Saturday, March 31, 2007

Antipathy and Robert Mugabe

The Bellmen have been vociferously discussing the nature of evil and the morality of how we should feel about evil. The discussion has been interesting, but despite DR's best attempts to keep it analytical, the discussion veered off in many different directions.

Tyson made an irreverent comment that begins with this line: "It is ok to wish people dead. It's why I am pro choice, pro gun, pro death penalty, pro vengeance, pro vigilante justice, pro death and all that." |Link|

His mention of vengeance and vigilante discussion came back to me today when I read Chris McGreal's Guardian article about the vicious political intimidation going on in Zimbabwe.
The whipping and beating came first, but it is the branding of Leonard Dendera that has left the most visible scar. As his attackers intended.

The round white mark is seared on to the black skin just above Mr Dendera's right eye so that, according to the men wielding the iron bars and fan belts, the 25-year-old opposition activist abducted from a Harare street in broad daylight will be immediately recognisable to Robert Mugabe's hit squads when they come across him again.

Mr Dendera couldn't resist - given the broken bones and lacerated flesh - as something hot was burned on to his forehead before he was left virtually naked in the bush with a warning to keep out of politics. "They said it was so they would always know who I was when they saw me on the street," he said from a Harare hospital bed. "It was a threat. I must stop opposing Robert Mugabe and if they saw me doing anything next time they would kill me."

Mr Dendera is one of hundreds of opposition activists snatched from their homes or the street in recent days. Some are bundled into the back of pick-up trucks, driven miles out of town and, after the assaults, left naked. Others disappear for days, sometimes kept in torture centres at army barracks. Mr Dendera is not alone in being branded. |Guardian|
Robert Robert Mugabe makes Karl Rove and Tony Snow seem like sweethearts. I don't like the terms good and evil... too much baggage and religious overtones.

But I'll use the term despicable and say that the world would be a better place without Mr. Mugabe and his reign of incompetence and terror. His "reforms" have resulted in widespread famine and homelessness.

I'm not sure that I would agree with the Mr. McGreal's characterization of the violence against democratic protesters as vigilante violence. (See Wikipedia for a discussion of the term vigilante and its shades of meaning.)

I think that this is action undertaken by state actors in violation of the law. If they were wearing uniforms it would be under color of authority... but here they are trying to disguise their official status and pretend they are vigilantes, much like what appears to be going on in Darfur with the Janjaweed |See Wikipedia or Slate for more.|

But I digress...

I'm still thinking about antipathy and responsibility. Certainly I am in a position to have some small effect on my own government. I don't want to see any members of the Bush administration dead, but I would like to see them imprisoned for long stretches of time.

I'm glad that I live in a society where I don't need to worry about having to fight for my life to defend these beliefs... but I do worry about a not-so-secret cabal using gag orders and National Security Letters to destabilize our society and remove these freedoms.

But what about countries around the world who I think have despicable leaders? Saddam Hussein was a bad man, but was it worth destroying an entire nation to get rid of him?

Even if the US committed forces to Zimbabwe, I doubt we could do any better there than we did in Iraq.

So is it morally any worse for me to wish Mugabe dead rather than deposed? I don't think so.

But I'm not sure I'm willing to sign onto the Tyson pro-death position just yet. But I'll give it some thought.

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