Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #6: It's Already in Your Backyard

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Threats, dangers, risks, these are all things that are out there, but each society and each individual will find their own individual and collective ways of organizing them and ranking them. Everything from personal experience, cultural representations, ideological lens, or accumulation of resources comes into play in helping us understand the things that we should be afraid of and the things we don’t “really” need to be afraid of. It is a strange sort of game to watch because it doesn’t really make sense. It is a very human endeavor. The way that a human can truly define themselves in this world, even if it means accepting an obvious fiction instead of a truth and laughing while they sign their own death warrants. Such is the lesson of the Garden of Eden and the choice of Adam and Eve. What makes human beings human beings is their ability to act in aggressive, passionate and unthinking ways against their own interest. They are rife with potential interests and can pick and choose those that they see as being important. A poor person can feel with all their heart that a rich person is the best to represent them. A Chamorro can feel that non-Chamorros are better than Chamorros. Women can feel that men should be in charge of their bodies. An island like Guam can feel more comfortable as a colony than as a sovereign entity.

There is something to our complexity that we can convince ourselves of almost anything and make things that should be unthinkable possible and even normal. One of the ways we define ourselves and assert our humanity is through the way we organize the things that threaten us. We accept certain things as endangering us because of various ideological, cultural, economic and political contexts. If the government says something is a threat, there are patriotic pulls that insist that as a certain type of citizen  you claim to be afraid of them. If you belong to a certain culture you may interpret certain things as threats to your existence. For one culture Facebook may be an irritation or something that divides parents and kids or puts their children at risk from predators. For others Facebook and social media may be seen as a clear and present danger to the vitality of your culture. The kids don’t want to learn their language and culture because they are too busy Facebooking or Tweeting. For some people you articulate threats in a counter-critical manner. You draw your identity and collectivity by being from a group of people who have identified the “real” threats, the ones everyone else won’t admit to. Ultimately, you speak volume of yourself by the things you claim to be afraid of, or the things you articulate as threats to your existence.

In terms of people misunderstanding their existence, North Korea and its potential threat is a perfect example of this. The reality is that North Korea is a starving, impoverished nation that simply wants to exist. The eager support that the United States provides South Korea in both economic and military terms, threatens North Korea and its existence and relevance. North Korea does not have the ability to do real damage to the United States and doing so would not be in its own best interests. North Korea does not have the ability to do much of anything except threaten. It could engage in suicidal strikes, but while there is plenty of rhetoric that North Korea can hit certain targets, there is little evidence that it would actually want to. For all the fear that people have been feeling lately about North Korea making certain threats, and proclaiming its ability to hit targets in South Korea, Japan and Guam, it is important to remember that this type of rhetoric is common amongst countries, the United States the most aggressive (literally) user. The United States constantly makes statements about who it can hit and how it can hit targets. When compared to North Korea however the US has shown a greater likelihood to actually attack those that it mentions it is capable of attacking.  

A great uproar has been made over North Korea having nuclear weapons and obtaining nuclear weapons. This is understandable since the world should be actively working to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons in the world. But if you are looking for nuclear threats why are you worried about North Korea? The United States has close to 10,000 nuclear weapons around the world today. Each of those nuclear weapons represents hundreds of thousand possible deaths. Each represent the potential end of humankind and if any accidents take place, a domestic catastrophe. If you are truly looking for threats from nuclear weapons, people in the US and attached to it (like Guam) should look inward and self-reflect. Sure, North Korea shouldn’t get any more nuclear weapons, but the US actually should be less hypocritical and start getting rid of their own. 


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