Monday, May 21, 2007

Hurt no man except the man who hurts you and yours.

I'm just in the final stages of reading Point of Impact, which is the Stephen Hunter novel on which the movie Shooter is based. Overall, the book is sufficiently different and 'deeper', if you will, from the movie so that reading it isn't at all like reading 'the-book-to-the-movie'; which is usually a letdown, because you might as well watch the damn movie instead. That's the way with novels and movies; just make sure the novel came first, because then it isn't just an extended plot summary + screenplay.

PoI is a good read, and I'm glad I discovered Stephen Hunter. My good friend Joel in the USofA—where it's all happenin', folks; including Michael Moore stoking the conspiracy-publicity fires to promote his latest I-hate-the-US flick, with the media retards of the US and the world licking up and duly spreading every syllable he drools—sent me on some more Stephen Hunter novels, procured second-hand, and I'll no doubt plough my way through them soon.

Compelling reading. Makes me itch, again, to tackle non-scifi, for which the already-mentioned concept of Bodies is an ideal vehicle and substrate. Also, my daughter Aynia's recent blog occasioned some more thoughts on the matter—in both directions, pro and con the whole messy and utterly unresolvable issue of what we do with our technology. But that's the way things are. As the inventor of 'EDI'—a.k.a. 'Eddie'—in the movie Stealth told the military man who didn't want 'shit like this' to happen—'shit' referring to the 'learning' machine learning stuff it shouldn't, and with it not knowing what was real and/or true and what wasn't, or what mattered and what didn't: "It doesn't work like that. You can't say 'Learn this, but don't learn that'!"

An open box is an open box. You look inside and you get what you get. Period. If you don't want to get what you get, leave the box closed. Don't try to ├╝belpeek. It isn't going to get you anywhere. By the time you see the stuff lurking inside, it's too late. The crap's already on the way to the fan, to be sprayed all over you and creation. Or, as The Unit's Bob tells his wife on the Season 2 finale: "You picked it up. You carry it." More on The Unit in a moment.

The hero of PoI confesses that he really has only two 'stars to steer by'. One is 'hurt no man except the man who hurts you and yours', and the other 'do your duty as you understand it'.

Behind that apparently simplistic philosophy, which will no doubt attract derision from intellectuals, lurks a vast complexity and basically everything that defines our humanity and anything we might call 'ethics' and not forgetting that this is always social—for there is no such thing as non-social ethics. The maxims delineated above represent a fundamental decision about what one might call 'a way to act' or a constraint on one's decisions or decision-making process.

But in all of this one has to perform very complex judgments, all of which are not subject to 'reason', but what amounts to gut-level or pre-cognitive/pre-reflective decision-making. For what of the motives of the man who hurts you? Are they of the nature of intent-to-hurt? And if so, then how and why? And what if the 'other' does not see what he does as 'hurt', but merely as normal competition-of-life? Does that change anything? And what is a 'man' anyway? A single individual? A nation? And is preparation-to-hurt a legitimate target for what amounts to a motivation of self-defense? And who are those you call 'yours'? Your family? Your friends? Your nation? Those who share and support a way of life you consider worthwhile maintaining? The generically labeled 'innocent'? Who is 'innocent'? And why should 'innocence' make a difference? Who decided that? And remember that there are a lot of folks around who, for reasons perfectly sensible to themselves and those around them don't give a shit about 'innocents' and for whom nobody actually is 'innocent'. We can start right at home with this, remembering that most Western societies are based on a religious doctrine in which the notion that humankind are sinners from the word go, just by being who they are, figures prominently.

When it comes to 'duty' the matter becomes even more complex; for the proviso was, very intelligently 'as I understand it'. For everybody understands things differently. For some 'duty' includes the entirely imagined 'duty' to some entirely imagined deity; or, in the case of the various breeds of a-thesists an even less real and even more bizarrely contrived 'idea', 'ideas' or 'ideals'. This is, let's face it, an expression of a psychosis afflicting such vast tracts of humankind that it's very ubiquity is often taken to prove the 'normality' and maybe even the existential necessity of the psychosis.

However, there is nothing in PoI to suggest such deranged motivations. Bob Lee Swagger's 'duty' is socially motivated—whether it be for friends, lovers or country. No deity in sight. Good for him.

The same goes for 'Bob' in Ep 0223 of The Unit, who, when pressed by his justifiably concerned wife, tells her:

"I can't betray my friends. I can't! What would that teach our children? You know a better question, tell it to me."

Yep, it's all about questions, ain't it?

The Unit went out for this season on a bang and a cliffhanger and with a strong theme of the value of friend- and comradeship, emphasizing the strange paradox that exists here, between a service performed with apparent subordination to command by those who often appear to be unqualifed to command--and yet true loyalty is only rendered to a small group of people, who appear to provide the true focus and motivation for an individual's actions.

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