30 April 2007

First Strike

I geek for Intelligence Squared. If you're not familiar, the website, http://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/, offers this abbreviated mission statement:

"The goal of IQ2 US is to raise the level of public discourse on our most challenging issues. To provide a new forum for intelligent discussion, grounded in facts and informed by reasoned analysis. To transcend the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological. To encourage recognition that the opposing side has intellectually respectable views. To engage the live audience as active participants who will ask questions and decide which speakers have carried the day by voting on the motions both before and after the debate. "

I admire the ideal of engaging intellectual interaction, but really, what I love is chuckling to myself at how far they fall short of "transcend(ing) the toxically emotional and the reflexively ideological." The debates are aired on NPR stations and archived at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6263392.

They had a hot one on today; "Better more domestic surveillance than another 9/11". In a refreshing turn, the audience, which polled for the motion before the debate, decisively polled against at the end of arguments. Mind, I don't believe any of the "fors" converted, but most of the initially "undecideds" moved to the "against" camp. Small victories.

I am struck, in this debate, by the obvious uselessness and futility embodied in the quest for the chimera "security". So little of certainty in our mysterious existence, and I am finally coming to the stage in my life that I can really appreciate the lack of certainty. Because: what is certain? We can reasonably assume, based on give-or-take two thousand years of okay record keeping, as well as ever-improving archaeological evidence, that most everything living will die. As living things, humans have not in large part developed an ability, (technological or innate) to determine our individual spans with any accuracy, short of opting for an arbitrary and immediate end. So far, I'm thinking, certainty sucks.

In my opinion, any attempt to forcefully increase quantity of life for any individual or group of individuals only definitely serves to adversely affect quality of life, not only for the test group, but for all lives in oscillation around them. Ask the Fisher King. Self-preservation is an absolutely understandable and relateable drive in individuals. And completely valid when applied in instances such as; not stepping into oncoming traffic, or not continually reminding your girlfriend how hot you think her sister is. I do not believe that the will to live is reasonably exercised in groups the size of nations. Individual desire to continue corporeal existence will contribute very little of any use to relations between 7 billion souls. Not everyone can be guaranteed the freedom to live forever. But, if enough people could reexamine their priorities, everyone could be afforded a freedom to really live.