New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Indefinite Enemies

May 13, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Looking at the Humanity of Others

by Robert C. Koehler

You’re strapped to a metal table, unable to move. They stick a two-foot plastic tube up your nose, then down the back of your throat into your stomach. They squirt in the liquid protein. You gag, bleed, vomit. It’s unbearably painful.

The practice of involuntary force-feeding is condemned by most medical organizations, including the AMA. It’s banned by most governments. It’s torture.

When I read about the process by which authorities are breaking the hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention center — a process that’s also used regularly in U.S. federal prisons, by the way — I was struck by the utter efficiency of it. The “food” is transmitted directly from bureaucracy to digestive system, bypassing the consciousness of the individual hunger striker. The human being inhabiting this body is completely irrelevant; he only dies when we say so.

Just think about how powerful we are. Just think about how secure we are.

In the overall context of the war on terror and the harm it has unleashed on the world, the Guantanamo hunger strike, involving 100 of the 166 detainees still being held at the facility — about two dozen of whom are now being force-fed — is a fairly small matter, perhaps. But the symbolic significance of it is beyond description, not only because of the hatred it foments against the United States and the combatants it recruits, but also because of the obvious common decency and common sense it flouts. (more…)

War’s Lingering Phantoms

February 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Hearing the Stories as a Prelude to Rebuilding

by Robert C. Koehler

“War’s lingering phantoms haunt every society.”

As two hellish, costly and needless wars struggle toward collapse, this is the time — now, right this minute, before the next false alarm goes off — for us to look honestly at the cost and quality of national security based on militarism. It’s time to squeeze the romance out of war and get it through our heads that war is not inevitable.

War is just another form of mass murder. Its core principle is dehumanization — of all participants, the enemy and the good guys. This is because you can’t hate, dehumanize and train to kill “the other” without dehumanizing yourself and damaging your soul.

“Kill! Kill! Kill, without mercy, Sergeant! . . . Blood! Blood! Bright red blood, Sergeant!”

The dehumanization happens at an individual level, to soldiers who, in basic training, go through an intense process of overriding their humanity and establishing “muscle memory” that allows them to kill on command; and who then participate in the killing of the enemy — often enough, in our current wars, the killing of civilians, including children — in battle situations. (more…)

Empire and Its Consequences

October 15, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

The Morality of Domination Has Caught Up to Us

by Robert C. Koehler 

Ever notice the way certain basic human values quietly transform into their opposite on their way to becoming national policy?

At the human level, the immorality of murder is fundamental, and most people understand the insanity of armed hatred. Keeping these dark forces under wraps is essential to the existence of human society. So why is it, then, that at the abstract level of nationalism, those forces are honored, worshiped, saluted, extolled as glorious, and given command of an enormous budget?

Why is it that their perpetuation via increasingly sophisticated technology is equated with national security and no one talks about the completely predictable negative consequences of basing security on murder and hatred?

And why does it feel so naïve to be asking such questions? (more…)

The Batman Massacre

July 24, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Michael N. Nagler

Tell Me When You’ve Had Enough…

by Michael N. Nagler

I want to make an offer to my fellow Americans who are, like myself, reeling from the worst “random” shooting the country has ever seen. My question: Have you had enough? Because if you have, I can tell you how to stop this kind of madness. I know that’s a bold claim, but this is not a time for small measures.

We cannot fix this tomorrow, because we didn’t cause it yesterday. We have been building up to this domestic holocaust since — to take one milestone — television was made available to the general public at the conclusion of World War Two.

If you are still with me, you are prepared to believe that it was not a coincidence that this massacre took place at the scene of an extremely violent, “long-awaited” movie. Psychologists have proved over and over again that — guess what — exposure to violent imagery produces disturbances in the mind that must, in course of time, take form in outward behavior. (more…)

The Sleep of Reason

June 21, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Christine Baniewicz, Culture, Current Events, Family

Despite Adversity, the Shows Goes on at The Freedom Theatre

by Christine Baniewicz

Nabil Al-Raee, the currently incarcerated artistic director of The Freedom Theatre, awoke five nights ago to the sound of barking dogs. It was shortly after 3 A.M. on Wednesday, June 6th.

“I woke to check why the dogs were making such noise,” writes his wife, Micaela Miranda. “I came out of our house and saw more than 6 soldiers on our front gate and surrounding wall, all pointing guns at me with their lights on.”

Post-midnight raids are common under the Occupation. In December 2011, The Freedom Theatre reported more than 30 post-midnight arrests in Jenin Refugee Camp. Among those arrested were several staff members of the theatre itself. I remember their wincing steps and bloodshot eyes the morning after their abductions. Many had been blindfolded. Some had been beaten with the butts of guns. (more…)

The War Drones On…

June 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Humanizing Our Engagement with Others

by Randall Amster

Drones are all the rage these days, and not in a good way. The increasing toll taken by these robotic executioners is beginning to register with the public, after many years of automated death from above in our adventurist wars. Still, the use of drones is expanding in many places, and not just in the theaters of combat. Drones are used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Local governments and police forces use drones, even if they’re disclosed publicly as part of safety programs or for purposes other than enforcement. Many are equipped with cameras, widening the surveillance society even if not overtly used as tools of destruction.

The issue of expanding automation in foreign combat and domestic policing alike raises many questions apart from the legality of its use in war. Remote-controlled bombing contributes to a greater sense of “action at a distance” that works to overcome a natural human prohibition against killing our own kind — one that soldiers have to be conditioned to surmount. The steady distancing effect of modern warfare continues to push the envelope of our empathetic capacities while enabling remote outcomes with little risk involved. (more…)

Toward Forgiveness

April 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Robert C. Koehler

Finding the Wisdom We Need to Survive

by Robert C. Koehler

I’m far more interested in forgiveness than justice.

I say this just to calm myself down after a morning of media overkill, so to speak. There are so many murdered mothers and children in the news, some with names and faces, so many just adding anonymously to one death toll or another.

An Iraqi mom, 32 years old, is beaten to death in her house in El Cajon, Calif. A note by her body reads: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Was it a hate crime? An isolated incident?

The guy who killed Trayvon Martin is still at large, somewhere. But his 2005 mug shot is everywhere, making him the poster child of vigilante justice. Do I have to reduce the killer to that viral scowl to feel compassion for Trayvon?

Dehumanization, the death of the human soul, is now reaching an advanced stage and its consequences are spreading across the country and the planet like global warming. I feel my own immune system breaking down. I can’t absorb the news anymore without hearing a deep alarm go off somewhere, insistent, berserk.

It’s not just the violence. Violence is a symptom — of social brokenness, alienation, profound disconnection at so many levels, perpetuated by our institutions and popular culture. (more…)