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Re: GG: War paragraph
I'm sorry to be jumping in late on this, but an avalanche of
homework has made me get quite behind on my reading of the list. I have
read GG's opinions on war before and I have always felt that this was a
subject on which he needed severe re-education. I believe he and I would
have quite an argument going on this if he were here to discuss it.
Basically, I think his ideas about mechanised warfare being more moral
are misguided at best and dangerous at worst. As an undergraduate I took
a seminar in Social Psychology on the Psychology of Evil. Since it was a
social psych course, we mainly focussed on the Holocaust, My Lai, and
other communal examples of evil. Naturally, we started with Milgram's
obedience to authority studies. For those of you who are not familiar
with Milgram, I will give a brief synopsis.
In order to try to understand how Hitler got people to
participate in the Holocaust, Stanley Milgram set up an experiment to see
how far people would go in hurting another person when told to do so by
an authority. He set up a situation in which people believed they were
delivering electric shocks of increasing intensity to another volunteer
in the experiment. While they were doing this they heard a recording of
the person begging to be released, complaining of pain and of suffering
from a heart condition which then descends to banging on the wall
followed by an ominous silence. Even with all these cues to the fact
that they were doing irrepairable(SP?) harm to the person, the majority
of Milgram's participants followed the instructions of the authority
figure, the scientist in charge of the bogus experiment, and gave a full
series of increasingly intense shocks past the point at which the machine
was labelled "Danger XXX". In an earlier version, where Milgram did not
include any sound effects, ALL the participants went through the full
course of shocks.
After getting these results, Milgram tried several variations on
the experiment trying to find situations that would lead the participants
to rebel. One of the factors he varied was the proximity of the victim.
He found that one of only conditions under which most of the subjects
rebelled was one in which the actor playing the victim was physically in
the room, sitting next to them and they had to hold the persons hand onto
the shock plate to make sure they recieved the shock.
By now you're wondering why I am telling you all this. This
digression was to make it plain to you that a real physical experience of
the pain one is causing another person is one of the only ways to keep
people from blindly committing atrocities. Gould doesn't seem to
have a problem with the fact that mechanized warfare has statistically
higher casualties. I, however, do and I feel that distancing ourselves
from the biological reality of warfare as he suggests we do is one of the
most reckless and immoral things we can do because it will produce more
suffering, more death, more atrocities and more holocausts.
Thank you for letting me sound off on what I have always found
the most reprehensible element of Gould's thought. It's good to discuss
his warts now and then.
Janet T. O'Keefe
"Some of us are cursed with brains like fly paper. Stuck to it is an
enormous amount of miscellaneous information - most of it useless."