The Other I

March 16, 2011

A longing for black and white

Filed under: Questions beyond Science — theotheri @ 4:22 pm

I remember as a young adolescent hearing the story about the mother of two young boys who were being trucked away by the Nazis.  “Please!,” she begged, “don’t take them!”  “All right,” the soldier at the back of the truck replied, “you can choose one.”

Simply remembering this story still has the capacity to seer.

It was when I first learned that sometimes there are no right and wrong answers.  They are all wrong.

What is happening in Japan right now is tragic.  But it does not pose a moral dilemma for me.  But what is happening in Libya does.

Should we impose a no-fly zone?  should we put boots on the ground?  if so, under what conditions?  And if Gaddafi does bomb the opposition into oblivion, what should we do?  should we keep buying Libyan oil, for instance?  can we impose sanctions?  should we?

If we don’t buy Libya’s oil, who will suffer?  I suspect the Chinese will buy the oil.  If it forces up the price of oil, who will get rich?  Gaddafi and his people.  Who will suffer?  those people too poor to afford to heat their homes and drive their cars.  Who will go hungry?  Not Gaddafi.  Probably the rebels and anybody remotely associated with them.

And yet if we impose a no-fly zone, will we get embroiled in Africa and the Middle East even further?  Haven’t we already demonstrated amply enough that we cannot march into countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and impose peace, let alone support a functioning democratic and accountable government?

We will make a choice.  We must make a choice one way or other.  Even to do nothing is to choose.

But I think the choice is black and white only for those who cannot see the tortuous, complex reality as it truly is.  “Choose one,” feels like the offer from hell.


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