|About Ron Ridenour|
Sweat sticks to my armpits, knots form in my shoulders, butterflies rumble in my stomach, flatus turns to farts and belches. I am about to play god, pointing my accusing finger at people, judging them guilty with death as consequence. Why do I do this to them and to me?
Firstly, not all of those who died on September 11th, 2001 at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were innocent victims. Some were either accomplices or directly responsible for crimes against humanity: crimes, which the rich owners of property and production, and their elected or appointed government officials, commit against untold numbers of people on a routine daily basis, in addition to their wars for limitless Manifest Destiny. Some who died that day participated in either the decision-making process to exploit and oppress other human beings, and or they gladly partook in the material gains extracted from the lives and labor of others. And some who died were innocent.
Secondly, we are bombarded by politicians and the mass media proclaiming the need for revenge for the "innocent victims of terrorism." A permanent war against one land after another is now rationalized, and yet the mass media gives us ther impression that those American victims of terror the only ones meeting a painful demise. Millions and millions of others have been and are being tortured and killed by the United States government and the nation's economic owners since Manifest Destiny was codified in the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. The US also has supportive relations with other brutal governments, and other puppets, who have been and are responsible for terror.
In Denmark, to where I moved from Los Angeles in 1980, politicians and mass media rush to keep in step with every word and action emanating from the White House and the Pentagon.
Thirdly, we citizens of the US and Europe are forced to accept and endure severe reductions of our hard-won civil liberties and worker rights. The so-called "Patriotic Act" and European "Terror Packages" were shuffled through our congresses and parliaments with hardly a pip of opposition. Our social welfare conditions are reduced, our immigrant and war-caused refugees suffer greater restrictions and humiliations, the rich now pay even less taxes for social welfare, and our poor grow in numbers with poverty deepening. The rich and their armies take ever more from the working majorities and the unemployed.
All this the powerful governments justify in the name of "respect" for those killed on that fateful day.
Using September 11 as their excuse, the United States government and allies commit crimes of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebonan, Colombia, the Phillipines, former Soviet Union countries and elsewhere. This terror is necessary for greater profits generated by military escalation, and the plundering of these nation's resources, mainly oil and gas, but also water and land.
They will not stop their insanity until enough of us who survive their onslaughts wake up and combine to say NO and to mean it!
I take up this theme of co-responsibility and co-guilt, because I believe it a matter of life and death for we humans. We must become clear about what it is that we undertake with our lives and those of others. We shall act against our governments' terrorist wars, else accept the consequences of shared the blame and consequences, which will lead to massive worldwide destruction.
Philosophical Thoughts on Responsibility and Blame
My hypothesis of shared guilt regarding September 11 is based upon thoughts expressed by existentialists Sartre and Camus, dialectical materialists Marx, Lenin and Che, Danish philosophers Soeren Kirkegaard and K.E. Loegstrup, and the Christian Bible.
These philosophers, I believe, would be in essential agreement with what Jean Paul Sartre wrote in 1946: (1)
"When we say that man is responsible for himself, we do not mean that he is responsible only for his own individuality, but that he is responsible for all men...in choosing for himself he chooses for all men."
"One ought always to ask oneself what would happen if everyone did as one is doing; nor can one escape from that disturbing thought except by a kind of self-deception.
"We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does."
"Choice is possible, but what is not possible is not to choose. I can always choose, but I must know that if I do not choose, that is still a choice."
"We will freedom for freedom's sake, in and through particular circumstances...thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own."
Marxists and behavorial scientists assert that the objective circumstances in which we find ourselves influence significantly what our choices are. A poor and oppressed person in an underdeveloped country, and without influence in government decision-making, has fewer choices to impact upon the world than an ordinary worker in a rich land with a parliamentary system.
Loegstrup meant that the latitude an individual--living in countries which developed the bourgeois system following feudalism--has to impact upon his and others course of action is significant enough to demand that he/she stand accountable for his actions. That is, each of us is co-responsible for what our governments and economic systems produce.
"In a democracy, each citizen" is also complicitous in all the ill-treatment and in all the destitution "the political responsibility exists in being co-responsible for others actions, that is, the governors." (2)
Since we are now sovereign, says Loestrup, each individual has, or can acquire, a "social understanding" and thus can "give action meaning". (3)
He continues this thought in his "The Ethical Demand":
"It is not only reprehensible to oppress one's fellow humans, extort them and gain from their troubles, but the political responsibility already makes it reprehensible to be uninterested and leave the unfortunates to their own devices...regardless of how blameless one otherwise lives his/her life and cares for himself. It is not enough not to do harm...everyone has a share in what the sovereign nation does."
Marxism is in agreement with Loegstrup and Sartre, albeit few Marxists express their ideology in their manner. The individual shapes the economic-political system as members of their class. Each individual can break with his class, just as Frederick Engels did and many revolutionary leaders have. It is up to the revolutionary to create the revolution, Che Guevara asserted.
Marx maintained that within a given social frame, individuals act in accordance with society's dominant mechanisms, but each individual is more than an object: he can create, partially, his own history, albeit influenced by the objective conditions. (4)
Class consciousness is a main ingredient in Marx's works (Capital, Communist Manifesto, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts), and a vital factor in the historical process, determining whether a revolution will take place or not. Many leaders of communist parties and governments under party direction have, however, misjudged the subjective factor. To assert that workers, especially in the first world, are passive or active supporters of wars and oppression because (ipso facto) they are misled or forced by the system is a cop out. And if that excuse did hold water then there would never be a revolution in a developed country.
In my youth, many individuals fought against US's wars against Southeast Asians and Latin Americans. We were on the frontlines of, eventually, a worldwide movement against these imperialistic wars, and also struggled for social rights for workers, students, minorities, and for liberation of colonialized peoples. Our movement, alongside the brave peoples directly under the gun, stopped their war, at least in Southeast Asia. We stopped the madman Nixon from using the atomic bomb against Vietnam. We were Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Marxists, anarchists, individuals without ideology, who accepted responsibility for ourselves and our fellow beings.
According to Loegstrup, it is God's meaning, "that each person shall take care of others' lives." It is Gods's demand, through Jesus' preachings' that the individual must not consider his own interests, but act according to what serves others best. (2)
Soeren Kirkegaard, a founder of Christian existentialist thought, believed that only in guilt/responsibility does a human become itself.
In Albert Camus' existentialist view, collective guilt is a factor in our societies. This was a widespread viewpoint thoughout Europe during the Nazi period, in which most Germans who were not killed or interned?followed the code of the "good Germans" as accomplices.
Martin Niemoeller, a German priest who was interned for his opposition, at the end of the war, wrote:
First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak
Because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they took workers and union people, and I didn't speak up,
Because I wasn't a member of a union.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up,
Because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up,
Because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me. (5)
One of the conclusions of the Nuremberg International War Crimes Tribunal was a moral principle: "Individuals have international duties, which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore (individual citizens) have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."
That judgment was written concerning the genocide committed by Nazis,
yet the principle applies to those who commit genocide or mass murder
against others. This moral applies not only to leaders but to ordinary
people who do nothing to prevent such heinous crimes. This is a judgment
I use when asserting that many, probably most, of those killed the 11th
of September were so judged by their killers. This is not to say that
I support this, or other, terrorist attacks against unarmed civilians,
but it is to say that simply because one is a civilian does not automatically
clear one of responsibility for the murderous actions of one's employers,
politicians or military. John D. Rockefeller (symbolizing all the major
multinational corporate owners) is surely as guilty of mass murder as
are the generals who fulfill his wishes to gouge people and nations
of their resources.
" To be a human being is to be blameful, or jointly blameable," that is what we must understand, meant Loegstrup, and if we do not understand that, "so are we so blunted and hypocritically calcified that we no longer are human beings." (6)
In another sermon, the preacher said, that being a Christian means "to rejoice for justice and peace as a good and gracious decree, and fight for it." (7)
Niemoeller-Camus-Sartre-Che-Loegstrup morals are the fundament for the 77 year-old peace activist Daniel Berrigan, who was recently jailed for destruction of an A-10 jetbomber. Sentenced to 30 months in prison for sabotaging this murder weapon used against Iraqis and Jugoslavs, he had been already caged nine years since the war against Vietnam for fulfilling the decree laid out at Nüremberg: opposing the magnates mass murder machinery.
I cite Berrigan as an exemplar example of persons who act out of ethical considerations, and not because they are forced to act thusly due to either class relations or economical conditions. They will personally feel guilty for others' misery and death if they do not act as they do. And history will so judge us as well. One's action is one's message.
Activating consciousness and moral principles is a necessity for the human race's survival.
Moral rules are necessary as an aide for people to cooperate so that
we can achieve goals, which we would not to able to dream of if each
of us were left on our own. And they prevent different groups' needs
and goals from colliding. If there were no moral rules (and enforced)
to decide disputes, we would end in chaos, and no one would be able
to achieve any goal.
" Turn words into moral actions, then you will become a human being," preached Camus. "A human being's first rebellion exists in saying no." His "no" asserts the existence of a limit. To be silent is the same as giving others the impression that one does not judge or wish anything. But at the first momemt one begins to speak out, if only to say no, one wishes and one judges. (8)
Some of those killed on that day had endeavored, no doubt, to live morally by acting in the interests of others less fortunate than themseles. Many were coincidentally in the area of the WTC or innocent passengers on hijacked aircraft. Some were too young to be blameable. The courageous firemen were also innocent. But those at the Pentagon certainly were guilty. And most of those who chose to work at one of big capital's headquarters worked directly for profit-gouging and exploitation and oppression of people all around the world. They were jointly responsible for the crimes of Rockefeller and his generals.
Far too many US-Americans let themselves become "good Germans", or like the Roman citizens (many were workers of one sort or another), who cheered on the brutal murder of enslaved beings.
My grandmother's slogan "Ignorance is Bliss" is that of the silent majority. They will certainly not read my essay, nor the writings of the philosophers quoted herein. Let it not be accepted (at least by "us") that they are "innocent victims."
I am asked when do we become not guilty. What does it take to absolve us? I do not have a ready answer. Perhaps there is no "objective" answer, only a subjective one: follow one's conscience.
I assume that most of the readers of this essay are already aware of the moral principles I use, and many are or have been active in opposing United States mass murder. We must, in addition, not accept the collective crimes committed by communist/socialist parties and governments as inevitable results of defense against imperialism, as contended. There were, there had to be, other better choices than those taken when they murdered, tortured and interned so many people in the name of fighting the greater evil.
We can take the moral principles expressed by Jesus Christ (according to the Bible) and insert them intricately in our economic manifestos, in our actions as revolutionaries and radicals. In fact, we must do so, else we have nothing to offer as an alternative to madmen terrorists, who are reacting out of hate and frustrations caused, in great part, by the evils imposed upon them by the capitalist-imperialist system. The magnates' terrorism causes the little man's terrorism. But we must offer an economically feasible and just alternative as well as an ethical one.
Although Jesus refused to lead some of his followers into a revolutionary violent overthrow of oppression, he was a revolutionary. He preached for a socially just economy and human relationships based upon empathy and love. We cannot struggle for a socialst state, for a communist/anarchial ideal society, without placing love and ethics in the center.
I conclude with my composition (along with Charlotte Borup) of various prosaic sentences Loegstrup wrote in "The Ethical Demand" (pages 25 through 29):
We Are In Each Other's Hand
" The individual never has anything to do with another person without holding something of his/her life in his hand. It can be very little, a feeling in passing, as high spirit that quickly withers, or a direction is taken that one can deepen or raise. Yet the contact can be a great deal, so much so that it simply is up to oneself if the other's life prospers or not."
"With our simple attitude towards one another, we share in creating the character of one another?s world. With my attitude towards him, I co-determine the expanse and color that the other?s world takes for him. I share in making that life wide or narrow, light or dark, manifold or boring, just with my mere attitude. Therefore, it is an unspoken, that is to say anonymous, demand to each of us to take care of that life, which trust has laid in our hand."
"To accept reality without listening to the ethical demand is the same as being indifferent to the question if life shall continue or cease."
1. Jean Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism (Philip Marlet's translation of Existentialism and Humanism, Methuen & Co., London).
2. K.E. Loegstrup, Den etiske fordring (The Ethical Demand), Gyldendal, Copenhagen, 1956.
3. K.E. Loegstrup, Norm og spontanitet (Standard and Spontaneity), 1972.
4. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, J. Weydemeyr's Review, N.Y., 1852.
5. Martin Niemoeller, 1945, from the Great Quotation book, J.B. Holmgaard, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 1993.
6. K.E. Loegstrup, 1938 sermon, "Political and Moral Ideas.".
7. K.E. Loegstrup, 1938 sermon, Pietism's unnatural difference between magnates and ordinary people.?
8. Albert Camus, The Rebel.
9. Bible, Matthew 10:34. Jesus indicated that he was not always opposed to the sword. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Jesus demonstrated his wrath and physical violence against profiteering and imperialism in other places of the Bible.
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