Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quick non-interventionist post...

Hey y'all....I'm getting back to your comments...I have a quick moment here, though, to post this:

That's about the size of it. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Non-Intervention and WWII

The question has been raised as to how a non-interventionist policy fits in with the prosecution of WWII.  The dilemma is presented as follows:

Given: World War II was war required for the continuance of our way of life.
Given: Non-interventionism would have had us stay out of the war.
Conclusion: If we had kept a non-interventionist policy, we would all be speaking Japanese, Italian, and German, and the Jews and blacks would be extinct.
Ergo, non-interventionism is bunk.
To rephrase in the slightly more sensational terms:
You don't want to interfere in other countries' affairs?  But what about Hitler!!!?!!!
(I'm pretty sure this counts as an instance of Godwin's Law, but I'll assume it's a valid question for the time being.)

Here is the most cogent response I can think of at the moment.  Others may have things to add, or perhaps might take a different tack, but here's my own answer.

The original question displays a fundamental lack of understanding regarding what non-interventionism actually is.  In fact, WWII is the perfect "case study" for how non-interventionism actually works, Constitutionally.

No non-interventionist that I know of would argue that we should have stayed out of the war.  I know several (myself included) that would argue that we could have stayed out of the war by making some different choices earlier on.   But given that we didn't make said choices, we all agree that getting involved was the necessary thing to do.

This shows that the phrase "non-interventionist" does not represent an absolute.  We are not absolutely against all intervention.  Our position is not isolationist, nor is it anti-war.1  This is the point I was trying to make in the very first post on this topic.

If war needs to be done, then let's do it!

But here's where the difference lies: a non-interventionist does not primarily rely on the strength of fear, that is, on the threat death and destruction to be perpetrated by America if we don't get our way.

See, the non-interventionist vision is based on a fundamental principle: respect for others, even those who do not respect you in return.

We are not against carrying (and using!) a big stick, when necessary.  But America seems to have forgotten the "walk softly" part.  We've also forgotten that the big stick's default state is supposed to be as a  defensive weapon, not as an offensive one (in both senses of the word).

I would make a strong clarification here, that "respect" does NOT equal "capitulation".  Respect does NOT equal groveling and begging for permission from the UN or other nations to actually do anything.  It's not about permission.

Sovereign countries don't need our permission, and we don't need theirs.  We can, however, "walk softly", like good neighbors, and check to see if whatever we do will cause burdens on the other nations that they are not able or willing to bear freely, without coercion by fear.

Let's put it in religious terms, since most of the interventionists tend to claim the name, at least nominally, of "Christian", for themselves, and for our nation.

Non-interventionism is the carrying out in national policy of the concept of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Put another way: it's karma on the international scale.

See, not all nations are our friends, and it would be naive in the extreme to imagine this to be so.  But even those who, at best, would sell us down the river for their own interests -- that is to say, our enemies -- ought still to be treated as truly sovereign nations, and allowed to run their business as they see fit, even if it is to their own detriment.

Yet another rendition, which is also the basic libertarian precept: If it harms none, do as you will.

The non-interventionist is not against the use of war, both military and economic.  Sometimes it is necessary. However, the non-interventionist desires that only truly just wars be fought, and only then with the full consent and cooperation of the nation.

This is enshrined in our Constitution by Article 1, Section 8, which explicitly grants to the Congress the power to declare War, and thereby also explicitly restricts said power from any other national entity, including the Commander in Chief himself.

Now, as to whether Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Serbia, Bosnia, Somalia, Libya, Uganda, etc. actually constitute war or not, and if so whether we should have fought these -- those are entirely different conversations.  Also, whether the economic sanctions on Iran and other countries constitute war or not, and if so, whether these wars are just or not -- also entirely different conversations.

Unfortunately, incomplete fragments of those conversations do tend to get pulled into the basic talking points of non-interventionism, and frequently are mistaken for the main point.  I say "unfortunately", because I think that it muddies the waters and leads to exactly the kind of misunderstandings I'm trying to correct here.

Perhaps "non-interventionist" is a problematic label for the attitude we espouse.  Perhaps an alternative would be "careful", and "open", and "respectful".  Maybe even "reluctant", although that has a slightly negative ring to it.

A better label might be "Sovereign-nationalist", although the "nationalist" part has some other baggage with it that we might not want, so maybe just "sovereigntist" would be best.  We would mean it as:
We understand and respect the sovereignty of other nations, no matter how small or large.  We believe that this respect, whether reciprocated or not, is essential to maintain our own sovereignty, which is based on the same fundamental concept (i.e. of national sovereignty).
To assert our own sovereignty, while denying by actions or words the sovereignty of other nations, is hypocrisy, and will lead (and is leading) to the dissolution of the very sovereignty (our own) which we wish to assert.

War only happens when an aggressor nation voluntarily relinquishes it's own sovereignty in this same way: by violating the sovereignty of other nations.  In such cases, said other nations are right and just to defend themselves at the very least, to declare a state of War, and to prosecute the War with all vigor.

Often in these cases, "the best defense is a good offense".  This offense differs from the aggressor nation's offense, in that the newly offensive nation is reacting, and is not an aggressor.  (You can see clearly, I hope, where the concept of "preemptive strike" falls on this paradigm.)

The aggressor is a rogue state, a feral nation, rabid, and in need of being "put down", having relinquished their own sovereignty by being the aggressor.

In the case of WWII, the Axis powers were undoubtedly the aggressors, and the Allied powers were justly acting to stop this aggression.  This was based in reality, not possibility; concrete action, not imaginative speculation.

So what changed?  I'll address that in a different post, from a historical perspective, rather than a non-interventionist one (in other words, I'll talk about what actually happened, and not how it could have/should have/might have blah blah blah).  Hint: it involves The Bomb.

I may do a post after that one, too, to show how non-interventionist policy, as outlined above -- that is, the reluctance to perpetrate war, while embodying adamant willingness to take it to it's full extent when it is in fact necessary -- still applies in the age of The Bomb, and is, in fact, even more important!

1And yet, in spite of having said this several times, the detractors still insist on displaying their stunted empathy, intellectual disability and mental immaturity by refusing to accept that this is in fact our position.  They refuse to engage in subtlety of conversation, of thought.  They are incapable, it seems, of nuance.

If this is not deliberate, then I hold some hope (however little) that perhaps they may be taught these things.  Nevertheless, I am at the point where I am about to give up, and just leave them to their ignorance.

If, on the other hand, this refusal is deliberate, then I should have left them to their stupidity (for so it is, if deliberate) a long time ago.

So....this will be my last post answering their questions, if they do not display some level of progress in their understanding of my position as I understand it (as opposed to their caricature of it), whether they actually agree with it or not.  (I may still post on the topic, but I will not engage with questions that show an inability or unwillingness to engage with what I'm actually saying, and not with a straw man.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Really liked this article.  It points out that American politics, unfortunately, has been (for a long time!) iteration after iteration of the old con game, "Let's You and Him Fight."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Iconography and Graphic Design...

We are an increasingly multi-media culture.  We are also an increasingly "connected" culture, in terms of communication and information availability, although increasingly disconnected in terms of many other things -- one wonders if this latter is a direct result of the former?   But I digress...

The Church as a whole, has jumped on the bandwagon, as evidenced by the fact that pretty much every church I know of has a website and/or FaceBook page. Even the monasteries are participating; e.g. one of the forums to which I contribute recently got a new member -- a monk residing at Simonas Petras on the Holy Mountain! (I didn't know the Holy Mountain gets internet, let alone had any interest in it. But again, I digress...)

However, even though we might be arriving at the party, I'm not sure we understand the party, and I'm doubly unsure that we've given it the deep, careful inspection it needs.

The Orthodox Church has a carefully developed, long-standing tradition of iconography.  It includes a theology and methodology for each and every component of the task and output.  True, there is room in it for a great variety of style and presentation, but the underlying principles are clear, and were thought through long ago.

What I have not seen (yet1) is a careful, prayerful application of the spirit and thought underlying that ancient tradition to the contemporary condition.  That is, has anyone looked at how these things might be applied to (or rather, expanded into) the digital and print worlds?

As far as I know, the last time any development of this sort took place was in the application of these principles to Western Renaissance and enlightenment painting methods, and to neon lighting, the results of which can be seen in, respectively, the "Russian-style" icons, and some of the lighting of Russian churches built in the States in the 20's and 30's, when neon was still a novelty.2

But both of these media are still in the hand-produced, physical realm.  Since that time, we have seen the rapid development of new media and media types that represent a complete sea change, particularly audio recording, photographs, and moving pictures (both theater and television), etc.  This innovation has coincided with the technological advancement of content delivery methods, which expand both the distance and quantity of distribution to previously unheard-of (and largely unimagined) scope, including radio, television, telephones and faxes.

All of these various technologies have congealed into the massive beast we call "the internet".  Whether this is the end of the line, or just the precursor to something even more, I do not know.  However, there is no doubt that the capabilities of the internet, with all its peripherals (Xbox, computers, smartphones, etc.) are the culmination of the previous things, including and massively expanding each of them, manifesting an easy synergy which is far more than the sum of its parts.

These things have happened quite rapidly, and the Orthodox Church, for the most part, has either completely eschewed them, or has embraced them wholeheartedly, including the techniques for producing content for them, and the assumptions underlying their development and use in general.

My point here is not so much a statement, viz., "This is not good!" or "This is perfectly fine."  Rather, I am asking a question: "Is this good?  Have given the requisite thought and prayerful consideration to our use of these new technologies?  If not, where do we start?"

Like any mere technology, the internet, I think3, is neither inherently good nor inherently evil; it contains both in large quantities (although I'm pretty sure the percentages skew heavily toward the "evil" side -- or, at best, toward the "useless").  But if we are to "baptize" the internet, to make proper use of it for the Kingdom of God, we have to examine it carefully, including not just its outward forms, but also its underlying assumptions, and those of each of its parts.

This is a massive undertaking, no doubt.  However, I think this is a vitally important question, and we should not shrink from it simply because of the difficulty of the task.

I'm convinced that this is a critical question because 1) we do have an Orthodox Theology of iconography, and that Theology IS part of the tradition of the Church, and, 2) these modern developments are themselves comprised largely of iconography, even to the point where the universal User Interface, in all but the most basic of its iterations, is shot through with elements that are actually called "icons".

Furthermore, we are called to be "in the world, but not of the world."  This means that we do not shrink away from it, but rather, as did our Savior, enter into and redeem it by, as Paul says, "using [it], and not abusing it."  We should view it as being crucified to ourselves, and ourselves to it.  But what does this crucifiction look like?  What form does it take?  How is it manifested in this modern technology?

The world has a fully developed, carefully directed, specifically formed iconography (we call it "Graphic Design", and "User Interface Development", etc.).  An great example of the world's perfection of this art is the Apple design ethos.

In addition, the Orthodox Church definitely has an active and growing presence in this new, digital world.  My question is: what have we, so far, allowed to guide and underlie the shape of that presence?  Have we even thought about it?

What does an updated4 Orthodox Iconography look like, to the glory of God and the edification of the Church?  Maybe it looks like what we're already doing now; maybe it doesn't.  But either way, we need to give it a look.

I have no answers in this post.  I'm just scratching my head, and trying to start a conversation that I hope will be given some serious prayer and reflection, and perhaps even discussion, both informal and formal, by the Church at large. :)

I am particularly interested in the thoughts and feelings on this matter of the Church's tonsured iconographers, but also of those who have been tasked with maintaining their community's interaction(s) with these new media.

Perhaps these things have already been hammered out, and I'm just late to this particular party.  But if not, may the Lord (continue to) direct our steps in all things, that we may in all things be pleasing to Him.

---- NOTES:

I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I'm saying I haven't seen it yet. If you have, please point me to what you've seen. Thanks! :)

2I personally think that the inclusion of neon signage in the Church, at least in the way I've seen it done so far, is gaudy at best.  I think it smacks very much of "we didn't actually think this through all the way".  But this is just my opinion; regardless, though, I do think the lack of universal acceptance so far does tend emphasize my point regarding the even newer media discussed.

3Yes, I realize that this paragraph is itself based on (or rather, expressing) some un-addressed assumptions. However, I think that on these, the horse has already left the barn a long time ago.

4Not changed! Rather, applied to the modern media situation.