Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Best and Worst

It’s time for the Planet Haolewood award for the best and worst ideas humanity has ever conceived. For worst idea ever I nominate war. The conventional wisdom is that war is a necessary evil and while the process may have many undesirable side effects, it’s worth it in the end (if the war goes your way, at least). In other words the end justifies the means. I could list examples of good things that have been brought about by war but I trust that my readers are informed enough to think of your own. I’m skeptical of the it’s-worth-it-in-the-long-run argument. Since there is no alternate reality like in Star Trek to compare to, we don’t know what would have happened if The North had simply allowed The South to secede from the union without a fight. In our reality we eliminated slavery and got a devastating war and another century of brutal racial oppression in the south. How certain can we be that that’s better than what would have happened with no war?

I’ve always thought of the Geneva Convention as kind of absurd. Don’t get me wrong I’m not in favor of torture or targeting of civilians but I think its unrealistic to expect “fair play” from people engaged in an organized effort to commit mass murder. Which brings me to the heart of the problem with war. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. War always has unacceptable “collateral damage” it always harms civilians, it always has unintended consequences, there are always excesses like Abu Grab. Justice is always a casualty. It’s not a mistake when these things happen. It’s the very nature of war. The choice to fight always has unknowns either way. We don’t know what will happen if we don’t go to war, but we can count on horrible things becoming routine if we do. I think those who argue “it’s worth it” have too much certainty of the value of what they claim to be fighting for and underestimate the cost.

The current war is perhaps too easy of an example to prove my point. The US has no legitimate cause on its side and the costs both long and short term loom larger every day. Considering other wars through history seems more morally nuanced but I’m talking about all wars here and I’m concerned that dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq is just a reaction to loosing. It would have been a bad idea if the US had won, too.

For the best idea ever I nominate surfing. Surfing may not move us any closer to ending war or solve any of humanities pressing problems but I find it infinitely rewarding. The identity of the particular Hawaiian who invented surfing is lost to history but I feel grateful to whoever it was.

I will accept other nominations for humanities best and worst ideas from anyone reading this blog before announcing the winners.


At 12/06/2007, Anonymous Super Nova Garcelon said...

OK, so war is hard to top, but I have to say one of the worst ideas was 'processing' food that was perfectly good and health when prepared by the cook. Processed food is one of our worst ideas, because it unnecessarily take good things out of the food and then tries to artifically put them back in. It always makes the food worse for our bodies, and, I might add, has the side effect of encouraging a disconnection between the natural state of food and humans. It also encourages laziness. We have seen the detrimental results of mass usage and expansion of these products in the USA, the country enbracing processed foods with extreme enthusiasum. We have so many health issues becoming common place due to diet, it is appalling. I will give Cheeze Whiz 'calcium enriched' and, the mascot of processed food, the Twinkie, as examples. Need I say more?

Best idea from Humanity . . . Surfing is great, but this is a more difficult question for me. My first response was "Music!" but I realize that is a personal choice. Most humans have a strong connection to music, in one of it's many forms, but not all. However, it IS an amazing idea and I can't imagine the human world without it. It brings people together in happy and sad times, it can connect people to their spirituality, it can help people relax or help them get out aggression, it can express emotion, paint pictures of beauty, spread messages (personal, political, etc.) and record and teach history, not to mention, get us to DANCE!!! I am sticking to music for now, but I am open to more discussion here. . .


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