Discourses With Robert Estrada.
Morality & The Forever War: Chapter Five of The Forever War Chronicles
The above image gleaned from a link on Facebook provided by Young Americans For Liberty provoked a spirited exchange between myself and my long-time colleague and frequent foil for political, social, and cultural discourse, Robert Estrada whom I originally met and befriended on my daily ferry commute to Tiburon where I was then indentured to the 1% for a decade and a half. The ideas and thoughts we shared during those brief excursions soon became the high point of my day – but then again I always regarded myself as a morning person plus, if truth be told the work I was doing was not that exciting anyway.
Robert, as you will no doubt divine from the exchanges posted here, is a prodigiously articulate, reasoned and compassionate advocate for the human condition, with a strong and grounded sense of fairness and morality. He is not only an accomplished musician, as evidenced by several astounding guitar tracks he graciously shared with us over the years, but is also a talented graphic artist (you can see some of his drawings on his Facebook Page), a seaman and union member, and a devoted husband and father.
Robert is also an ardent student of history, especially the American colonial era, possessing a voracious appetite for historical texts and biographies, and has collected several priceless historical documents attributed to the colonial period. Oh, and by the way, Robert is also a passionate atheist, whose cultural inspirations include the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, scientist Richard Dawkins, inventor Ray Kurzweil, bioethicist Peter Singer, and others I may have inadvertently omitted.
The fact of Robert being an atheist, informs many of his positions on current affairs, including the perceived threat to Western Civilization posed by Islamic fundamentalists. The extremely violent Wahhabi sect ISIS or ISIL, now provoking an interfaith schism between Shia and Sunni throughout Iraq and Syria with its barbarous acts of assassination and genocide is the subtext for the following exchange we had recently on Facebook.
- In an environment of violence and immorality is it moral to be a pacifist?*
“ Only true if we refuse access to our country by anyone in any other nation and never allow our citizens to venture outward. Also only true if we revert to the old rules of warfare which include pure destruction of those who actually do strike us, without the school/hospital/road/infrastructure building. We don’t even blanketly refuse entry to people from the areas most in turmoil with the highest percentage of people who see the U.S. as a mortal enemy. The fact is we are intertwined with the world and sitting home with our heads in the sand will unfortunately not stop the war of ”civilizations“ that is being prepared for us. We have been dragged to this party involuntarily. Pacifism in this case is an immoral option I’m afraid. ”
—— Robert Estrada
“Pacifism is never immoral – but it is often misused. The Forever War and any arguments that foster it no matter how principled the bases, is immoral. It is an obscenity perpetrated on the world (including the chosen people – whomever they are) by the ruling class. We are mortal enemies to fundamentalist theocracies (and ironically the elite class) because we have been shaped into the cultural embodiment of their obsolescence; an image manufactured and curated by the elites and their enablers and validated unfortunately by our own passivity. Polls, a Bernaysian strategem employed by whomever the pollsters are to manipulate public opinion, would have us believe that the only way to eliminate this perceived threat from extremist jihadis is to, well – eliminate them. And just think of all the money to be made.
Taking care of our job does not mean to crawl under the desk and “duck and cover”. We are talking about taking an active role domestically to diminish and ultimately strip power from those those who would perpetuate this fabric of lies and destructive memes. The reality here is that we have never been able, nor will we ever be able to militarily eliminate the existence or influence of jihadis or “terrorists”. The only way to mitigate their sway over the faithful is to encourage it from within Islam. The Forever War strategy will only succeed in creating new recruits for Holy War – while enriching those whose goal is to perpetuate it.”
—- James Babij
“Pacifism can indeed be immoral and this is probably such a case exactly. When innocents, many of them children, are being raped, slaughtered, dismembered/disembowled, and when their heads are being turned to sun dried trophies set upon spikes in the desert sun, then pacifism by a world of laws and overwhelming ability is indeed immoral. It is immoral because consciously doing nothing to help merely defers to others all pertinent decisions on life, death, good, evil, and morality itself. It cannot be moral to knowingly tip one’s hat to the immoral as if to say ”have at it.”
All you say against the elites I agree with of course, but the two problems are far too often conflated among my liberal cohorts. The problem of militant Islam is not the problem of banks. I don’t think Malala Yousafzai was the victim of Wall Street…I just don’t.
If morality dictates giving a dying child antibiotics in order to save her life, the corporate structure of pharmaceutical giants and their sway over congress is not enough to argue that refusing her aid is never immoral. It is, by definition immoral, just as allowing the marauding party of god to cut and rape its way to paradise is patently so, couched as pacifism or not. OK, that’s my view on it.”
—— Robert Estrada
“Well the morality of pacifism isn’t the issue. It just isn’t. Ghandi comes to mind as an example. The immorality of The Forever War most assuredly is, as is also the beheading of ”infidels“, the raping of women, honor killings, and the slaughter of innocents, . Add to that jihad, the crusades, gas attacks, dronings, carpet bombings, and most damnable of all the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where more than 70 thousand souls were vaporized in an instant. That is my definition of what is flat out immoral. We as a nation really have no right to the moral high ground just because we can bomb anyone who opposes us into radioactive star dust. Events of this hegemonic nature are not lost on those whom have been witness to them. The use of nuclear weaponry and WMD’s to placate perceived enemies was inceptually funded by Wall Street, better known as Eisenhower’s ”military-industrial complex“.
Canadian scholar and Truthout contributor Henry A. Giroux goes further:
“The mushroom cloud forever associated with Hiroshima is now connected to much larger forces of destruction, including a turn to instrumental reason over moral considerations, the normalization of violence in the United States, the militarization of local police forces, an attack on civil liberties, the rise of the surveillance state, a dangerous turn towards state secrecy under President Obama, the rise of the carceral state, and the elevation of war as a central organizing principle of society.”
Peace will never be achieved, either between or among muslims or with the non-Islamic world through the use of military force. Never. That is a neo-con fable that itself comes from the depth of depravity. A look at recent history shows where we stand with the Islamic world. After nearly a decade and a half we are still with our hands at each other’s throats. Why? Peace must come from within the muslim sphere. This is one of the points that Sam Harris made in the recent post you linked us to. ISIL and cohorts are just not going to be cowed by outside force. The unfettered spread of Western culture is exactly what is driving Wahhabists batshit.
There are several important cultural realities we have to be aware of, the most significant of which is that there is a vast chasm between the concepts of what determines morality between the sphere of influence of the West and the rest of the world. In the interest of brevity I’ll try to cite some examples gleaned from several trips to India, Nepal, and Thailand.
In india and Nepal – although this is rapidly changing in the major cities – movie theaters are attended predominately by males. Women do not go into them even in groups for fear of assault. And what do these male movie-goers watch? A blend of Bollywood fantasies and violent films from the West.
Women do not dance in public, Bollywood musicals notwithstanding. Only men do. Women walk behind their husbands and do not address men other than with or in the presence of their husbands or fathers. In public festivals, women do not congregate in public spaces. They just don’t go to them. Why? It is cultural. A thousand years of acculturation that segregates the sexes by role playing mores. This cannot be de-programmed by force.
While we were in Kathmandu, Marcia (who had to dress in a modest camisole and full length skirt when in public) commented that the most distressful and shocking image to a young Hindu lad was the lingerie ads in the Western papers. These young men had never been exposed pictures of scantily clad women. To them it was pornographic and to many fundamentalists and even moderates there, the ever increasing influence of Western culture on traditional society is seen as a toxin, polluting their entire world view. This is what is happening as well in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Palestine and any other country that has been subjected to The Forever War and to Neo-Liberal Capitalism’s insatiable lust to exercise control over competing economies and cultures by the use of brute force in its quest for profit and not coincidently its obsession to politically and economically marginalize Russia and its perceived allies.
Malala was attacked by a man insensate over her outspoken “western” behavior. The perpetrator(s) of this heinous assault should be executed. Period. But not by us, because this despicable act was in no small part driven by an outrage against the perceived corruption of and disdain for the ideals and mores he and others of his ilk have been brought up to believe in that to them poor Malala appeared to have adopted.
There is an immense cultural divide here – measured by centuries of programming, religious indoctrination, tribal bigotry, feudal subjugation, greed, entitlement, sexual degradation, economic dominance, and military force. This will not be solved by the soldier. It will be solved by the Peacemaker – the Pacifist.”
—– James Babij
“Jim, though I of course disagree on the point in question, you represent your position ably and eloquently as usual. Surely the definition of certain terms comes into play before one can be certain that as much disagreement actually exists as appears. Pacifism can mean a lot of things. It is one thing to choose passivity when you are the one being attacked. It worked for Ghandi and it didn’t work so well for the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. I wouldn’t call Ghandi’s pacifism immoral (though other aspects of the man seem to be) and it happened to be a successful approach, partly because the Brits were not ISIS, as bad as they were at times.
I also wouldn’t call the passivity of Holocaust Jews immoral, just suicidal and sadly helpful to their killers.
What is immoral is having the means to stop immorality occurring on such a vast scale and opting out under the cloak of abhorring violence. This, more than anything, insures the violence is real for others while empty platitudes play out locally and we feel safe in our aversion. I think I agree with you on 90% of what you would chalk up to America’s abuse of power and exercise of oppression around the world. Even if I agreed with 100% however, it wouldn’t be pertinent. One cannot excuse the refusal to help prevent such a nightmare as this simply by saying “America has done bad things.” There is no thread of logic which can support the idea that America has used the Marines to smash a banana picking strike in Latin America, therefore Iraqi women should be sent into sex slavery in service of a theocratic army of psychopaths who really hate America, and for us to intervene it would simply show why they hate us and underline the fact that we shouldn’t help.
If anything, previous wrongs call out all the more for us to use our power to help where others cannot help themselves. It is penance of a sort.
There are people who absolutely need to be killed. Our delay in helping the Jews in Germany was a temporary pacifism of sorts. That’s not the period of our difference with Hitler that makes me most proud of America.”
—— Robert Estrada
This concluded the discourse, save for ending commiserations including regrets that our relative positions on the topic remained unresolved. But alas, The Forever War continues.
You can read the complete post by Henry A.Giroux on the horror of Hiroshima “Remembering Hiroshima in an Age of Neoliberal Barbarism” on Truthout.
On the subject of ISIL and the delusions of the Obama administration and the Left about the overtly violent doctines supported by the Islamic faith, read “Sleepwalking Through Armageddon” by Sam Harris on his blog.
Originally posted on September 18, 2014.