A recent letter (here) on the editorial page of Canada's National Post newspaper in favour of waterboarding was pretty medieval. But the writer's reference to Aristotle caught my eye: "only beasts and gods live beyond a city’s walls." There is a discussion on that reference here:
Going beyond the pale, moving beyond the bounds of what previously defined civilization, is now common. It started with the Battle of the Somme, then the Holocaust. The technological and information revolutions have accelerated a process already taking place. In the new Millennium, we are all beasts and gods."For Aristotle's zoon politikon there are no persons beyond the walls of the city; outside the city there exist only beasts or gods. To be a person means to be part of the corporate whole of the polis. The essence/end of the person does not inhere in the individual; it does not emerge in the development of the solitary self nor in the development of the self in family as child, brother or father. Neither, for Aristotle, does the person emerge in village, imperial or cosmopolitan life. Only in the polis can there be persons, for the nature of the person is political."
In a documentary made shortly before his death, The Fog of War, former US Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara sought to justify his historical responsibility in the Vietnam War and the Cold War. The main theme he grappled with was the fact that 20th century politicians and policy-makers confronted situations which were impossible to assess accurately because they were too complex. In periods of conflict, he claimed that agents became semi-blind, because too many factors and chaotic forces were at play. He insisted that there needed to be some rules, regulations, some rational framework which could be used as a guideline to war. One part of that film plays a tape from 2 March 1964, in which President Lyndon Johnson speaks to McNamara about a speech by a senator on the Vietnam War:
The phrase, "an instability of ideas," remains relevant. The testing and transcending of limits is destabilizing all the concepts which previously served as touchstones for stability. To these new ways of doing things, we owe the current recession."This morning Senator Scott said, 'The war which we can neither win, lose, nor drop is evidence of an instability of ideas, a floating series of judgments, our policy of nervous conciliation which is extremely disturbing.'"
In a similar vein, BBC's HARDtalk today (see also here) reported that Goldman Sachs invested half a billion dollars into Facebook, which gives Facebook a valuation of $50 billion. In this post, I speculated that Facebook had already passed its peak. Goldman Sachs's investment will save Facebook and turn it into something else. The current site will become an information exchange, crossing lines between public and private in ways never before seen.
UPDATE (January 18):