The Inherent Conundrum of Operant Behavior
Thoughts, wanderings and questions. Often contradictory, but almost always within the shroud of my world.

Friday, June 17, 2005

On torture and Guantanamo 
So there's a bunch of torture talk in reference to Guantanamo these days.
Sorry, another depressing topic.

But while it isn't the most pleasant thing to think about, it did happen. Actually, it does happen. And not to whine about whether it was technically torture, of if there were sufficient instances, I'll set a benchmark. If it happened to you, then you'd be saying it was torture. And once is too many times.

So it happened. It was bad. It shouldn't have been done. Those who participated and those who knew about it should undertake some sort of corrective action. Assuming that this will occur (and has occurred), these episodes are not what people should be concerned about.

Why did it happen?

There was a study done several years ago (And if you're really interested, let me know and I'll try to dig up the source.) that took a random group of people. Randomly split them into 2 sections, half were 'guards', and half were 'prisoners'. The study was to last for 7 days but had to be halted early (I think at 4 days) because the guards were starting to abuse the prisoners. When questioned later, they actually believed that they were superior to the prisoners, and that the prisoners deserved the mistreatment. The researches found that the "prisoners" also had similar feelings. Apparently, it doesn't take long to dehumanize someone.

So that probably contributed. Something else that probably contributed is that the people committing the acts were rather young and consequently didn't have much experience being guards. After all, a considerable amount of their training revolved around how to kill people.

But then there is the rest of us. And as a society, we all contributed. The destruction of the World Trade Center was such a shock, so heinous, so unthinkable, that it altered the American society's frame of mind. The unthinkable becomes a reality. The greater the shock, the greater the knee-jerk reaction. Americans don't roll over, they react. And the bigger the shock, the bigger the reaction. The torture is still part of that reaction.

But Americans also don't hold grudges for very long. Without more reinforcing shocks, the mind set of the country starts to settle down. But while the grudge may not be so prevalent, the memory is still there, so since there is a new mindset, a new set of unthinkables are now thinkable. Five years ago very few people in this country would have condoned the acts at Guantanamo. Today, it isn't unpopular for people to express in frustration that this may be the only way to stop another attack.

So this torture business is a brand new area for Americans. And one thing that can easily be said for the Americans is that we are a quick study. What happened at Guantanamo was crude at best, and this country has a history of going from crawling to flying.

The thing that should really be worrying people is what kind of torture will be occurring in 5 years?
If what transpired is barely crawling, then flying is unthinkable. But then again, crawling was unthinkable 5 years ago.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I'll admit that I'm not very good at reading beyond the headlines where suicide bombers are concerned. To read the story behind the headline is providing some legitimacy to the suicide bomber. The most popular belief is that the suicide bomber is after publicity. And there is only publicity if people pay attention. By clicking on a link to the story, I contribute by one, to that publicity. Beside that, I just don't want to spend my time reading about people dying.

But every once in a while, I'll read the story, as I did today. And I'll admit also that the story astounded me. Written by a reporter in Baghdad, New York, and Kirkuk, it was maybe half a (8 1/2 x 11) page long. While the headline specifically addressed the most recent suicide bombing, the article mostly talked about where, when and who died over the last 2 months.


The whole reason I clicked on the link was to find out why these suicide bombings occurred. I keep hearing about them, but I don't hear why. Very brief images are shown, or stock photos are displayed, but very little is actually mentioned pertaining to what would motivate people to blow themselves up, and take others with them. And I thought the New York Times might address this issue.


And to the authors credit, they devoted about three sentences explaining why 115 people perished. Apparently, the Sunnis don't like the Shiites having the majority voice.

Those attacks, and many that followed, were seen as a direct challenge to the new Shiite-dominated government.

And 9 paragraphs later:

Kirkuk, which sits atop some of Iraq's richest oil fields, is coveted by the country's major ethnic and sectarian groups, and for that reason is considered the most politically precarious city in Iraq.
The question of who will administer the city is expected to be one of the most contentious issues during the writing of the permanent constitution, and analysts say the city could descend into large-scale civil strife if political solutions are not carefully laid out.

The rest of the article dealt mostly with throwing out numbers of people that died, with very little, if any details.


So what amazed me was that the 23 people that were murdered got very little attention, even in an article that by the headline, was the main focus. Apparently, not even the media is willing to give the suicide bombings much attention.

What astounded me was the sheer callousness of dolling out the numbers of people that had lost their lives. But again, to their credit, the authors did put in a couple of quotes: Enough of the killings!, and God needs to help the Iraqi people.

It is surprising to me because usually an article describes many different interviews. How people felt, what lead to the event, and the general climate are usually written even for something as mundane as the mental health of a subset of the population of a major city.

But apparently listing that 92 other people died is simply filler for the 23 that perished.



About Operant Behavior

Stimulus Response is really about the environment, and how the environment reacts. This envrionment may be as broad as the universe, or as egocentric as a single individual's brain waves.


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Rhetoric & Rhythm
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Beginner's Mind

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