Recent posts by petesahooligan on Kongregate

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Topic: The Arts / Pete's art dump

Here’s a picture of my “art station” set-up. Pretty spartan. Glidden house paint. Sponge brushes on the sideboard (and drying in the bathroom). Wooden block to prop my leg, sometimes, or to reach a few inches higher. On the paper is legendary behavioral psychologist BF Skinner.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Challenges of Online Communication

This is all good stuff and the stuff you’re talking about is pretty far outside of my realm… new information, for sure.

I really like the idea of broadening our ability to input non-written data to assist the exchange of information.

Today, the universal way of communicating is through written narrative, then pictures and video. You’re right that it’s shallow. It’s totally shallow.

The net result is that a lot of the information found online, in the general sense, is shallow… and that can reinforce and encourage shallow responses. (Few people feel compelled to launch into a thoughtful annotated analysis of the latest LOLCAT.) So there’s a noise-to-signal ratio that could use some improving. Finding substantive, meaningful dialog online is difficult!

A lot of this conversation has been focused on improving the bandwidth of throughput so that users can convey more information, and receive more information.

This doesn’t necessarily improve communication, but it DOES provide users with more information to use. Like a classroom, the teacher can broadcast information but it is also up to the student to internalize it. The ideas outlined in the OP were not technology-based. Instead, they were practices for drawing out meaning, substance, and consensus using today’s commonly available technology. That said, improving throughput could provide a substantial improvement to the challenges inherent in online discussions.

When I worked in the game industry there was an adage that basically said that when you are teaching someone a game for the first time, they should be rewarded for “proper” play (even though their relative skill level may be far lower than your own). “First try wins” are important for learning and reinforcing desired behavior. Carnival shucksters and barbershop hustlers knows this.

Online discussions are different. The social rewards are a little different, and so participants are often rewarded for irrelevant or disruptive behavior. For example, here on Kong we have “post counts” that serve to quantify a user’s involvement with the Kong community. This rewards active posting… a higher post count implies a more “involved” member of the community. However, post counts say very little about the substance or significance of their involvement. Quantity does not equal quality.

So, here’s an idea (though it’s back to web tech). Instead of post counts, what if users instead had a radar chart that plotted their inventoried behavior on Kong. For a general example, it might show where and how they spend their time on Kong so that other users could, at a glance, get a sense of what motivates that user.

In a more sophisticated approach, the radar or star diagram could reflect how the user is likely to respond to information… humorous, serious, critical, irreverent, etc.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Challenges of Online Communication

I hear you saying that one method for improving understanding in online dialog is through technological interpreters. I could get behind that. There seem to be some clear pros, and a few cons, to a technology solution.

One benefit of an emotive avatar would be that it would broaden “emotive bandwidth” in a uniform way. This appeals to my sense of order and alignment.

My primary concern is that a substantive technology-based solution may be too far out. Blue-sky options are fun, but is there an iterative sequence of improvements from where we are today? I believe there are methods that we, (as members of various online communities), can apply using current tools and within today’s constraints that can improve mutual understanding, consensus-building, and meaningful discussion.

I saw Timothy Leary speak once, before he died (of course), where he discussed the possibilities of digitizing the human persona. These “behavioral genomes” (my phrase) eventually manifested in some of the tech behind online dating sites. There are probably some lessons to be learned from that sector… algorithms that can identify phrases and tonalities in the written word. That would be super fascinating… like predictive emotions.

Malcolm Gladwell would probably stop us right there and claim that the breadth of human perception is far too vast and sensitive to adequately interpret using today’s technology. While digital bandwidth is excellent at transferring flat visual information, (written words, graphics, animations and photography), it fails miserably at other aspects. Some of these constraints can really damage what would be a meaningful dialog. For example…

Environmental Context
The location of a face-to-face conversation can have a significant impact on the nature of that discussion and can reveal meaningful information about your target. The environment can dictate the pace and urgency of a conversation, (compare a casual conversation on the subway with a conversation in someone’s living room).

The nuances in someone’s voice relays very well in face-to-face situations and does poorly online, even in live video. Volume, tone, inflection, and rhythm are all valuable cues for interpreting meaning. The information lost when a person can speak quietly or loudly without loss or distortion is significant… much less the small gestures that reveal understanding, confusion, frustration, and so forth. (I use the word “volume” in the sense of bandwidth, and not literally the strength of the sound.) Facial expressions, or speech illustrations, are frequently too subtle for video chat… and often so subtle that we don’t consciously detect them when we encounter them face-to-face (though most of us non-Aspergery types still use the data to inform our own responses).

Terminal Requirement
Online communication requires a terminal, and those are generally found in the same locations within a person’s life, so the conditioned patterns of thinking are likely to also rely on “muscle memory.” To achieve intellectual or emotional breakthroughs through conversation, it can help to host those conversations in atypical locations… such as someone’s “third place.” This is generally difficult when there’s a computer requirement.

This is a big one for me. I am an impatient person, so I anticipate an immediate response to my input. The inherent delay in online communication can lead to anxiety, and that anxiety can then flavor the following responses. The delay means that participants will tend to want to say “everything” each time they have an opportunity. In forums like this it’s manifestation in a staccato quote-response post that dissects each passage independently. The delay can also disrupt subtle cues that a person has cognitively accepted a particular point yet remains confused (or inquisitive) on another. In other words, delay creates longer diatribes that result in too much exchange occurring at once.

Emoticons are a fascinating answer to some of this problem. There are seven universal facial expressions, right? Yet each one represents such a vast emotional response that, when applied to a correspondence generically, really don’t improve the exchange. (Disgusted face.) What we’re left with is a reflection of our own anxieties and predicated emotions… namely, contempt. That’s real common, I think. There’s a LOT of contempt online.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Challenges of Online Communication

I agree completely. There’s a disenfranchisement inherent in online discussions where the desired outcome isn’t necessarily shared among the participants.

The reason for one participant’s involvement may not be the same as someone else, so while Person A is trying to investigate one aspect of the topic, Person B may be fixating on another aspect of the topic. The net result is that the conversation is out of alignment… different people talking about different things in different ways.

This divergence is usually perceived as an argument. Actually, though, it’s not. The participants are simply not talking about the same aspect of the topic, or are approaching it from different elevations. Or, commonly, one of the participants is fluent in the topic while another is not… and that can lead to frustration, too.

Personifying the participants is an interesting dilemma. What a fun challenge. The goal would be to humanize their viewpoint and increase the empathy of the dialog. It’s an astute observation that because we lack communication bandwidth, (e.g., tone, inflection, body language), it can lead to gross misinterpretations or misunderstandings. Humanizing the language and increasing our capacity to “feel” each others’ intentions would really help this.

Moving in that direction requires authenticity. Unfortunately, authenticity is super hard to validate in online environments that prioritize anonymity (for the safety of youth, probably). We need a lack of anonymity… more transparency… so that we can better “know” the people we are talking with. That doesn’t really exist currently.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Challenges of Online Communication

I recently had a poor experience online while trying to articulate my personal outlook on a general issue. The net result was a frustrating experience that was characterized by a sensation that I was unreasonably challenged for my views. It’s not an experience that I am accustomed to and it led to me to reflect on the nature of communicating sensitive or controversial ideas in public online forums.

The premise of this reflection is rooted in a desire to improve the intellectual throughput and sharing of ideas to build a body of exposures that can help shape our individual opinions on the matters that are around us. We all know that there is little to be gained or lost in the relentless challenges to divergent ideas, but there is much to be gained from the internalization of divergent viewpoints. A flexible mind does not require unwavering commitment to foreign ideas but instead can “try them on” for a while to see how they feel.

There are four ground rules that can be employed to reinforce this healthier approach to online dialog. They are…

1. Improved Reflection
Reiterating your target’s position in a way that reveals that you not only get it, but are able to improve upon how it is communicated.

2. Illuminate Common Ground
Revealing and celebrating points where your divergent views overlap is a great way to establish good “starting points” of agreement.

3. Share Your Epiphanies
When something useful is learned, applaud and emphasize it.

4. Rebut
Finally, after these other three things are done, you may offer your own counterpoints (whatever they may be).

This concept is adapted from Daniel Dennett’s ideas. I think they’re great.

Susan Sontag also provides some interesting advice though it’s much more confrontational and not tailored for a faceless and buffered environment like online. Unfortunately it tends to be the method that most of us use when exploring controversial or complex ideas among a larger audience.

1. Find the inconsistency.
2. Find the opposing example.
3. Find a wider context.

There are additional factors that can be avoided if we know what to look for. And there are devices that can help us stay focused on mutually satisfactory (or even beneficial) exchanges.

A. The “argumentative process” has specific rules, requirements, and desired outcomes.
B. Motives and desired outcomes should be clearly stated and adhered to.
C. Creative or innovative conjectures should be clearly indicated.
D. A premium should be placed on the pursuit of personal truth and integrity.

Finally, care should be taken to avoid common hazards inherent in online communications. These might include, but certainly not limited to;

• Personification of the issue
• Expectations of a specific response or outcome
• “Jury syndrome” of groupthink.
• Hidden axioms and ciphers.
• Emotional content in intellectual investigations (and vice versa)
• Irresolvable or incompatible frames of reference
• Entrapment or oblique strategies for eliciting specific responses
• Inflexibility when confronted with unaligned topical fluency
• Unwillingness to recognize established patterns or points of agreement

Anyway… for what it’s worth, this was sort of my personal conclusion. There’s no call to action but I consider “how we communicate online” a somewhat “serious” topic worthy of discussion.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Thanks for the advice, all!

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

As a departing shot, I would like to say that I am proud of my ability to communicate complex ideas. I have written two published books, with one of those titles having sold more than 14,000 copies over the course of two editions. I have several dozen magazine articles written, and have more than 20 years in professional communications. I have won several awards and frequently speak at national conferences.

Today I have a professional task to seek outcomes that literally save lives. I walk the talk as a nonviolent person. I have nothing to prove here.

The nature and tone of this conversation is not, in my estimation, participated by those seeking to investigate important ideas. As far as I can tell it is instead a stomping ground for the argumentative.

So, I leave you to the conversation and the room. It’s been… well… it’s been a waste of my time.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

There’s no “right” and “wrong” when it comes to personal philosophy. A lot of the conversation in this room appears to be about proving people wrong. That’s fine but I’ve got nothing to prove or anything to hide… but I’m not going to answer questions and accusations like…

“You said that you would choose the life of your son’s would-be-murderer rather than your son’s.” —biguglyorc

Obviously I said no such thing, and the spirit of this room seems to be about flamboyant reinterpretations of statements to suit some motive. Why would biguglyorc distort my views? I think it’s because he’s approaching the topic as a win-or-lose situation and it’s such a sloppy way to explore an idea that I choose not to participate.

To clarify what I intended to say, in case he didn’t understand it, is this…

1. It is not a scenario presented with enough information to make any kind of rationale assessment.
2. Given the abstract nature of the conditions of the scenario, my abstract answer is that I would not kill my son’s would-be murderer.
3. I would not “prefer” that my son die over his would-be murderer (as karma suggested)
4. I would not choose the murderer’s life over my son’s (as biguglyorc suggested)

This is it: I would not kill someone for any reason.

To be harassed about not being clear enough on this is ridiculous.
To be accused of dodging answers and changing my position is ridiculous.

In fact, this whole conversation is ridiculous.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Shooting/Riots in Ferguson, USA.

I appreciate the recognition of white privilege as it relates to law enforcement and public opinion of those exercises. It’s a sophisticated factor in what otherwise appears to be a simple investigation.

Karma, recognizing the problems inherent (almost certainly) in any agency that we, as a society, empower to police ourselves is going to produce problems. Law enforcement feels right when it’s protecting our individual interests and feels wrong when it’s not.

For example, I often engage in an activity that I consider harmless, (skateboarding). There are areas of my city where it’s illegal and areas where it’s not, and the demarcation is frequently misunderstood by my peers and local law enforcement… so, (as you might imagine), law enforcement is inconsistent.

Adding to that is the personal interaction between the offender and the cop. Respectful dialog can lead to a less severe outcome… right? Seems natural. You make the cop mad, you get a ticket. If you seem like a “nice guy,” you might get a pass. This is widely accepted by everyone, I think. If you get pulled over, you don’t mouth off.

But what this means is that you may or may not get a ticket based on your ability to relate culturally to the cop. Ideally, this shouldn’t be a factor in law enforcement. If you broke the law, you should get a ticket… without question, without interpretation, and certainly without an assessment of your character as a person.

I think most cops think they’re one of the good ones but they have some coworkers that are bullies. I have two neighbors that are cops—though they don’t work with each other—and when we’re hanging out they reveal the kinds of things that these “bad cops” do and agree that it’s a real abuse of power.

However, and this is where it gets interesting, when they’re talking amongst themselves, I’ve overheard them lightly boasting about how they “handled” people that mouthed off. Essentially, they found some amusement in how they exerted their power over their fellow citizen… and based not on a measured response to a criminal act but rather by the offender’s unwillingness (or inability) to treat the policeman with respect. It is not a law to disrespect the police. Should it be?

My apologies if this is not germane to the discussion in progress.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Biguglyorc: “…but what if you’re forced to act?”

What if I’m forced to kill someone? That was clearly a rhetorical question.

What if you’re FORCED to eat cauliflower yet you’ve vowed to never eat cauliflower? It doesn’t address the topic (why you vowed not to eat cauliflower) and focuses on some stupid outcome that will never happen.

It’s like saying, “I know you can’t shoot lasers out of your eyes, but what if you did!? What then!?”

Pawnzilla: You said something super interesting, (I think), when you said the lives of people are not equal in value. I think this is one of the gooey interior bits of pacifism. Pacifists would assert that all lives, by virtue of them simply being alive, are of equal value in the existential sense. The value of that life as it applies to the community is variable, but the LIFE VALUE of the living is equal from serial rapist to volunteer pediatrician.

There’s another sticky wicket in the world-view of pacifism. Should a nation that has the capability to do so intervene in areas where human life is NOT valued? Should the US, for example, protect people’s basic human rights in other countries even though that intervention will certainly lead to bloodshed?

I think this reveals some of the instability of pacifist ideals.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

I’m here to explore an idea, biguglyorc, whereas you’re apparently here to have an argument.

You cannot understand that why I’m uncomfortable with you being insistent for an answer to a question that I cannot answer accurately with the information given. When I do answer, per your repeated demands, you use it as an “aha, I told you so!” moment. It’s childish and proves nothing.

For example, you now earn the right that I said that I prefer to have someone kill my son than for me to kill someone. Dude, whatever. Hooray for your incredible rhetorical skills. Achievement complete.

Then to insist that I “stand by” the statement is like the icing on your victory cake. Whoop! High five, guy!

And now, because of that, my “voice is no longer worth anything.” That’s like the coup de grace! It really turns me on when you’re so… forceful!

Even my own sarcasm is boring me.


vikaTae, (for the interesting conversation)…

The Hippocratic Oath certainly can be subverted through framing, such as considering your “patients” less than human… as the Germans famously did during the Holocaust. In other words, there are ways of adhering strictly to the tenets of pacifism and still engaging in sadistic acts. The definitions of words and, more importantly, the context matters.

Is it okay to conduct medical experiments on volunteers even though it may kill them?
What if they are incentivized to volunteer in some fashion, (e.g., prisoners offered time off their sentences)?
What about the mentally incapable that may not understand the risk?

Any interaction that can cause pain-and-suffering or the loss of life has a cloud of considerations.

Would I take a job as a neurosurgeon in that I consider myself a pacifist? Absolutely! The opportunity to improve life is certainly a factor. The main thing is that in most cases (I imagine) the surgery is non-elective and necessary, even though it’s risky.

Incidentally, I’m not a lawyer; I’m the programs director for a charitable nonprofit organization.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

It’s an interesting outlier—surgery—but it seems like consent is granted or desired.

Accidents happen, and accidents can often be avoided by care, and so the staunch pacifist may have a deeper responsibility to be careful around others. This is amusing, I think…

“Why are you driving so slow?”
“I’m a pacifist.”

Intent is a lousy place to define anything, but the intent behind an act of intervention intended to improve the victim’s well-being (surgery) is certainly within the comfortable tenets of pacifism, but contributing to a situation that leads to an accidental death is a huge gray area.

Relative to a “non-pacifist,” does the pacifist have a heightened responsibility to prevent accidental death?

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Biguglyorc: That was the most deliberate and unnecessary abuse of non-contextual misquoting I think I’ve ever seen. Bravo! You are a maestro. (Do you have something substantive to add to the conversation?)

vikaTae: The semantic escape hatch found in the differences between murder (illegal) and killing (legal) is a great point. It doesn’t, of course, help us resolve the morality of sacrifice and preventative killing. However, it does provide an entry point to a topic unrelated to this conversation… the morality of killing as it intersects with the control of law and public perception.

A staunch pacifist does not kill or inflict bodily harm on the unwilling. This principle is, I trust, deeper than legal definitions of murder and killing. The pacifist doesn’t accept any philosophical difference between the two, right? Killing is murder and vice versa. Because one is legal or socially accepted is irrelevant.

When you have culture clash, one side will define their enemy’s act of killing as a murder, while the other defines their act of murder as a killing. Israel, for example, takes the repugnant (well, repugnant to me) position that Hamas will “pay dearly” for their violent acts. They frame Hamas’ acts as murder (“monstrous and inhuman”) and their own acts as those of protection (“noble human instinct”). Hamas, by comparison, defines Israel’s acts as hyperviolent and disproportionate (“monstrous and inhuman”) and their own acts as valiant and stalwart (“noble human instinct”).

I believe this pattern repeats itself at various scales in all sorts of violent conflicts. It’s only through nonviolence that we break this zero-sum “frame game.”

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?


The issue is one of responsibility.

Premise: I am responsible for the safety of those around me.

This means that I cannot engage in acts that jeopardize others. This has legal fundamental legal and cultural basis.

At some gray area there is a tipping point where the “victim” accepts responsibility for their own well-being. E.g., I can manufacture cigarettes, but you accept responsibility for smoking them in the safest possible way. If you don’t, that’s on you.

There are two interesting aspects of liability law that exemplify the nuance of responsibility.

1. Attractive Nuisance
If I build a rope swing on top of my building and somebody trespasses then when it breaks they fall to their death, I may be found guilty of having created an attractive nuisance. In this legal context I have a responsibility to not draw people into dangerous situations. This is a compelling idea when it intersects the tenets of pacifism.

2. Reasonable Diligence
A property owner—and, by extension, those individuals operating on that property—have a responsibility to not create an environment or situation that would harm someone. The operative word is “reasonable,” and a bazillion court cases have talked about the definition of that word. If an accident occurs, like that brick falls off the building, investigators will look to see if the property owner took “reasonable” measures to ensure no bricks fell off the building. The reason this is interesting, to me, is that it’s a spectrum of responsibility. There is no clean threshold for preventing accidents… you simply do what’s “reasonable.”

People are inherently careless. Kids run into traffic. People trip over cracks on the sidewalk. Bricks fall off buildings. People die of lung cancer from a lifetime of smoking. The onus of responsibility is shared, right? In some cases it’s equal, but in most the responsibility falls more on one person than the other… if you walk through an area where they are demolishing a building and you get hit by a brick, you might share more responsibility than if you were out in a meadow and a brick fell from a passing airplane.

Using this idea as an overlay, looking at the “pacifism narrative” of killing someone to save your child, the central philosophical nugget is who you are more responsible for.

You are clearly responsible for the welfare of your own child. That would trump your responsibility for the welfare of a potential murderer. However, if you remove your child from the equation, do you have a responsibility to the public to execute a murderer? I don’t think so. We cannot function as a society if everyone is running around killing everyone that has killed someone… it would be like a house of cards. You killed that person (for being a murderer), making you a murderer, so now I’m obligated to kill you (for being a murderer), and now someone must kill me for killing you, etc.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Sylvano, it’s the storm before the calm. I think you should just let things play out as things will play out. Nobody’s reading this thread except those involved, so it’s well-contained… and it’s certainly not bothering anyone.

There is a tendency for people online to discuss matters in dogmatic terms. Karma’s insistence that I specifically define the exact “would” and “would not” threshold of a personal philosophy is unfair and serves no purpose. It’s a rhetorical device to reveal inconsistencies that he can then pounce on and accuse me (or whomever he’s sparring with) as a hypocrite. It’s nothing new.

When we address moral ambiguities like sacrifice, the issue is all about context. In fact, the question of what one might sacrifice for an abstract good is pre-Biblical. We’ve been struggling with it since the dawn of time. It absolutely requires context.

The silliness comes from fabricated contexts that have little resemblance to real-world situations. There are lots of real sacrifices people make that have more conversational meat on them.

A lot of that conversation is impossible when guys like Karma want to deconstruct paragraphs to rebut each and every sentence. It’s schoolyard bully tactics, but more than that it’s just boring.

Sorry for the meta comments.


I agree with your stance, vikaTae, that if we had some kind of Minority Report capacity to predict criminal acts we might be morally obligated to intervene and prevent tragedy from occurring. But, reality check, we don’t… and it’s a dangerous and slippery slope to embark on “pre-enforcement” ideas.

There’s a bigger idea here, too. There’s certainly a moral superiority innate to the idea that some people are “okay” to kill while others are not. We can kill murderers, (or, in fantastic narratives, kill those that will kill in the future), but we cannot kill innocent people. This is a fundamental dichotomy.

How does one kill a murderer without becoming a murderer oneself?

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

The thing is, Karma, is that you’re not engaging in communication. You are engaging in linguistic sparring. I’m not interested in an argument with you because (ONE) I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make and (TWO) you seem singularly intent on “proving me wrong.”

You repeatedly accuse me of avoiding the charge, (yet cannot simply state in reasonable terms what you’re confused about), and then go on to tell me that you’re too smart for my tactics… as if I’m trying to play you. I’m not.

I’m not even interested in talking to you. You give yourself too much credit, I think.

In fact, even the things I’m vaguely interested in exploring have have come from your fingers, I’m not going to expand on because—I think—you are incapable of having a civil and respectful conversation with someone you don’t agree with, or don’t understand. You do not seem interested in any ideas but your own.

Thanks for the tip about citations. I know how to do it. My point was that I don’t want to engage in conversations that parse responses sentence-by-sentence. It’s unnecessary and super boring… I know what I said. I prefer discussing ideas instead of sentences.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Whoa, Karma. You’re all over the place. I don’t know where to begin, or if I should begin at all. There’s a lot of stuff in your latest response that doesn’t jive with what you’ve said previously.

First the semantic stuff.

The Carr Brothers didn’t, as you say, “engage in a vile form of hyperbole via (violent acts)…” That’s not hyperbole. That’s violence. Hyperbole is not violent and violence is not hyperbole. They are unrelated concepts. When we call bad people “monsters” or “gear hears” we’re using a metaphor. When we use metaphors to literally redefine something, it’s hyperbole. In propaganda the two are often blended to dehumanize someone, but usually a group of people (by race or nationality), to allow mistreatment of those people seem justified, or more easily justified.

So, you say the Carr Brothers “crossed the line of humanity.” This is hyperbole. You are saying they literally became inhuman; they were no longer human.

Anyway… where you really surprise me is with this gem:

“I employ all the pacific (sic) skills at my disposal to prevent the scenario from escalating into violence…”

You do!? This is quite a revelation and a huge 180 from where you were at previously. Why in the world were you pressing me so hard for an answer on whether I would “do nothing and let my kid die” earlier? You claimed you just wanted to understand, yet here you drop this bomb into the mix. Are you drunk?

Witnessing, in the religious context, is way different than recognizing that my actions may contribute indirectly to violent acts. I think wherever you were going with that line was a stretch. My understanding that “bearing witness” is idiomatic for testifying to something or, more literally, being present for someone’s revival. You’ll accuse me of not knowing my religion, I predict, but whatever.

The “situational extent” by which I can extend my practice of non-violence has served me perfectly well for the last 20 years. There have been challenges, as I suggested earlier, but there have also been significant victories.

Also, as I said several times, most charged conflict and confrontation in the world is resolved non-violently because, as humans, we put a premium on human life. The tenets of pacifism run through our very being.

By dehumanizing the enemy, we remove our enemy from the human collective to make them exempt from this contract. People who would not kill another person would kill a “monster.”

But whatever. You’re a smart guy, you can look it up yourself. Propagandists have been doing this since the dawn of time. Maybe you’ll even recognize how we culturally do it to Islamic “terrorists.” You know, if you’ve been to Afghanistan, that lots of Muslims call Israelis “terrorists” and feel that they are “killing the madman before he can shoot our sons.”

Is there some kind of “slippery slope” with protecting oneself and one’s property through bars on the windows? I’m not sure where that query leads. Of course I can lock my doors and avoid creeps and take care to stay out of dangerous situations. What does that have to do with anything? If that’s what a pacifist is to you—some naive ingenue blindly wandering through dangerous situations by relying on the “goodness of man” to protect me from harm—you should relax your head a little.

What level of violence am I comfortable with? George St Pierre is a badass. My view on violence, as it pertains to my behavior, is that I will never take another human’s life against their will, and I will, to the best of my ability, mitigate my involvement and complicity in killing through indirect means. In terms of non-lethal force, I don’t have a problem with that in general, provided it’s meant to restrain, remove, or temporarily incapacitate.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Would there be slaves if it weren't for general laziness?

It’s important to note that slaves were not cheap. They were serious investments made by ranchers and farmers. By today’s standards, a slave would be priced similar to a major piece of farming equipment. One source suggested about $130,000 in today’s dollars.

Interesting fact: It was illegal to execute a slave.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Originally posted by Ungeziefer:

Quite right. To cut to the meat of it however, I would ask you, in what ways does non violence serve yourself/others? What are the consequences and qualities of violence that lead to it being unacceptable?

I also wonder where do you draw the line of agency? Is calling the cops to engage in physical violence on your behalf (say, arresting a home intruder) any different from engaging in it yourself? Would calling a hitman, as opposed to simply murdering someone, not qualify then by the same grounds?

This is interesting.

A practice of non-violence serves me well. I can, and have, walked out of volatile encounters knowing that nobody is in physical pain. That aligns with my desires for the world at large. The situation was resolved peacefully.

For me, the unacceptable consequences of violence is that it typically does not help realign the perpetrator’s perspective and instead entrenches them in their view that violence is their only option. When they encounter violent resistance to their initial violent act, it reinforces the idea that the “dialog of conflict” is metered in violent acts. It isn’t, of course, and most conflicts are resolved in non-violent ways. It is those that initiate and respond with violence that are actively participating in and perpetuating this ideology. Ultimately, I believe it distills into its most perverse form: Might makes right, and survival of the fittest.

Calling the cops is fine. They are trained to assess volatile situations and (hopefully) can safely deescalate the situation and remove the source of threat while mitigating risk to the innocent and uninvolved.

I wouldn’t hire a hitman for a dozen ethical reasons. Police are not “sanctioned hitmen” and can’t really be equated.

There is more fertile ground for outing me as a hypocrite by pointing out that my taxes pay for weapons that kill innocent people, and that I participate in a political system that puts people willing to make such sacrifices in positions where they act on those intentions. I am, by extension, complicit in the killing of innocent people. That said, my first priority is to account for my personal actions and make change when I am presented with an opportunity to do so in a way that aligns most closely to my ideal world.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

I find all the formatting required to cite quotations exhausting. Sorry.

You’re right. Murder is the intentional ending of someone’s life against their will. The intent, alone, is not murder. And ending someone’s life against their will is not necessarily murder. These semantics are not very interesting… we all know what we’re trying to talk about.

I admitted to engaging in reductio ad absurdum. Calling me out on that doesn’t really advance anything. My point was that KoolKid’s position fell along a spectrum of tolerance that had few definitions, and could easily be extended to include himself in the scope of his concern.

Ungeziefer, you claimed that you would kill someone to protect your property but not for money. When you say there are “issues” of trespass and entitlement… are you suggesting that you are “entitled” to kill someone if they trespass on your property?

Reductio ad absurdum: Would you kill a neighbor’s dog that shit in your yard? Would you shoot a neighbor kid that was retrieving his ball from your yard? Would you kill someone that was casing your house and preparing to rob it? Would you kill someone if you caught them walking out of your house with your Playstation? How about with your wife?

That last one is interesting. If your wife is leaving you for another lover, it is going to have a negative impact on your life. This, by your standards, could possibly fall into the range that you would find killing someone acceptable. You could kill your wife’s new lover. (People do it all the time and our judicial system makes special exceptions for it… crimes of passion, et al.)

My fundamental point is that there’s a complexity to this negotiation that each of us resolves differently and approaches with individual tolerances. Some people have a greater tolerance for committing acts of violence than others… that’s a no-brainer… and some people have less tolerance. I choose to align my views, as much as possible, with the idea that no act of lethal violence is ever acceptable. It is, for me, the simplest and most defensible position to take.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

I hear you, vikaTae. Everyone lives with some form of regret and some of us have more profound regrets than others. I don’t know anyone that has killed someone—be it in combat, line of duty, or accidentally—that didn’t regret it to the center of their being. Had they wished that another option were available? Absolutely.

I believe that regret comes from the suspicion that other options WERE available. Those are the doubts that plague us… and I carry the same doubts over more trivial challenges. “I could have done this differently, caused less damage, and had a more positive outcome.” Hindsight.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / The only way to save our species is to dramatically reduce our population

I hear that, BSG.

One maybe overlooked sentiment, though I think Aleazor touched on it, is that reducing the population doesn’t automatically make us sustainable.

We HAD a smaller population and we apparently weren’t sustainable, so we would need to reduce population AND make changes to ensure that we didn’t overpopulate the planet again… unless, of course, one considers a cycle of overpopulation and dramatic population reduction a “sustainable” practice.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

vikaTae… “That’s all they’re asking; if you are comfortable with that, and if you would hold to your principles even as their lives are first threatened then taken.”

I would not take a life, no. That hardly means that I would be “comfortable” with the decision, as you suggest.

There’s a catastrophic flaw with justifications for murder (or killing, or whatever WORD biguglyorc wants to us to use). It simply escalates through the proper use of framing. Like this…

1. Act of violence occurs. In order to protect the victim from future acts, I embrace a task to conduct a “pre-emptive” strike. Note: This is the analog of killing the man before he can kill your son.

2. I conduct a violent act against the person that has threatened my interests. I’ve done this to dissuade them from following through with their threat. For this to be effective, my threat must be significantly higher than their own… they must equate their loss as greater than their gain if they continue to act.

3. Their allies perceive me as an existential threat to their interests. Because I have escalated the threat, the perpetrator’s allies (friends, family, fellow citizen) see me as the aggressor. The framing is mutual.

This cycle continues. We see it every day, all the time… and it has been going on forever. We seem hard-wired to act this way.

There is one tell-tale symptoms that this is happening. When we use language that dehumanizes the enemy, we separate them from “us.” By saying that the “Carr Brothers are monsters!” you’re engaging in hyperbole. As a figure of speech, sure… but as a literal depiction of their being, it’s incorrect. They’re human beings that did awful things, and they need to be held accountable. By making our enemies less than human, it makes the acts of violence that we inflict upon them easier to reconcile.

The solution to this (literal) vicious cycle is through engagement, inclusion, and understanding.

It’s pretty tough to get there when we have people shooting other people over television sets.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

Not that it is particularly relevant but I would consider myself an “absolute” pacifist in terms of personally acting in a way that directly causes another person’s death.

I extend this view to acts of physical violence. I have been in fights, even while holding these views, and have regretted each and every one. Some I had instigated, and others I had responded to violence with violence. I am ashamed of this behavior and cannot justify it.

I cannot predict the future, nor can I confidently say what I would do in a life-threatening situation. Circumstances—both external (environmental) and internal (mental)—would be major factors.

I wouldn’t easily forgo my stance on violence and murder based on some flimsy hypothetical situation. To do so would require inferring a TON of factors that clearly don’t fit the constructs of the so-called “axiom.” When I explore those, you guys act like little bitches…

So the answer is “no.” I would do “nothing” and the crazy person would kill my child.

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Topic: Serious Discussion / Is it right to kill one person to save the lives of many?

I draw the line, biguglyorc, at suffering foolish hypothetical situations.

You want me to say, “I would do nothing and allow my kid to die.”

I’m not sure what kind of victory that is for you. What have you proven? That all people are capable of killing? Is that your fundamental premise? I just don’t believe that’s true. It doesn’t make me a bad person, so why don’t you take a deep breath.

There are ample situations in real life that challenge my views on violence. In my work I often encounter acts of violence, and sometimes I am in a position to intervene. When I can do so in a way that is reasonably safe, I do… and my approach is always to diffuse and deescalate the situation. (To the best of my abilities.) Violence is all around us and it is consistently perpetuated by people who are willing to engage in that kind of behavior. That is the common denominator. (Right?)

Case in point: The other night I saw a guy kick a girl in the face while she was on the ground. My pal called the police and I immediately intervened. I got up near the guy to talk to him so that he couldn’t continue attacking the girl. There were dudes running in to destroy the guy. The details are boring, but I (with my friend) essentially prevented this girl from getting worked and the bunch of dudes from beating this guy to a pulp.

Maybe, you think, the dude deserved it. I am not in a position to judge, and I have never met a lynch mob that I liked. Was justice served? Maybe… I don’t know. I’m not an agent of justice, and justice isn’t always meted out through violence and killing. (Right?)

Karma, you are habitually characterizing all of your “enemies” as cartoon baddies. This is a technique that lots of people use to justify violence against people they don’t know. By dehumanizing our “enemies” we make it easier to escalate their deeds to levels justifying killing them.

I engaged in reductio ad absurdum, karma, to illustrate how your line of logic would cast suspicion on your very own testimonial. Your behavior, as described in this thread, could potentially characterize you as the very threat that you seem intent on preventing. That was the point. It was not a major idea worth building out much further.

What situation, karma, requires you to act in a violent way? You may want to seek professional help. Even when your own life is threatened, you are not required to act. What does it mean that you say “requires” applies to the prudent realm? I don’t understand that idea.

And I object that you claim that by “doing nothing” necessarily means the pacifist is “relying on hope.” Violence is the desperate act of the unimaginative and, in fact, most change in this world is the result of non-violent action. In my view, the person willing to perpetuate violence is the outlier and that it most often subverts a positive, mutually beneficial outcome.