Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In those days was [righteous king] Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.

Then the king turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with an undivided heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." And Hezekiah wept sore.

And it came to pass, before Isaiah could get halfway out of the palace, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, 'Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal you. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years.'"
2 Kings 20:1-6

the power of no

Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch resistance to Nazism from 1940 to 1945 was pronounced and fairly successful. In Norway, for example, teachers refused to promote fascism in the schools. For this, the Nazis imprisoned a thousand teachers. But, the remaining teachers stood firm, giving anti-fascist instruction to children and teaching in their homes. This policy made the pro-fascist Quisling government so unpopular that it eventually released all of the imprisoned teachers and dropped its attempt to dominate the schools. … In Copenhagen, Danes used a general strike to liberalize martial law. …

But, surely the most amazing but widely neglected case of nonviolent resistance against Nazi Germany was the protection of Jews and other persecuted minorities from deportation, imprisonment, and murder. … Gene Sharp shows how the nations which nonviolently resisted National Socialist racial persecutions saved almost all of their Jews, while Jews in other Nazi-controlled nations were vastly more likely to be placed in concentration camps and killed. The effort to arrest Norway’s seventeen hundred Jews sparked internal resistance and protest resignations; most of the Norwegian Jews fled to Sweden. … When Himmler tried to crack down on Danish Jews, the Danes thwarted his efforts. Not only did the Danish government and people resist – through bureaucratic slowdowns and noncooperation – but, surprisingly, the German commander in Denmark also refused to help organize Jewish deportations. This prompted Himmler to import special troops to arrest Jews. But, in the end almost all Danish Jews escaped unharmed. …

The omnipresent pattern … is that totalitarian governments are not omnipotent. They need the cooperation of the ruled to exert their will. If a people denies cooperation, even a government as vicious as Hitler’s, bound by few moral constraints, might be unable to get what it wants.
--Bryan Caplan(The Literature of Nonviolent Resistance and Civilian-Based Defense)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Samuel Dickson was 17 years old, almost a man, that April night in San Francisco 100 years ago. He and a friend had gotten standing-room tickets for the opera and heard the great Caruso sing.

The night was clear and beautiful, so after the opera they went to the top of Telegraph Hill to look at the city -- the lights of the Barbary Coast, the steeple of Old St. Mary's Church on California Street, the rounded domes of Temple Emanu-El on Sutter, the alleys of Chinatown and the distant gilded dome of City Hall.

"It's the most beautiful city in the world," his friend said.

Dickson remembered that remark all of his long life, because the next morning, April 18, 1906, would begin three surreal days of terror, flight and chaos. A killer earthquake would strike. Untold numbers of people would die. Uncontrollable fires would rage at temperatures of 2,000 degrees. At least 250,000 people would be left homeless. And everything that Dickson saw before him, the great city of San Francisco, would be destroyed.

"San Francisco is gone," Jack London wrote later. "Nothing remains of it but memories."

Monday, October 4, 2010

The U.S. Army has used local television stations in the U.S. as training posts for some of its psychological-operations personnel, The Upshot has learned. Since at least 2001, CBS affiliates in Raleigh, N.C. and Savannah, Ga., have regularly hosted active-duty soldiers from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations group as part of the Army's Training With Industry program. Training With Industry is designed to offer career soldiers a chance to pick up skills through internships and fellowships with private businesses. The PSYOPS soldiers used WRAL and WTOC to learn broadcasting and communications expertise that they could apply in their mission, as the Army describes it, of "influenc[ing] the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign audiences."

The relationship between PSYOPS, Training With Industry, and television news operations has stirred controversy in the past. In 2000, after a Dutch newspaper reported that PSYOPS troops had been placed in CNN's newsroom under the program, CNN discontinued the internships and admitted that they had been a mistake. "It was inappropriate for PSYOPS personnel to be at CNN, they are not here now, and they never again will be at CNN," a spokesperson said at the time.

Forgiveness is not a tiny, inward act which a discrete effort of will brings forth in response to specific types of occasions. Rather, it is part or product of an overall orientation of lives of a certain kind, which is "there" before any occasion or whether or not any occasion ever arises. The media spokespeople and various public officials expressed amazement at how forgiveness functioned in the Amish community after the recent schoolhouse slayings. But that was the "natural," though not the inevitable or unalloyed, response of the people involved. The intentionality structures of thought, historical understanding, feeling, and evaluation around which their consciousness and life were organized, support and issue in forgiveness in relevant situations. The people in that community thought about and approached forgiveness from within the framework of the intentional structures of their particular kind of life and world. Forgiveness requires a substantial self, incorporating subtly nuanced and dynamically organized long-term dispositions of thought, feeling and valuation into a character embracing all essential dimensions of the self. (If it hasn’t got to your body yet, it has a ways to go.)

To cultivate forgiveness as a part of human life, if it means anything at all, is to cultivate an overall character of the sort that can do forgiveness, and, when in good shape, can do it at a walk. It is better when one does not have to do this in a particularly self-conscious manner, but any sensible way is better than none at all. "The quality of mercy is not strained," wrote a profound soul. Likewise for forgiveness. A forgiving person will not understand what all the fuss is about. What else would one do? Like the "righteous gentiles" that put themselves in mortal danger to save their Jewish neighbors. Was there, given who they were, anything else to be done?
--Dallas Willard