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Monday, 12 January 2009

Leunig and what happens when we walk away from cruelty

Michael Leunig has written a challenging meditation on the injury that we do ourselves when we walk away from cruelty and rationalise it in the scheme of things.

He starts with the little picture - what happened when Ron Barassi intervened recently to protect a woman who was being assaulted by a group of men and considers what happens to us morally if we fail to respond to cruelty as we meet it when we can do soemthing about it.

For the big picture he takes to the current war in Gaza. Beyond the specifics of the conflict he has some intutitons about the the morla impact of modern war that bear thinking about.

Modern military conflict should no longer be called "warfare". It is more like mass industrial killing than combat. It is coercive homicide posing as defence, and is radically uneven - or "asymmetrical" as the militarists like to say. In the Western calculation it means that we do the killing and they do the dying. The children, the mothers, the elderly and the poor do the dying in particular: those not-quite-white people, born in distant, unfortunate lands - they do all the wailing and the suffering.

It is the very practice of military violence that is now most significant, because of the psychological cancer it creates in the world - a condition that eventually affects us all. Nobody escapes. Even those who shrug and turn away will find this complex spread of depression and chaotic perversity arriving mysteriously in their homes and among their families sooner or later.

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