Monday, January 14, 2019

The Rojava Conflict

We're raised to understand conflict from the perspective of good guys and bad guys. But it's rarely so clear. The battle for land and resources can be utterly nonsensical, particularly where there is plenty to go around. I watched the documentary Jane, in which Goodall described the horrors of the Chimp Wars of the mid-70s when a peaceful group of chimpanzees divided into two factions, seemingly randomly, and then one completely slaughtered the other over a period of about four years. They didn't stop until every single one was dead, even though some of the chimps were killing former childhood friends. Primates kill other primates. And we're primates. But we have something no other primates have: complex language. At what point will we use it instead of violence?

Turkey launched an assault on Rojava a year ago, sparked by a US announcement that the US wants to create a border force 30,000 strong to patrol the area, which will include the Kurdish military. So far, at least 23 civilians are dead, and 5,000 displaced. It's a tragedy that must be stopped, absolutely. In the words of Sean Crowe, it's wrong on so many levels and must be condemned:

In one sense it seems simply a territorial war not entirely dissimilar to conflicts between animals everywhere who don't want that group in this place. But it's also very complicated. (Or complicated to me.) I'm just trying to figure it all out here.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Gertz's Nihilism and Technology

I really love this book. First of all, the chapter headings and sub-headings are all clever little in jokes, like "Beyond Google and Evil," that make anyone with a cursory knowledge of Nietzsche feel like part of the gang. But it's not just looking at tech through the lens of Nietzsche in a cut-and-paste way. This is an analysis of our relationship with technology that, while immersed in Nietzsche, and will allow a novice to solidify their understanding of some major works, is really an analysis of human nature that would benefit the a-philosophical as well. This is a brief summary as a memory aid for myself, but the book deserves a close read in full.

He uses Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals to explain how technology is used "to soothe rather than cure" our nihilistic attitudes by applying five tactics the ascetic priest uses "to make nihilism palatable" (21): self-hypnosis, mechanical activity, petty pleasures, herd instinct, and orgies of feeling.