Active Thinking Topic 55   When is Force Necessary?

Saturday 5 April 2023, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Zoom online

Talking Points:

1. Force can range from slapping a child to bombing a city. It has always been there in every age. What is your general view on when force is necessary?

2. Force can be physical (politely called kinetic), psychological, financial ... and so on. Societies have different boundaries to justify the use of force between individuals, in business, between government and citizen, and between countries. What is your knowledge of some of those boundaries, and your attitudes towards them?

3. What are practical alternatives to using force in various situations?

4. In civil emergencies like Covid governments have always controlled people, sometimes forcefully. How do you react to this kind of enforcement? If you disagree with the extra powers, what do you do about it?

5. Whatever the culture or political system or religion or ideology you still have the same animals in the forest - the same kinds of people - and those same kinds of people tend to find the same kinds of roles and jobs. A big proportion of the world's leaders, regardless of ideology, have obtained their position by using some kind of force. They also keep power by force. You can't change that. Should you shut up, copy them, play the same game they do or be a hero? btw, what is a hero?

6. What are the pluses and minuses of controlling children with some kind of physical punishment?

7. World leaders, like everyone else, tend to believe that others think like they do. If they are psychopaths they assume that others will act like psychopaths too unless they are 'weak'. If you are trying to run a country more or less decently, what should you do if one of these psychopaths calls your bluff and ignores your 'red lines'. e.g. Think of Obama facing Assad in Syria, or Zelensky facing Putin in Ukraine, or many other historical examples.

8. Day after day, year after year in every country people are murdered, often by others they know. The triggers are often trivial. How should be cope with murderers, and violent people generally? Note: it costs about $10,000 per month to keep someone in an Australian prison.

9. All countries and some companies have events in their past which they would like history to forget. How should history be recorded and remembered? A few countries have attempted a public admission and reconciliation process with conquered native populations. How well does this work? Leaders in China and Russia (amongst others) have justified aggression as revenge for historical 'humiliations'. When is this acceptable?

10. The use of force is increasingly impersonal. At one extreme, wars may be fought by robot soldiers and dueling drones. In personal terms we are pitted often helplessly against organizations that may run largely on AI. All this seems creepy, but is it any worse than being persecuted by prejudiced and sometimes violent officials? How can we protect ourselves?

Extra Reading & Links

Liam Mannix (February 16, 2023) "‘Psychopaths get an edge’: Half of young researchers harassed or bullied, says study". The Age @

Christopher Harris (March 23, 2023) "‘In crisis for years’: The struggle to fix Australia’s worst classrooms". The Age @  [Quote: "Australia has among the world’s most disorderly classrooms, ranking 69 out of 76 jurisdictions worldwide, according to PISA. Submissions to a Senate inquiry published this month say the causes of bad behaviour are complex. Those within the education sector say students have also become more complex. School teachers and principals nationwide say Australia has a problem nobody wants to talk about: a behaviour crisis in the classroom".]

Geoffrey Hayes & Terry Copp (November 1, 2019) "Is war inevitable?" Legion Magazine @ 

Mike McCrae (9 December 2018) "Is War an Unavoidable Part of Human Nature?" ScienceAlert @ 

David Smith 7 Sep 2019) "Pentagon seeks 'ethicist' to oversee military artificial intelligence". The Guardian @

Roger Boyes (10 December 2020) "The era of AI assassinations has arrived". The Australian @ 

Toby Walsh (August 13, 2021) "Killer drones decide who lives and dies. Humanity is letting drones and robots decide who lives and dies in modern warfare". 

Benjamin Haas (5 April 2018) "'Killer robots': AI experts call for boycott over lab at South Korea university. Academics around the world voice ‘huge concern’ over KAIST’s collaboration with defence company on autonomous weapons. More than 20 countries have already called for a total ban on killer robots ahead of a UN meeting next week on autonomous weapons". The Guardian @ 

Jason Beaubien (December 20, 2018) "Is Genocide Predictable? Researchers Say Absolutely". National Public Radio @ 

Kate Lamb (11 Oct 2019) "South Korea is to enact legislation that will ban men with a history of domestic violence from marrying foreign women, the justice ministry has confirmed. The ministry said the change was prompted by national outcry over footage that emerged in July showing a 36-year-old South Korean man physically and verbally assaulting his Vietnamese wife in front of their young child ...Anyone sentenced to a sexual crime against a child will also be subject to South Korea’s new marriage law tackling domestic abuse.". The Guardian @ 

Wendy Tuohy (September 9, 2022) "National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds has called for smacking to be made illegal as data shows children who have seen and experienced physical abuse are more than nine times more likely to use violence in the home". The Age @  [Quote: "Her comments came in response to new research that showed children who are smacked are more likely to use violence against their family, mainly their siblings and mothers, in adolescence. Other recent research has shown smacked children face increased risk of mental health conditions or self-harm. .. One in five of 5021 young people (aged 16 to 20) surveyed by the national women’s safety research body, ANROWS, said they had used violence against a family member. Of those, 89 per cent had experienced abuse, including smacking. ... Australia’s Children’s Commissioner has called for laws permitting the smacking of children to be repealed". [Thor, comment: The reader comments on this are pretty divided. Many point out the difference between a quick slap of a naughty child and habitual or systematic beating]

Sonia Sodha [6 March 2022] "Male violence against women is about so much more than toxic masculinity. It is safer and more effective to disrupt dangerous men rather than trying to fix them". The Guardian @  [Quote: "This difference between men has also been elided when it comes to perpetrator programmes. One of the most effective is a UK project called Drive, developed by two domestic abuse charities. It has shed once and for all the feminist attachment to the idea that the key to reducing serious violence is teaching men to be better. It works with the highest-risk domestic abusers. They are all assigned a case manager, who can help them access the support they need, such as housing or mental health services. But it also functions as a surveillance system for dangerous men: they are monitored on an ongoing basis and case managers bring in other agencies such as the police and social services to disrupt their violent behaviour. The results are stunning: an 82% and 88% sustained drop in physical and sexual abuse respectively. But just 1% of serious domestic abuse perpetrators get funnelled into targeted interventions"]

Vlad Vexler Chat (8 April 2023) "The Politics of Ukraine's Spring Offensive". Youtube @  [Thor, comment: As a Russian analyst, Vlad Vexler has a better insight into Russian thinking than most other commentators. In this video, he summarizes possible outcomes of Putin's war in Ukraine. His conclusion from the history and psychology of Putin is that Putin won't stop until he is stopped, and he won't be stopped until he is dead. In Putin's mind this is an existential war against 'the West'. He sees himself as 'Russia'. Any negotiated compromise will just be a lull in the aggression until Russia restocks. The best solution for Ukraine and its allies in this instance is maximum force against the Russian invaders as soon as possible ]


When is Force Necessary?  (c) Thor May 2023

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