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Do Nations Have Child-Abuse Syndrome?

Aaron Sloman
Last updated: 17 Jun 2010
Installed: 17 Jun 2010

(Originally posted to a Philosophy mailing list on 14th June 2010)
Last updated: 17 Jun 2010

A message was posted to the philos-l mailing list with subject referring to a recently published book about Gaza. This initiated some comments about rights and wrongs of Israel's actions and one of the contributors wrote
    ...whenever Israel comes up on Philos-L (as it tends to every few
    years), there's *never* any philosophy involved.
I submitted the following comment in response. I may later revise this in the light of further comments I have received as a result.

I should point out that this is not my main line of research[*] and I do not claim to have expert knowledge: I am merely asking a question -- though well aware that it is a question some people will not like, for different reasons.

Subject: Re: THE PUNISHMENT OF GAZA - GIDEON LEVY -- A philosophical question?
Date:         Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:42:54 +0100

Well here's a question I have been thinking about which seems to
include at least some philosophy.

A bit of background first:
Although I believe I had relatives who suffered under the Nazi
regime, I was, even as a child aged 11, concerned that starting up
yet another state would cause yet more wars, much to the annoyance
of my parents and relatives who were celebrating the creation of
Israel in 1948.

My concern then was just based on the general (childish?)
observation that the more nations there are the more wars there will
be. My information about the horrors of war were mostly based on
film newsreels during world war II and also war movies around that
time. As we lived in what was then Southern Rhodesia we were not
directly affected.

I now have a different concern. There seems to be evidence that
children who have been abused in childhood tend to be abusers when
they grow up.

Could there be similar mechanisms in the behaviour of nations?
Something different from simple revenge taking?

If so, could that account for some of the behaviour of Israel over
the years?

(Of course, accounting for behaviour is not the same as justifying
or excusing the behaviour. I am aware of the claimed justifications
on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli tragedy.)

If there is such an effect, is there anything analogous to therapy
that can be applied to nations?

Would similar questions arise for the behaviour of Palestinians?

Obviously the question goes far beyond the behaviour of Israel: I
use it as an example only because it has come up in recent postings.

Perhaps this topic comes under 'practical philosophy' ?


[*]The sorts of things I normally work on can be found here

Maintained by Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham