Thursday, April 9, 2015

Liberal Apologism

Having posted something very left leaning, the time has come to rant a bit in the other direction... sort of.

I recently watched a video critique of the entire Call of Duty game series to date. It's absolutely excellent. I'll warn you now; it's over two hours long.

While I loved hearing the narrators views on the themes of the games, something struck me very off when he began talking about the fifth game in the series: World at War.

Without going into a lengthy explanation, that particular game was a World War II shooter and for the first time covered the Pacific campaign. In the single player mode you played as a US Marine.

He talks about the glorification of violence in the game and the demonization of the Japanese soldiers.

"The brutality of the Japanese army during World War II is a historical fact. They were overwhelmingly cruel by western standards. By eastern standards they were doing the job their emperor was asking of them just the same as a Kansas G.I. was [...]"

He then goes on to talk about handling of the Japanese culture in the film Letters from Iwo Jima.

"Letters from Iwo Jima is a particularly sad and remarkable film. It's extremely sympathetic to the overwhelming social pressures of conformity that drove Japanese troops to acts of violence that seem like evil for evil's sake if you look at it like an American."

"[...]World at War is practically racist in how it demonizes the Japanese in its campaign. For the Nazis, for Germany, it is easy to demonize them because they demonized themselves. German and American cultural values are almost the same [...] We can judge the Germans and find them evil because they did evil by the standards of their own culture as well as ours."
Think about that statement for a moment. He's not the only one who has said something like this. It's a view commonly spouted among the far left. "Don't judge them by our culture. Judge them by their culture."

It translates to this "Other cultures cannot be held to the same standard as our superior white man's culture because they are weak and inferior." Wrap that up with some mumbo-jumbo about understanding why a non-western culture commits acts of barbarism and it starts to sound modern, sympathetic, and very liberal.

Culture is a complicated thing. Culture covers everything from how you conceive a new life, bring it into the world, celebrate that life, how you put that life's remains into the ground at the end, and every single thing in between. Culture is nuanced and full of misunderstanding. But if we are to move the entire world forward there are specific values that must be inflexible. Values upon which we judge ourselves and all other people regardless of their place of origin.

Respect For the Lives of Others

You can do whatever you want to your own life, but at bare minimum you must respect the lives of other human beings. For the safety of a society you may need to restrict another human's freedom, but we have no right to take another's life.

Yes, this is something all nations struggle with. Even the most peaceful nations have standing armies and are prepared to kill to defend their way of life. It's understandable. But it's also regrettable. We should judge ourselves on this. If war must be had, understand the gravity of it. Understand the inhumanity of it.

On a less grand scale Americans struggle with this in our legal system. Some states have a death penalty. Some don't. The debate rages. But we must continue to judge ourselves on this and it's perfectly fair for the whole rest of the world to judge us on it. But at no point should we say "Well, over in {insert wacky place full of brown people}, they stone a woman to death for having an extra-marital affair. But, that's just the way they are over there."

No, that's not the way we humans should be anywhere.

Liberty Regardless of Difference

Regardless of genitals (or lack thereof), skin color, language, place of origin, choice of deity (or lack thereof), preference of lovers (one or many), or political leaning, you must afford all people the same liberties as you demand for yourself. But again, for the safety of society you may need to restrict the freedom of someone who tries to deny the liberties of others.

Another thing we all struggle with and we should all keep judging ourselves on. I don't care what {insert ancient religious text} says about the inferiority of women or the inherent deviancy of those who don't read that particular book. Let others live a life as free and unrestricted as you would demand of yourself.

The Second World War was a brutal and grim affair. The Empire of Japan had its reasons for going to war. We should understand those reasons, just as we should understand what drove their people to such atrocities, but we should not acquit them of inhuman behavior because they don't share our cultural respect for life and liberty.

A Japanese soldier had every reasonable motivation to shoot a U.S. Marine invading Guadalcanal. He was defending his empire. He had no good reason to behead that dead soldier, cut off his genitals, stuff the genitals in the dead soldier's mouth, and then place the decapitated head in the dead soldier's lap for the rest of his squad to find. Nor did the Japanese soldiers invading Nanking have any reasonable motivation to rape and murder women and children.

This attitude is liberal apologism at its worst. Respecting another culture means taking your shoes off before entering a home, exchanging some specific words before discussing business, dressing a particular way at a funeral, or allowing someone to pray at work during specific times of the day. Dismissing acts of savagery as a cultural misunderstanding is not respect for a culture, it's disrespect for the victims.

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