roads with other drivers near them. They understand that in order to have a life worth living, you must accept some degree of reasonable risk.

Yet, if they can decrease the risks to them or even feel like they have while not actually making themselves safer, then they are willing to harm or even kill others. I do not know why so many people are so afraid of other people that they cannot simply accept and live with the risk the way they accept and live with cars. I do not know how to give the people of my country courage. But I refuse to sit by as they try to harm others through their cowardice and not call them out for their true motivation.

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Posted: Apr 29, 2012 3:24pm
Feb 26, 2012

Blaming victims is an incredibly popular pasttime, and it, unfortunately, contributes to a great deal of harm. When we blame victims, we make life harder for them and tend to oppose changes that would help them or prevent more victimization. So, why is it so common to blame victims?

Well, there are several factors that encourage people to do so. First, the world is scary. Lots of bad things happen in the world. And worst of all, you can be pretty certain that eventually you and everyone you love will die. People don't like to think about that. When people see someone who has undergone a terrible hardship - a horrible disease, been the victim of violence, or had a major accident, for example - they want to be reassured that it won't happen to them or anyone they care about. Alas, there are no guarantees in this world. Sure enough, you might end up in one of those situations yourself, if you aren't already. But if people can find something about the victim that is different from themselves, then they can pretend that it won't happen to them because of that difference. So, people think to themselves, oh this person was assaulted because she was walking around alone, but if I don't walk around alone then I'll be safe. This isn't necessarily true, and it certainly doesn't make the victim of the assault to blame, but it does make people feel better. Then it's just a short hop to this person should have known better to do that and shouldhave let her whole life be ruled by fear on the off chance that something bad might have happened if she didn't limit her actions very carefully.

So, we blame victims to make them something different from ourselves. And this means that we tend to dehumanize victims. If the victim isn't like us, then the victim isn't as important as "us" - the victim is one of "them". Dehumanization is at the heart of most cruelty. It is far easier to abuse or kill someone if you don't view them as human. In wars, you regularly see people dehumanizing the enemy, and often even the civilians. In various psychology studies, people have been shown to be more willing to shock a person (even unto death) if the person is in another room than if they have to see the person (the shocks were faked, but the participants didn't know that). The more someone has to interact with a victim and directly harm them, then the easier it is to harm them.

The problem we face is that we can do a lot of harm from a distance, both in wars and with legislation. What we need to do is recognize that someone is still a person if they are poor, ill, of a different race, or so forth. And we need to have the courage to accept that bad things might happen, but if we work as a society to help the people they happen to, then we will all be safer fromt hem. We cannot ever get a guarantee that bad things won't happen to us or our loved ones, but we can create a society that will help us out if they do. We can trade our unhelpful ways of hiding from our fears for true ways of making the world better.

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Posted: Feb 26, 2012 4:08pm

 

 
 
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Ra Sc
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