Friday, August 29, 2014

US Military Hero WODs

There is no more fitting tribute to a hero, than to train oneself while focusing on the memory of a hero. Whether it's academic study, athletic training, or drilling life/safety-critical situations, such action honors and renews the hero's legacy.

Let me not write a blog post on this subject, because I can already tell it will become far too long for my schedule today. Instead, let me write my ideal outline for this post as if I could spend a week on it:

  • What is a hero?
    • Warlike heroes
      • Warrior heroes from tribal mythology
      • Warrior heroes from tribal society
      • Warrior heroes from imperial society
      • Warrior heroes from democratic society
      • Warrior heroes in modern film and literature
    • Non-warlike heroes
      • Non-warlike heroes from tribal mythology
      • Non-warlike heroes from tribal society
      • Non-warlike heroes from imperial society
      • Non-warlike heroes from democratic society
      • Non-warlike heroes from modern film and literature
    • Christian Saints
      • Connection with ancient heroism
        • http://www.overcomeproblems.com/saints.htm
      • Canonized saints:
        • Martyrs
        • Confessors
    • Other modern religions' active sainthood systems
      • Wow, I have really hardly even started thinking about this
      • Chinese ancestor worship?
      • Boddhisvattas?
      • Hindus?
      • Muslims?
      • Jews?
  • From a global humanist perspective, how should society honor different kinds of heroes?
    • Claim that strict global humanism would conflict with many prevalent definitions of Just War
      • The humanism de-emphasizes the importance of subjective survival and self-defense.
      • This would throw out almost all the warlike heroes and saints, as no recent interstate conflicts can really be considered as truly justifiable humanitarian causes on one side or the other.
      • List many examples, and address the WWII counterexample.
      • Note that domestic police actions, even those involving force, are much more feasible to have fully humanistic aims and methods.
    • A less-strict global humanism allowing more self-defense, and respecting the importance of preserving subjective cultures and moralities, would still overrule many canonized saints and modern heroes
      • Many canonized warlike heroes were pretty horrible to their vanquished. 
        • http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/long.html
      • Many saints are canonized for their proselytizing efforts, despite their sometimes inhumane treatment of populations targeted for conversion, or communities under their authority.
      • This poses an interesting question concerning the heroism of modern soldiers:
        • Claim that soldiers often have high moral ideals, and/or were indoctrinated into high ideals, but successful military and political policies around the globe have been overwhelmingly cynically self-serving to individual governments, in general.
        • Should we consider the idealistic sacrifices made by individual soldiers heroic, even when the overarching policy of the war they serve in is cynical?
        • The first basic moral experiment that I confront myself with concerns direct military combatants: 
          • Should a pious, devout, loving, 10y/o girl, trained as a suicide bomber, who does so willingly for fully idealistic reasons, killing only military personnel, be considered a hero by her people?
          • How is she different from the 19y/o American marine with similar moral quality, killed in action?
          • What about the Japanese kamikaze pilot?
          • Seems to me that, insofar as the overarching political and military architecture of the conflict is similarly immoral on each side, and insofar as a global humanist perspective is adopted, then these youthful combatants have all achieved similar levels of heroism, or lack thereof.
        • The second basic moral experiment considers more realistic warfare which features collateral damage.
          • What if the 10y/o girl knows she may likely kill some innocent civilians in her attack?
          • What about the American lieutenant of high morals who reluctantly follows orders to supply arms to an allied group knowing they will likely be sold to market, which increases the general arms proliferation destabilizing the region. If he is subsequently killed in action, would he be considered a hero by global humanists?
          • It is somewhat more difficult to consider this category of people as heroes, because they they lack the "perfect virtue" which characterizes the description of saints.
          • Even popular secular morality draws much of its richness from older moralities, which were mainly expressed through religion. So although a utilitarian secular humanist need not require heroes to possess saintly virtues, the predominant trend is to prefer heroes who display a package of moral virtues. So humanists would likely tend to look at this category of candidate heroes as a difficult category, if not disqualified.
    • Under either global humanism system the main heroes left remaining are
      • Policemen, firefighters, EMTs, and others who risk their lives for others while dodging moral dilemmas like those of war.
      • Those who sacrifice of themselves to care for less advantaged people, while dodging moral dilemmas like those of war.
      • Those who confront a warring combatants from the moral high-ground of nonviolence, thereby mitigating the negative effects of war while personally avoiding facing its fundamental moral dilemmas.
        • Some advocates of nonviolent political methods propose that nonviolent methods are sufficient to mitigate war.
        • Their arguments are appealing and can be quite convincing, especially for longer time-frames.
    • However, the global humanist moral system seems insufficient for dealing with immediate issues.
      • Difficulties coordinating outlined in game theory prevent coordination on nonviolent and equitable solutions to problems.
        • communication problems
        • uncertainty
        • inability to make credible commitments
        • direct conflicts of interest / no mutually beneficial equilibrium
      • Uncertainty of the stability of equilibria approached by coordination on nonviolent methods.
        • Recognizably successful precedents are rather rare:
          • Costa Rica is the shining example of a government employing nonviolent methods as a state defense policy
          • , Indian independence, USA Civil Rights, South African Apartheid, Taiwan 2014
        • Well-publicized failures of nonviolent action are less frequent:
          • Myanmar, Falun Gong, Syria
        • More common is where repression, racism and other violent dynamics are so dominant that nonviolent protest has little scope to operate. 
          • Most of these are Western client states or colonies, so don't get righteous. I won't bother differentiating.
          • Ethnic cleansing of natives in the Americas, African Slavery in the Americas, African Colonies including "Congo Free State", China / Tibet, Iraq under Saddam, Iran under the Shah, Iran after the Shah, Zaire under Mobutu, dozens of African Cold War client states...
          • Less currently-violent examples where nonviolent action is difficult because of authoritarian regimes include Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Laos, check the long list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index
        • Also common is cases where nonviolent actions achieve limited or uncertain gains
          • Palestine is the poster child for this case. 
          • Certainly the efforts of communities like Budrus, the flotillas, the international journalists, the Jews protesting against the occupation, all qualify as heroism.
        • There is a perceived or real lack of nonviolent tools and options.
          • How can nonviolence be applied as a tool of the state?
          • During the French and Indian War, the British threatened to dissolve Pennsylvania's largely Quaker parliament if they refused to pay war taxes.
          • Some Quaker legislators chose to resign their position, leaving few enough Quakers remaining in Parliament that the war tax would pass, without Quakers voting for it.
          • Is that nonviolence? Or is it throwing in the towel?
          • Colonies and nation-states have found it difficult to exercise nonviolence as a political tool to assert themselves against other nations.
        • Finally, there is diverse contemporary experience with well-intended social experiments gone awry. People may avoid ambitious nonviolence just because it would be such a big and opaque change away from their comfortable status quo. Some examples of idealism thwarted by human fault and insufficiency are:
          • Communists: Stalin, Great Leap Forward...
          • Shakers: petered out
          • Jonestown: leaders got addicted to meth
          • Liberia: turned into another colonial misadventure
    • But I don't blame nonviolent action for the confusion. 
      • Let me try blaming our blunted moral frameworks.
  • I claim that fully-global humanism is insufficient as a complete practical moral stance. 
    • Humanism fails to provide practicable guidelines for operating the ship of state, the role of politics, in a dangerous world.
    • Courtesy toward neighbors requires assigning them certain amount of moral priority
      • holding doors open for nearby pedestrians, 
      • listening communication protocol during a conversation
      • recognition of next-door neighbors when you encounter them in public
    • We spend time on being courteous to our neighbors because 
      • our existence in a fragile and needy human body requires it
      • our fates are linked with our neighbors' fates
    • Generally, the closer a neighbor is to us in terms of information and influence, the more linked our fates.
      • This link operates through four mechanisms:
        • A: I know things about my neighbor
        • B: My actions can influence my neighbor's life
        • C: My neighbor knows things about me
        • D: His actions can influence my life
      • When we are close to someone in a basket of the four mechanisms ABCD, then
        • If we share intimate across-the-board mutual knowledge and mutual influence with a person, then we will almost necessarily be the person's opponent or friend.
        • It becomes more likely that we can achieve positive mutual gains by cooperating in some way, or mutual losses through war.
        • Our identity becomes more related to the other person's identity.
    • Let's consider "low" and "high" levels of each type ABCD of information or influence
      • Considering these four mechanisms as dimensions of proximity, then there are 2^4 = 16 "types" of subjective relationships that I can have with a neighbor.
      • Each of these 16 "types," numbered 1 through 16, will have different characteristics.
    • In addition, to those four dimensions, there are more specific kinds of proximity that my affect morality of behavior in relationships.
      • I may have physical proximity to someone, but communicative distance from them, as I don't speak their language. 
      • I my have emotional proximity to my sister, but a long physical distance as she lives across the country. 
      • Physical, racial, socioeconomic, emotional, cultural.
    • In all, we may identify dozens of important dimensions of proximity relevant to a moral question, and a resulting diverse typology of relationships.
      • Each type may suggest a different type of courtesy, and a different type of ideal relationship.
      • This resulting diversity of ideal relationships would contradict the moral uniformity of humanism.
    • I do not abandon morally uniform humanism as irrelevant,
      • Rather describe it as a reasonable approximation for many situations
      • But the complex modern externalities like climate change, nuclear weapons, global pandemics, globally imperial military adventures, etc, make humanism alone insufficiently nuanced for planning and prioritization purposes.
    • That is, humanism remains an important gut-check.
      • I think that if humanism strongly rejects a choice, then that's a pretty bad choice.
      • But we need more from ethics and morals than just binary decisions
  • Thus, I am proposing a system of limited moral relativism
    • I imagine the need for moral relativism is somewhat like the need for "modern physics". 
      • Let's say that the selfish nature of "homo economicus" is like Newtonian physics. It's a great useful model, you can build huge bridges and grand structures with it. But you can't run a washing machine with it; Newtonian physics completely ignores electricity.
      • Almost all of the world we interact with operates on "classical physics": kinetic, solid, and fluid mechanics; electromagnetism, acoustics, thermodynamics, etc. All this is analagous to a more behavioral economic model that includes humanist morals and ethics.
      • But now we also have "modern physics," with nuclear fission, quantum theory, and how near-light-speeds affect the passage of time with via special relativity.
      • Nowadays, engineers working on GPS satellites even have to deal with "special relativity" in their calculations.
      • In a similar way, I think that society has become as complex as the calculations needed for the precise timing of a GPS satellite's orbit. To deal with the morality of complex global issues, we have to be really careful to consider all the moral nuances!
    • So I am considering how my moral obligations to others change dynamically based on my "proximity" to them.
      • The proximity distance metric has many component dimensions.
      • It could have four (ABCD), or it could have dozens.
      • I haven't thought out yet what each of the possible categories would entail, 
      • but that enumeration/visualization project is for another day!!!
  • Figuring out this system of limited humanist morality,
    • could help me more clearly define my moral relation to soldiers with:
      • diverse morality, risking their lives in ...
      • combats structured for diverse political ends, with... 
      • diverse levels of risk to innocents... 
      • fighting for a diverse set of nations and causes...
      • when I am articulating my morality before interlocutors or audiences claiming diverse moral standpoints,
    • could help me form a process for evaluating the heroism of those soldiers...
      • That project is also for another day.
      • But I am grateful for this opportunity to engage the in this deliberative process.
      • And I affirm that that the self-sacrifice, hard work, loyalty, and lofty ideals, of soldiers, does not go unnoticed or unthanked, in me.
This rumination came about due to my review of U.S. Army First Lieutenant Dimitri Del Castillo, before the "Del: Hero WOD" today at CrossFit Breed

http://crossfitbreed.com/friday-8-29-14/

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"...not a thief, or vicious man... among them..."

From the Wikipedia article on Túpac Amaru:

"In Cuzco in 1589, Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo — one of the last survivors of the original conquerors of Peru—wrote in the preamble of his will, the following, in parts:

We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there law suits respecting it… the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free from the committal of crimes or excesses, as well men as women, that the Indian who had 100,000 pesos worth of gold or silver in his house, left it open merely placing a small stick against the door, as a sign that its master was out. With that, according to their custom, no one could enter or take anything that was there. When they saw that we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed that it was from fear of them, that they might not kill us, but not because they believed that anyone would steal the property of another. So that when they found that we had thieves among us, and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they despised us."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Plover Song of Sixpence

Learning to type with Plover, an open-source stenotype program. Here is an auto-updating chart of my progress learning to type the "Song of Sixpence" as fast as possible. Each timed repetition is a point on the chart. Untimed repetitions are less than 20% of total reps.



Here are the incredible lyrics to the Song of Sixpence:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie,
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing,
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the King!

The King was in the counting house,
Counting out his money,
The Queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey,
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird,
And nipped off her nose!

And here is a 1-year Stenotype progress chart from Mirabai Knight, stenotypist and guru of Plover. Note that:

  • The axes are flipped between my chart and Mirabai's
  • I'm such a beginner that my WPMs aren't even on Mirabai's chart yet! (As of this writing.)  ;)
Mirabai Knight's progress in steno school 2006-2007.  (Link to her blogpost.)