Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Selfish-Sacrifice

Caught a chunk of NPR where they had interviewed a guy who wrote a book about the history of Al Queda, the Taliban, and Osama Bin Laden. (Sorry I can't get more specific: Can't find a mention of the program on their site, and when I'm driving, I tend to focus more on not dying, not getting dents, and making it home. Roughly in that order.)

Anyway, he mentioned a number of Muslim attacks against Soviet occupation that did almost nothing: The Muslim combatants tended to charge straight in and get killed unnecessarily. Why? 'Cuz that's how a Jihadist gets into Heaven.

That's one reason a lot of cases of religious martyrdom and many cases of self-"sacrifice" by people who make a big deal about the afterlife don't really mean much to me: They're getting something out of the deal. I don't know about the accuracy of the above tale, but it demonstrates the problem of basing morality on a simple reward/punishment scheme: Quickly dying in a manner that superficially looks "moral" is the quickest way to selfish, eternal bliss, even if it hurts those left behind.

5 comments:

TheBrummell said...

I just saw "Letters from Iwo Jima" last night. First, I think it's a great film. Excellent all-around. On to the relevant bit: there is a scene in a Japanese tunnel complex, in which a junior officer (Captain, I think) declares escape and retreat from their tunnel to the next Japanese stronghold to be an act of cowardice. The solution is an honorable death immediately.

When this bit of dialogue happened, I first assumed that this small group of Japanese soldiers would then charge the nearest American unit via the nearest tunnel exit. Instead, a box of grenades is opened, and the soldiers kill themselves one at a time - except two of the characters with names (Saigo and Shimizu) and the officer. The officer kills himself with his pistol. I won't spoil the movie for those who haven't seen it yet by revealing what happens to the other characters.

If it's death before dishonor, why NOT suicidally charge the enemy?

I agree that the muslim fanatics you describe were acting rather foolishly - surely, if one is to die "honorably" anyway, it's best to maximize the number of "enemy" one takes along?

King Aardvark said...

I've noticed that also with the portrayal of the Japanese - both by themselves and by others. They seem to glorify the useless ritual suicide. (Not that they didn't also try more productive suicide bombings, too, namely the kamikaze attacks).

These guys and the muslim terrorists are definitely taking the easy way out for themselves. But honestly it's better that they do. In fact, all suicide bombers should strive to be as ineffective as possible.

MTran said...

A few days ago the History Channel (AKA The War Channel) ran a program about American military advisors training local Afghans to take on the Taleban. According to the trainers, the most difficult thing to work around was the Afghan insistence on charging straight ahead into gunfire, because such a suicidal charge was "honorable."

(And don't ask me about anything else on the program, I just caught a few moments while selecting a DVD to play.)

Anonymous said...

The NPR program was probably this.

Bronze Dog said...

Yup, that's it. Thankies, NoName.