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The odds are always good that men in power will do evil things because there’s an established evil side to the human personality, especially when men are defending privileges.
(Rome) By pure chance two encounters occurred simultaneously: I read a reference to Aristotle’s discussion of possibility and probability in M.H. Abrams’ book, The Mirror and the Lamp, and, on the same day, several press articles concerning the U.S. threat to “pull the trigger” on Iran.
Liberals who continue their love affair with President Obama and refuse to believe the probability of a U.S attack on Iran, who think widespread torture by the USA unlikely and reject outright the mere idea that the USA is or is becoming a fascist nation would do well to read up on the subject of probability-possibility.
The question belongs to philosophy, yes, and to history, yes. But it’s an eye opener in our comprehension and evaluation of daily news feeds and the shortcomings of the mainline press, i.e. what the press doesn’t tell us or what it chooses to tell us.
No one understands for sure what probability means. Mathematicians and statisticians have many complex theories but they really don’t know. Some people consider probability merely a feeling or a hunch, an expression of something that might or might not happen. In fact, probability is nothing more than the measure of the possibility that an event will occur. We see it in police films, the decisive probability that fingerprints or dna match.
However, since apparent impossibilities do sometimes happen, another approach is to distinguish probability between possibility and plausibility, concentrating on the terrifying consequences if the improbable does occur. Please keep Iran in mind here.
True and admittedly, just because a thing is possible does not have to mean it is necessarily probable. Yet, in the example of the USA today we have the following factors to deal with: American possession of a huge nuclear stockpile and the possibility–capacity to deliver an atomic bomb wherever it desires–combined with the unknown X factor of the nature of man. So what might seem improbable because of its very enormity—i.e. nuking the ancient country of Iran—is possible.
For improbabilities after all do occur and man has an evil side. Back in 1919, a former semi-drifter and police spy known as Adolf Hitler had just joined the ludicrously small DAP (German Workers Party). Could anyone say at that point that Hitler’s probability of becoming master and scourge of Europe in less than 15 years was very high?
I recall vividly arguments before Vietnam with two close friends who maintained that America could never in any case commit the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. That despite the fact we had already dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. That was however before napalming Southeast Asia, unleashing wars against Iraq and Afghanistan and waterboarding in Guantanamo and elsewhere (we waterboarded routinely and without much media clamor in Indochina, too).
So we know that under certain conditions and in a certain environment man is capable of almost any act. Man can be peace-loving and warlike at the same time. Depending on his culture and ethic and environment and the relatively unchanging nature of man, each characteristic is both possible and probable.
Which completes the circle. We are drawn back to the lodestone of the socio-political question. To the struggle that has gone on since private property and class division emerged in ancient societies. We all know, or should know, by now, this old story. The proprietor-capitalist lords it over the wage earner working man who in the end must rebel. The capitalist does not change. And is capable of any act he can get away with. He can torture or nuke as he pleases. Each according to his own nature within the realm of possibility the most abominable improbability, the political leadership makes the decision to nuke A or B country, intellectuals justify the decision ethically, and the military and police execute it. The fact that a hostile odious act is possible is taken as ethical justification of the event.
Gaither Stewart, Featured Writer on Dandelion Salad, Senior Editor of Cyrano’s Journal Online and The Greanville Post and Special European Correspondent for both, is a novelist, reporter and essayist on historical and cultural topics. His observations, often controversial, are published on many venues across the web. He’s based in Rome. His latest book is the master spy thriller The Trojan Horse, soon to be released by Discovered Authors.