Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dying for Something

Another soldier in Achikam's training course has died, the third so far.

Some would say they're only children, these young men. 18, 19, 20 years old. Certainly, there is no lack of 22-year-old children on many a university campus in many countries. These young men, however, are not children. In the loads they bear, the responsibilities they shoulder, the challenges they must overcome, they are fully adults, indeed, more so than many of their peers in other countries will ever be.

A few weeks ago I posted a rumination about killing people and the need to be willing to be killed, in extreme cases:
Sometimes, says a grieving mother, you have to be willing to lay down your life. Protecting your fellow citizens from death, for example, is such a case.

An extraordinarily strong statement, don't you think? Makes one wonder if the preachers of total non-killing would be willing to lay down their lives for anything, or perhaps more important, for anyone.
In response, one German reader named Hans scoffed:
Who is this talking ? Darth Vader? You seem to have more respect for those wanting to die for what you would consider the wrong thing than for those who are on your side but refuse to die for whatever ( And quite frankly I think refusing to die AT ALL is a sign of being mentally healthy ).
I have been thinking about his comment, because obviously, no-one wants to die for any reason except perhaps extreme old age. Having said that, however, in an extreme case that hopefully will never happen to anyone, I expect that quite a number of us actually could conceive of dying for some very special people in our lives, such as our children.

This afternoon, while hurting for the parents of Achikam's fellow soldier, it occurred to me to wonder if there might be a connection between the sentiments Hans expressed, and in which he is undoubtedly not alone, and the fact that the society he lives in seems not to be having children anymore. Maybe he really does come from a place where they can't conceive of dying for anyone, not even their children, and therefore they don't conceive the children.


Anonymous said...

Russia has also a low birth-rate,but they are still willing to sacrifice people in Chechenya and elsewhere.
Neither does it have much to do with atheism. Think of the Nazis and the Communists.The fact of the matter is that in the west today, people don´t want to make ANY painful political decisions, they deny that sometimes you have to pick the lesser of two evils. This mindset is now very ingrained in most people and that´s why nobody wants to make the biggest sacrifice, to give away his life.

Lydia McGrew said...

I think part of the problem is with the ambiguity on terms like "killing" or "giving one's life." (That's the analytic philosopher talking, right? Gotta make distinctions.) Soldiers in battle are not committing suicide. They're taking risks, sure, going in under enemy fire and what-not. But they know they are more use to their own side alive than dead, so they try to stay alive while accomplishing their mission. That's the difference between a normal soldier and a suicide bomber. The "Palestinians" have a cult of death and are looking to lay down their lives in an entirely literal fashion, not in army-to-army normal warfare, which would certainly be preferrable, both morally and for Israel, than the crazy suicide bombing, hiding behind human shields, teaching their children insane hate-filled lies, and so forth.

"Killing" is similarly ambiguous. There's murder and non-murder, killing the innocent and killing aggressors, accidental killing of the innocent as collateral damage and deliberate killing of the innocent in terrorism, etc.

Actually, the Israelis seem to understand these distinctions very well. Unlike their critics!

Anonymous said...

Nice try, Yaacov, but for me the statement of Hans is poor rubbish. Yesterday my 17 years old daughter Rivka told me about a film she had seen on Oklahoma Beach and the deep empathy she felt with those young boys from Iowa, Quebec and Essex. And she understood perfectly that we still had Himmler, Speer etc. without the sacrifice of those brave boys.
Definitely, Anti-Americanism will not grow on this field - therefore a majority here has to put their head in the sand, not to jeopardize their stupid ideas on who is wrong and who is not.

Best regards, Kai