An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
The Illness of the Powerful
"Jesus, healer, physician of the spirit, relentless diagnostician of the illness of the powerful." - Daniel Berrigan, "You Shall Love"
"... a UCSB researcher worked on technology for a new type of bomb which was dropped on an Afghan wedding, killing 40 Afghanis gathered to celebrate the love between two people and their families. U.S. officials denied responsibility for the bombing until camera footage made it impossible to deny. To the researcher's horror, his teammates working on the bomb expressed no remorse for the innocents killed by their invention. Instead, they celebrated the news because the bomb worked as they intended it to." - "UCSB Students Against War Disrupts Collaborative Biotechnology Military Research Conference", Feb. 12, 2008, Santa Barbara Indymedia.
In the words of Jacques Ellul, we are a "civilization of means." As long as those means fulfill their purpose, namely destroying human life according to the technical requirements specified in the contract, then we should celebrate our triumph, even though the celebrants of love must go quietly to their graves. All is justified when the "bomb worked as they intended it to do." The Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies does research that "give[s] the Army multiple sensing and identification options, depending on the target's complexity, source, availability and distance." - from their website. These "targets" are invalid units of biologically human organic material that require elimination.
Our worship of technique blinds us to the ends that it creates. These biotechnologies foster the illusion of omnipotence, that we can control life, while resulting in a deepening reality of impotence towards the true end of man. In fact, technology has been and will remain fundamentally ineffective for humanity as long as it is worshiped in itself. It frees us from our subjection to nature while enslaving us to the technological processes themselves. The biotechnologies pursued at the ICB will achieve their end with spectacular success - they will end life in an exponentially more efficient way. While we are busy with "Reusable Solid-State Optically Amplified Conjugated Polymer Sensors", we are constructing ends from these means that will destroy any human value that this research might contain.
Let me be as clear as possible about what the real crime here is. It is not merely spending billions to murder our fellow humans while most of the world is starving, though for earlier generations of Christians that would be sufficient to justify outrage. It is that we have entered an era of deliberate self-deception that is hidden and fostered beneath the gleam of our technological wonders. We have entered a kind of collective hypnosis in which we no longer recognize that our technological means create their own life-destroying ends, no matter how noble we pretend our ultimate goals are. If the goal is to eliminate terror, then we cannot begin by spending billions on biotechnology to identify and eliminate biological targets. "We are no longer even at the criminal stage of justifying our murderous means by a compromised end, but at the pathological stage of refusing to acknowledge, much less resist, the real and overwhelming end emerging from our civilization means like the beast from sea." - James Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross.
This beast can only be defeated by the power of penance. "The alternative to deepening slaughter and guilt, and one seldom chosen in international politics, is repentance: the admission that the existential end implicit in the execution of our policies was criminal from the beginning." - James Douglass, The Non-Violent Cross.
Let us pause for a moment to contemplate the end implicit in "...advancing the survivability of both the soldier and weapons systems through fundamental breakthroughs in the area of biotechnology," including sensors, electronics, and photonics for these military applications. The survival of soldiers and weapons systems is necessary for the continued elimination of invalid biological units. The end implicit in these means is to strengthen the powers of destruction while celebrating biotechnologies.
On Feb. 12, 2008, the powers of life won a momentary victory: "500 UCSB students and Santa Barbara community members disrupted the [ICB] conference to demand an end to UC complicity in illegal weapons research designed to kill Iraqis in an illegal war."
The article continues: "There was a heavy police presence but protesters were not intimidated and conducted their non-violent direct action against UCSB war profiteering with courage and determination. Police arrested three protesters. Eyewitnesses said there was no justification for the arrests and hundreds of people chanted "Let them go! Let them go!" and laid their bodies on the pavement around police cars as a human shield demanding that the peaceful protesters be released. The arrested protesters urged everyone to return to the ICB conference to finish what they came to do and protesters returned to the Corwin Pavilion peacefully to continue disrupting the ICB.
Students Against War Santa Barbara declared victory as the ICB conference was disrupted, military scientists were informed about the consequences of their actions and a message was sent to UCSB officials that students will not rest until UC complicity in war ends.
UPDATE: The ICB conference was shut down and did not continue its second day sessions. This constitutes a major victory for UCSB students in the campaign to demilitarize UCSB and the whole UC system." - "UCSB Students Against War Disrupts Collaborative Biotechnology Military Research Conference", Feb. 12, 2008, Santa Barbara Indymedia.