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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pavlov Revisited,and the crisis of Power

   You know I am always curious  about , or rather fascinated by this question of obedience, compliance, adherence , or whatever we wish to call it , to some authority, law, rule , norm , instructions or regulation. Not only  the mindset of those who are forced to obey , but others on the opposite end,  that are granted the power to interpret and enforce  such rules. This situation historically cuts across all quarters ,from the micro levels involving kids ,their  parents,and  teachers , as well as  low end bureaucrats,and   therefore transcends to the wider macro levels ,involving powerful leaders, billion dollar  conglomerates , and others with huge influences on even  life and death situations , for fellow beings like themselves. If you are for example a member of the millions of heavenly , all power God types of believers, then you would be familiar with Adam ,our first ever human on planet earth,  and his dear rambunctious , serpent adoring , apple tasting wife Eve, who dared to disobey , even if they allegedly had a free choice, then to the  consequential impact for  all mankind ever since. 
       Why am I rambling on about this seemingly inconsequential subject , one might ask? Well like that movie , I too am mad as hell , and cannot take it any more, but yet is powerless to do anything but .... Yesterday in  New York   Strong Island,with some 15 minutes before closing time  ,I went to the public library to borrow a book  ,on what to me is a much  ignored subject, that deals specifically with the  draconian ,racially skewed, profiteering , Prison Industrial Complex ,and it’s direct negative impact on mainly poor low caste ,African  folks,as well as  similar others of color ,in  these United States ,ever  since slavery allegedly  ended. 
   Got the book with some  5 minutes to spare, with the  help  of  a friendly Caucasian librarian . Went to the counter,and was told I could not borrow it because I owed a dime ,by a Hispanic young lady trainee. I ran to my vehicle , got the required cash , and returned to collect the book, then thought I have some fun , while getting inside of her head. "You were kidding , weren’t you," I ask? "Oh no," she said , "it’s the rules, "she proudly exclaimed , with two senior female colleagues looking on approvingly , while shaking their heads in ecstatic fashion as to the full compliance of this important  rule .
  " Is it a good rule ," I  further enquired, "and if so why is that so?" "Yes ,"she responded , "because ... it  was always the rule."  "Are you saying that all rules that existed for a long time, is a good rule," I further pressed? "Yes ,"she said, getting a bit agitated . "How about slavery, do you know at one time it was allowed as a rule ,in this country ,and  for a long time , so do you think that was a good rule?" "I won’t answer that," she finally said , glancing at the security , and her senior colleagues for some relief . "No big deal ,and have a nice day to you as well," I said , as I took my book and departed. 
          Three summers ago , I gave up almost a month of my life to grapple with a study in my educational journey ,that focused on leaders of four particular nations , and their  attitudes to one of the most  popular, yet controversial  international laws, of all time, that most nations grapple with. I am talking about  Brazil,Iran, Libya, and North Korea, all of which has made the news repeatedly over the past three months ,and the law, in case you did not know is the Non Proliferation Treaty- the most widely  subscribed  Treaty in History.
   Why I wanted to know exactly ,have 189 states  complied , or not? In the case of one time pro terrorist State Libya , some naively say fear of mighty global hegemon America, doing to them what was done to fellow signatory member Iraq. 
 Iran’s defiance some think, it’s because they see enemies lurking far and wide, starting with the  entire  Sunni Arab population, Western powers , the Jewish State, global non Shiite Islamists , and the list goes on. For North Korea, her actions  too, it is claimed  was due to  her enemies, far and wide, including thousands of American troops fixated for over 60 years on her border, to aid and protect her southern , more economically sound cousins in South Korea and Japan.


   For Brazil , once an ardent , aggressive , dictatorial ,militaristic ,nuclear  enthusiast ,with close rival Argentina, but today a major  NPT  compliance advocate, and  no surprise, is fast emerging as a globally forceful , alternative energy, industrial giant, along with it’s recent first female President , all be it ,amidst growing poverty , structural  violence ,and  other social problems.
  The questions remains therefore as to why North Korea , and Iran ,remains  political pariahs , for seeming non compliance , while non signatories ,and blatant abusing States, such as India, Israel, and Pakistan , are cuddled ? The way the interpretations goes , is that rules are important, but if you never recognize them in the first place , then you are free to abuse them , or something to that effect. The bigger question, for me was , why states with all the means to defy a law such as this , chose not to , and in the process give up part of their sovereignty , and likely power  in the process?  
     The conclusions were that states ,chiefly in non nuclear developing , and emerging industrial countries comply ,mainly because they feel safe , and protected  by more powerful allies ,whose own interest are in turn enhanced- either economically , or politically - for so doing.
   Other states, that somehow cower in fear , because they feel  threatened ,due to either internal, or external insecurity concerns, would instead defy laws , or seeks to circumvent them  , because they are aware of certain historically obvious realities. One is that , no state with a nuclear protected umbrella -of their own -or from another nuclear power , was ever blatantly attacked  by another. Power therefor, or lack therefore, remains a central motivational factor ,in every decision  to comply with a rule.  Since folks , large and small , always seem to want to know , what's in it for me, we should therefore  re-tweek our strategies when trying to encourage compliance, or decide ourselves if we should adhere to a rule when on the receiving end- whether opaque or not, and if capable of dealing with the consequences. 

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Uniondale New York, NY, United States
Speaking truth,as one major prerequisite, to concrete justice. A novel form of social advocacy.

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