Re: youth, morality...

Tue, 23 Jul 1996 20:46:03 -0400

Interesting chat re. youth & morality....

First, thanks Kali, for passing along the memorial to Francisca Flores; it's
always a boost to read of the lives of good people in the struggle, especially
ones I haven't known of.

Second, I think drieux mis-read Ben's quoted comment about the incompatibility
of war & morality. Seems Ben was saying the students were arguing that there
was no place for a discussion of morality when talking about war, thus they
"understood" or "forgave" all the actions of troops at My Lai, or elsewhere.
Whereas, seems drieux was saying the argument that war is not compatible WITH
morality is unacceptable --kind of the opposite of Ben's point, I thought.
But, to drieux's point, I think one CAN (and some will) argue that war and
morality are incompatible, at least for them. They're call pacifists, and one
significant point that could be made is that the military understands this
incompatibility and goes to great lengths (basic training, etc., to say
nothing of general societal propaganda about an "enemy") to OVERCOME the
fundamental human recoil against killing another human being. I.e., if this
enemy isn't sufficiently dehumanized (and one isn't of necessity concentrating
on one's own survival in the context of war), wars aren't going to
Whether one agrees with this or not, it seems a plausible and "acceptable"
argument; it is not quite the same as condemning and judging as immoral all who
take up arms (since it's essentially a statement of one's own moral boundary
to resist or conscientiously object to war & military service).

On the sad tales about cynicism among the young --Ben's, Paula's, Steve's--
these resonate (as well as Elizabeth's caution about not "preaching" to the
young about what they "have to do"). As I said earlier, I've had similar
experiences. But I wonder how much of this is something generational? Have
things changed --through television, political events, the massive
advertisement for getting rich, the market, etc.-- or are these young people
not rather like a lot of young people in the 1950s and 1960s? Or is it partly
just age (some aspects of Steve's 18-year-old friend's behavior, like choice
of movies, remind me of my 18-year-old son, though some don't)? I suspect
these attitudes weren't very prominent among the subscribers to this list,
because most seem to have ended up in a very different place from these kids.
I'm just trying to sort these things out, because I think there is greater
cynicism today than there was in the early 1960s, and, in a way, with good
reason. What do others --younger and older-- think?

Ted Morgan