The Act of Killing
September 1, 2012 6:03 AM   Subscribe

"The Act of Killing is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan génocidaires, Anwar Congo and his friends have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own triumphant history, becoming role models for millions of young paramilitaries."

"When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Anwar himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands.

Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of a right-wing paramilitary organization that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers, and they are happy to boast about everything from corruption and election rigging to acts of genocide.

In The Act of Killing, Anwar and his friends agree to tell the filmmakers the story of the killings. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to star in the kind of films they most love from their days scalping tickets at the cinemas. The filmmakers seize this opportunity to expose how a regime that was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable, would project itself into history. And so the filmmakers challenge Anwar and his friends to develop fiction scenes about their experience of the killings, adapted to their favorite film genres – gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims." - Wikipedia

The Act of Killing is a new film by Joshua Oppenheimer. It was produced by Errol Morris.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (41 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
As someone who is a friend of Indonesia, this makes me very sad. I knew about this, knew also that people wouldn't talk about it at all there.

I also note that the opening sentence is fairly general purpose if you drop a couple words:

"[...] is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan génocidaires, [...] and his friends have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own triumphant history, becoming role models for millions of young [...]"

and could equally apply to the country I currently live in. Unfortunately, very few of the war crimes of my lifetime have been punished, and in most cases, both the architects and the implementors continued to live their lives as rich, respected men.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:16 AM on September 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had heard that Paul Kagame was the leader of the rebels during the genocide. Today he's a revered head of state. Isn't this framing kind of weaselly re: Indonesia?
posted by infini at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2012


Oh, and one more note.

Bali is the area of Indonesia I'm most familiar with - lovely, full of sweet people, etc. but also had the highest death rate during these times.

It's pretty chilling to find out that during my lifetime, the Balinese killed one in twenty of their neighbors because of a bogus Communist scare. By comparison, that would be like killing 160,000 New Yorkers because of the Occupy movement... except that the Balinese Communist movement barely existed and didn't actually ever do anything.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:28 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Urg, sorry to keep commenting on myself, but here's an article claiming, fairly convincingly, that the deaths were in fact Javanese soldiers killing Balinese, which makes my last comment quite incorrect if so.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:31 AM on September 1, 2012


Apologies for leaving this out of the FPP - the film was also produced by Werner Herzog.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:54 AM on September 1, 2012


and could equally apply to the country I currently live in.

Is there anything more pathetic than the spectacle of the American "anti-imperialist" who changes the subject of every conversation about a foreign country to a simile about America?

I had heard that Paul Kagame was the leader of the rebels during the genocide. Today he's a revered head of state.

Kagame was the head of the Tutsi rebels, it was the Hutu who were committing genocide in Rwanda. He was the one who stopped them. That ain't to say that his hands are clean by any stretch - he backed forces in the Congo wars that were responsible for equally terrible atrocities. There are plenty of murky allegations about ugly things he did in the civil war leading up to the genocide in Rwanda too, though a lot of that may just be the French trying to cover their own asses.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:55 AM on September 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


Unfortunately, very few of the war crimes of my lifetime have been punished, and in most cases, both the architects and the implementors continued to live their lives as rich, respected men.

Oh, yes. I'll see someone being interviewed on television or publishing an op-ed in the Times, and all I can think is "war criminal!" But fortunately for them, I'm not in charge of prosecutions. Wasn't it just the other day that the last door was shut for prosecuting anyone in relation to the "enhanced" interrogations during the Bush administration, for example?
posted by Forktine at 6:57 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there anything more pathetic than the spectacle of the American "anti-imperialist" who changes the subject of every conversation about a foreign country to a simile about America?

I nominate the spectacle of the American "pro-imperialist" who can always think of a reason why America killing lots of people isn't the same as other countries killing lots of people.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:59 AM on September 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


> Is there anything more pathetic than the spectacle of the American "anti-imperialist" who changes the subject of every conversation about a foreign country to a simile about America?

Sure! There are people who call other people's words "pathetic", for example.

The statement, "Unfortunately, very few of the war crimes of my lifetime have been punished, and in most cases, both the architects and the implementors continued to live their lives as rich, respected men," is a general purpose statement that applies to many, many countries around the world, including but not limited to China, Russia, Indonesia, and all sorts of countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, etc.

It was absolutely not my intention to direct the conversation to the United States, and accordingly, I did not directly mention that country at all. The fact is that if you committed state-sanctioned war crimes in the last 50 years, there's an excellent chance that you got away with it and continued to live as a respected man(*) in luxury.

(* - If I could have named a single woman implicated in war crimes I'd have broadened this noun, though I'm sure there are a few outliers there...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:04 AM on September 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


In the trailer one of the guys says something like "War crimes are defined by the winners" and that's very, very true. Robert McNamara's obituary quoted him saying:

“We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” Mr. McNamara recalled; some 900,000 Japanese civilians died in all. “LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.”
posted by Forktine at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is there anything more pathetic...

Yes, people so sensitive to any perceived slight to the glory and might of Their Nation that they feel compelled to pee all over the offender.

That said, there's a kind of dis-connect when it comes to movies like this, an almost conceptual element of dada: That killers could gad about so freely is a staple of fiction yet here they are in 'real life.' and then if I read the synopsis right, they have been asked to make movies about killing they participated in. I can only imagine how gruesome a thing they will end up with - like something made by Ed Gein.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:09 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would like to know what role foreign nations played in the horrific mass killings. The US, Britain and Australia - and to some extent Soviet and China - all seem guilty for providing equipment, arms, money, know-how or political support to the military and Anti-communists forces.

“The United States was directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian Armed Forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the British government extended an emergency loan of 1 million pounds ($2 million) to Indonesia in late 1965 and promised not to attack Borneo if Indonesia withdrew soldiers engaged in a conflict with British-backed Malaysia.


But I guess this is an irrelevant "spectacle of the American 'anti-imperialist'" and should promptly be forgotten.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:11 AM on September 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


Nature is red in tooth and claw -- pretty much everything in the structure of human society is a product of "killers who won" (and losers who fled or turned sides to avoid being killed) if you look back in history, and usually you don't have to look back too far either. What we think of human rights or civil society are either values that people were willing to kill to impose and which are maintained ultimately at the barrell of a gun, or are ahistorical nostrums.
posted by MattD at 8:21 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


(* - If I could have named a single woman implicated in war crimes I'd have broadened this noun, though I'm sure there are a few outliers there...)

There was an SS women's auxiliary that produced a few war criminals. In addition, there has been one women convicted of genocide and inciting soldiers to commit rape in Rwanda. Obviously, men make up the lion share of war criminals, but there are a few women.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:29 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nature is red in tooth and claw -- pretty much everything in the structure of human society is a product of "killers who won" (and losers who fled or turned sides to avoid being killed) if you look back in history, and usually you don't have to look back too far either. What we think of human rights or civil society are either values that people were willing to kill to impose and which are maintained ultimately at the barrell of a gun, or are ahistorical nostrums.

That's a deeply disturbing position - perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but it seems to me that you're saying, "This is who we are, get over it, nothing will ever change."

If I'm not misreading what you write, and I'm sorry if I am, this isn't right as a matter of fact, and it isn't right ethically or morally.

The fact is that the humans we see today are only secondarily the result of people successfully competing with others, and primary the results of humans successfully cooperating with other humans.

Bees and other social are of course the most extreme example of this - if you claimed that the bees we see today are modeled on bees who successfully out-competed others, it'd be obviously stupid, because for the last several million years most bees (drones, etc) never get to reproduce at all and would have been bred out of the race if this had happened).

In the same way, a single human on its own or even a single family cannot achieve anything. The reason that we've come so far, so fast, is not because we've killed our "brothers and sisters" more successfully, it's because we've been nurtured by our "parents", we've received cultural knowledge transmission that allows us to be very successful at food production and gathering, protection against the elements and this sort of thing.

There are numerous other creatures that do have this sort of anti-social pattern, for example lions. We are not descended from lions - we're hominins, group animals who cooperated to catch prey and to defend against predators bigger than any individual could.

And your statement is obviously awful from a moral or ethical point of view - if I'm not misinterpreting it, it says, "Humanity is no better than these murderers, and we should resign ourselves to that." NO. We are better than that. We've come a long way from the Dark Ages - by almost any standard, the world is more peaceful now than at any time in history - and nearly all of this has come by civilized people refusing to accept certain acts as legitimate and moral.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:41 AM on September 1, 2012 [19 favorites]


Yeah, perpetual grimdark feudal murderousity might be the easiest condition for a group of humans to reach, but that doesn't mean that it's therefore our natural condition. I think being a progressive, or a socialist, or just someone with hope means placing a bet that groups of people who work via cooperation, trust, and mutual respect will tend to outcompete groups of people who work via competition, paranoia, and violence — a bet that decency is in fact self-sustaining, even if setting it up is hard.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:16 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are some institutions, such as the police and the military, that we give the right to commit violence. This may consequently - depending on your perspective - make violence easier to do; make it less common; or simply transfer it elsewhere. In my neck of the woods there is very little violence; but I'm in a country that has the largest military in the world and inflicts violence upon others. Perhaps is also a paradox - as certain sorts of persons live in places without violence, is it possible that it becomes easier to commit it upon other people? I don't know the answer, but it's always interesting to me that Republicans who don't go to war are more eager to use the military to do so.

There are practical differences, although slight, between institutions that arise primarily out of gangsterism and other sorts of institutions. Granted, this is contestable. Some argue unless all state institutions as being fundamentally more sophisticated and developed variations of the mafia. Certainly there are some commonalities, but to glide over the differences is to diminish the very real everyday fear that exists in other countries.
posted by john wilkins at 9:30 AM on September 1, 2012


An investigation launched in 2008 into the CIA's program of detaining and interrogating captured militants was closed on Thursday with no criminal charges, the Justice Department said.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


also, you aren't going to get anywhere by "othering" the conversation. This is as much about American culture as Indonesia:
In their youth, Anwar and his friends spent their lives at the movies, for they were “movie theatre gangsters”: they controlled a black market in tickets, while using the cinema as a base of operations for more serious crimes. In 1965, the army recruited them to form death squads because they had a proven capacity for violence, and they hated the communists for boycotting American films – the most popular (and profitable) in the cinemas. Anwar and his friends were devoted fans of James Dean, John Wayne, and Victor Mature. They explicitly fashioned themselves and their methods of murder after their Hollywood idols.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:46 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a deeply disturbing position - perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but it seems to me that you're saying, "This is who we are, get over it, nothing will ever change."

Is there any doubt?

And your statement is obviously awful from a moral or ethical point of view - if I'm not misinterpreting it, it says, "Humanity is no better than these murderers, and we should resign ourselves to that." NO. We are better than that.

Are we? History is full of counterexamples. The comfortable existence most of us enjoy is at least to some extent, built on the misery, mutilation and death of many people who came before, sometimes quite pointless. Not only the sacrifices of people who fought for "our values", but people who were eliminated because they were "in the way" in some form. What concerns me is that to this day we are prone to the most unspeakable acts whenever others push back against "our values", obviously the correct and true values to have, and often do so with so little regard for the people who will suffer and die in the process.

In fact, insisting that "we are better than that" often seems a major step in justifying the worst acts against others who obviously don't share our enlightenment. We aren't better than that. We are the same brutal animals that have been walking the planet for thousands of years, occasionally capable of carving out a pleasant, often transient, society able to provide reasonable peace for most of its inhabitants. Sadly, often carved out of flesh and blood.

The trend does look better over the long haul as the globe grows smaller, more prosperous and interconnected. But denying that we're the same base animals inside is a hubris we'd be foolish to believe.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:56 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The trend does look better over the long haul as the globe grows smaller, more prosperous and interconnected. But denying that we're the same base animals inside is a hubris we'd be foolish to believe.

Right, but surely we cannot resign ourselves to being animals? Surely part of the trend looking better is that we are trying to channel our animal aspects into being something better. Knowledge of our violent potential is worth having so that we may control it and keep it, as much as possible, from harming others. We certainly shouldn't see it as a reason to resign ourselves to our impulses as a society.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:14 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


URG. For an edit button. Flagged the original answer, redoing...

Is there any doubt?

Absolutely there is. I made a pretty seriously worded argument to that effect above - I don't see any sort of counter-argument to my argument, you simply ignored it and posted the topic sentence of each paragraph, deleting the actual logic behind it.


> And your statement is obviously awful from a moral or ethical point of view - if I'm not misinterpreting it, it says, "Humanity is no better than these murderers, and we should resign ourselves to that." NO. We are better than that.

Are we? History is full of counterexamples.

I note you just ignored my my very next statement on this matter:

> We've come a long way from the Dark Ages - by almost any standard, the world is more peaceful now than at any time in history - and nearly all of this has come by civilized people refusing to accept certain acts as legitimate and moral.

Do you dispute this?


The comfortable existence most of us enjoy is at least to some extent, built on the misery, mutilation and death of many people who came before, sometimes quite pointless. Not only the sacrifices of people who fought for "our values", but people who were eliminated because they were "in the way" in some form.

I could just go back and post a little more of the logical argument I wrote specifically addressing this - but what's the point?


In fact, insisting that "we are better than that" often seems a major step in justifying the worst acts against others who obviously don't share our enlightenment.


CITATION REALLY NEEDED HERE. I make it extremely clear what "better" means - in a few words, not killing innocent people.

We aren't better than that.

I, personally, am determined to be better than that and I have lived my life accordingly. Many of my friends have gone a lot further than have I. Don't project your moral system onto us.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:25 AM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


We've come a long way from the Dark Ages

In the Dark Ages, feudal nobility used to exert their power over the peasantry through their knights, who were also the means by which they would battle each other for dominance. Naturally, it helped to have some influence over the Church, so many nobles cultivated close ties with the clergy.

Whoops! Silly me, I wasn't talking about the Dark Ages at all - instead I accidentally transposed some words from the wrong Word template. Please accept these substitutions:

Dark Ages = modern day
feudal nobility = corporations
the peasantry = average citizens
knights = lawyers
Church = government
the clergy = politicians
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:36 AM on September 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


wolfdreams01:

You seem to be saying things are worse off for your average person (in the West) now than in the Dark Ages. Can you support this claim, one that seems ridiculous on its face, with facts rather than some complex analogy?

Here are some hints:

* Social mobility - was it really greater in the Dark Ages than now?
* Your chance of getting a fair trial in the Dark Ages as a "regular guy" - even though the justice system is pretty fucked up in the US, do you really believe it was at all different from when one individual owned you and could do whatever he pleased to you?
* Life expectancy, before and after?
* Leisure time, before and after?
* Amount of physical pain experienced in a given year? (Hint: consider "dentistry", "setting bones", "physical therapy", "antibiotics" and such devices.)
* Comfort, before and after (I personally love my toothbrushes and hot showers, you?)

Or, is there any measurable way that you can show us that things are not better today than the Dark Ages?

And do remember, most of these achievements were not caused by people's ability to kill others. Most of the advances in science and technology I am referring to came because of stable societies that were willing to support people who weren't, in fact, better at killing people, but people who could work full-time on the germ theory of disease, air conditioning and dentistry.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:47 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Page 23 of the PDF - draft of Economic Hitman on role in Indonesia
posted by infini at 11:04 AM on September 1, 2012


Do you dispute this?

No, as per my last paragraph. However, the US is just extricating itself from a war in Iraq that had fuck all to do with anything. As far as I can tell, a whole lot of people here in the West felt since Iraq just wasn't cooperating with our wonderful shared values and Prosperity Bible, we were going to enlighten them, and if it kills a few hundred thousand people, well ya gotta break some eggs to make that omelette... And just having an itch to kick someone's ass helps get more folks on board. For all our enlightenment and prosperity, the US couldn't help but jump in with both feet.

"WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS" is a cry as old as humanity itself. Regardless, we've consistently been able to convince ourselves of the righteousness of the most heinous of acts, and forget the horror our prosperity is based upon. I'd like to think one can vow to live a good life and avoid complicity with such horror. But humans often have trouble recognizing their own brutality, despite their best intentions.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:10 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to be saying things are worse off for your average person (in the West) now than in the Dark Ages.

No, I never said that things were worse - you're conflating my comment with somebody else's. What I'm saying is that although technology has given us better lives (and most of the examples you've providing come purely from technology), the social structure we live under is fundamentally the same as it was in the Dark Ages. The only difference is that now it's hidden under the comfortable illusion of democracy. That illusion helps maintain social stability. Over time, however, it has wore thin - and in some instances (the Occupy movement, for example) - people are coming to a growing awareness of how the world really works.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2012


strangely stunted trees: "Is there anything more pathetic than the spectacle of the American "anti-imperialist" who changes the subject of every conversation about a foreign country to a simile about America?"

Perhaps not, but in this case there is certainly some relevance. From the "Historical context" section of the website:
In less than a year, and with the direct aid of western governments, over one million of these “communists” were murdered. In America, the massacre was regarded as a major “victory over communism”, and generally celebrated as good news. Time magazine reported “the West’s best news for years in Asia”, while The New York Times ran the headline, “A Gleam of Light in Asia”, and praised Washington for keeping its hand in the killings well hidden.
(The scapegoating of the ethnic Chinese, who had come to Indonesia in the 18th and 19th centuries, was done at the incitement of the US intelligence services, which sought to drive a wedge between the new Indonesian regime and the People’s Republic of China. The slaughter of village-level members of the PKI and its affiliate unions and cooperatives was also encouraged by the US, who was worried that without a “scorched earth” approach, the new Indonesian regime might eventually accommodate the PKI base.
posted by vanar sena at 12:36 PM on September 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Act of Killing is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built.

How's that working out for the "new world" - aka the Americans?

How about Alexander the Great's results?

Or Ghengas Khan?

Who's the 'original killer' who ended up establishing a society? Because the film seems to target the new kids on the block. Odds are you are alive due to someone doing the killing of other humans and the result being 'a society'.

because of a bogus Communist scare.

And how many were impacted because of McCarthy and his "list" of commies?

How many 'commies' died in Nazi Germany? (I bring 'em up due to Operation Paperclip bringing in the anti-commies from Germany post WWII)

Or the various people who've died due to actual policies from "actual" 'Communist States'?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:48 PM on September 1, 2012


wolfdreams01:

> the social structure we live under is fundamentally the same as it was in the Dark Ages.

Here's a list of reasons I posted before as to why this absolutely is not the case.

Consider addressing these arguments, or supplying other, fact-based arguments as to why things aren't a lot better now for almost everyone than they would have been in the Dark Ages.

....

rough ashlar:

> Odds are you are alive due to someone doing the killing of other humans and the result being 'a society'.

Odds are much, much greater that you are alive due to modern medicine. If there weren't modern medicine, I would have died, but before that, my father would not have lived to have me, and quite likely my grandfather as well. None of them had any risk of being killed in warfare or other violence (my father was too young for WW2, my grandfather too infirm).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:25 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fact that some advances come at the cost of lives, chocolate and diamonds being well-known examples, does not invalidate the fact that other advances save lives, nor vice versa. Human existence is just a giant game of Same and Different. We all advance the interests and increase the power of those who are the Same, and we all deprecate the interests and reduce the power of those who are Different.

If you wish moral superiority, you must find it in the methods (trials, not lynchings; elections based on honest data, not deceptive propaganda/bribery contests) and in the outcomes (social comity, low Gini coefficient, class mobility). The fact remains, you are in a war. You are always in a war. It is no less of a war, for being fought with internet argument and drum circles: the end result is the advancement of the interests of the Same (eg, ordinary people all over the world) and the dispersal and disempowerment of the Different (eg, extremely wealthy rent-seekers who drive down our wages and living conditions, and corrupt our governments).

MattD's point is absolutely correct and is the ending argument to fantasies of libertarianism or anarchism. Peace is maintained and can be maintained only by the threat of violence. If you disrupt the peace, the status quo, we will prevent you. This is the same whether the status quo, and the law, and custom, maintains inequality of races and genders, or equality of them.

In the end ideas prevail not because they are more humane, but because they are more appealing. The bases of that appeal are varied. Humans do have a large, but not overwhelmingly so, portion of foresight and regard for objective truth in their mental makeup, along with our desires to seek personal power and to empower the Same, to dominate and disperse the Different, to have novelty and variety of experiences, and to maintain the status quo no matter what the consequences.

My current theory on the matter is that there are elements of our societies who greatly value power and stability even at the cost of truth and variety, and other elements who greatly value truth and variety even at the cost of power and stability. Ideologies are created by these divisions, and they can be clearly seen in the conflicts between ideologies; rarely in the history of a Western democracy has the conflict between power and truth as objectives been so stark as in the Romney/Ryan campaign, who are the end result of the Republicans having abandoned truth entirely in the interests of pursuit of power.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:44 PM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Odds are much, much greater that you are alive due to modern medicine

You are alive today because your parents were alive. Same for their parents and their and ...

DNA analysis shows 'common parents' - there is the 30ish 'original mothers' and the high percentage of "Spanish DNA" in Mexico or the 'common ancestor' dating back to the time of Genghis Khan for parts of Asia.

So no, you are alive today to your ancestors killing other Humans.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:02 PM on September 1, 2012


It's about outcompeting other humans. Killing is a method of doing that. So is having better medicine to live longer and more productive lives, accumulating more resources, structuring societies to allow and encourage more of the members to produce more, etc. I think that to some extent, to think of killing (and enslavement, and life-risking deprivation eg Trail of Tears, Gaza Strip, Irish Potato Famine) as somehow a qualitatively different thing, is an error. Certainly it is a quantitatively different thing, and is aesthetically and morally to be preferred, but at the end of the day there are more of the Same, and less of the Different, whether we kill off the Different or starve them out, ignore them and pursue our own advancement, or invite them in to become the Same with us.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:20 PM on September 1, 2012


Even sheer numbers are just a resource to use to compete with. So is moral appeal.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:24 PM on September 1, 2012


"WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS" is a cry as old as humanity itself.

Yeah, that's...not true.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:09 PM on September 1, 2012


Mods, I flagged his comment - why is it still up there?

They're trying to spend some time with their families this weekend. This can wait.
posted by odinsdream at 6:12 PM on September 1, 2012


There are some female war criminals in the recent Balkan wars. The fact is when people go to war, they lose any better side of their personality.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:35 PM on September 1, 2012


I went to the website and clicked on some of the links about the production. I was entranced by the narrative of the film makers. I did okay with the historical overview--nothing I've not seen before. Thugs, slaughter, bodies, fear. Children crying, women with sunken eyes. Okay, okay, I never saw a million dead people before, but the opening narrative wasn't any worse than any other earnest essay about cruelty, depravity, and so on. Every day. I really can't explain why I wasn't prepared when it did get worse. It ain't what it was, it was what it means.

I cringed a bit when Anwar Congo described how he killed the man on the table with a wire. I could barely look at the trailer, a scene where the three of them drive through the city, calmly remarking about killing those Chinese. These men, as they enthusiastically recreate the slaughter of over a million people: thing is to get the good camera angles. These men laughing, as they reminisce about the good old days of unconditional, boundless slaughter. I was touched that Anwar, back in the day when he was slaughtering hundreds of people every day, was able to lighten his mood by watching Elvis Presley films--they always inspired him "to kill in a happy way."

The producers not only interviewed the murder-cadres, death-squads, they even went out on the sly to interview victims. Many of the survivors were not surprized by the boisterous, unrepentant attitude of the murderers. I wonder how many of us can imagine how it must be, actually, to live in such a way that we could casually shrug off such monstrous demonstrations hubris by those who wielded the guns.

I'm not struggling with what it was: the events are straight forward, if somewhat incredible. But what the film's makers discovered about all those people--I don't know what it means. If it were a work of fiction, the writers could impart some meaning. But it is what it is. Means nothing but the misery and horror that it inspired in those who were subjected to it, the outrage of those who witness it, and the smug memories of those who perpetrated it.

Guess what? Rambo won't be coming. There is absolutely no way for me to commiserate with those poor people, or even spit in Anwar Congo's eye. US involvement in this sickens me. But all the blithering attempts to contextualize it make we want to scream. This has turned into the most bizarre and surreal documentary piece I've ever encountered.

I'm pretty sure I won't go see the whole film.
posted by mule98J at 1:37 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


rough ashlar:

> So no, you are alive today to your ancestors killing other Humans.

Your argument makes no sense at all.

It's very hard to understand what you mean, but you're basically saying that because at *some* point it's a certainty that our ancestors survived violence that this is the *most important* reason that you are alive.

I'm kind of bored with people just making shit up in this discussion, but as a last ditch, what you are saying is simply not true, and there is zero evidence that it is true.

Wars and violence might seem important to you because they're exciting, but the fact is that there are few if any years where they are the number one source of mortality - even of people of reproductive age. Far, far more people are kept alive by societal inventions such as "agriculture" and "medicine" than are killed by violence and that has been true for thousands of years.

Humans didn't become the most successful creatures on the planet by being good at killing each other, but by learning to cultivate their own food, and to provide things like sanitation and medicine to keep their mortality low.

Our ancestors of course had to endure many calamities in order to pass their genes on, and violence was one of them, but neither you or anyone here has presented any proof that surviving violence was the most important factor for survival, and even a glance at hard data like mortality rates seems to make it deeply implausible.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, very few of the war crimes of my lifetime have been punished, and in most cases, both the architects and the implementors continued to live their lives as rich, respected men.

At least they occasionally get called out, which chips away at their perceived respectability:

Desmond Tutu calls for Blair and Bush to be tried over Iraq: Tony Blair and George W Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said.
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on September 2, 2012


This haunts me.
posted by mdrosen at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2012


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