In my conversations with people about the American, British, and Canadian assisted genocide going on in Yemen I notice a mental stumbling block. Some of the most politically-minded people wish to change the topic. People don’t seem to entertain the notion that it’s possibly true, and yet it’s easily substantiated – Al Jazeera and the BBC report on it thoroughly. Yet, it’s failing to penetrate the consciousness of the average American, Canadian, or the Brit.
I initially wrote about this here.
One would think that it would be a major political issue that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Theresa May, and Justin Trudeau have all endorsed arming the Saudis, who are currently guilty of the heinous war crimes in Yemen. Rand Paul recently spoke to the US media and Congress about this issue, only to be met with silence. No one cared. It failed to resonate with people and I’ve been grappling with the question of why no one cares that our countries have completely lost their sense of ethics.
C.S. Lewis had an interesting argument against naturalism (the view that we are completely derived from nature and have no soul). He argued that if all our thoughts are merely the byproduct of accidental collisions and random mutations, then we would have no justification for assuming them to be true. Via natural selection we could only assume that our mental operations were a tool to help us survive, rather than arrive at truth; our thoughts would only arrive at truth when truth is pragmatic, or the thought’s survival value indicated we ought to think it.
Casting metaphysics aside, the same rule applies in politics. Our ethical judgments, as the byproduct of evolutionary programming, aren’t necessarily geared toward ethics, but rather pragmatic concerns; i.e. getting by in society.
It would ostracize people to think of their country as evil, and thus our evolutionary programming doesn’t permit it. If it seems like there’s some sort of thought-barrier when you talk to people, it’s because there is. There’s something blocking their thinking. It’s an evolutionary impasse. There’s no survival benefit to coming to grips with the depths of depravity of one’s country.
Every nasty word that was ever said about the genocidal war criminals throughout history applies to Canada, the UK, and the US; and to confess the maltreatment of the Yemenis is to say the most atrocious things one can imagine. Unfortunately, the majority of the people living in one of those countries are not programmed to think in that way.
Given that our nationality is part of our identity, a large part of our upbringing, most people take it personally when their country is insulted. The relationship between nationality and identity is so intertwined one might as well insult a person’s parentage, with the same expectation. People either cannot fathom the depths of their country’s evil, or they cannot entertain the possibility or speaking out against it. Our psychological make-up doesn’t allow for this.
I don’t possess the political acumen or ethical sagacity to offer a solution to the complexity of Yemen’s internal conflicts. Nonetheless, there is an aspect of the conflict in Yemen in which the moral imperativeis deafeningly loud in terms of telling us the course of action. The Saudis are using our weapons. We have to stop this. Ethics, morality, and basic human decency demand no less. If we don’t then I’d suggest Lewis was wrong, we don’t have a soul.
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