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Pirates and Emperors: Does size matter?

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Pirates and Emperors: Does size matter?

Post by Scott » October 4th, 2009, 12:29 pm

In City of God, St. Augustine tells a stroy about a pirate captured by Alexander the Great, who asked the pirate how dare he molest the sea. "How dare you molest the whole world," the pirate replied. "Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor."

One of my favorite YouTube video's is based on that story. It's a Schoolhouse Rock parody:
In addition to being entertaining at least to me, I think that video also raises a very interesting and important philosophy of politics question: Does size matter? Most people oppose murder, terrorism, and offensive violence when its committed by the common man who they thus call a criminal, but they support it when it is committed by a government and its agents. I think this happens because governments are powerful enough to get away with it.

I think anarchism, minarchism, and libertarianism are political philosophies that say offensive violence, murder, terrorism, etc. are just as disgusting and worthy of opposition when they are committed by common criminals as when they are committed by emperors and governments. To use an example from pop culture, they would still oppose the rape committed legally by the king's men in the movie Braveheart using jus primae noctis, just as they would oppose any rape.

In contrast, archists (i.e. statists) think size does matter. They think somehow murder, rape, terrorism and other forms of offensive violence are somehow more acceptable and more tolerable when committed by large institutions calling themselves government as opposed to citizens. I think that view is inconsistent and thus illogical. It is also very dangerous and destructive.

What do you think?
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Post by Invictus_88 » October 4th, 2009, 2:32 pm

It can be coherent, but you have to make certain assumptions about the nature of the social contract and the degree to which rights are gained and forfeited in a State.

I love the reference to piracy though. Having read Bookchin, they do seem like impressively effective examples of anarchism in practice.

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Post by Nick_A » October 4th, 2009, 4:05 pm

Hi Scott
In contrast, archists (i.e. statists) think size does matter. They think somehow murder, rape, terrorism and other forms of offensive violence are somehow more acceptable and more tolerable when committed by large institutions calling themselves government as opposed to citizens. I think that view is inconsistent and thus illogical. It is also very dangerous and destructive.
Simone Weil delves into this in her examination of social force where she explains the power and illusion of prestige. The same actions for one with prestige would be considered differently for one without. This refers both to individuals and cultures. Consider the recent question of rape rape.

Whoopi Goldberg recently defended Roman Polanski's drugging and rape of a thirteen year old girl saying it wasn't rape rape. This means that since Roman Polansk has prestige of a famous media man, certain actions are justified and in certain cases should be welcomed. Where a short fat guy lacking prestige would be condemned for rape rape, Roman polanski's actions are excused as just an acceptable rape.

Bill Clinton was the same way. He could grope at will but was excused since he had prestige.

The Armenian genocide lacks prestige so its lack of recognition is excused in contrast with the Holocaust where it is largely condemned. It still has prestige even though many are trying to demote it.

So the bottom line is what we do is largely judged by prestige. The difference between robbers and emperors is prestige by size in contrast with the prestige of personal fame.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Post by Laughing Man » October 5th, 2009, 1:58 am

1 death is a tragedy.

100 deaths is a statistic.

The larger the scale becomes, the more numb we become from continued exposure. Bigger is worse, but only till you get used to it.

It's the small things we always fixate on.
I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes...

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Post by Invictus_88 » October 5th, 2009, 10:52 am

Laughing Man wrote:1 death is a tragedy

100 deaths is a statistic.
That's a bit disconcerting. Even the cold-hearted Stalin put the figure at 1,000,000!

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Post by Laughing Man » October 5th, 2009, 12:06 pm

Well, am I wrong?

Do you disagree?

It is a bit disconcerting but its a trait of society.
I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes...

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Post by Nick_A » October 5th, 2009, 12:51 pm

Laughing Man wrote:well, am i wrong?

do you disagree?

it is a bit disconcerting but its a trait of society.
This is why politically incorrect genocides become possible. We cannot understand the intent for the destruction of a race of people. It becomes theoretical and hence loses its value. Certain genocides become politically incorrect to recognize. Once they lose their humanity, it is easy for genocides to become politicized and manipulated assuring the next genocide.
Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness." Simone Weil....Gravity and Grace

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Post by Invictus_88 » October 6th, 2009, 5:34 am

Laughing Man wrote:well, am i wrong?

do you disagree?

it is a bit disconcerting but its a trait of society.
Of course I disagree. 100 deaths is not enough to be a nationally relevant statistic, and is personal enough that it's usually reported as a tragedy.

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Post by Laughing Man » October 6th, 2009, 10:27 am

It may be a misquote but it is not my quote in the first place... Come to think of it, I actually forget where I heard it.
I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes...

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Post by Invictus_88 » October 6th, 2009, 12:00 pm

As I said; Stalin - 1,000,000.

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Re: Pirates and Emperors: Does size matter?

Post by ape » October 12th, 2009, 9:13 pm

Scott wrote: Does size matter?
....
I think that view is inconsistent and thus illogical. It is also very dangerous and destructive.

What do you think?
I agree with you, Scott.
But for a different reason and one that is more all-encompassing.

Murder or piracy or terrorism or etc is wrong not because of the killing or stealing but because of the prejudice of hating.

So even when I don't kill or steal or rape or etc, but I hate pirates or murderers or etc, that Hate makes me guilty of the same attitude of Hate which motivates pirates to steal, and murderers and terrorists to kill, and rapists to have sex without permission.

Hating first kills Love, and thus then causes more killing of physical life.

Hating steals Love, and thus then causes stealing and so then causes more stealing of physical property.

Hating first rapes Love from the mind and heart, and so then causes more raping of bodily property.

Which wd mean that any size, legal or illegal, jus or un-jus, onlooking or active is easily and clearly and justly held accountable to the one higher standard of Malice-afore-thought or Love-afore-thought.

And thus, Alexander's better question that wd have stumped that pirate, because he had never heard it before, would have been:
Why do you hate yourself as poor?

Which Alex cd only have asked that pirate if he had already examined himself as to what was his motivation in conquering the world: Do I love myself as weak and un-great?

This wd help also sort out all of the following, but is not limited to this list, and all the ones you mentioned:

abortionists who are also at the same time against capital punishment;

anti-abortionists who are also at the same time for capital punishment;

freedom-fighter supporters who are also at the same time against terrorists.

And all such-like contradictory positions.

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Post by Belinda » October 13th, 2009, 4:06 am

This is true that reportage of mass killings don't make us feel the same sympathy as the up close and personal reportage of the truly skilled reporter. It can even be the case that relortage that omits sympathy and empathy is immoral.

But to get back to the original theme of that super video; there isn't a better criterion for the proper use of power than the one from the tenets of chivalry; the more you are powerful the more you should be merciful. Noblesse Oblige.Nobility is merciful.This makes the actions of those politicans evil who empowered and then killed Saddam, and thousands of other Iraqis.Because those politicians were using power for the sake of commercial, industrial and military interests, and not for reasons of mercy.
This was why Americans were hated, because they had lost the vision of Noblesse Oblige.
What else were the fiery and disempowered young men to do but to become pirates?
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Post by ape » October 13th, 2009, 9:51 am

Belinda wrote:... there isn't a better criterion for the proper use of power than the one from the tenets of chivalry; the more you are powerful the more you should be merciful. Noblesse Oblige. Nobility is merciful.
Exactly!
And the Merciful Quality in Nobility is Love, the Love which, because it loves both the giver and the receiver, is twice blessed, and seasons justice, and is the attribute of God himself.
Merchant of Venice.
Mercy without Love is contempt and condescension.

This makes those more powerful politicans evil before, during and after they empowered and then killed Saddam and thousands of other Iraqis, and makes just as evil those less powerful people who hate those politicians, and makes the victims who hated the Americans just as evil, and makes those who re-attacked the Americans just as evil because they all had lost the vision of Noblesse Oblige.

My only Love sprung from my ownly Hate,
Seen too early and known too late.
Prodigious birth of Love it is to me
That I must love my hated enemy.
Romeo and Juliet.

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Post by Scott » November 29th, 2009, 2:21 pm

In another thread, Amerie posted another quote by St. Augustine about Pirates and Emperors:
St. Augustine wrote:In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
Ape also posted some relevant information from a Macquarie University webpage with a copyright attribution to R.J. Kilcullen:
Like Plato and Aristotle, Augustine was no admirer of militarism or empire. Peace is one of his favourite themes. The question, "In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organised brigandage?", and the story of Alexander and the pirate, were often repeated by later writers.
To answer St. Augustine's question, I would need to have a definition of justice which can have many different meanings to different people. Of what use is 'justice' insofar as it is defined by the pirate taking one's gold or making one walk the plank or by the emperor/government exercising eminent domain or sending one to the electric chair? Instead of using the word justice, I would call on freedom and non-violence as the qualities that would protect people from being oppressed by pirates and emperors.
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St. Augustine

Post by JPhillips » November 30th, 2009, 12:40 am

Scott

Government sanctioned killings, or murder if you prefer (I agree in principle but it is a legal term), seems to make it morally just and right for many people. The same can be said for truth in numbers. If everybody is in agreement that the death penalty is moral and just, then it must be moral and just.

Some of us strongly believe that a truth is a truth and a lie is a lie, regardless of the number of people who believe or refuse to believe it.

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